When the Tennessee Titans decided not to re-sign running back Chris Johnson, Tennessee lost one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL. Say what you will about his recent decline in form, but when Johnson touched the ball there was a collective holding of breath, because he could literally take it to the house every play.
Now, the Titans must move on without CJ2K in the backfield. The talk surrounding the offense has fallen on the shoulders of quarterback Jake Locker, second-year receiver Justin Hunter, second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey, veteran tight end Delanie Walker, and last season’s star Kendall Wright. However, the one offensive weapon Tennessee possesses that doesn’t seem to get much attention is their free agent pick up from the Kansas City Chiefs, Dexter McCluster.
Chosen in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, McCluster was known as an explosive kick returner with elite speed coming out of Ole Miss. Since then, he’s failed to impress in a major way in the NFL, only carrying the ball 20 times in the last two seasons.
The problem in McCluster’s time with Kansas City is that he was deemed surplus to requirements at the running back position. 2011 was the only season he had a real opportunity to run the ball consistently, and it showed in his statistics – McCluster averaged 4.5 yards per carry on more than 500 yards. However, he’s steadily gained in both receiving yards and receptions throughout his NFL career and could see more touches and a faster paced offense in Tennessee.
McCluster is the Titans’ wild card on offense. QB Locker has come out as saying that the team will be a passing team in 2014, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt is known for his unpredictable play calling. Sankey will be the go-to back, but McCluster has the skills and the hands to be an asset in the passing game out of the backfield, while also being a talented running back option. He’s the type of do-it-all back that will fit perfectly in the Titans’ new system.
This season, Locker will frequently come under pressure from opposing defenses, especially in a division that boasts pass rushers like J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Robert Mathis. McCluster could be the go-to escape pass that turns into a 20+ yard play. His speed and agility are his most highlighted assets, but his football intelligence when it comes to positioning will allow for him to be a major asset to the Tennessee offense in 2014.