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All eyes on Maclin in Chiefs workouts


The Sports Xchange

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Jeremy Maclin is viewed as the explosive contributor in the passing game that the Kansas City Chiefs lacked for many seasons. As they roll through the start of the 2015 season, he has been the most watched player on the practice field.

Traditionally, the Hunt family franchise does not spend a lot of money on unrestricted free agents. The Chiefs like to sign their own free agents and then troll the bargain bins to fill in holes in the 53-man roster.

But after a season where the offense stumbled and their wide receivers did not score a touchdown, head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey knew they had to spend some of that Hunt money on a pass catcher.

So, Maclin was signed to a five-year, $55 million deal and through the offseason and training camp, Reid, Dorsey and especially quarterback Alex Smith are pleased with their investment. Very pleased, as Maclin has taken over leadership on and off the field.

“He’s certainly a proven guy for the rest of those guys to look up to,” said Smith, who has connected early and often with Maclin since the start of the offseason program. “I think Jeremy does such a great job of leading and being that example. You see all the things he does before and after practice, not just on the field, but keeping his body right, making sure that’s he’s able to practice every single day. You see all those little things and I think for guys that are younger or maybe unproven, he’s an example. A guy that’s been in the league and doing it really well.”

Based on his familiarity with the offense from their shared time in Philadelphia, where he was drafted by Reid out of the University of Missouri, Maclin has fit in quickly with the Chiefs. It wasn’t just his knowledge of the scheme or his experience gleaned from six prior NFL seasons. It’s also his low-key ego and strong work ethic that fit snuggly with the group.

“I’ve been in this offense before with these offensive coaches,” Maclin said. “Things have changed a little bit, but I was pretty familiar with what we had going on here, I think that was kind of a plus for me. Now it’s all about going out there and repetition. The more you go out and rep each individual play, the more comfortable you get. I think that’s the goal right now.”

With a host of young wide receivers watching his every move, Maclin is drilling home the fine points of route running and being consistent so the quarterback can count on his location.

“It’s not by accident,” Smith said of Maclin’s quick transition. “Certainly from a pure craft perspective, route running is a very unique craft. Those receivers are always talking through their different looks, hand placements, foot placements and steps. He certainly is a guy that they bounce a lot of things off of.”

As good as Maclin’s route running has been, the coaches are more than willing to give him leeway with what’s drawn up in the game plan.

“He’s a smart veteran receiver that’s had a lot of plays under his belt; he comes in with a lot of experience, just knowing how to get open,” said offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. “Bottom line is, we give them all these rules in the meetings and we say ‘hey, versus this coverage do this’ but the bottom line is, go play. Take the handcuffs off and go play, and that’s what you’re seeing out of Jeremy.

“Alex has a lot of trust and faith that he’s going to get open and make the catches for him.”

Last year with the Eagles, Maclin was targeted 140 times in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, catching 85 passes and he was dinged for just one dropped pass. He was the most reliable receiver in the league last year. The Chiefs’ top five receivers had 20 drops among them, led by the departed Dwayne Bowe with seven.

Maclin is encouraged by his early work with Smith and the offense, and says he can contribute in many different ways.

“I consider myself to be an all-around receiver, doing a little bit of everything,” said Maclin. “Being able to go downfield, run intermediate routes, run show routes, be able to take one-yard passes and be able to take them to the house. I’m excited about that.”

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