Where's Dexter?

"(He's) a guy who has lined up at running back, he's lined up at receiver . . . He's lined up in the Wildcat. I think we've got a number of really strong offensive minds on our coaching staff . . . they'll be able to figure out a number of different roles for him." - Chiefs' G.M. Scott Pioli after drafting Dexter McCluster

Two games into the NFL season, positive vibes are flowing all through Kansas City as a result of the Chiefs' 2-0 start. In large part, it seems like Chiefs fans understand that their team hasn't suddenly morphed into a serious contender overnight. While they've undoubtedly improved, we recognize that the team is still flawed, and we've had fun watching them overcome their deficiencies and scrap and claw their way to two consecutive victories.

Some of their flaws are greater than others, of course. After an offseason under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, Matt Cassel actually seems to have regressed from his first season with the Chiefs – and it's not like he set the bar all that high a year ago.

Another issue giving Chiefs fans agita is the underuse of Jamaal Charles. There doesn't seem to be any valid explanation for why Thomas Jones is getting the bulk of the work, when everyone knows Charles is capable of producing a big play whenever he touches the ball. It's particularly bizarre given Cassel's struggles to move the offense. Couldn't getting the ball into Charles' hands as often as possible be a solution to that problem?

Whenever there's no logical reason for something, illogical theories inevitably start to emerge. The most absurd one being floated around is the idea that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are refusing to make Charles the starter because they weren't the ones who drafted him.

In reality, nearly half of the Chiefs' starting lineup – 10 out of 22 players – weren't drafted or signed by the new regime. And that figure of ten doesn't include Casey Wiegmann or Ryan Lilja, who had both been with the Chiefs prior to Pioli and Haley's arrival.

Lilja's initial run in Kansas City seems too brief to count, but it's more than fair to consider Wiegmann a Carl Peterson player. That makes for a perfect 11-11 split. When half the team's starters came from the previous regime, does it really seem like the new front office has a problem featuring players they didn't personally add to the roster?

Beyond that, the theory is even sillier when taking into account the following: Pioli and Haley drafted their own speedy offensive weapon who is capable of breaking big plays at a moment's notice.

And they aren't using him either.

Haley and Pioli drafted McCluster for his ability to catch the ball.
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Just two games into the season, it might be a little too soon to start posting "missing" fliers around town. But as it relates to the Chiefs' offense, can someone put out an APB on Dexter McCluster?

When McCluster was drafted with the 36th overall pick back in April, it stunned virtually everyone. Some were hoping to see the Chiefs take Jimmy Clausen, the Notre Dame quarterback who slipped to the second round. Others were hoping for a key defensive player, someone like Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody. There were several ways for the team to go, but outside the Chiefs' war room, McCluster was not a name many were discussing.

Plenty of fans immediately voiced their displeasure over the selection, ripping the Chiefs for ignoring positions of greater need. Some even accused them of passing on superior players just to grab someone who would help Cassel's stats look better.

But over time – as more and more fans saw Youtube clips of McCluster's college exploits – even some of those who initially hated the pick came to grudgingly accept that he might be a special player.

These feelings were buoyed by what we heard from the Chiefs throughout the offseason. Haley spoke several times of all the advantages that McCluster could provide in terms of defensive mismatches. Reports from OTAs had McCluster lining up all over the field, as though the coaching staff was full of ideas for him.

Of course, there's also the obvious fact that he was drafted with a pick just four spots from the first round. A team doesn't draft a player like McCluster that high unless they plan to make him a featured part of their attack, and fans began to get excited at the new dimensions he could bring to the offense.

With his elusiveness and breakaway speed, he quickly became the breakout star of training camp. Going into the preseason, we wondered how heavily he'd be featured as part of the Chiefs' offense. After all, a master strategist like Weis wouldn't want to give anything away too early.

Overall, McCluster spent the preseason getting a few carries and catching a few passes – nothing particularly exciting. But no one seemed too worried about it. Some fans began grabbing him in their fantasy leagues, anticipating the yards he'd be piling up for the Chiefs' offense. We all knew Weis was waiting for the regular season to get fancy.

McCluster only has a hand full of carries in the regular season.
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McCluster's stats for Week 1: two receptions for nine yards, one carry for no yards.

Well, OK, he wasn't a big part of the plan that day. But we can't forget the heavy downpour that affected what the Chiefs were doing on offense. As mentioned here last week, though, even with a conservative game plan, it didn't quite make sense that they were unable to find ways to get the ball to McCluster and see if he could break something.

But given his 94-yard punt return, few were concerned over his lack of offensive stats. McCluster actually won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award for his return touchdown, and his performance had some Chiefs fans pounding their chests and openly mocking those who'd questioned the team for drafting him back in April.

The conditions in the Monday night opener might have dampened McCluster's impact on the offense, but against Cleveland, that's when we'd see him become a major factor.

McCluster's stats for Week 2: one carry for three yards.

Yes, in a game with no weather excuses, a game in which the Chiefs couldn't mount a single touchdown drive, a game where they barely squeaked out a two-point victory, they only managed to give McCluster one lone carry.

Through two games, the Chiefs have run nearly 120 offensive plays. But only four of them have involved the explosive young player taken high in the draft who was supposed to jumpstart the offense.

Combine the amount of McCluster's offensive touches with Charles' and the total is still less than 30. That means about 75% of the Chiefs' plays have been run without getting the ball to the team's two most dangerous weapons.

On one hand, that might be some kind of bizarre reason for optimism. If the Chiefs have managed to win their first two games while practically ignoring Charles and McCluster, how might they do once they start heavily featuring those guys?

On the other hand, though, it's completely insane.

This isn't college – the Chiefs aren't keeping things under wraps for the first few weeks while they get through their cupcake non-conference schedule. One big scoring play on offense in the second half of the Chargers game would have eliminated the need for the last-minute goal line stand. One big scoring play on offense at any point during Sunday's game would have eliminated the need for a tense measurement after the Chiefs decided to go for it on 4th and 1.

Chiefs need to give McCluster more than special teams duty.
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Creating those types of plays is why McCluster was drafted. So why has there been no effort to get the ball in his hands?

Where are the bubble screens, the reverses, the screens out of the backfield, the wildcat? Where are the plays from training camp where McCluster lines up in the slot and just streaks down the field, using his speed to get behind the defense?

For that matter, with all the offseason talk of creating mismatches, where are the plays where McCluster, Charles, and Jones are all on the field together? We've seen that, what, maybe a couple of times at best?

None of this is to say that the Chiefs have to design entire game plans around McCluster. He's been lined up on the field several times when he didn't get the ball, and like any receiver, he needs to beat his man and get open if he wants the passes to come his way. But when the Chiefs are struggling to move the chains, doesn't it make sense to force the ball his way a few times and see if something happens?

A year ago, they found a way to get the ball to Lance Long ten times in his first two games as a Chief. That's more than twice the amount of touches McCluster has notched so far. If they could get the ball to Long, who is currently out of the league, surely they can manage to get McCluster some more opportunities.

The Charles issue may be getting the bulk of attention from Chiefs fans, but the use (or lack thereof) of McCluster may be even more bizarre. And if we can solve the riddle of why they're not utilizing McCluster, perhaps it will shed some light on what's going on with Charles.

After all, there are no conspiracy theories to be floated here. McCluster is their guy. They drafted him themselves. But despite the ongoing offensive struggles, the coaching staff's shiny new toy is still sitting in the box untouched.

For now, the Chiefs' record tends to quell these criticisms to some degree. But if they lose an upcoming game while still neglecting their biggest playmakers, we'll see the flood gates come open rather quickly.

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