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.
San Diego is missing some key players that they won’t be getting back this season. Guys like Danny Woodhead and Nick Hardwick are out for the year. They are both missed immensely. Not having them on the field has proven to be a big detriment to the team and, especially, the offense.
It appears that outside linebacker, Melvin Ingram, is very close to a return. He will begin practicing today for the first time in quite a long time. His cap number for the year is $2,290,431. That number will not be included in this piece, but it should be noted that he hasn’t played since the week 2 victory over the defending Super bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. His return to the field should provide a serious spark that is needed on an ailing Charger defense.
As posted in an article earlier today, the Bolts are on the hook for a ton of money to players that are no longer on the team. When doing research for that post, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the money being spent on injured players that are not able to contribute due to season-ending injuries.
Here’s the list of player’s cap numbers that will not be back to help the team achieve success in 2014.
RB – D.J. Adams $88,200 practice squad reserve-injured
DL – Damik Scafe $303,000
DL – Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe $303,833
LB – Alvin Scioneaux $304,000
NT – Kwame Geathers $319,000
C/G – Doug Legursky $687,059
RB – Danny Woodhead $2,250,000
C – Nick Hardwick $6,150,000
G/T – Jeromey Clary $3,300,000 ( He is not on IR but he is on the PUP list. No timetable for his return has been announced. )**
** Included Jeromey Clary because I honestly don’t believe that he’ll play this season
Minus Clary, the other players mentioned will certainly not be returning to the field this season. From the looks of things, it isn’t looking good for Jeromey either.
When adding up the amount of money spent in 2014 on players that are no longer available, the total comes to $13,402,092. Ouch! And I mean that literally. The pun was intended.
The Bolts have been beat up by injuries this season. The entire NFL has to deal with injuries every year. But it sure does seem as though San Diego has been hit incredibly hard with the “injury stick.”
The “Next man up” mantra has been preached over and over again. It has been put to the test and the Chargers are now finally getting some guys back that can help push this team toward a second consecutive playoff berth.
That being said, only Ingram and Clary, of all of the players listed above, will have that opportunity. The will and perseverance of this club has been tested and it will continue to be that way for the rest of the year. It is up to the coaches to adapt and adjust to these injuries and place the healthy players in the best positions to succeed.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Editor’s Note: In this piece Peter Silberberger breaks down the defensive battles per position. Due to injuries along the defensive line, other spots on the defense may suffer cuts in order to supplement needs up front.
Tom Telesco has not ignored the need for help at the cornerback position. In fact, depending on health, it may now be a strength for the Chargers. While we haven’t seen any glaring dominance, what we have seen is how teams and players are reacting to San Diego’s rotating defensive back units.
A few things stand out. Richard Marshall was given snaps at safety during the San Francisco game. This action likely speaks to some final roster thoughts. Carrying any more than three full time safeties would cut into the other needs of depth for the team. Addae, Stuckey, and Weddle are all locks, and having part-time corner Marcus Gilchrist and a veteran like Marshall able to fill in occasionally makes the defensive backfield strong and flexible.
Teams seem more than willing to throw at Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall, but not so much toward Verrett or Flowers. Granted, the two starters from last year’s squad are labeled poorly when it comes to 2013 pass defense rankings, but with the two new faces around, it looks as though John Pagano will have plenty of options. It should also be noted that neither Flowers or Verrett have seen much playing time as of yet, but their reputation and speed respectively seem to affect the number of attempts thrown their way.
Steve Williams and Crezdon Butler have both had a rough go with actual game speed and play calling. Chris Davis, however, has been all over the place throughout training camp and on game tape. If today was 53-man cut down day, Davis would be getting the nod over both other reserves.
Brandon Ghee had seemingly disappeared completely during preseason, and found himself on the chopping block during first cuts, which finalized Tuesday. Marcus Cromartie was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, as well.
These moves leave the door open for either Steve Williams or Chris Davis, but likely not both with Gilchrist around. The team will likely total seven cornerbacks, including Gilchrist, which is a lot already. Don’t expect there to be eight.
Defensive Line/ Outside Linebackers:
At first glance, it appears that Pagano’s traditional 3-4 defense has some definite holes to fill in prototypical positions. The defensive tackle position is shaky at best, and the end depth is thin. Questions of how and where Dwight Freeney will be best utilized are still relevant, and there’s a lot of unproven talent walking around.
The team released reserve DE Damik Scafe and lost rookie prospect DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe for the year to an ACL tear. Telesco, doing what he does, pulled in two cuts from around the league in Doug Worthington and Joe Kruger. Worthington projects as a 4-3 lineman and Kruger mostly the same, although a more athletic frame may allow him to dabble in a standing position.
All of this maneuvering seems to overlap with the theme of this roster build, and its versatility. It would appear that Mike McCoy’s nature of playing the schemes which best fit his personnel has caught on with his coordinators. That being said, any personnel being brought in this late will have to be adaptable. Guys like Worthington, Kruger, and other roster hopeful Cordarro Law will have to be able to fit into multiple positions in order to make the team. This could, perhaps, be unfortunate news for a guy like Thomas Keiser.
Although noticeably productive, Keiser is viewed as a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s not that the Bolts don’t need pass rushing outside ‘backers, it’s that they already have those guys for those specific sets. Ingram, Attaochu, Johnson, Tourek Williams, and even Reggie Walker can all fill that role easily. If guys like Worthington, Kruger, or Law make this roster over Keiser, it will be because of their ability to play in multiple defensive sets, as well as contribute on special teams.
The defensive tackle position is a different story entirely. Kwame Geathers and Sean Lissemore have been at the top of the depth chart for some time. That being said, Lissemore is battling an injury and Geathers was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his season. Enter rookies Ryan Carrethers and Tenny Palepoi. Both have the prototypical build to anchor the traditional 3-4 line, but both are very young. They’ll collectively get all the snaps they can handle, which is great for their growth process. Suddenly, however, the team lacks playable veteran mentors at the position.
One thing most know about Tom Telesco is that he is never without options. The opportunistic GM will be closely watching the waiver wire as teams trim rosters to 75 this week. If he sees a bargain, he’ll certainly grab it.
Another option is long time NFL veteran free agent Ryan Pickett. The ex-Packer lives in San Diego and has expressed interest. The good there is clearly the wealth of experience and ability to teach, as he once did for Packers DT B.J. Raji. Pickett would almost certainly have to see veteran minimum salary as a must in this situation, which is also team friendly. The bad is likely his 34 year-old physique may not be what the Bolts are looking for.
It’s more in Telesco’s nature to find a second or third year guy who couldn’t squeeze onto a roster somewhere else in the league. In order to keep the talent level high, Telesco will likely wait and watch the final week with the guys already around. This will serve two purposes. One, it will give every snap available to the two rookies for invaluable experience in real-time. Two, it will allow for Telesco to wait for the perfect guy to add when final 53s are announced by Friday. There are tough decisions being made all over the league this week, and teams such as the Patriots and Broncos could be cutting some serious talent on the defensive line.
By the end of this week, Lissemore and Carrethers will be Chargers for sure, but don’t be surprised if Palepoi is challenged by a Telesco find. If that were the case, the battle for the roster spot could take place during the final preseason game. If not, and Tenny struggles, he may very well lose his spot to a more trusted veteran come Friday.
With the versatility of guys like Reggie Walker and Marcus Gilchrist, the inside linebacker and safety positions seem to be sewn up. So, while watching Thursday’s game, it’s D-Line, outside linebacker, and cornerback where the 2014 San Diego Chargers will be focused on finalizing the roster.
Can Chris Davis keep his momentum going in his duel with Steve Williams? Will newly added athletes in the front seven push Thomas Keiser out? Will there be another addition to the defensive tackle position by Wednesday afternoon? The final game of the pre season is supposed to be practically unwatchable to the average football fan. Good thing Charger fans are anything but that.
Per the Chargers official website, Chargers.com, San Diego has made the 5 necessary moves to drop the roster count down to 75. The following 5 transactions were made just moments ago.
Placed on reserve/injured:
– CB Marcus Cromartie
– DE Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe
– NT Kwame Geathers
Placed on reserve/PUP list:
– G/T Jeromey Clary
– CB Brandon Ghee
With the exception of placing Geathers on IR, none of these moves come as a surprise. Though Tjong-A-Tjoe had a strong shot at the practice squad, once it was announced that he had suffered a torn ACL which everyone knew would end his year.
Losing Geathers is a serious cause for concern. In typical Mike McCoy fashion, the injury was initially downplayed as not too serious. I actually like that about him, by the way. I am sure there are very few of you that agree with that.
The injuries and lack of depth along the defensive line are certainly an area that must be addressed. All 32 NFL teams are about to have to trim their rosters to 53 players this Saturday on August 30th.
You better believe that Tom Telesco and company are ready to mend a unit that is in dire need of such help.
Thanks a lot for reading.
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.