There is no replacing Danny Woodhead, but if anyone has a chance to help fill the void created by the veteran running back's knee injury, it's Dexter McCluster.
The reasons why are numerous.
Not only does McCluster boast a similar skillset as a receiver out of the backfield, but his familiarity with the Chargers' system gives him an advantage not often seen for someone signed midseason. McCluster played under Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee the past two years, so he is well versed in what the offensive coordinator brings to the table. Furthermore, Tight Ends Coach John McNulty and Wide Receivers Coach Nick Sirianni also spent time with him during respective stints with the Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.
"The play calling is coming kind of easy for me with Coach Whisenhunt," he said. "Having (been) in that system for a year, I came in and pretty much knew exactly what I was doing (today). There are some tweaks here and there but for the most part it's the same thing…. (It's a) very quick transition. I fell asleep studying last night. I went to sleep about 7 o'clock and woke up at 3 this morning so I figured since I'm up I might as well be studying. That is how I have been trying to adjust."
While McCluster's experience in the system and physical skillset makes him a natural fit as a versatile option out of the backfield, it's now up to him to deliver on the field. The next few days will be a crash course for the 5-8, 170-pound running back to get ready for the Indianapolis Colts, but he's doing everything in his power to chip in as soon as possible.
For example, McCluster says there were three occasions where he and Philip Rivers weren't on the same page. While that is to be expected in their first time on the field together, the pair stayed after practice to work out the kinks.
"(Building a rapport) is going to happen through practice," he said. "After practice we stayed, ran about three routes that we missed today and tried to get on the same page with things. I think it is about repetition."
McCluster is wisely staying in Rivers' hip pocket in order to give himself his best chance. Like most, it didn't take long for the newest Charger to come away impressed by number 17 on and off the field.
"I don't think I've met a smarter guy than (him) ever. As a running back, you have to process a lot, but you already know what you have. He'll reassure you and say 'Hey, this is what you have' so it makes it a whole lot faster and easier to get your job done."
Rivers admitted it is not fair to ask McCluster to do everything Woodhead did for the offense. While they aren't asking him to be Woodhead 2.0, he does believe the newest addition is up for the task.
"Well it is certainly a challenge to fill the role Danny (had running and receiving)," Rivers said. "Dexter has done that both places he has been, but that is one of those (where) I don't have three years' experience with him like I do with Danny. So there will be some over-communication, double reminders (and) things like that. Losing Danny but (being) able to get a guy like that, (he offers) similar types of matchups and we're hoping for the (same) production at that spot."