The Kansas City Chiefs have a problem with Dexter McCluster.
No, it's not a bad problem. It's a good one actually. They want to use him on just about every play. Of course, as Todd Haley said on Sunday, he can't be in for 120 plays.
This preseason, McCluster has lined up as a receiver (in the slot), at running back and kick/punt returner. They haven't shown it yet but he'll also lineup in the wildcat.
Here's what Haley said on Sunday about McCluster's role on the offense:
When you have players that look like they have a chance to be dynamic players or good players, the coaches have their agenda. (Offensive coordinator) Charlie Weis would want to use him every play in some way or another. (Assistant head coach) Maurice Carthon is going to want to use him in as many plays as he can get at running back. (Wide receivers coach) Richie Anderson wants to use him in as many plays as he can at receiver. (Special teams coach) Steve Hoffman is going to want to use him as many times as he can on returns. My job becomes, ‘ok, the guy can’t play 120 plays in a game.’ What can he play? What is the best thing for the team?
Though everyone wants a piece of him, the hardest part will be determining how much he can handle. At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds (his listed weight at least), the Chiefs need to be careful how they use him.
Rewind to last year about this time and Haley was expressing concern that a smaller back like Jamaal Charles couldn't handle a full load. Even in the second half of the season, when Charles was lighting it up as the starter, Haley was cautious with using him too much.
That made me worry that the Chiefs wouldn't feel comfortable giving McCluster a full load. Other than Charles, there's no one else that can run in the open field quite like McCluster. He's a unique threat, partly because he's so small, and the Chiefs need to figure out how to capitalize on that.
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, McCluster tested his ability to handle a big hit when Asante Samuel blind-sided him rocketing him to the ground. Moments later, though, he popped right back up.
He took that hit from CB Asante (Samuel) and I looked back at him and asked him if he was alright and he was like, ‘I’m ready, put me back in.’ Those are the kind of guys you like and he just has to keep doing the things that we are telling him to do and it appears he wants to do those things. He is not afraid to do those things from the standpoint that he is not afraid to make a play.
He's seen more time as a running back than any other position this preseason but he's listed as a receiver. The Chiefs have one of college football's best return men in Javier Arenas yet it was McCluster that saw a few returns last week against the Eagles.
I pulled CB (Javier) Arenas out and said McCluster is taking this one, let’s see what he’s got. They are competing. We have two returners that are competing and they both want to do it.
McCluster told us after the game his "eyes lit up" when they asked him to return kicks. Clearly he wants to do it all but there are 10 other players on the field. And there are other players, like Charles, who need the ball in their hands for the Chiefs to be successful this year.
The challenge for the Chiefs this year will be understanding the best way to use McCluster. Though he's listed as a receiver, his biggest impact could come in the run game if preseason is any indication.
So McCluster's role is a problem at this point but for the Chiefs it's a good problem to have.