Huddle Up: Dexter McCluster’s role changing again in Kansas City?
Throughout the NFL’s lengthy offseason, “Huddle Up” will provide you with a daily quick take on an important story or development from around the league …
It has been about 26 months since the Kansas City Chiefs made Dexter McCluster the No. 36 overall pick in the 2010 draft. They are still trying to figure out which position he should play.
McCluster lined up almost exclusively as a receiver during his rookie year, then hopped into the backfield last season to help Kansas City overcome the loss of Jamaal Charles. Now, in his third set of offseason workouts, McCluster finds himself back with the receiver group.
Will he stay there? That all depends on where the Chiefs’ “Wheel of McCluster Positions” lands this summer.
“We’ve given Dexter reps at the wide receiver position in this new offense because we feel like he knows how to play running back and we can put him over at running back at any point in time,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said last week, “but we felt like he needed the work at wide receiver.
“Probably what that will do is open it up for us to be able to use him however and whenever we need him at whatever position. He’s taken to it really well. He’s been enthusiastic about it, so that is working out pretty well for us.”
The “new offense” that Crennel mentioned belongs to coordinator Brian Daboll, who spent 2009-10 calling plays for the Browns and 2011 as the offensive coordinator in Miami. At both stops, Daboll relied heavily on his running backs to become weapons in the passing attack — Reggie Bush made 43 catches in addition to his 216 carries last season; Jerome Harrison had 34 grabs under Daboll in 2009, then Peyton Hillis had 61 in 2010.
Hillis recently signed with Kansas City and Charles should be back from the torn ACL he sustained last season to suit up in Week 1, meaning that McCluster’s shift back to receiver makes sense from a personnel standpoint.
That’s unfortunate for him, because he’s shown much more potential in a hybrid role out of the backfield. Last season alone, he had 46 catches and averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 116 attempts. And back during his senior season at Mississippi, McCluster rushed for 1,169 yards and caught 44 passes while seeing a great deal of time at running back.
Contrast those numbers to his rookie year, when a banged-up McCluster had 21 receptions in 11 games and was essentially a non-factor on offense.
McCluster is an elite athlete, as evidenced by the 14.1 and 21.3 yards he’s averaged returning punts and kicks, respectively, during his time in Kansas City. So it’s kind of baffling that the Chiefs have had that much trouble finding a position for him.
Even the slot-receiver role he’s filling at the moment could be taken from him once Dwayne Bowe joins the Chiefs’ workouts. His presence could push Steve Breaston back inside, providing another barrier for McCluster. Plus, the Chiefs signed running back Cyrus Gray and spent a fourth-round selection on slot receiver/kick returner Devon Wylie.
All of those signs hint toward McCluster’s roster spot being in jeopardy — a subject broached by the Kansas City Star‘s Adam Teicher a few weeks back. Barring a trade for equal value, it still remains hard to see the Chiefs simply cutting ties with a guy possessing McCluster’s ability.
Time continues to tick away, though, in the Chiefs’ quest to figure out what to do with their third-year player.