Andy Reid would know. If anyone can explain what's required for rookie receivers to have success at the NFL level, the Chiefs head coach could.
As Reid's team gets prepared to take on the Patriots this weekend, the football conversation generating a significant amount of buzz in New England is over how the team can squeeze more from their passing game — and in particular their young receivers.
Reid's expertise in that area is nothing to sneeze at. Here is a list of the rookie wideouts he's had over the years who've lit it up, either in Philadelphia when Reid was coaching the Eagles, or in Kansas City.
* Mecole Hardman, 2019: 23 catches, 450 yards, 5 touchdowns
* Tyreek Hill, 2016: 61 catches, 593 yards, 6 touchdowns
* Jeremy Maclin, 2009: 56 catches, 773 yards, 4 touchdowns
* Desean Jackson: 2008: 62 catches, 912 yards, 2 touchdowns
Given the conversation in New England, where a great deal of the focus has been on first-year wideouts N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, I asked Reid why it's worked for him with rookie receivers when it has.
"Normally they're smart," he said. "Normally they can think through some things because you ask them to do a little bit. It's one of those positions that people don't think that it takes time to develop them. It does.
"If you can get a smart kid that's a good athlete, that's a pretty good combination for that position. I've been fortunate enough as I've been coaching to get a few of those guys who can do that. The other guys, some guys take a little bit of time to get ready. Have had luck there, too."
He's not wrong. Not everyone succeeded immediately. But several of those who didn't, put up numbers later.
Albert Wilson became a dynamic weapon for the Chiefs (and now the Dolphins) after catching just 16 passes for 260 yards as a rookie. Jason Avant ended up having a lengthy career, mostly with the Eagles, despite playing in just eight games as a rookie and compiling seven grabs for 68 yards. Reid had Chris Conley as a rookie in Kansas City when Conley caught 17 passes for 191 yards and a score. Demarcus Robinson, who exploded for 172 yards on six grabs against the Raiders earlier this season, didn't have a catch in his first year.
Reid acknowledged that for the players who may have had a hard time absorbing everything as rookies, he was willing to adjust his system for them.
For him, it wasn't a "do or do not, there is no try" situation.
"Yes, you do," he said. "As a coach, that's your challenge. You try to get the best out of your guys, put them in the best situations where they can achieve. Then what you're also going to try to do is utilize their strengths. Try to take their weaknesses and make them strengths. The only way to do that is with experience. You try to do that. Exploit their strengths and get better at what they're week at."
Is that something the Patriots should be doing, in a scheme that has grown over the course of the last two decades, and with a coordinator and quarterback who've lived it for that long? Should they be adjusting? Have they not adjusted already? And if they have — I believe they have — then what does that say about the state of the position as it currently stands?
It's not an ideal situation in which the Patriots find themselves, but it doesn't take long to look around the league and see that it is possible, that there are places where rookies find ways to make significant contributions.
On Sunday all it'll take is a look across the Gillette Stadium turf at Reid's sideline.
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