That decision was a show of faith in their other starter, Albert Wilson. The Chiefs got a peek at Wilson’s ability over the last four games of last season when he forced his way into their lineup after joining them last year as an undrafted rookie.
They were encouraged by what they saw. Wilson caught 16 passes last year, 12 in those last four games.
More importantly, Wilson averaged a team-leading 16.3 yards per catch, an impressive statistic on a team that otherwise struggled to get long pass plays.
That end-of-season playing time helped the Chiefs believe Wilson belonged. But it also helped Wilson believe that too.
“It makes me more comfortable being on the field,” he said. “It makes me attack more. Me being out there and having some playing time last year, I know what to expect. I’m able to play faster.”
The Chiefs had a fifth-round grade on Wilson last year. The reason he went undrafted is that he’s far below optimum size for a wide receiver at 5-foot-9.
Shorter receivers can be difficult for quarterbacks to find. They tend to get lost in a clutter of bigger bodies, something Wilson will have to overcome.
“(Seeing smaller receivers) can be (more difficult) depending on the route or the concept that you are asking that position to run,’’ said offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, a former NFL quarterback. “But you know he is so quick and agile. He can get in and out of breaks, he’s slippery against press coverage and he and Alex are really on the same page.’’
On the plus side, Wilson at 200 pounds is bigger than the average 5-9 receiver. The Chiefs’ only other wide receiver under 6-0 is 5-8 De’Anthony Thomas, and he’s listed at 176 pounds, which looks to be generous.
Wilson is also fast, has good hands and has proven himself to be a willing blocker. By the end of the season, Wilson may reward the Chiefs for their decision in making Maclin their only free-agent acquisition at wide receiver.