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Tribal Warfare
08-07-2010, 12:05 AM
Chiefs hope rookies can add kick to return game (http://www.kansascity.com/2010/08/06/2134647/chiefs-hope-rookies-can-add-kick.html)
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star

S T. JOSEPH | In an effort to find a worthy successor to Dante Hall, the Chiefs over the last three years have tried washed-up veterans (Eddie Drummond), untested young players (Dantrell Savage) and almost everything in between.

So it’s little wonder they’ve lagged in the return game since trading Hall, getting almost nothing except a kickoff-return touchdown last season from Jamaal Charles.

The Chiefs finally got serious about obtaining a high-quality kick-return specialist when they selected not one but two in the second round of this year’s draft.

Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas are now battling on the training-camp practice field to be the return specialist. Their ability is sparking hope among the Chiefs that McCluster or Arenas and possibly both can do for them what Hall once did.

“Potentially great return guys,” coach Todd Haley said. “One (Arenas) was a great college returner. McCluster did a lot of other things. That’s a little more speculative of what his abilities are there.

“We’re going to work them and we’re going to watch them and we’re going to evaluate them. I’m excited about the possibilities and the potential.”

The Chiefs in camp have looked at some other players as returners, including Lance Long, Quinten Lawrence and Jackie Bates.

McCluster and Arenas are the serious candidates. McCluster has been first in line most of the time, but that could change at any time.

“Right now we’re in the stage where we’re just trying to coach them all to do things the way we want them done,” Haley said. “The rest will play itself out once we start to play games.”

Both players will get plenty of work otherwise, McCluster as a receiver and runner and Arenas as a nickel back.

Durability is an issue because neither player is built to take a physical pounding. McCluster is the smallest of Chiefs players at 5 feet 8 and 170 pounds. Arenas, at 197, is stockier but still only 5-9.

That’s why the Chiefs may end up using both players.

“He really is in my mind the mirror image of McCluster,” Haley said of Arenas. “He’s just playing on the other side of the ball. They’re both versatile players that I think have to be managed (with regard to playing time), and as the head coach, that’s my job not to put too much on their plate but make sure we get enough. Let’s see how good they can be.”

McCluster did little returning at college at Mississippi. His coaches preferred to save his abilities for offense, so he isn’t experienced returning kickoffs or punts.

“A lot of it is just instinct,” said Long, one of eight players to return a kickoff for the Chiefs last year. “If you have the ability and a good feel for where people are and good peripheral vision and good vision and good patience, you’ll be good at it.”

While all of that is hard to find in a single package, the Chiefs believe McCluster has it.

“Dexter is a great athlete,” Long said. “It’s hard not to notice him out there. It won’t take him long at all.”

The Chiefs have been looking for ways to get McCluster the ball in open-field situations, making returns an ideal use for him.

“I haven’t done it in a while, but coming out here doing it every day is making me more comfortable in each phase,” McCluster said. “I want to make sure I’m ready for either one.

“It’s been natural for me. Coach kind of pulled it away from me in college, but right now they’re giving me the opportunity. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

“I’ve been doing it all my life (in practice). In college they shied away from me. But if you have the instinct and the knack for it, it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s going to be natural.

“Punt return is more exciting. You get the ball and you have to use your instincts right away. With kickoff returns, you have time to analyze the field and set up your blocks and make a play.”

Meanwhile, Arenas was used extensively as a returner at Alabama. He scored seven touchdowns as a punt returner in college.

While the selection of Arenas fills a need for the Chiefs on defense, his return ability was a big reason they grabbed him in the second round.

“They told me that’s part of what they wanted me for,” he said.

BossChief
08-07-2010, 01:01 AM
Would be nice to open the MNF game with a big return.

Hog Farmer
08-07-2010, 04:24 AM
Maybe, we'll set a record for most punt return TD's in a game.