Dexter McCluster: WR Will Make or Break Chiefs' Playoff Chances in 2012

Jessica MarieCorrespondent IIAugust 30, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 1: Dexter McCluster #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

A couple of seasons ago, the Kansas City Chiefs had hope.

They got a new general manager in Scott Pioli—who defected from New England for the opportunity to help build up the Chiefs—and when Tom Brady returned from ACL surgery, the Patriots had no place for Matt Cassel, who had gone 10-5 in his one year as a starter with New England. So they sent him to KC, too.

Initially, the Chiefs struggled. Then, in 2010, they forged a 10-6 campaign and made the playoffs. Last season, they struggled once again, though injuries to key players certainly didn't help.

Now, thanks to yet another offensive weapon with enormous potential, the Chiefs have the opportunity to do something big in 2012. And it could all come down to Dexter McCluster.

For a while, the soon-to-be-third-year wide receiver tried to do it all for Kansas City. Since being drafted with the 36th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, McCluster has been a wideout, a slot receiver, a kick returner and a running back, according to Randy Covitz of The Kansas City Star.

Now, finally, he seems to have found his rightful place as a slot receiver, according to Covitz. And if he can be as impressive in the regular season as he was in the preseason, Chiefs fans will have reason to hope once again.

Head coach Romeo Crennel hasn't been shocked by McCluster's success; to him, it was to be expected. He told Covitz:

Dexter has not been an overall surprise, but he’s been good at what we’ve asked him to do. There was some question about asking him to do too much, where were we going to play him, and he’s handled it nicely.

Though Kansas City has gone 1-2 in the preseason thus far, McCluster has been their bright spot. In the Chiefs' most recent contest, he tallied seven receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown; in the preseason opener, he caught three passes on three targets for 45 yards.

Fans could be jumping the gun with their early scouting reports of McCluster. This, after all, is a player who has only managed to garner four TDs in his first two seasons with the club. But that can be attributed to the fact that he has never had a set position in his short NFL career, which can compromise any young player's production.

The first step is giving him a position and sticking to it. If the small preseason sample size is any indication, he belongs in the receiving corps. And if he succeeds there, so too will the Chiefs—especially Cassel, who benefited significantly from a strong core of wideouts in New England.

Last season, McCluster finished third on the team in receiving yards and second on the team in rushing yards. The Chiefs—who finished dead last in the AFC West and missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five years—finished 27th in the league in total offense.

Their passing attack was the 25th-best in the league. Their rushing attack was 15th best. Judging from that, it's clear which area is in need of an instant upgrade—and it's also clear that the Chiefs are going nowhere with a mediocre offense. Not with the Broncos and the Chargers in their division.

Neither their passing attack nor their rushing attack is particularly intimidating, and the Chiefs need to upgrade somewhere. McCluster can change one of those storylines.

He can't, however, change both, so it's time for the Chiefs to make a decision—for the good of this entire offense.