The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.
The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.
Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.
“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.
“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.
More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.
“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.
This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.
Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…
Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.
Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.
San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.
RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!
QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.
CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.
Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.
ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.
Why would the Chargers let him go now?
Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.
A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Even though the 2015 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, college prospects are still very busy visiting numerous clubs around the league.
There are many reasons as to why players visit NFL teams. Some team’s motives are intended to be a distraction, but others are exactly what many would assume they would be for – to visit a team that plans to select them in the draft.
So far, the Chargers have had eight pre-draft visits; including projected first rounder, Marcus Mariota from Oregon. Pump the breaks, though. What exactly does that mean to Bolt fans? Nothing.
Pre-draft visits are overrated, and here’s why.
A missed opportunity at the scouting combine
The NFL combine was established for college football players to perform various tests in front of league coaches, general managers and scouts. During the event, staffs attempt to preview every player on their radar. Yet, they don’t have the opportunity to run them through team-specific drills, ones that fit their team’s scheme. That being said, teams will have their players of interest visit before the draft, in order to gain a better understanding of each player on a one-on-one basis.
It is well-known that all college players do not get drafted. In fact, out of roughly 3,500 men, only about 250 are drafted. For the remaining players, they start their search for a job. However, there are players who are picked up right away as rookie free agents; ones that had previously conducted a pre-draft visit with that same team. For example, defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe had a pre-draft visit in 2014. That year, he went undrafted and was swiftly picked up and signed by San Diego. Pre-draft visits are not solely scheduled for individuals that NFL teams plan on being drafted.
The NFL is a business, and those in back office operations have to continuously play a game of poker. It’s almost like wearing sunglasses at a poker table. There are some general managers that do not want many people knowing who they plan to draft. So they schedule pre-draft visits with players that they truly have no interest in. Sneaky? Absolutely. And it is far more common than the casual fan would think.
Behind the scenes communication
Just because a player hasn’t visited a team for a private session, doesn’t mean that the club hasn’t been in contact with him. With advanced technology, communicating is now the easiest it’s ever been. Voice calling, text messaging, even Skyping are all ways coaches can converse with their college prospects. If you’re worried that your favorite draftees haven’t visited the Bolts yet, then you may want to reconsider the conditions.
Since a lot players that are drafted come from the same schools, it’s possible that a team will host a player just to obtain information on one of his teammates. The Bolts brought in offensive tackle D.J. Humphries of Florida, yet he is also the teammate of outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., who had an impressive showing at this year’s combine. Even with San Diego needing a legitimate tackle to solidify the offensive line, they do have some gaps to fill at the linebacker position. It’s very possible that Fowlers’ name came up a few times during Humphries’ visit. That’s not to say this was the case, but it is surely a possibility.
Overall, pre-draft visits do not always indicate what they imply. College players are visiting as many teams as they can before draft day. Additionally, one should not get worked up about Mariota working out with Philip Rivers in America’s finest city. All rumors aside, teams already have a good indication of whom they would like to take with their picks this year, and these pre-draft visits are just the cherry on top.