Chiefs McCluster has potential but still seeks his niche

The Chiefs list Dexter McCluster as a running back, but hes seldom in the backfield. /ppMcCluster participates in drills with the wide receivers, not the running backs. In team work, he lines up as a slot receiver in most formations and splits wide in others. He occasionally gets a carry on a sweep or a reverse and sees work as a quarterback in the wildcat. And hes also a prime candidate to return kicks and punts./ppSo where does head coach Romeo Crennel like McCluster the most?/ppIn the end zone, said Crennel, with a hearty laugh. Thats where I like him best./ppMcCluster, a second-round draft pick in 2010, spent his first two seasons trying to find his niche in the offense as well as in the end zone./ppHes had 244 combined touches as a running back, receiver and kick returner and but has scored just four touchdowns./ppA case can be made that McCluster who would begrudgingly have to change his No. 22 jersey if classified as a wide receiver hasnt fulfilled his potential in the NFL because his attention has been divided between so many roles, and he hasnt been able to master one position. /ppHe disagrees./ppI think being more versatile gives me different outlets to get on the field, said McCluster, a 5-8, 170-pounder. Being more versatile can help throw defenses off balance. I like the fact that I can play multiple roles, I like the challenge. /ppThe running backs coach and the wide receiver coach are doing just as much to help me get better at that position as the next one, so right now I feel like I am mastering both. /ppQuarterback Matt Cassel expects the Chiefs new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, to take advantage of McClusters diverse skills./ppHe can do it all, Cassel said of McCluster. He really does have so much versatility that sometimes you have to make a decision what you want to do with him./ppMcCluster, an all-purpose performer at Mississippi who earned all-Southeastern Conference honors as a receiver and a running back in his last two seasons, has provided glimpses of his big-play potential. /ppIn 2010 in his first game as a pro, McCluster bolted a franchise-record 94 yards for a touchdown, sparking an opening-night victory over San Diego and igniting the Chiefs run to the AFC West title. Last year, he gained 516 yards on 114 rushing carries and picked up 328 yards on 46 pass receptions. He averaged 10.8 yards a carry on punt returns and 22.3 yards on kick returns. /ppBut McCluster is the first to admit hes still trying to put together a complete season./ppI know what Im capable of, he said. Im a very humble guy, a very patient guy A lot of people ask when is it going to happen They have seen what Im capable of, but honestly I know I have more than that in me./pp McCluster spent the offseason studying tape of similar players whom Daboll has coached, including Reggie Bush of the Dolphins and Josh Cribbs of the Browns./ppThe thing I like about coach Daboll is he tries to eliminate your weaknesses and heightens your strengths, said McCluster. It opens up a lot of playmaking possibilities. He lets you play football. This is how I want it done, this is how Ive been doing it, this is how its been working. So watch the film. Watch guys before who have done it. And try to mimic that in your way./ppThe critical issues in determining McClusters workload are his durability and his ball security./ppAfter getting off to a good start in his rookie season, McCluster, in a game against Jacksonville in which he ran four times for 28 yards and caught five passes for 41 yards, suffered an ankle sprain that sidelined him for five games and rendered him ineffective in the final five games./ppConcerned about keeping him healthy, the Chiefs tried to monitor his touches last season when he averaged 12 per game seven rushing, three receiving and two in the kicking game. So whats ideal for him? Ten to 12 touches? Fifteen? Twenty?/ppTwenty-five is not too much. Im going to put that on the record right now, McCluster said. People from the outside looking in look at me and say, Hes small. But Ive been doing this all my life. I know what I can do, I know what Im capable of./ppMy size I accepted that, and I play bigger than I am. This year, Im more in the film room. Its more about technique. Everybody is running the same speed, everybody has the same capability, but its all about technique and that extra space that you need to get open./ppAs far as the fumbles go, McCluster is aware that at his size, he has to take extra precautions when hit by players outweighing him by 50 to 75 pounds. /ppIts football, he said. Youre going to have fumbles, youre going to dropped balls. Ultimately its your job to limit that knowing its that extra fighting for that extra yard, the ball can pop loose, so its making sure you have both hands on the ball as youre going on.

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