The best piece of advice I can give a sports fan is this: cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.
No matter how wonderful a player is on or off the field, someday either the team or the player will make the difficult decision to go a different direction. The team remains, but the players go through the never ending revolving doors known as free agency and retirement. Remember the aforementioned advise when you look at the following list of fan favorites and impact players who are on the last year of their contracts with the Chargers. Here is the list of the players who may leave at seasons end. The departure of some will leave a hole in the team. The departure of others will leave a hole in fans hearts. So as I crank up The Clash in the background, let’s take a look at who should stay and who should go, as well as what they are making for the 2016 season.
Melvin Ingram (OLB) $7.751 million: Staying: Although Ingram has had to deal with injuries and has under achieved in a statistical way, the future of Ingram seems bright. The addition of Joey Bosa has made this pair of pass-rushers quite a handful for offensive lines. The sack totals are not as impressive as their AFC West rivals, but the fact that the Chargers lead the league in interceptions is a sure sign that these guys are putting pressure on quarterbacks and forcing errant throws. For a defensive front seven to be effective in today’s NFL, there must be two dominant pass rushers and a strong Nose Tackle. Ingram, Bosa and Mebane fit the bill for now. Ingram will be pursued by other teams, but expect the Chargers to overpay a little to keep their former first round draft pick around for the next three to four years.
Danny Woodhead (RB) $5.5 million: Going: I want to be clear about something here. Danny Woodhead is a wonderful player who can be a spark-plug for an offense, and a true leader. But along with his greatness is a serious problem. Since joining the Chargers, Woodhead has only played in 37 of the 64 games he was eligible to participate in. He has had two full seasons and two cut seriously short by injury, including the 2016 campaign. Not only does Woodhead have a hard time staying healthy, he is 31 years old. Not many running backs maintain their effectiveness for long after age 30. I’m sorry to say, the Chargers will move on from Woodhead. He will either sign somewhere as a free agent for the 2017 season, or hang up the cleats. Of course, there is the possibility that the Chargers would try to sign him at a discounted price on the chance that he will stay healthy. Unfortunately, he will most likely find a better offer somewhere else.
Mantai Te’o (MLB) $5.172 million: Going: Te’o is another player who has been plagued by injuries during his time in San Diego. By seasons end, he will have played in just 38 of a possible 64 games, over his four season tenure with the Bolts. He has been improving every year, and the improvement of the defensive line has helped him scrape down the line and get to ball carriers. But, it hasn’t helped his foot-speed, or ability to cover backs in the flat. Look for opposing quarterbacks to pick on Te’o on third and long. The fact is, Te’o will go down in Chargers history as a borderline bust. Nice enough guy, just not a great football player.
Jahleel Addae (SS) $2.553 million: Going: Chargers fans seem to have a great deal of respect and admiration for SS Jahleel Addae. Why? Because he is a hitter! Fans love players who come in and lay some hat on opposing teams. Addae certainly does just that. He has been a Charger for four years and has quite the reputation for having no fear. The problem is that all those hits have really taken a toll on Addae’s body. In fact, he has had several injuries, including concussions. Having only played 43 of his possible 54 games so far as a Charger, there must be concern that he will spend more and more time on the injured list. He is fairly inexpensive, but you do not want to pay anyone to ride out injuries. I believe that if Addae fails to get through the remaining five games of the 2016 schedule without incident, the Chargers will have no choice but to let him go.
Branden Oliver (RB) $1.53 million: Staying: Normally I would have said that a player who really hasn’t done very much, and has missed an entire season to injury, would not be returning. In Oliver’s case, I think the Chargers may take one more chance. He is the epitome of a fan favorite. Bolt fans just love watching Oliver run/return the ball and bang into those large defenders. Yes, Oliver plays larger than his 5’8″, 208 lb frame. He is such a fan favorite, some fans wanted Melvin Gordon either cut, or dropped to second string, so that Oliver could get his chance. The fact of the matter is that despite a few impressive games, Oliver does not have the stats to explain the love he receives. That being said, the Bolts may just bring him back because he will be cheap and the fans love him.
Korey Toomer (OLB) $600,000: Staying: It could be a little premature to add Toomer to this list, but he has been an impact player since joining the team in week four. With his playing time increasing, Toomer has racked up 33 tackles in the last three weeks! He is an aggressive player who likes to hit. The Seahawks and the Raiders are going to regret letting this guy go. Look for Toomer to get another two the three years added to his already very affordable contract.
Dontrelle Inman (WR) $600,000: Staying: Without a whole lot of playing time, Inman has managed to have some big games. He is a sure-handed receiver that was plucked from the Canadian Football League to fill in for injured receivers. Although much of the success of the young Chargers receivers can be credited to Philip Rivers, there is no denying that Inman has the ability to get open and catch the ball. He just may be part of a talented youth movement at wide receiver in San Diego.
There are many more players to make decisions on at the end of this season. Very few are notable. None are tremendous impact players or former high draft picks. Even though these names seem less important, some of them will return because they are affordable and they add much needed depth. The following is a list of players who will most likely be brought back to fill various roles: Mike Windt (LS), Tenny Palepoi (NT), Sean McGrath (TE), Damion Square (NT), and Isaiah Burse (WR/KR), Kenny Wiggens (G).
Finally, the list of potential free agents who are either doomed to be shown the door, or will fight hard and get back on the team: Sean Lissemore (NT), Tourek Williams (OLB), Trevor Williams (CB), Asante Cleveland (TE), Adrian Phillips (FS), Kellen Clemens (QB), Javontee Herndon (WR), Codero Law (OLB), Jeff Cumberland (TE), Dexter McCluster (RB/KR), Ronnie Hillman (RB), Jeremy Butler (WR), Geremy Davis (WR), Tyreek Burwell (T), Chris Landrum (OLB). Some of these guys have a real shot at making the team next year, they just will not be high priorities for Chargers GM Tom Telesco.
So, what do you think? Which of these guys will be sporting lightning bolts next season? Leave your comments below.
As expected, first-round draft pick and defensive end Joey Bosa will miss his second opportunity to play in an NFL game, as the team announced via their official website that he is listed as OUT for Sunday’s home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This should come as no surprise to anyone, seeing as the rook has yet to practice in pads with the team who selected him with the third overall pick in this year’s draft.
The team is stating that Bosa is dealing with tightness in his hamstring, forcing him to postpone his NFL debut until at least Week 3, and possibly even further into the 2016 season.
Surprisingly, the Chargers’ defense was stout against the run last Sunday, giving up under 100 yards rushing to a Chiefs’ team that boasts one of the best running attacks in the league; mind you, Jamaal Charles did not play, and Spencer Ware killed the Bolts as a receiver out of the backfield, hauling in passes for almost 130 yards receiving.
The Chargers have their work cut out for them when it comes to stopping an up-and-coming Jaguars’ team. Having Joey Bosa on the field would not only be exciting, it would also allow fans to justify their love or disdain for a young man who held out to make sure he got more of his guaranteed money sooner…
We all predicted it would happen: Bosa would continue to hold out, then eventually sign a deal with the Bolts, subsequently get hurt and miss time due to an injury because of the fact that he was not out there on the field with his teammates for most of the offseason.
I wish nothing but the best for the player, but it irks me that he is going to miss another NFL game for whatever reason; the reason he is missing another game doesn’t matter to me, to be honest, I just want to see what he can do at the NFL level.
I may have my doubts about Bosa as a defender in the NFL, but I would (*figuratively*) die in order to see him go do work.
Prove me wrong, young fella, because all you’ve done thus far is prove me right.
Dave Booga Peters
The countdown to San Diego Chargers training camp 2016 now stands at four days. The eyes will be trained to look for the faces we know. There will be many more faces we don’t know which will require a look into the program to see who’s making head-turning plays on the field. In an effort to provide as many advance primers as possible, today, I turn my player spotlight on Carlos Wray.
Wray signed with San Diego as an undrafted free agent immediately after the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6’1″, 287-pounder was the anchor of the Duke Blue Devils’ defense as their defensive tackle. Versatile, Wray was moved all over the field starting out as a defensive lineman, then to guard in his second year on the team. He had the most success his final two seasons in Blue Devils’ blue when he was moved to defensive tackle. In those two seasons he logged 86 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes defensed.
At the Duke Pro Day, Wray ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds; impressive for a man his size. He posted 26 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press, broad jumped nine feet and showed a 28.5-inch vertical leap. NFL scouts love his wide body, high motor and fundamentally sound skill set, even though he’s only been playing defensive tackle for two seasons. After watching the video below, it’s obvious he was born to play defensive tackle.
Wray was the unquestioned leader of the Blue Devils’ locker room and those leadership attributes will translate well in the NFL. The line forms behind Brandon Mebane when it comes to nose tackles for the San Diego Chargers. The mix at DT currently consists of Corey Liuget, Sean Lissemore, Ryan Carrethers, Damion Square, Tenny Palepoi and Wray.
There is opportunity to take a slot on the depth chart for Wray. If he can bring the same intensity and passion he played with at Duke to Chargers Park, he has a great chance of staying on the roster. As a native North Carolinian and ACC homer, I will definitely be pulling for Wray to make the team.
What do you think? Do you like what you see? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Follow Carlos on Twitter: @The1st_Montana
Good luck, Mr. Wray.
The Greg One
This has not, overall, been a positive offseason for the Chargers, especially when you take into account all of the off-the-field issues. No, not a single player has been arrested, nor has one been in the news for breaking the law. It goes without saying, the fact that Charger fans have no idea whether or not the team will remain in San Diego has muddled the positive efforts of Tom Telesco and company regarding their moves via free agency and the draft.
Couple the stadium banter with the earlier trade talks of Philip Rivers and the absence of Eric Weddle — as he sits out of team workouts in hopes of a long-term contract — and you have a trying offseason that hides all of the positives surrounding the team.
In lieu of all of this negativity, I thought it to be prudent to focus on the team itself, and point out some players with the Chargers that are on the brink of surprising all of the fans that support the team.
Here are five players that I believe are on the rise this upcoming season.
DL Tenny Palepoi
As an undrafted free agent out of Utah, Palepoi was not expected to make much of an impact as a rookie. After forging his way onto the practice squad, Palepoi was elevated to the 53-man roster. His presence was known, although the boxscore wouldn’t show you such an impact.
The 24-year-old filled in admirably when called upon to do so. He provided the defensive line with a strong push and solid leg drive in forcing opposing offensive lineman backwards. Due to the descending play of Kendall Reyes, Palepoi may find himself in a position to make more of an impact in 2015. After defying the odds as a rookie, look for the former Ute to come in and make a name for himself, both on special teams and as an inside pass rusher on the defensive line when called upon to do so.
The team has spoken highly of Palepoi this offseason, showing their belief in his ability to make plays going into his second year. Despite only logging nine total tackles in 2014, he did show the makings of a player that can find a place on this team and in this league.
S Jahleel Addae
Some believe that the acquisition of Jimmy Wilson may ensure the relegation of Addae to role player on the Charger defense. That may be the case, but I believe the competition at the strong safety spot will push Addae to elevate his game to another level.
I’ve seen multiple publications, including the U-T San Diego, state that Wilson will be slated as the starter at strong safety. I think that is an error in judgement. Addae is completely aware of what is in front of him, and I doubt that will slip his mind as he works to solidify his place in the secondary. He’s a ferocious hitter that just needs to work on his coverage ability — which did improve as he saw more playing time as the season wore on. If he continues to tune up his pass-coverage skills, he may be named the starter at strong safety sooner rather than later.
DL Ryan Carrethers
Despite dealing with injuries throughout portions of his rookie year, Carrethers showed promise in limited action. You could really start to see flashes of a player that could make an impact on the defensive line in San Diego. The fifth-round pick in last year’s draft had five solo stops in one game last season.
Carrethers has the perfect build for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Although the Chargers don’t spend much time in their base defense, he could force his way into the starting lineup with a strong training camp and preseason. If he makes enough progress to take over the starting role at nose, that would allow for Sean Lissemore to kick out to the defensive end spot where he is most likely better suited to play. Both the improvement by Carrethers and move of Lissemore to end would provide Corey Liuget with some much-needed help on the defensive line.
OL DJ Fluker
There has been quite a bit of speculation in the media this offseason regarding whether or not offensive lineman DJ Fluker will be moved to the right guard position. These talks began prior to the team signing Joe Barksdale, a right tackle formerly of the Rams and Raiders. The signing of Barksdale has stoked the fires even further.
Fluker, the 11th overall pick of the 2013 draft, has flashed great ability as a run blocker, punishing defenders while creating running lanes for Charger ball carriers. But he has struggled at times as a pass blocker, especially against speed rushers.
The 24-year-old played last season at a weight that fluctuated around 350 pounds. His size alone would lend itself to the right guard position being the more suited spot, as opposed to right tackle. Fluker is working this offseason to lose weight and improve his foot quickness and his punch. If he is successful in doing so, he could make an impact at either spot, depending on what the team decides on as its starting-five along the offensive line.
Maintaining the proper weight could be the only factor that stands in the way of Fluker making a name for himself in the NFL. He is very powerful and his foot work has improved over his two years in the league. Seeing a 325-pound beast in Fluker man either the right guard or right tackle position would pay dividends in both the passing and running games for the Bolts.
CB Jason Verrett
I tried to not include Verrett on this list because he played so well when on the field. He was ranked as the No. 2 cornerback in all of the NFL for a couple of weeks due to his stellar play. But Verrett struggled through hamstring and shoulder injuries as a rookie, ultimately being placed on injured reserve in the middle of November last year.
What Verrett lacks in size he makes up for with speed, quickness and good instincts. He does a great job of breaking on the ball in coverage. Despite a small sample size as a rookie, he showed that he can lock down receivers and make the necessary plays to make an impact. He is also surprisingly aggressive against the run, unafraid of coming up and securing stops in the running game.
Having Brandon Flowers opposite of him in the secondary, and next to him in the film room, will certainly accelerate Verrett’s play going forward. He has the skillset to become a force at the cornerback spot for many years to come.
Honorable mentions: Jerry Attaochu, Sean Lissemore, Chris Watt and Melvin Ingram
The Chargers have the makings of what could be a very successful team in 2015. The team has added more weapons on the offensive side of the ball, while increasing team speed and physicality on the defense. It will be interesting to see how this squad gels in all three phases of the game.
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.
It is no secret that the Charger defensive line is banged up. Fan favorite Corey Liuget has been in and out of boot for the last week or more while Sean Lissemore suffered an injury in the meaningless loss against the Seattle Seahawks last week. Lawrence Guy left the field during the first preseason game against the Cowboys after a devastating hit on Dallas quarterback Brandon Weeden. It might be worth mentioning that Weeden threw a touchdown pass on that very same play.
When looking at the competition at multiple positions throughout the Charger roster, the defensive line is a group that was already a bit thin, depth-wise, even prior to the aforementioned injuries. The nose tackle spot might have still been a question mark before Lissemore went down. Many are concerned that Sean may not have the size to man the middle of John Pagano’s 3-4 defense. May I remind those that are of that belief that the Bolts were in their base defense right around 40% of the time 2013. This was confirmed two nights ago on BoltBlitzLIVE on Mountain Country 107.9 by San Diego outside linebacker Thomas Keiser.
That being said, the worry of the fans is easily understood knowing that losing even one starter within the defensive line group would be a serious reason for concern.
In comes Tenny Palepoi.
Palepoi happens to be one of the players that has been making an impact during the 2014 offseason. His name has been uttered by many San Diego media pundits as a man who could be pushing for a spot on the 53-man roster.
I couldn’t agree more.
In his senior year at Utah, Palepoi earned the distinction of second-team All-Pac-12. Coming in at 6’1″ and 298 pounds, Tenny seems to be best suited to play defensive end for the Chargers during base sets, and then slide inside in some nickel and dime formations.
As mentioned above, even the likes of Kevin Acee and Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego continue to mention that his chances of earning his way onto this team keep increasing as the offseason carries on. Eric D. Williams of ESPN has had his eye on him as well.
He’s very strong at the point of attack and is working to improve against the run. For those of you that have watched the first two preseason games – Preseason? We talking ’bout preseason? Preseason? – there must be an improvement when defending the running game for this team to be able to stop opposing offenses.
Before you come at me, I am fully aware that it is the preseason. Additionally, I don’t really find much to take away from the 4 games that are basically in place to evaluate young talent and see if they can make a push in an effort to make an NFL team.
Palepoi has a genuine shot to earn his way onto the 2014 Chargers. His bull rush is effective and he does an adequate job of holding his ground and occupying blockers when called upon to do so. For a man his size, Palepoi is very athletic and has proven to be disruptive when attacking quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield while in college. Those same results have been seen thus far during training camp and the preseason.
Tenny Palepoi has yet to become a household name. Many of you might even be wondering how to pronounce his name. Breaking it down phonetically, it is pronounced pal-uh-poy.
All of the Charger undrafted free agents have an uphill battle to ensure their place on the 2014 squad. But, don’t be surprised if you hear Palepoi’s name announced when it’s all said and done on August 30th.
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.
The second the Commissioner closes the NFL Draft after “Mr. Irrelevant” is named a feeding frenzy begins. Instead of having to wait for your turn 1 by 1, it is now open season on hundreds of players. A team almost has to have more of a game-plan going into the UDFA period after the draft than they do for the draft itself. With all 32 teams suddenly now fighting over mostly the same players all at the same time, the stakes get a lot higher.
The stakes are also higher for these players. Many of them had hopes of being drafted, others just looking for a chance. No matter what their situation is, Undrafted Free Agents all start with a chip on their shoulder because unlike most of the draftee’s, they are still in a knockdown, drag-out fight for their dreams.
With that said, before draft weekend finished the Chargers had signed 17 UDFA’s and invited 10 additional players to come try-out at mini-camp. So out of these 27 players are there any worth keeping? Any diamonds in the rough that could beat the odds and find a spot?
The Chargers have had pretty good luck with UDFA’s as recently as last year with scrappy SS Jahleel Addae who became a starter on our defense by the end of the season.
Lets take a look at a few names of guys I think might push for a spot on the roster or practice squad.
Alden Darby SS ASU 5’10 194lbs
Darby is a do-it-all safety who isn’t afraid to tackle but also has the range and skill to help in the pass game. In 3 years as a starter for ASU Darby amassed 203 tackles including 8.5 TFL and 2 sacks. In pass defense he grabbed 10 int and 22 PD. He doesn’t have the hard hitting style that Addae fly’s around with, but he is better in pass coverage. He will provide competition for Addae and Brandon Taylor who is coming off injury (again). My Prediction: Practice Squad. With how often our DB’s seem to get injured keeping an extra Safety on the PS would be nice.
Javontee Herndon WR Ark 6’0 207lbs
The Chargers grabbed a few WR’s as UDFA’s and the one I think has the best chance to stick somewhere based purely on physical abilities and experience is Herndon. He is coming from the SEC, which has some very tough defenses, and averaged over 14 YPC for his entire college career. He also showed some nice numbers at his pro-day running a 4.44 in the 40, a 6.87 in the 3-cone and 23 reps of 225. My Prediction: Practice Squad. The Chargers like to keep 2 or 3 WR’s close by since our WR’s are usually made of paper so Herndon gets an offer for the PS.
Tenny Palepoi DL Utah 6’1 1/2″ 298lbs
Tenny only played 2 years at Utah but displayed some playmaking ability while there. After the departure of Star Lotulelei* last year Utah coaches expected a sharp drop off in the quality of play from their defensive line. It didn’t. Utah coaching staff has credited Palepoi’s play with keeping up the level of play after the departure of Lotulelei. As a starter last year Palepoi managed 53 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks from an interior DL position. He showcased his athleticism at the combine where he looked very fluid in drills and displayed explosion posting a 9’3″ broad jump and 30 1/2″ vertical at 300lbs. My Prediction: Practice Squad. I only say practice squad because the team seems enamored with both Lawrence Guy and Sean Lissemore. However if there is an injury or if the team wants to keep an extra player active on the DL this year he might get the extra spot.
Gustave “John” Benthin DL Western Oregon 6’2 299lbs
Benthin is exactly what the Chargers need on the DL. He has played every position on the DL through his career at Western Oregon. He is extremely explosive (36 reps of 225, 35″ vert and 9’3″ broad jump at 299lbs). And my favorite, he plays like a bully. Just look at some of his highlights from the 2012 season and 2013 season . From the first play in the first video just watch how he bullies offensive linemen when he gets ahold of them. I’d love to see him in short yardage situations as a blocking FB. My Prediction: Same as Palepoi. He is not an UDFA, he just has a try-out invite. I think he gets a contract and will be on the practice squad, if not the active roster due to his versatility. He will have to prove he can maintain that dominance against higher levels of competition since he is coming from the GNAC conference but I think he does.
A few other names to keep your eye out for in practice:
Chris Davis CB Auburn – Lead the SEC in punt return avg last year and ran back the missed field goal at the end of the Iron Bowl.
Alvin Scioneaux OLB Wofford – Very athletic OLB. Undersized at 6’2 225lbs, think a poor man’s Ryan Shazier or Lavonte David. Explosive first step and has the range and football IQ to drop back occasionally. Brings a new level of speed to the LB Corps. Could be a Darryl Gamble type player in the pre-season that you want to root for. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSn11ObdLQs
Colton Underwood OLB Illinois St – Big, athletic LB. In 45 games played he had 44 TFL and 21.5 Sacks. Quick off the edge and disruptive in the backfield. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_pdof5LM_I
Blake Oliaro OLB/DE San Diego University – Local kid who used his length and great moves to amass 30 sacks and 40.5 TFL in his college career. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUznkXgB-t4