A football season is 16 games long. If a team is lucky, it can prolong the time of clearing out lockers and getting bodies healthy for at least four weeks beyond the regular season.
For Melvin Ingram, that would be a total of 64 games in which he could have played every September to December of the last four years. Instead, the thorn in his side has been injuries which cost him 19 games; the equivalent of an entire season!
Ingram’s 2013 campaign was supposed to see his statistics spike; after all, free agency saw Shaun Phillips move on to the AFC West rival Denver Broncos while Antwan Barnes joined the New York Jets. That left the second-year outside linebacker to learn from wily veterans such as Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson. Both Freeney and Johnson were known for their work ethic and hard-nosed play. Unfortunately, his sophomore season was over before it had even begun.
Ingram suffered an ACL tear on May 14 during OTA’s. The expectation was that Ingram would be lost for the year and in August he was placed on the Reserve/PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. Fans were elated to see number 54 back on the field in December and ecstatic to have him force a fumble while sacking Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin. Two weeks later in Cincinnati, he intercepted Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the AFC Championship game.
“SupaMelvin” was BACK!! Or was he?
Ingram appeared to make it through the 2014 OTA’s, minicamp and preseason unscathed. That all changed after the September 14 game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. The weekend arrived and brought with it another stint on the Reserve/Designated to Return list. Eight weeks later he was back sporting his blue and gold. It was a deja vu moment – two years with back-to-back injuries and who does he suit against? Both games were at home against none other than those pesky Raiders. San Diego won both contests.
In April of 2015, the Chargers exercised the fifth-year option of Ingram’s rookie contract. His salary for the 2016 season is $7.751 million, per Spotrac. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
Ingram appeared in all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season, collecting 65 tackles, 10.5 sacks and six passes defensed (PD). His career numbers in 45 outings are 143 tackles, 16.5 sacks, 13 PD with three forced fumbles.
The Bolts’ defense needs Ingram to step it up. Adding former Seahawk Brandon Mebane at the nose tackle position is a start. Drafting Joey Bosa, projected to be the bookend on the defensive line opposite Corey Liuget, was a boon. Having third-year man Jerry Attaochu in the mix along with thumper Denzel Perryman provides defensive coordinator John Pagano with chess pieces that he hasn’t had in years.
Ingram has only logged two games with more than a single sack, both coming last year. One was the preseason game against Seattle last year (2) and another 2.5 collected in the win over Miami. Expect that to change.
Should the starting group on the field complement one another as anticipated, I can see this defense lighting up wide receivers and tight ends, stuffing the run and pushing back opposing linemen.
For Ingram to be successful, he must start strong and stay strong. He has to be a leader on defense this season. He needs to set the tone.
Does Ingram outperform his 2015 numbers? I anticipate that he will. Could he get to 14.5? It could be a real possibility given he should be a bit more free to roam with Mebane in the middle at nose.
These guys don’t wear lightning bolts for show. That electricity HAS to find its way into each and every game and I hope that “SupaMelvin” leads the charge.
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Given the fact that the Chargers are facing the 2015 season without pass rusher Dwight Freeney (un-signed after expired contract) and Jarret Johnson (retired), the Bolts have an opening on defense. Alvin “Bud” Dupree, the big defensive end out of Kentucky, is the guy to fill the void.
Weight: 269 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.56 seconds
Bud Dupree is one of those long and powerful defensive ends who can also be an outside linebacker in John Pagano’s 3-4 defense. He is agile and quick off the snap; relentless, whether he is going after the quarterback or dropping into space and playing zone. Standing 6-foot-4, he has a huge body to use in coverage. He is also capable of rushing from multiple stances. Those qualities will bring a bit more nastiness to the Charger defense.
Dupree has experience playing the linebacker position from the strong-side, the weak-side and on the inside. This is beneficial to San Diego as he fits right in with the “next man up” mentality that Mike McCoy speaks about. Bud recorded 23.5 career sacks and 247 tackles (36 for loss).
NFL comparison: Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks) and Jamie Collins (New England Patriots).
Several NFL draft previews are suggesting that Bud Dupree is moving up the boards because of an impressive Combine and Pro Day performance. The term “freakish athlete” could easily be used to describe him. That being said, it appears that he will certainly be a first round selection. With Dupree’s incredible abilities, Tom Telesco could make an easy choice by selecting the pass rushers at the 17th selection. What do you think about Bud Dupree wearing a blue and gold jersey?
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Let’s speculate that Terrance Knighton, defensive tackle for the bane in the backsides of San Diego’s Chargers, the Denver Broncos, comes to town for a visit. Wouldn’t it be great to nab a player from one of the Bolts’ AFC West rivals? Yes, I know we have Sean Lissemore and Ryan Carrethers. But, truth be told, that position in the middle of the line, nose tackle, hasn’t been the same since big ol’ Jamal Williams (one of my favorites!) was released in 2010.
So, what would the Chargers get if they could sign Knighton? 200 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles over his six years in the league. A proven leader. Someone that helps solidify the defensive front. And one other thing? Let’s not forget one all-important fact: DURABILITY. The man has only been injured three (that’s right, 3) times over the course of his career. The best part?
That nasty attitude in the defensive line is sorely lacking! As Nick Hardwick said shortly before he retired, “We’ve got to bring some bad, bad dudes in here”. Though he was referencing former players Steve Foley and Randall Godfrey, (and they were fearsome!), the fact remains that there really isn’t much nasty to the Chargers defense. They need the talent of Suh without all the other baggage. Jarret Johnson retired and Dwight Freeney’s status with the Bolts is unknown. Knighton gives the Chargers a veteran presence that will be needed to fill that void. I think his mean, tough, “you gotta go through me” attitude would bolster the young guys to play a little more aggressively. Knighton is 28, not much older than the rest of the defensive line. Can you imagine what Corey Liuget (6’2, 300 pounds) and Kendall Reyes (6’4, 300 pounds) could be like with Knighton, who is 6’3 and 335 pounds, between them?! Add Ingram and Attachou, plus that guy who is all over the place – Weddle – and their collective hard-hitting moxy – all I can say is, that sounds like a bunch of “bad dudes” to me!!
In comparison, Lissemore has been in the league since 2010 and traded by Dallas to San Diego in 2013. Overall stats: 119 tackles (53 in SD), 6.5 sacks (3/SD), 1 interception (returned for touchdown), and 1 fumble recovery. Carrethers will be entering his second year and while he didn’t play much, he had nine tackles.
The only downside I’ve been able to find on him is in relation to his weight. Denver has fined him several times, to the tune of $300,000, for not adhering to weight markers. Knighton has slimmed down, changed his eating habits, and feels that he will be able to maintain an ideal weight going forward.
Sure, Knighton said he’d take a hometown discount to stay in Denver. However, they may not have the money to do it after all the spending Elway did last offseason in free agency. His contract, when he signed there in 2013, was a two-year, $4.5 million deal that gave him a $500,000 signing bonus with $500,000 guaranteed. Salary was $2.25 million, plus a million dollar roster bonus for 2014. So, why not offer him the same deal to play in San Diego?
Personally, I like the possibility of Knighton wearing lightning bolts as opposed to either an orange-maned horse or silver “pirate” with swords through his head. Really appealing if it can be accomplished at a cap-friendly number. How about you?
Thanks for reading!
Cheryl A. White
Chargers fans are well aware that while it may not have struggled as much as the offensive line, the defensive side of the ball also had issues. Now, in light of Jarret Johnson having retired, there is a space to fill. Enter, Pernell McPhee?
An unrestricted free-agent from the Baltimore Ravens, McPhee has a pretty good resume for only being in the League since 2011. Drafted that year in the fifth round out of Mississippi State by Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens GM, this guy has followed up his college years with nary a hiccup. Thus far, McPhee’s has 65 tackles (47 solo), 9.5 sacks for -56 yards, 3 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. His 2014 stats alone were 7.5 sacks, 27 tackles (both career highs), and 35 quarterback hits. He is 6’3″ and weighs 280.
What’s good about him beyond the stats? He is another durable player which San Diego fans know is a plus! Other than the four games missed due to a thigh injury in 2011, he played all 16 games since joining the NFL. Also consider that he can line up anywhere on the defensive line and wreak havoc. Couldn’t the Bolts use that? He could be “The Guy” that Coach John Pagano would build a scheme around, thus leaving any Chargers opponent having to account for his presence on every snap. He wins his interior one-on-one pass rushes. Picking him up would give the team a trio of guys that could grow together as a unit: McPhee is 26 years old, Kendall Reyes is 25, and Corey Liuget is 24. Cohesiveness on defense? Yes!
So, let’s talk money. His expiring rookie contract was four years/$2,184,560; $144,560 signing bonus/$144,560 guarantee. Yearly salary average of $546,140. If Telesco could sign him, a potential contract could be 5 years/$40.5 million with $13 million guaranteed. Granted the cap restrictions are tight, but this could help the Chargers out not only immediately, but long into the future. Isn’t speculation a wonderful concept?
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Cheryl A. White
The faces of the San Diego Chargers have most recently been Philip Rivers for the offense and Eric Weddle for the defense. Don’t get me wrong, these two have done a stellar job at leading their counterparts and mentoring incoming talent, but unsung frontrunners such as center Nick Hardwick and outside linebacker Jerret Johnson have recently announced their retirement and that grants some empty leadership slots to be filled. Addressing the elephant in the room – can Donald Butler step up and fill the void? Ultimately, it’s not a question if he can, rather his duty to step in and drive.
The 2014 campaign was not a pretty one for Butler who was recently signed to a multi-year deal just the previous season. Watching him wasn’t what it used to be and his uninspiring attitude was hard to overlook.
Of course the blame can be put on the injury stricken defense, but all excuses aside, Butler now needs to become a true leader. Not last year, not yesterday, but starting now.
Butler will enter the 2015 season after recovering from a season ending elbow injury. Moving forward, the limelight is now on his work ethic. Injury is arguably the number one reason players never return to form, so it’s imperative that Butler works hard and proves to his teammates he is willing to put in the work. The Bolts are going to need him completely healthy and 100% ready to go next season.
I hate to bring this up, but the Miami game last year was by far one of the worst games in San Diego history. The 37-0 deficit was enough to bring the team moral to its lowest, and Butler was the main contributor. There’s no need to beat a dead horse, but you get the drift. Butler’s leadership should encompass morale which will allow him to be the go-to guy when spirits are low. Tenacity and optimism are the key ingredients to keeping the flame lit.
Lastly, there needs to be more production on the football field. Butler finished last year with only 45 total tackles, 1 sack, and no interceptions or forced fumbles. If the Chargers’ talented linebackers need any type of leadership, it’s going to have to start with Butler’s efforts. By all means, last year’s stats were nothing to brag about. Yet on the other hand, I’m confident he will improve his productivity. Teammates such as Manti Te’o, Andrew Gachkar, and Jerry Attaochu need Butler’s guidance.
Leadership is easily mentioned, yet tough to execute. Donald Butler doesn’t need to step up, it’s his duty. In order to accomplish greater things in 2015, the Chargers need his direction. With a new linebackers coach and new season, it’s safe to assume that Butler will have the chance to fill the void.
After twelve years as an outside linebacker in the NFL, Jarret Johnson (JJ) has announced that he is hanging up his cleats. This comes to no surprise as Johnson has already produced a spectacular tenure in the league and has decided to retire on a high note.
JJ spent his first nine seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Taken in the fourth round (109th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by Baltimore, he made an immediate impact his rookie season. During his time with the Ravens, he racked up an impressive 382 total tackles, 20 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. Following the 2011 season, Johnson then became a San Diego Charger.
The Bolts signed the veteran on March 14, 2012 to a four-year contract deal. Besides the knowledge of the game, he brought much more to Chargers Park. His athleticism was countless, however it was his skillset at the strong side “Sam” linebacker position that made him so valuable. His ability to call the blitz elevated the Chargers defense to a more effective and stealthy unit. Most importantly, Johnson could scrap, push, and breakaway from blocks which allowed him to pummel the running back to the ground. Johnson recorded 85 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles for the Bolts.
JJ was more than just a great player, he was an even better mentor and role model. He spent the last three years of his career with the Bolts and has made an everlasting impact on the young linebacker unit. Anyone can play a sport, but it’s what you can do for your teammates that make you invaluable. Current San Diego players took to Twitter to express their gratitude and appreciation for their teammate. Take a look below.
Even fans too took to Twitter to show their JJ fandom.
Johnson voiced his retirement on Instagram yesterday by saying “Today I am announcing my retirement from the game I love. I lived a dream which few can say but it’s time to move on. I want to thank the Chargers organization for giving me a home these past three years.”
Players like JJ will forever be missed on and off the football field by coaching staff and fans, but especially his teammates. On behalf of BoltBlitz.com, we would like to express our upmost respect for the talented linebacker and wish Jarret Johnson a very happy retirement. It’s certain that he will prosper in the next chapter of his life. Thank you again for the fire and passion you bring to the game we all have come to love.
The Chargers have suffered a plethora of injuries in the early stages of 2014. Some impact players such as Nick Hardwick and Danny Woodhead are out for the entire season. Others like Ryan Mathews and Melvin Ingram have already missed time and will for a bit longer; Melvin is currently on the reserve-injured with a designation to return. The hope is that Mathews will be back before, or right around, the bye week.
When looking at the names listed above, each and every one of them are impact players.
This week’s injury report is not short of big names either. Here’s a look at the list of injured Bolts heading into this Sunday’s game at Oakland.
RB Donald Brown – Concussion
RB Ryan Mathews – Knee
ILB Manti Te’o – Foot
CB Shareece Wright – Knee
WR Malcom Floyd – Calf
RT DJ Fluker – Ankle
OLB Jarret Johnson – Back/Ankle
OLB Cordarro Law – Ankle
C Rich Ohrnberger – Back
S Darrell Stuckey – Quad
LB Reggie Walker – Ankle
WR Keenan Allen – Quad
OLB Jerry Attaochu – Hamstring
ILB Donald Butler – Shoulder
OLB Dwight Freeney – Ankle
TE David Johnson – Knee/Shoulder
From what the San Diego media is reporting, most of the players listed as questionable – with the exception of Fluker – are likely to play this week; although Fluker has a shot at playing via Michael Gehlken on UT San Diego. Attaochu is set to play for the first time in the last two games. He was only in on one play three weeks ago after tweaking his hamstring.
The return of Ohrnberger is huge for the offensive line and Philip Rivers. Additionally on offense, Floyd has been a sure-handed target for Rivers and it would be a shame for him to miss the Raider game. Seyi Ajirotutu saw time in his place last week against the Jets.
The Chargers had a decisive victory against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, scoring 23 unanswered points. It wasn’t always pretty, but considering the health of the team: Mantei Te’o, Jason Verrett, Jerry Attaochu, Reggie Walker inactive, Ryan Mathews on the shelf, Melvin Ingram on short-term IR and Danny Woodhead lost for the year, it was a mostly well-played game. I never thought I’d say this, but the Chargers offensive line misses Jeromey Clary. It took the defense the first half to figure Blake Bortles out, but once they did, it was all Chargers.
My May prediction: “Can you say doormat of the NFL? Chad Henne is a pedestrian QB at best. No more MJD? Not that he’s the player he was a few years ago, but he was their most potent weapon. Toby Gerhart will never be confused for MJD. Their pass rush is getting old (Jason Babin 10 years and Chris Clemons 11 years). Because our boys have a habit of playing to the level of the competition, this game will be closer than it should be. 27-17 Bolts (3-1)” Well, I got the outcome right and was close on the score, which was better than I predicted. I’m now 2-2 against my May predictions.
Chris Clemons was a non-factor. In fact, his name was never even called. Toby Gerhart was limited to 32 yards on 10 carries. He also lost a fumble on the opening drive forced by Jarret Johnson that the Chargers unfortunately weren’t able to capitalize on. Henne was replaced by Bortles and it looked like John Pagano and the defense weren’t ready for him in the beginning. That showed in the first half with the ease Jacksonville moved the ball up and down the field. To his credit, Pagano made the right adjustments and the defense pitched a shutout in the second half with the help of interceptions by Brandon Flowers and Eric Weddle. Jahleel Addae, Cordarro Law and Ricardo Mathews each recorded a sack as it was clear Jacksonville was out to neutralize Dwight Freeney.
Philip Rivers had a big game going 29 for 39 for 377 yards. He threw for three touchdowns against no interceptions. Rivers now has nine touchdown passes against one interception through the first four games of the season. Keenan Allen had 10 catches for 135 yards and Eddie Royal had five catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The gap could have been wider if the Chargers could run the ball. Collectively, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown could only manage 32 yards. Timing between Philip and Doug Legursky and Chris Watt left a lot to be desired as well. Too many misfires on the quarterback/center exchange. They need to get this cleaned up.
Next up, the 1-3 New York Jets who are coming off a 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. With being inactive against the Jags, it’d be nice to get Verrett and Attaochu back in action. There are still three games until the bye week. Chargers don’t need any more injuries to pile up.
Most teams which finish a season with a playoff exit have something good going for the future. You don’t make it through an entire NFL season and partial postseason without significant moments from depth players on the roster. Although these guys are backups, it’s said that after week one or two, no team is truly “healthy”.
Players in the NFL play injured in some way, shape or form for large portions of their careers. Even now, lawsuits are being filed and settled from decade old injuries which linger. Every team needs depth to succeed, which is why the game of football is the ultimate team sport, and why the 53 lucky individuals to make the roster are so vital.
Commonly, teams seek to find an identity. Identity, on either side of the ball, or as a whole, can come in many ways. Sometimes it’s a single player with a transcendent personality and ability, and sometimes it’s just the plain dominance of a system. The Chargers’ defense seeks an identity in 2014.
The Chargers have been operating in a base 3-4 defense for some time now. It’s part of their current identity. The San Diego franchise, as we know it, was shaped ten years ago when Eli Manning refused to play for them after being drafted number one overall in 2004. Philip Rivers is our guy, not New York’s. Something else came in that fateful draft day trade which, for better or worse, played a major part in where we find the Charger defense today.
One of the picks gained in the trade to the Giants was used to select Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman. He quickly became the perfect guy for the San Diego defense and suddenly the Chargers had a dominant player to add to the defense’s identity once again. Although Merriman’s career in San Diego was much more brief than anyone would’ve liked, losing his talent and potential left a void entering the 2010 season. The void was more than the loss of a good linebacker, it was a loss of identity.
The defense, now run by former linebacker coach John Pagano, has struggled to replace Merriman, and the San Diego defense has struggled to replace their identity.
San Diego had hoped that former OLB Shaun Phillips would carry the torch, but he never seemed overly invested, and eventually took an easy opportunity to leave town.
A lot of guys have filled the position since Merriman, but former General Manager ( blank ) could never quite capture the magic again. His reign over the defense was mostly downhill from there, and could be summed up by a couple of the last nails in the coffin to describe the defensive trajectory: Larry English and Greg Manusky.
Sure, there were good defensive seasons with “that one GM” at the helm, but ultimately, they were few and far between. Those times have come and gone, and with the peaks and valleys of an NFL franchise, it would appear, at least, that the incline is now true.
The team has more depth than it has had in years. The defense has depth, and the outside linebacker position, well, almost has too much depth.
The outside linebacker position is a mixture of Super Bowl champions from year’s past and unproven youthful talent. As Charger fans, we want all of these fantastic parts to work in perfect harmony. But they need to play sixteen games, and they need to produce at a high level.
Wanting Dwight Freeney to return to form following a lost season is a no brainer. Wanting Jarrett Johnson to continue his productive run as leader and mentor is clear. Unfortunately, what we want isn’t always what we need.
Cutting Larry English was a breath of fresh air, and Charger fans can feel great about knowing what the move likely says of Melvin Ingram’s health and progress. Without English around, the bottom of the depth chart at the position now includes 2013 saving graces like Thomas Keiser and Tourek Williams. Jerry Attaochu is a rookie, and will get his opportunity, and Reggie Walker has made a career out of great special teams play.
It is possible there are enough roster spots for everyone, but if that were the case, then the void filling desire for the position may be less stable than it seems. Granted, while the talent is clear, there are a lot of question marks with even the best options. A list of injury scares, age versus productivity questions, and outright lack of regular season experience means that nothing is certain.
So where do we go from here? It would appear that the San Diego defense has a “good problem”, being rich at the position, and will have to willingly cut a productive and well liked player.
The most surprising of cuts would be the guys who have locked down spots. Ingram is there, barring the unforeseen, Attaochu will have a spot, and Walker is seemingly too valuable to let loose. We have to conclude that the rest are fair game.
So what will the Chargers’ defensive identity become? Veteran guys leading a younger front seven, or younger, lesser knowns meeting at opposing quarterbacks? This question will be answered over the next three weeks.
Charger fans should be watching this battle closely, as this defensive identity will be heavily anchored to the decisions made around these few roster spots.
As it is, it would appear that Dwight Freeney has a spot sewn up, but again, nothing is certain. Thomas Keiser is off to a good start including a strip sack against the Cowboys last week, but carries the unfortunate label of the single Charger to create off-field distractions during the offseason. Whether we the fans, or the loyal players like it or not, guys like Keiser, Jarrett Johnson, and Tourek Williams are fighting for their roster lives.
Throughout the years of the last regime, Charger fans grew accustomed to watching a GM operate with the “whatever I want” mentality. In Tom Telesco’s second year, it would seem that “whatever the team needs” is the new mantra. As this defense continues to build an identity through players like Eric Weddle, Donald Butler, and Corey Liuget, the outside linebackers looking to stick on this roster will have to find way to separate and solidify themselves as not only what the fans want, but what the team needs.
Next opportunity, at Seattle on Friday evening.
The roster bubble is a constantly moving boundary. What little we do know about General Manager Tom Telesco’s methodology includes his noticeably “anti-that last GM that was in San Diego” style of tinkering up until the day the season starts. Late offseason additions of players like Reggie Walker and Lawrence Guy, as they were released by their respective squads, paid huge dividends for the Bolts’ roster in 2013. Telesco likes to keep a few rotational roster spots on the back-end and wait for final cuts to come throughout the league. Cut down day can become a day for wins as well as losses for an opportunistic GM.
Getting the roster to 75 in August isn’t terribly difficult as many of the camp bodies are easy to identify and likely knew their time would be a struggle and simply a learning experience for future endeavors. Getting down to the final 53 is a bit trickier.
Looking over the current Charger roster, it’s clear that the depth is stronger than it has been in quite some time. Keeping in mind that Telesco will more than likely seek to snag a couple of strong releases from various teams in the twelfth hour, that leaves about 50 or so roster spots guaranteed. Again, looking over the current roster, this process begins to show the difficulty of some of these decisions.
Once the team is down to 53, here are some thoughts on the last five current Chargers to stay on the back-end of the roster, and the last five difficult guys that could be cut before the 2014 campaign officially begins.
Potential Last Few In:
DT Tenny Palepoi or Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe:
It’s clear that after last season John Pagano needs space eaters in the middle of his 3-4 defense. Sean Lissemore does a nice job getting pressure on passing downs, and in this pass-happy league, he was able to make a noticeable impact. What became obvious toward the end of the season, is that as winter and playoffs set in, the Chargers couldn’t stuff the run when it really counted. The addition of Ryan Carrethers shows a step in the right direction, but rotation and competition will be necessary. One of these two undrafted behemoths (6’1″ 298, 6’2″ 309 respectively) will likely find a spot on the bench and possibly on the field.
WR Dontrelle Inman:
Tevin Reese looks to be a nice surprise for a late round pick, but he’s another smaller guy in the receiving corps. The Chargers will be on the look out for affordable targets for Philip Rivers for several years to come. Vincent Brown hasn’t yet panned out, and most of the rest of the gang are average to small route runners moving the chains. Along with Malcolm Floyd (and the tight ends of course) look for the Bolts to hang on to a couple of other receivers to both fill out the roster and potentially make a special teams impact. Inman is 6’3″, making him one of the three tallest receivers on the roster. Improvement in the red zone is an offseason focus for coaches McCoy and Reich, if Inman’s hands are good enough, his size could be enough reason to keep him around.
LB Cordarro Law:
A CFL pass rush standout last year, Law looks to follow in the footsteps of Cameron Wake and make an impact in the NFL. With his skill set and experience, Law shouldn’t have a difficult time making the roster, but the position is now stacked. With Telesco guys like Tourek Williams and Reggie Walker already in the fold, Law will have to work to maintain a spot. Jarrett Johnson is on the decline, and until second round pick Jerry Attaochu or future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney can prove accountable all season, Law should be kept on for talent sake.
CB Chris Davis:
The Chargers have a rich history of talented undrafted free agents. Davis was brought in along with many others in order to solidify a glaring area of need at cornerback. Now that Brandon Flowers has signed and Jason Verrett is cleared for practice, the depth is starting to show. Lucky for Davis, he’s known in the football world for one thing, and it happens to be another area of need for San Diego, the return game. Davis figures to be a near perfect special teamer. He’s played in plenty of big time situations, he is a stout hitter, and played starting corner at Auburn. Those skills mixed with the now fabled ability to return kicks, may land him a comfortable spot on the roster as a depth defensive back and Swiss Army knife special teams guy.
OT Nick Becton:
Another undrafted player Becton joined the Chargers out of Virginia Tech and spent 2013 on the practice squad. With Mike Harris nursing injuries, and the pure tackle position being thin, Nick could turn into a nice option for coach Joe D. At 6’6″ 323, Becton has hung around with the team long enough to say that he has something they like. Probably size and some athletic ability. King Dunlap is the only true left tackle to block the blind side from a year ago, and he certainly had his struggles with concision problems. Harris and Fluker both tried their hands on the left and both looked overmatched. Giving him more time with the line coaches this offseason, there may be a jump in production. He’s young and fits the size part well and could make his way into the future grooming role behind Dunlap.
Potential Last Few Out:
CB Marcus Cromartie:
The corner position is currently a crowded one. Aside from the clear top four, there’s Brandon Ghee and Steve Williams seeking nickel duties as well. Chris Davis may have an edge if he can be a contributor on special teams, and Crezdon Butler got to play some actual minutes last season, recording a very memorable goal line forced fumble against the Cowboys. Although talented and well liked by the team, it’ll be an uphill battle for Cromartie to make the final 53.
DT Kwame Geathers:
With his 6’6″ 335 frame and athleticism, any football fan would inherently want Kwame Geathers to work out for their team. Fact is, Geathers’ abilities never quite fit into Pagano’s scheme. Built like a young Albert Haynesworth doesn’t necessarily mean that he would have to play best as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but after seeing what he’s brought to the Chargers this far, it would appear that he may be better suited for it. The other DTs picked up this far in the Telesco era show a trend where Geathers doesn’t quite fit. Low to the ground and wide. Space eaters. Run stuffers. After drafting Ryan Carrethers out of Arkansas State and bringing in three others for a shot at the active roster, it would appear that Geathers is a man without a natural place on the line. If only he would be open to trying left tackle.
TE John Phillips:
Phillips is the perfect football player to have somewhere on your team. Well, he was. Having been injured most of last season, the mostly blocking tight end now has some competition for his spot. Veteran fullback Le’Ron McClain was let free in exchange for David Johnson, who can also be effective at tight end. Having the pleasure of choosing between Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green on any given down puts Phillips into a full-time backup role as it is. A versatile player like Johnson and some buzz around a young Michael Flacco could spell the impending end for an occasionally banged up veteran like Phillips.
RB Kerwynn Williams, Marion Grice, Branden Oliver:
One of these guys will stick, and the one that does will be well above the rest. The name of the game in this crowded backfield is versatility. Pass blocking, receiving, special teams, possibly returning, and oh yeah, running the ball. There will be a healthy competition until the last day for this fourth back roster spot, but it’ll likely go to the guy who can do the most to help the team in a variety of ways. All these guys are hard workers and show flashes, which is why I say they’ll be tougher to let go. But it looks like, in the end, Grice will likely fit the bill.
Honorable mention stiff competition:
Tourek Williams versus Thomas Keiser versus Jarrett Johnson
The team could feasibly hold all of these linebackers, as they did last year. All showed value on the field in 2013, and youth is certainly on the side of Williams and Keiser. Johnson is a valued team leader and mentor, but with Freeney healthy, Attaochu brought in, and Ingram eyeing a full season, the need for utility outside backers has hopefully gone down. Williams was drafted by Telesco which gives him a bit of an advantage, Keiser had off the field issues, and Johnson’s salary could be saved nicely. Johnson would be a surprise last out, but it could happen.
Looking over this roster, it’s difficult to want to envision releasing any further prospective Chargers. Due to Tom Telesco’s concept of how to build a roster, it must be stated that it will take quality work to stay on the back-end of this roster going into 2014. Here’s a sampling of roster bubble guys from around the league who could fit the bill on the bargain hunt:
WR Brandon Tate, Cincinnati Bengals:
Brandon has been in the league since 2009, and spent his first two years with the Patriots. He came out of North Carolina in a pair with fellow Tarheel Hakeem Nicks, although hasn’t had nearly the success. Tate has been a kick returner for the Bengals in recent years an is 6’1, 210 pounds. His experience in the league and special teams focus should net him a roster spot somewhere in the league in 2014.
WR Kenny Britt, St Louis Rams:
Britt has had a troubled NFL career after being selected in the first round of the ’09 draft by the Titans. A mix of behavior, attitude, and lack of elite play has him simply looking for a team to prove himself to these days. Britt has struggled through quarterback issues with Tennessee, and now is trying to stick with an up and down Sam Bradford. It’s possible that bringing him into a roster with a solidified quarterback and a well oiled offense could be a chance for him to finally shine. At 6’3″ 223, he has always had the physical tools.
G Cyril Richardson, Buffalo Bills:
Apparently this guy is not what he was thought to be coming out of college. Listed as one of the highest first round possibilities along the offensive line early in the draft process, he ended up being drafted in the fifth round, having been passed over by Telesco several times in an area of need. He’s big, as in huge (6’5″, 329) for a guard. If he doesn’t make the cut for some reason in Buffalo, Tom and Joe D may want to take a flier on the massive prospect.