Veteran wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is preparing for plenty of firsts in his debut season with the Cleveland Browns.
After spending the entirety of his nine-year NFL career in Kansas City with the Chiefs, Bowe is getting ready for new uniforms, new fans, new division rivals and what may be the most important first of his career.
This season will be the first time he will be playing with a quarterback like Josh McCown.
"He's amazing. He's a crafty vet and he knows matchups, he knows the playbook front and back and he knows the personnel," Bowe told Northeast Ohio Media Group. "In the red zone he knows who to come to, he knows how to hit the checkdown, the audible, and he's a great fit for this offense.If you look at him, you don't think he's as crafty and shifty as he is, but he can run.
"He's not a (Johnny) Manziel, but he's a 13-year crafty good quarterback. He wants to fly under the radar and when the season comes around, we're going to shock a lot of people.''
"If I get (a TD) in the (home) opener first quarter, the floodgates are open and the Dawg Pound is going crazy.'' - Dwayne Bowe
If anyone knows about taking the field with quarterbacks that no one believes in, it's Bowe who during his time in Kansas City played with the likes of Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Brady Quinn. (And here we were led to believe that the Browns are the only NFL team with ongoing quarterback issues.)
So if Bowe is right about the 6-foot-4 McCown, he may also see another first this season: his first touchdown reception since Week 13 of the 2013 NFL season.
Bowe was part of a Chiefs' receiving group that failed to catch a touchdown pass in 2014, the first time a team pulled off that feat since the 1964 New York Giants. While his production has dropped for three consecutive years since posting consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the lack of touchdown receptions last season may have been more a result of Kansas City's game plan rather than Bowe's diminishing skills.
"I didn't get one shot in the end zone,'' Bowe told NFL.com. "I got us down in scoring range and with our offense, it was based on running back to the tight end and my job was to play football. I never complained. I always did my job to get us down there but the chips just didn't fall my way. That's all I can control.''
"I feel like I landed in a goldmine. The fans (in Cleveland) have your back win, lose or draw." - Dwayne Bowe
Even though his yardage totals have dropped the past three seasons, Bowe has still averaged almost 60 receptions a year and 12.7 yards per catch during that time, only a tick below the 13.8 yards per reception he averaged in the previous five years.
In addition to wanting to prove he can still be a productive player on the field, Bowe is working with the Browns' young group of wide receivers on the nuances of playing wide receiver in the NFL, a veteran role that has drawn praise from position coach Joker Phillips and one that has been lacking on the Browns in recent seasons.
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"I'm learning a lot from Dwayne Bowe,'' rookie Vince Mayle told NEOMG last month. "He's taken me under his wing. His route-running, we came in similar sizes, similar athleticism, so he's teaching me what he learned when he was young. He's also teaching me what he knows now, so I don't have to go through that learning curve that he had to go through. He said he was the top dog coming in and he didn't have anybody to learn from. He's teaching me everything.''
There is still a long way to go before the start of the season, but after going through Organized Team Activities and minicamp, Bowe is encouraged by what he sees in Cleveland.
"We have a nice solid collection. A lot of underdogs, but big hearts," he said. "We've got guys 5-8 going across the middle not scared to get hit. That's going to be big when the season comes around. I'm learning from (Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel). Short, fast, quickie guys like that. Just learning from them how to get off the release and how to plant my foot and come back. I've learned a lot in these two months that I didn't learn in the past eight years in Kansas City, so I like our corps.''
If Bowe is right about his fellow receivers and his quarterback, that first touchdown reception of the season, whenever it comes, may not be his only one of the season.
Do you think Dwayne Bowe has enough left to be more than just a mentor to the other wide receivers?