Play of the week: Chiefs' McCluster finds home in slot
During his first two years in the NFL, Kansas City didn't know what to do with Dexter McCluster.
Finally, the Chiefs found a perfect home for the diminutive McCluster — as a slot receiver.
The Chiefs moved McCluster to the slot full time during this past offseason, and the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder has added flavor to a somewhat vanilla offense with the shotgun 3-wide receiver Y cross.
McCluster has 29 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown through the first half of the season, with the majority of his catches coming on crossing patterns in the middle of the field.
McCluster has been targeted 29 times from 10 yards or fewer, 15 of which came across the middle.
Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel has been more comfortable with McCluster in the slot, and the targets have increased in recent weeks.
McCluster has been targeted 20 times over the past three weeks and have averaged 32 pass routes per game during that span.
The Chiefs' favorite play has become the shotgun 3-wide receiver Y cross, which is designed to get McCluster matched up with a linebacker in man coverage.
Kansas City employs a three wide-receiver set, with Dwayne Bowe split out wide left and Jon Baldwin wide right. McCluster is aligned to the slot to the right of Bowe and to the strong side next to tight end Tony Moeaki, with Cassel in the shotgun and running back Jamaal Charles to his right.
With the offensive line set in pass pro, at the snap, Moeaki stays in and helps block the outside linebacker, while Charles checks for blitzing linebackers up the middle before flaring out into his check-down route.
Bowe rounds off a 15-yard in pattern, while Baldwin runs a 15-yard out pattern to the far sideline.
McCluster gets off the line of scrimmage and runs a 12-yard crossing pattern from left to right. Depending on the coverage, McCluster will either try to get underneath coverage or on top of it.
If it's man coverage, the linebacker is usually in trail coverage, which allows McCluster to have free reign underneath to outrun the defense.
If it's zone, Cassel will wait until McCluster comes into a passing window to make the throw, even if it is across the formation.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.