Chiefs have appealing options
Saturday, August 6, 2011
ST. JOSEPH (AP) — The Chiefs’ return game got off to a promising start last year when rookie Dexter McCluster took a punt 94 yards for a momentum-swinging touchdown in the opener.
Kansas City couldn’t keep it up all season with McCluster and fellow second-round pick Javier Arenas.
“They both got beat up in a number of different ways, which happens,” coach Todd Haley said. “And it didn’t look so hot as we got through the season.”
The Chiefs signed receiver Steve Breaston this offseason, adding even more depth and versatility to their return game.
Kansas City ranked 28th in the NFL on kickoff returns last season and 17th on punt returns. McCluster’s score turned out to be its only touchdown from the return game all season. The Chiefs did improve their average punt return by 4 yards from the previous year.
In the 2010 Week 1 win over the Chargers, Arenas had a pair of long punt returns in the first half. Then McCluster came in to field a second-quarter punt and went all the way to the end zone.
Breaston returned punts and kicks in his first four seasons with Arizona. Haley believes the Chiefs won’t use one dedicated return man this season because of each player’s other abilities.
“If that were his No. 1 job, then I would be all for that if he were a big-time returner, which they all have a chance to be,” Haley said. “As the situation looks right now, I don’t know if that’ll be the case. Those are guys that are contributing in other areas where we need them — all three of them.”
Haley expects to rotate returners based on their fatigue from their regular duties for the second straight season.
“You felt completely confident doing it because you felt like either guy gave you a chance to make a big play,” Haley said.
Arenas practiced with the first team at cornerback until Brandon Carr signed Thursday. A nickel back in his first season, Arenas should continue to see plenty of snaps on defense.
Arenas is dedicated to returning, but he won’t flinch if he’s not out there for every punt and kick.
“I’m not going to pitch a fit,” he said. “Whatever they ask for I’m going to go out there and give it my best.”
McCluster, a hybrid running back-wide receiver, provides versatility and speed on offense. Breaston projects as the slot receiver behind Dwayne Bowe and rookie first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin.
McCluster said the mantra for the returners was to be prepared.
“I’m just going to approach special teams like I do all the time: Be ready when my time is called, catch every ball, make all the right decisions and just try to make plays,” McCluster said.
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