KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Donnie Avery caught just 40 passes in 2013, his debut season for the Kansas City Chiefs. It's tempting to think of that as disappointing for a starting wide receiver, particularly one the Chiefs thought would be a difference maker.
But it was probably what the Chiefs should have expected. Avery was 20 catches off his career high but his numbers weren't completely out of line with what he'd done earlier in his career with the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts. They made even more sense considering the numbers for the other starting receiver, Dwayne Bowe, were also down and that a running back, Jamaal Charles, led the Chiefs in receiving.
If the Chiefs ever need Avery to have a big game, it's on Sunday when they open the regular season against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium. Bowe won't play because of his NFL suspension and the other four Chiefs wide receivers have a combined 21 career NFL receptions.
"Whether it's putting me in some of the Dwayne Bowe plays or putting the young guys in some of the Dwayne Bowe plays, we've got to step up and take that role," Avery said.
Avery is the most logical candidate. Frankie Hammond Jr., playing his first NFL game, will get a lot of the snaps that otherwise would go to Bowe. Junior Hemingway also figures to get a lot of playing time, but he missed most of the preseason with hamstring and hip injuries. A.J. Jenkins hasn't been of much help and Albert Wilson is an undrafted rookie also playing his first NFL game.
If experience means anything, Avery will be the go-to wide receiver Sunday for quarterback Alex Smith.
"We could have done a lot more," Smith said of Avery's 2013 season. "There was a lot out there that we left on the field."
If that happens on Sunday, the Chiefs could be in trouble. The Chiefs could use a game against the Titans like the one the had against Tennessee last year. Avery caught three passes for 91 yards, including two receptions of more than 40 yards.
"Just play calling," Avery said. "We called the right plays at the right time and we hit them."
It makes sense for the Chiefs to dial some plays for Avery again on Sunday.