In less than 24 hours the 2016 San Diego Chargers will take the field for training camp. Bringing you continual coverage of the names in the program we don’t know, today, I focus my player spotlight on tight end prospect Matt Weiser.
Weiser signed with San Diego as an undrafted free agent the day after the 2016 NFL Draft. He played for the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). Listed at 6’5″, 241-pounds, Weiser is the ideal size preferred for a San Diego Chargers tight end. He comes in on the heels of a breakout senior year in which he posted a school-record for catches and receiving yards by a tight end. He was also a Coaches’ selection to the All-MAC Conference First Team in 2015.
Weiser lit up the MAC with 63 catches for 625 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. For his career, he logged 92 catches for 1,080 yards and eight touchdowns. Weiser concluded the 2015 NCAA season with the fourth-highest receiving grade among tight ends.
At the Buffalo Pro Day, Weiser ran the 40-yard dash in 4.80-seconds, posted 18 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, a 30-inch vertical jump and broad jumped nine feet, six inches. Watching the video below, it’s easy to see what the Chargers’ war room saw in the young prospect. He has performed well against big name opponents and was versatile enough to play both sides of the ball.
The competition at tight end will be fierce in training camp. Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry are already slotted in as the top-two tight ends on the depth chart. After that, there is a logjam for the third tight end slot. Also in the mix with Weiser are veterans Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, Sean McGrath and fellow undrafted free agent rookie Tim Semisch.
Not everyone will make the cut. One more name can be expected to make the 53-man roster and a couple others will be moved to the practice squad. A couple others will play in a different uniform. One thing for certain, the race to be the heir apparent to the Hall-of-Fame bound Gates is on and it will be one of the most intriguing position battles to watch as training camp is set to open Saturday.
Weiser will be catching passes wearing number 46. Follow him on Twitter: @mweiser89.
Good luck, Mr. Weiser.
The Greg One
Last week I did a player spotlight on practice squad tight end Tim Semisch. The 6-foot-8, 267-pound pro is entering his second NFL season after being signed to the Chargers’ practice squad last December, then resigned in January. Semisch is hungry for a spot on the 53-man roster and took time out of his hectic training schedule for this interview documenting his journey.
Take us on your journey from the end of your last season at NIU to right now.
After my senior season. I trained at school (NIU) with another TE, a running back, and a D-lineman, A friend who transferred to NIU with me from a D2 school in NE. We would workout from 5am-7am every morning, 5 days a week. We would do position work in the evenings 1-3 days a week depending on our work schedules. I also played club hockey for NIU during that time.
About a month before Pro Day I had a bad injury to my hip flexor. I had to decide between surgery and be out a full year or rehab and hope it healed. So, I hoped for the best and I found an amazing PT near school who worked wonders with me. I did what I could training for Pro Day and was able to do Pro Day. I wasn’t at 100% yet but probably 75-80%. I did Pro Day and then hoped and prayed for the best.
Draft weekend came and went. The day after the draft ended I got an invite to the Dolphins rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Long story short, I fought and earned a contract and invite to stay with the team. During OTAs I learned A TON from Jordan Cameron, Jake Stoneburner, Dion Sims, and Arthur Lynch, the tight ends there. As well as our position coach(s) Dan Campbell and Mike Wahl.
I started doing extra work in the weight room-film room and would go in on my off days with a few other players to walk through plays or just work fundamentals, long snap, or all the above. Longer story short. I worked my tail off through the preseason, but it wasn’t enough for a 53-man roster spot but was on the practice squad, which only made me hungrier. I always stayed ready and up to date with the game plan every week. I wanted to learn as much as possible and I knew I could be called up any minute, which almost happened a couple times with injuries to both Dion and Jordan.
Near the end of the season, the defense in Miami took a hit due to some injuries and they needed space to bring in some depth. At time the TE room was healthy. I was the low man on the totem pole at the time and was let go. That’s just how this business is sometimes. But luckily a few weeks, and many stressful nights later, I was lucky enough to be picked up by the Chargers have been out in San Diego ever since!
You caught 10 passes in three seasons at NIU, yet last season in Miami you made it through until the final cut to 53. What did the scouts in Miami and San Diego see in you that led them to sign you to their practice squads?
They haven’t told me much. As a player, you don’t get a ton of contact with the scouts. So other than the usual: We like your size, athleticism, ability to long snap, etc, etc… I’d like to think it’s my work ethic. I pride myself on being the first in building and the last one off the field every day. To me, there’s always something I can be working on to improve myself and my game.
Take us through a day in the life of Tim Semisch, Chargers practice squad player.
(Here was my OTA schedule during the week) 4:30am wake up. Quick breakfast. At the facility by 5-515 at the latest. Hot tub/steam for 10-15 minutes. Then lift and run until 645-7. Second, bigger breakfast. Film study or playbook study in the TE room for 30-45 minutes. Then team schedule until practice was over around 1pm. Stay on the field for extra work. Juggs, blocking sled, special teams work, long snapping, conditioning, anything I felt I needed work. Then lunch, then watch the day’s practice on my own and any extra film.
I tried to watch 2-3 games from last year every week during OTAs. Then head home to relax or hang out with friends. Go to the beach, I lived in PB during OTAs so I was at the beach almost if not everyday. Even if it was for 10-20 minutes just to relax and watch the sunset. My schedule in camp will be about the same, the days will just be longer and I probably won’t make it out to the beach much either lol.
You have a great opportunity to pick the brain of one of the greatest tight ends ever to play the game, Antonio Gates. Do you get to spend much time learning from him on or off the field?
I watch as much film of Gates as I can, game or practice. When I’m around him on the field, I’ll ask him for tips or advice on certain routes, or how he reads the coverages. If I’m struggling with something he’s always willing to walk through stuff or just talk football and say/show how he would handle different things.
Being on the practice squad must come with more uncertainty than if you were a drafted rookie. How do you prepare mentally to achieve your goal of making the 53-man roster?
That’s what drives me. I know I’m fighting an uphill battle. Being undrafted, from a small school, with little to no stats, the odds are not exactly in my favor. But, with all that said, I know I can bring a lot to the table and be a key player in helping a team win. So for me, I use it as motivation to keep my head down and to keep working. Being on the practice squad last year only made me hungrier and want a roster spot more.
I found a South Florida television interview in which you told the reporter that at NIU you played a few snaps at defensive end. A. How did that happen? B. Would you do it again? C. Have you told Pagano?
A. I played it in HS and actually had more INTs than receptions on varsity. (We ran the wing-T triple option. So we didn’t pass much). My sophomore year, our two All-Conference DE’s begged for a special trick play on offense. So they played TE a couple times. The plays never worked tho. But me and another TE struck a deal with the d-line coach that if they got to take our spot, we’d get to take their spot if the chance presented itself. So we took some reps at practice from time to time. And the coach actually liked me as a DE, but I was only an emergency back-up.
B. I would do it in a heartbeat, no questions asked!
C. I mentioned it to coach Pagano once or twice in passing but I doubt he took me serious. I would love a chance at some reps at it though. I have mentioned it to Melvin Ingram and he’s showed me a few things if I ever get the chance to take a few reps.
We all know Philip Rivers loves his tight ends. We can all only imagine how much fun he would have throwing to a 6-foot-8 target. Have you had much time to catch balls from him and, if so, what has that experience been like?
Working with Phil has been an awesome experience, from the way he explains how he wants certain routes run, to how he throws the ball. The first couple times we would go out as an offense to throw, it was kinda a surreal feeling catching passes from Philip Rivers. It’s been an awesome experience to just be around him and Gates and watch how true pros work day in and day out.
Do you have a roommate whom you live with on the team or do you live alone?
I lived by myself during OTAs. I got an Airbnb out in PB before we even started team activities. But I always either had guys over, or would hangout with other guys on the team.
Mike McCoy recently said he wants the team to have more fun on the field. Have you seen this statement manifest itself in practice yet?
Absolutely, from the music that’s played at practice, to the competitive trash talk between the guys and even a few coaches. You could tell everyone, coaches and players alike, were having fun while still working hard at practice.
Who is your best friend on the team? Do the practice squad players have a brotherhood type of mentality based on the fact you’re all in the same boat, so to speak?
I wouldn’t pick one guy as my best friend in-particular. But I’d say the TE group as whole is pretty close off the field. Outside of them, Danny Woodhead has been a great role model and vet for me to be around. Also the specialist group as whole, I work a lot with both Casey And Drew on long snapping and Mike and Josh on short snaps as well. But I wouldn’t say the practice squad are any different than the active roster guys during the season. Everyone pretty much acts as one team. It sucks being a new guy when you come. Most guys have been there so they show you the ropes the first couple days, because every team operates differently.
Give us your favorite moment since arriving in San Diego (on or off the field).
Other than being a 10-minute walk to the beach everyday, I’d say the last home game of last season. It was against my old team so I got to see some old friends and coaches. We won the game, and best of all, Qualcomm was ROCKING. With everyone showing their support for the team, and wanting the team to stay in San Diego. It was just an amazing day and game to be a part of.
What message would you like to give the San Diego Chargers fans?
I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this city and this team. And if given the opportunity, I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win and go from worst to first!
BoltBlitz.com would like to thank Tim for taking the time to do this interview. We’re all rooting for you!
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TDSemisch82
The Greg One
Excitement and enthusiasm is in the air for the 2016-2017 edition of the San Diego Chargers. At this time in the offseason, it’s in the air for the fans of the other 31 NFL teams as well. With the free agency, NFL Draft period over and what looks to be a loaded 90-man roster in place, hope for a successful season is renewed.
Time to take off the rose-colored glasses for a moment and look at the team from an analytics standpoint. The Chargers do look like they have helped themselves immensely this offseason. To take a closer look I am going to dissect the offense and assign each aspect of the offense a point value. These will be the points I expect that aspect of the offense to generate every game. Of course that number is subject to change based on injuries, offseason acquisitions etc…
The points will then be added and that will be the expected points-per-game expectation for the offense. Some of you will think I’ve graded too harshly while others will think not harshly enough but it’s a jumping off point and that’s the objective. I’ll be looking forward to reading your views in the comments below.
The offense begins and ends with Philip Rivers. The Chargers’ iron man, Rivers has not missed a single game in ten seasons. His streak is second-longest in the NFL behind Eli Manning of the New York Giants (183). Rivers only trails Manning because Rivers didn’t start until his third season while Manning started in his rookie year.
Over the last three seasons, Rivers has averaged a stat line of 398-591 for 4,518 yards passing with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and two fumbles lost. What’s more, he has averaged 56 passes of 20-yards or more and slightly over seven completions of 40-yards or more. This impressive stat line comes despite woeful offensive line play that has him getting sacked an average of 35 times over that same three-season period.
Last season, Rivers threw for career-highs in attempts (661), completions (437) and yards (4,792). The running game was non-existent and the Chargers went through 25 offensive line changes. The weight of being the only reliable offensive option took its toll on Rivers and the Bolts record. This year, a more balanced offense will yield better results on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Points-per-game expectation: 14
Running backs and fullbacks
Franchise running back Melvin Gordon had a disappointing rookie season. The Chargers, the fans and Gordon himself expected better than the 184 carries for 641 yards he accumulated in 14 games. Gordon is still awaiting his first NFL regular season touchdown and needs to improve his ball security. Four of Gordons’ six fumbles were recovered by the defense.
Danny Woodhead was the most consistent running back and the leading receiver for the Chargers last season. Woodhead had 98 carries for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Receiving, Woodhead amassed 80 receptions for 755 yards with six touchdowns. Take away the 2014 season in which Woodhead missed all but three games with a broken leg; in 2013 and 2015 Woodhead has averaged 382 yards and 2.5 touchdowns on 102 rushing attempts and 680 yards and six touchdowns on 78 receptions.
Branden Oliver was rarely seen in 2015 but showed his worth in 2014 after the injury to Woodhead where he emerged to lead the Chargers in rushing in 2014 as a rookie. Last season he had 31 attempts for 108 yards rushing at 13 receptions for 112 yards receiving. The coaching staff has expressed their desire to add Oliver in the mix in 2016 which is an intriguing prospect. Time will tell.
In the sixth round San Diego selected Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt. The significance of this selection is Watt was Gordons’ blocking fullback each of his three seasons at Wisconsin. It’s reasonable to expect the two already have a chemistry and understanding of one another that will translate to the field.
The new rule that chop blocks will not be allowed on the line of scrimmage will make having a good fullback on the field more important. This will also slowly bring about the re-emergence of Power-I formations. Not coincidentally, the Power-I is the formation Watt and Gordon ran to NCAA record-smashing success. There is change brewing in the run game and it will only help the offense as a whole.
Points per-game expectation: 6
At 36 years young, Hall of Fame bound Antonio Gates enters his 14th NFL season after re-signing with the Bolts for two more seasons. The eight-time Pro Bowler began the 2015 season on the suspended list, missing four games for taking a banned substance. He played well in the eleven games he saw the field afterward, tallying 56 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns. Gates contemplated retirement before the end of last season but after the Chargers dismal season, Gates opted to return. He told the media “I didn’t want to go out like that.”
Gates finds himself on the precipice of NFL history this season. With eight touchdowns, Gates (104) will surpass Tony Gonzalez (111) into first place for touchdowns scored by a tight end. Over his brilliant career, Gates averages eight touchdowns a season. He is the most reliable part of the passing game. Starting the season from week one, expecting a better statistical season than 2015 is almost a certainty as long as he stays healthy.
The Chargers did draft the heir apparent to Gates when they drafted Hunter Henry our of Arkansas with their second round pick. The 6’5″, 250-pounder was a first-team All-SEC selection and winner of the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end in 2015. Henry collected 51 passes for 739 yards and three touchdowns. As sure-handed as they come, Henry did not drop a single pass last season.
Vying for a slot on the roster are Sean McGrath, Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, and undrafted free agent Matt Weiser. All fit the mold the Chargers like at standing 6’5″, 260-pounds. The most intriguing prospect may be Tim Semisch, a one-year pro who stands an imposing 6’8″, 267.
Points per-game expectation: 4
Come back tomorrow for part two of my breakdown including the wide receivers, offensive line, coaching staff and final summary. I hope you have enjoyed my analytical breakdown. Do you agree or disagree so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
The Greg One
After watching tight end Ladarius Green leave via free agency to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers were thin when it comes to quality bodies at the position.
Although they have first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates, unknown commodities like Asante Cleveland, Sean McGrath and Tim Semisch round out the depth chart.
That was until Monday.
The team announced that it has signed former New York Jet Jeff Cumberland.
Entering his seventh NFL season, Cumberland began 2015 as the Jets’ starting tight end. As the season progressed, the 28-year-old was relegated to the bench.
Although the six-year veteran is not an overwhelming force as a receiver, he has managed to haul in 86 receptions for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns since coming into the league in 2010.
Despite the signing of Cumberland, the Bolts may not be done adding to the tight end group. It should not surprise anyone if the team looks to select a player to add to the position in the upcoming draft.
Though the tight end draft class leaves a lot to be desired in the form of an instant-impact player, there are some players who could learn a lot from a player the caliber of Gates.
Cumberland currently looks to be the club’s second-string option for the time being.