The Chiefs worked McCluster out of the slot this spring, but the position change appeared more exploratory than permanent. In addition, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin were both working as outside receivers during Dwayne Bowe’s contract-related absence.
It was a natural time to get McCluster work at receiver.
“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, but we felt like he needed the work at wide receiver,” head coach Romeo Crennel explained.
The Chiefs are slated to open another season with a pair of top-five draft picks manning the bookends of their defensive line. If rookie Dontari Poe cracks the starting lineup as well, Kansas City’s 3-4 base defense will feature a trio of first-round draft picks in the trenches.
Add former first-round selections Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali to the conversation and Kansas City’s ongoing commitment of building a dominant front-seven is unmistakable.
Such a blueprint isn’t unique to Kansas City, however. Stopping the run is and will always be the most fundamental job of any defense, but the pass-happy nature of the NFL is also making the need for sub-package defensive linemen a growing necessity.
KEY MATCHUP: Dexter McCluster vs. Denver’s linebackers
McCluster, a shifty back with enough speed to challenge defenses as both a return man and a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot, enjoyed a pair of big days in both KC-Denver matchups last season. One of the few bright spots for Kansas City’s offense in Week 10 was McCluster, who ran the ball 8 times for 45 yards and caught six passes for 48 yards. And in Week 17, McCluster accounted for 86 yards and the game’s only touchdown on just 15 touches.
“One of my favorite players — another diamond in the rough. I kept struggling with where he might play in the NFL, because he kind of moved all over San Diego State’s defense. I thought he might even be able to play middle linebacker in the NFL. The issue he faces is that he rushed the quarterback a lot, and he did that very well at San Diego State, but he was a relentless kind of rusher who showed some power. He wasn’t a bend-the-edge and get low kind of rusher. So, I don’t know if he’s a pure pass rusher in the NFL.”