KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The sports cliché of “talent and opportunity” applies to second-year wide receiver Albert Wilson.
The 5-9, 200-pound Wilson has the talent to succeed in the Chiefs offense, evidenced in the final four games of the 2014 season where he posted 12 catches for 209 yards to lead all Chiefs wide receivers during that stretch.
That four-game span prepared Wilson and gave him the confidence to become the starter opposite Jeremy Maclin in 2015.
And Wilson is fully aware he entered the season in the spotlight.
“The expectations are higher,” Wilson said. “But as far as the four games last year where I got a chance to get a start, get it under my belt, it really helped me out for this season just to get back to that rhythm.”
Wilson also has the opportunity to produce.
Actually, he had plenty of opportunities in the first two games when considering Wilson logged 57 snaps on offense in Week 1 and 52 snaps in Week 2. His 109 total snaps through two games ranks second among the team’s wide receiver corps behind Maclin’s 127 total snaps.
Wilson’s current numbers, however, don’t match the playing time on the young season and he enters Week 3 with three catches for 25 yards on four targets.
And with the higher expectations from outside observers come inevitable grumblings surrounding the lack of Wilson’s production, all of which Maclin quickly shoots down.
“Any time you go into a game where in your mind you got a set number of times you’re going to throw to a certain guy, that can get you in trouble,” Maclin said. “Obviously, you try to get your guys in position to be successful, but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that.”
“Everybody always wants to point the finger, ‘Why isn’t this happening? Why isn’t that happening?’ Teams are preparing for certain guys and certain guys get in certain position, and all of sudden that alarms people to what’s going on. You have to have a team full of guys that can make plays and you have to be able to make adjustments. That’s what it’s all about.”
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson points out Wilson dealt with injuries leading to the regular season. Wilson battled a hamstring injury during organized team activities (OTAs), missed time in training camp with an illness, and then suffered a shoulder injury in the third preseason game.
Pederson, however, is fully aware of what a now healthy Wilson can do for the offense.
“He’s working himself back into sort of that playing shape,” Pederson said. “He’s a guy that’s small in stature, but very strong and powerful, and excellent slant runner. It’s a situation with him that we’ve got to get him involved a little bit more early in football games and keep him coming along because he is such a valuable weapon for us. And he’s explosive once he gets the ball in his hands.”
Wilson proved down the stretch of the 2014 season he is capable of making explosive plays, averaging a eye-popping 17.4 yards per catch.
He finished his rookie campaign with 16 catches for 260 yards and made the most of his opportunities by averaging a team-leading 16.3 yards per reception.
But even with his downfield capability, Wilson remains just one piece of a passing game that highlights Maclin, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Travis Kelce as primary weapons.
“You have Kelce, you have Jamaal, those are feature guys, and you’ve got to give them their touches,” wide receiver Jason Avant said. “So it’s not going to be a lot of plays to be made, but when you have the opportunity you’ve got to make them.”
The numbers in the passing game through two games reflect what Avant points out.
Eight players have caught a pass, and Maclin leads the Chiefs with 16 targets, Charles is second with 13 and Kelce has 11 looks. Second-year wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas is fourth in targets with six.
“I think everyone buys in to what coach Andy Reid has installed here,” backup quarterback Chase Daniel said. “It’s going in Year Three, so they sort of know the deal. It’s sort of an offense where the ball can go anywhere at any given time and I think honestly all the receivers, tight ends, running backs really like that.”
Wilson, whose four targets ranks fifth on the team, understands his responsibility within the scheme and agreed with Daniel.
“That goes back to the whole role of the offense,” Wilson said. “Everybody has a part just so far it’s the way it’s broken down with the targets. You can’t control those things. You just got to go out there, be patient and prepare for that opportunity to come.”
The wide receiver position taking a back seat in the passing game to the running backs and tight ends in coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense isn’t anything new.
The respective role of each position continues in Kansas City very much in the same fashion as Reid’s previous 14 seasons as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a span that produced just three 1,000-yard wide receivers: Terrell Owens (2004), Kevin Curtis (2007) and DeSean Jackson (2009-10).
Reid’s offense is also regarded as complex, so that dynamic presents a learning curve for the skill position players before they fully absorb the scheme.
And that sits perfectly fine for Wilson, who compared his current situation to when he arrived at Georgia State as a high school quarterback.
“That was my first time ever learning the wide receiver position, so I wasn’t always that go-to guy,” he said. “I learned from the guys that were in front of me, just took all the knowledge I could. And, of course, time grew and it was my time.”
Wilson fully emerged in his junior campaign at Georgia State, and he sees similarities from that experience in his second professional year.
“I’m still new to the spot, I’m still learning,” Wilson said. “To spread the ball around, that’s the good thing about the offense because you never know where the ball is going and who the ball is going to on any given play. It’s just to know your system, to trust your system, which I have full trust in my system and I just know me being patient, playing hard and keep learning that everything is going to work out.”
So with two games of the 2015 season in the books and with 14 more to go, does that mean the best is yet to come for Wilson?
“Of course,” Wilson said confidently. “I feel like the whole offense is building as a whole and I think there’s a lot to come for the offense.”