Dwayne Bowe must prefer catching passes to catching grief.
The flashy wide receiver’s poor work habits and inattention to detail had driven him deep into Chiefs coach Todd Haley’s doghouse. But he caught five of six throws from fellow reserve Brodie Croyle on Saturday night, piling up 70 impressive yards on a rainy and sloppy yet encouraging night.
Croyle was the other bright spot for Kansas City’s otherwise dismal offense in a 16-10 preseason loss to Houston. Hitting 12 of 18 passes for 145 yards, he showed no ill effects from the knee surgery that ended his season last September and caused the Chiefs to trade for Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback.
Croyle even took a solid hit on the knee and bounced right back up as if to say, “I didn’t feel a thing.”
And, he insisted, he hadn’t.
“It’s always good to get your first hit out of the way, especially with the knee,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t even think about it, and that was a good mental step for me.”
At the start of Haley’s first game as a head coach, Bowe remained firmly planted on the bench while second- and third-teamers Terrance Copper, Devard Darling, Rodney Wright and Mark Bradley all started ahead of him.
But he and Croyle got into the game about the same time with only about five minutes left in the first half and immediately began to click. Croyle’s first pass went to Bowe for a 14-yard gain.
“He was sharp,” Croyle said.
But is he out of the doghouse? The only man who can answer that question was obviously pleased with the former first-round draft pick.
“Really, the last two days of practice he’s definitely started to show up,” Haley said. “In this game, he definitely showed up. That, to me, was a definite positive. We’re going to play the guys we think are doing it the way we want it done, and that was the way we went tonight. Bowe definitely showed something to me.”
While Bowe will most likely shoot right up the depth chart to reclaim his spot as No. 1 wide receiver, Croyle may have no chance of unseating Cassel no matter how well he plays. New general manager Scott Pioli did not make the trade with his former employer, the New England Patriots, to acquire a backup. And there’s also the matter of that $63 million contract the Chiefs gave Cassel, who was 2 of 5 for 15 yards in his debut in Arrowhead Stadium.
“I go out there and try to help the team, in whatever position that’s in,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to do. Matt’s a great quarterback. They brought him here for a reason. He’s going to be just fine.”
Still, there’s no getting around the fact that Croyle looked finer. This time last year, he was designated as the centerpiece of Herm Edwards’ rebuilding project and the man who would be Kansas City’s starting quarterback for many years to come. Now, he’s scuffling for a job as Cassel’s backup.
“Sitting in the pocket felt good, just kind of getting your feet wet again,” Croyle said. “Having some receivers make some really good catches for me. I felt great. I’ve felt good all camp. Once I got out there and once I got going, I got settled back in, got the feel of the pocket again, and at that point, it becomes football.”
He may also have helped an old friend get out of the doghouse.
“I think it was good for him to make some plays and get his confidence going and maybe get him rolling back to where he’s used to being,” Croyle said. “He was sharp on his routes. I signaled a couple of things to him that he picked up and really had a good game.”