With Eric Weddle leaving for the Baltimore Ravens, it was apparent the San Diego Chargers were going to have to address the hole at safety.
So they did. Sort of. Possibly.
After signing former Colts safety Dwight Lowery early in March, it wasn’t until the draft that the front office addressed the last line of the defense once more.
Technically, it was actually after the draft ended when San Diego acquired the only true safety during the most popular weekend of the NFL offseason.
Undrafted free agent safety Adrian McDonald agreed to terms with the Chargers on April 30 and will look to become a permanent part of the San Diego secondary.
Weight: 205 lbs*
40 Yard Dash: 4.62**
Bench Press (225 lbs): 10 reps**
*According to Chargers’ website
**Texans local prospect day
McDonald tallied 17 career interceptions, forced seven fumbles and recovered seven more. He ranked 2nd on his team in tackles during his junior campaign with 92, along with four interceptions for the University of Houston. His numbers did not go unnoticed as he was named first-team All-AAC, as well as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe awarded given to the best defensive back in college football.
There is no denying McDonald has a nose for the football as he consistently finds himself near, sometimes with, the ball. He is a solid tackler which not only is a defensive requirement but a special teams one, as well.
Showing value on special teams is most assuredly McDonald’s key to making the 53-man roster. His lack of ideal size and speed is what kept him from hearing his name during the draft, but he can make 31 other teams regret that decision by working hard to get an opportunity to showcase his talents.
With the Chargers ranking 19th in takeaways last season with just 20, players like McDonald are going to get a chance to bring such production to the Bolts’ secondary.
Here’s to hoping this marriage is long-lasting and beneficial to both sides.
Take a look for yourself at Charger hopeful, Adrian McDonald:
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
We are now almost done with the first week of training camp and, knock on wood, we have only had one serious injury. Jonas Mouton tore his ACL and is going to miss the entire season after being placed on IR. Mouton was due to be one of the key backups for a fairly thin position at MLB. The starters are all but set in stone as Donald Butler and rookie Manti Te’o. One of the players fighting for one of the few spots behind them is UDFA Daniel Molls out of Toledo.
Dan was tackling fool in college. In 4 years at Toledo he totaled 422 tackles, 21.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks. Also, no slouch in coverage, Dan had 16 passes defended and 7 interceptions. Not impressed yet? He achieved those numbers while not starting any games his Freshman year (43 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT) and missing 6 games his Junior year (70 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 FR for a TD). So if he wouldn’t have been injured his Jr year, that would have put him on pace to have 450 tackles and over 25 TFL in 3 years as a starter. His Senior season Dan lead MAC (3rd in the NCAA) in Solo tackles with 86, 2nd in the MAC and NCAA in assisted tackles with 80, and lead both the MAC and NCAA in total tackles with a whopping 166.
Dan is a little undersized for the NFL, measuring in at 6’0″ 238 according to the Chargers official website. However, he is practically identical in size to both D.J. Smith, at 6’0″ 239, and Manti Te’0, at 6’1″ 241. He also isn’t the most athletic guy on the field, then again neither is Te’o. He also put up identical repetitions of 225lbs (21) to Te’o at their pro-days and ran .04 seconds faster in the 40 than Te’o, 4.71 vs 4.75. The similarities go beyond the physical stats. Both were vocal leaders of their teams and with superior instincts and football IQ, overcame their physical limitations to dominate on the field.
So with 2-3 spots available at MLB behind Te’o and Butler and Mouton being placed on IR, Dan stands a fighters chance at making the Roster and if not, a very good chance, in my opinion, of making the practice squad.
Dan was nice enough to take some time out of his very busy training camp schedule to answer a few questions for me and here is what he had to say:
@Boltfanindenver – You were a tackling machine in college. You aren’t the biggest, strongest, or fastest guy on the field but you still finished your senior season leading the league in tackles. How did you do it?
Dan – Leading the league and the nation in total tackles was something that I never actually thought about. One of my strengths as a player in my opinion is having a knack for finding the football. My goal going into every game was to do whatever I had to do on special teams and defense to give my team the best chance to win the game. Every opportunity I had to make a play I tried to take advantage of and often times I relied on instinct to get myself in a position to make tackles and plays on the ball.
@Boltfanindenver – Scouts said a lot about your football IQ and instincts being very high, in fact I read a few comparisons to last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL tackles leader Luke Kuechly and your new team mate Manti Te’o. Do you feel you compare favorably to them?
Dan – Luke Kuechly has already proven to be a great linebacker and player in this league and to be compared to a player of his caliber is very humbling. I watched as many games and as much film of him throughout college as I could and I would say that we are very similar when it comes to styles of play and I tried to take away as much as I could from his game to improve upon my own game. I am very confident in my abilities as a player and would say that these comparisons are favorable.
@Boltfanindenver – Which veterans have been the most helpful through OTA’s and mini camp?
Dan – There are a number of veteran players who have been a tremendous help throughout this process. Of them that stand out I would have to say Jarrett Johnson, an OLB for us. He really set the standard for us as to what it takes to play in this league and at this level. His work ethic, high energy, and effort that he puts into practice and the game really have had an impact on how I approach every day that I show up for practice or meetings.
@Boltfanindenver – What has been the biggest difference so far between college practices and NFL practices?
Dan – The biggest difference that I have noticed in practice from college to NFL is having the opportunity to practice out in front of a crowd of Chargers fans. It is quite a cool feeling to go out to a practice and have the stands filled up cheering us on. It really makes me anxious to see what a real game in Qualcomm stadium will be like! I would also have to say that the NFL practices are a bit more structured and have different points of emphasis.
@Boltfanindenver – What are your impressions of the coaches and how the practice sessions have been run?
Dan – In my opinion we have an outstanding group of coaches who have nothing but the best intentions for all of us as players. They have put together a plan for us that I feel is going to be very effective in the team, along with us players individually, having success throughout this season.
@Boltfanindenver – Did you know the Chargers were interested in you leading up to the draft process or was it an out of the blue kind of thing?
Dan – The Chargers were one of the first teams I heard from in the beginning of this process and I heard from a few different coaches on staff leading up to the draft weekend. They made it very clear that they were interested in me and showed a lot of interest, particularly on the last day of the draft. So yes, I did have a feeling that they were interested.
@Boltfanindenver – And finally, what did you do in your free time in between mini camp and the start of training camp next week?
Dan – Other than working out 4-5x per week in the free time leading up to training camp, I spent nearly all the time with my family and girlfriend Lauren. My family and Lauren are two of the most important aspects of my life and I would not be here if it weren’t for them. I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. We went to a few movies, a Toby Keith concert (huge country fan), and Lauren and I were even lucky enough to get away for a few days in a trip down to Nashville. Besides that we pretty much just hung out and relaxed with one another. I also made an effort to make a stop in Toledo to visit with some of my best friends and former teammates and coaches, who all played a role in me being here as well.
You can follow Dan on twitter @danmolls and show him some love and support as he battles through camp! Also if you are going out to practice or FanFest, Dan wears #49 so give him a shout out and let him know you read his interview!
In light of Chargers rookie minicamp starting today, I would like to share with you, the Charger faithful, a piece of insight from one of the players who will be prepping himself to make the roster later on this off-season. Cornerback Marcus Cromartie, undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin was generous enough to grant me an interview and here’s what he had to say:
Share with the fans a bio about yourself
What a lot of people don’t know is that I actually grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was my home for most of my life. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina moved me to Dallas, Texas. I then began attending Mansfield-Timberview High School, where I played football and ran track. I was recruited by the University of Wisconsin – Madison and was fortunate enough to have been part of a great football program and also had a pretty successful football career. I now have the chance to continue my football career with the San Diego Chargers.
What is the biggest thing you will take away from your career at Wisconsin?
Hard work. UW is definitely a blue-collar program – you have to work very hard to be successful. To have learned NFL work-ethic at the collegiate level, has prepared me most for the professional level.
Not only are you a football player, but you also ran track in high school. In what way does that help you on the field?
Everything in the NFL has to do with speed. I combine my track background and everything I have learned in football and apply it to my position as a cornerback. Cornerbacks require speed and agility; it is track that has honed those skills.
What are some of your biggest strengths? What do you want to improve on the most?
My strengths include everything I have learned from the UW football program, my hard work, my discipline, and my speed. I feel that I have many strengths to bring to the San Diego Chargers. Improvements I want to make upon myself are to always come with the mindset of getting better every single day and to be more consistent in everything I do. There is always room for improvement, no matter what, and whatever that improvement is that will make me a better defender and player, I want to do it and will do it.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy hanging out with my friends, playing football, and hanging out with people who also love the game of football. I enjoy bowling, going to the batting cages, and playing a little bit of the piano.
Being an undrafted free agent, do you feel as though you have something to prove?
MC: Definitely. Having something to prove is the story of my life. When I moved from New Orleans to Dallas, I had something to prove. Going to the University of Wisconsin and playing in the Big Ten Conference, I had something to prove both as an athlete and as a student. Playing with a chip on my shoulder has become part of my game. No one is going to give me anything, I have to work hard for everything.
How familiar are you with the San Diego area?
I’m somewhat familiar. I’ve been there a couple of times. The weather is always beautiful, the people there were nice and I’m really excited about the seafood.
Do you have a favorite movie?
People call me “Cro” or “Young Cro” since I was the younger Cromartie.
You have three cousins in the NFL already. Antonio, Dominique, and Da’Mon. How have they helped your football career?
Honestly, the only one I keep in contact with is Antonio. We have kept in contact with each other throughout my college career and have developed a great kinship. I’ve trained with him, we’ve had several motivating conversations, and he lets me know how proud he is of me. He tells me to play as though every play is the last play and to just go out there and play the game you love.
What can we expect from Marcus Cromartie on and off the field?
Off the field, I’m pretty low-key. I don’t go out all that much and definitely don’t get into any trouble. On the field, expect a hard worker. I’m willing to do anything to make this team win and to make a mark on this team, whether I’m on defense, on special teams, as a water boy, whichever gets this team to a Super Bowl.
Once again I would like to thank you for your participation and wish you the best of luck, Marcus. I pray for your success. Go Chargers!
Through this interview, it was rather easy to tell how much of a hard-worker the Chargers found in Marcus. He is definitely one of my favorites to make the team and I wish him the best of success. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter @Cromartie_M.
Thanks and always continue to #ReadTheBlitz
Rookie Camp is like freshman orientation. It only lasts a few days, and its only rookies. During camp the players will be doing a LOT of homework as they dive into their new playbooks, attempting to absorb the information so when mini camp comes along they do not, well, look like rookies.
The coaches aren’t necessarily going to be looking at how good a player is at their position. They are going to be evaluating the little things. How quick the players understand and recognize playbook terminology. How hard they work in gym sessions. What speed and level of effort they put into practice sessions. Do they hustle after plays. Do they handle criticism well and learn from their mistakes quickly.
This is the first real impression for the coaches on how these players are going to contribute to the team. This impression is more important for some than others. DJ Fluker, Manti Te’o, and Keenan Allen are going to make the roster. But for the 3 other draft picks, the 20 Undrafted Free Agents, and the 7 players without contracts that are trying out for the team they will have to prove that they are worthy to make the 8 man practice squad, or if they are very lucky, the 53 man roster. Fluker, Te’o, and Allen can’t take it easy though. Being drafted that early comes with high expectations from coaches, teammates, and especially the fans, so they must prove they were worth that pick.
Since the rookies will be going against one another will make some players look great. For example if DJ Fluker shuts down Anthony Williams, a DT from Fresno who is here for a tryout, yes that will look great but it is not an accurate representation of how Fluker will perform against a veteran NFL defensive tackle. So while you may here rave reviews on some players out of rookie camp, try to stay grounded and remember, its rookies vs other rookies.
All in all there will be 33 players at camp for the Chargers this weekend.
There are the 6 draft picks:
DJ Fluker – OT
Manti Te’o – LB
Keenan Allen – WR
Steve Williams – CB
Tourek Williams – OLB
Brad Sorensen – QB
There are 20 UDFA’s:
Jahleel Addae – SS
Nick Becton – OT
Frank Beltre – OLB
Greg Brown – CB
Ben Cotton – TE
Marcus Cromartie – CB
Joshua Johnson – CB
Devan Walker – OLB
Kwame Geathers – NT
Michael Hill – RB
Byron Jerideau – DT/NT
Richard Kent – P
Jamarkus McFarland – DE
Daniel Molls – LB
Brandon Moore – DE/DT
Kenny Okoro – CB
Randy Richards – OT
David Rolf – TE
Luke Tasker – WR
Mike Herman – QB
And finally there are the 7 players in for a tryout (and a little about them since they are the newest additions and least known prospects):
Justin Cudworth an OLB from Eastern Michigan University looks like he could be a special teams stud like Gachkar. This guy hits like a missile and plays downhill pretty well with good closing speed based on his highlight video. Definitely a fun video to watch.
Chris McNeill a WR from Wyoming looks like he has pretty good hands and has a pretty impressive punt return for a TD in his video. He is more fast than quick, taking 4 or 5 strides to get to full speed.
Matthew Wilmer a WR out of Fairmont state. I wasn’t impressed watching his tape, he doesn’t look overly fast or quick, he has decent hands but it’s very obvious he was playing against weak competition and while he looks better he doesn’t appear to be a “man among boys” like Michael Hill does in his tape in against weaker competition.
Anthony Williams a DT/DE from Fresno looks pretty athletic for his size in his highlights. He is quick and looked pretty disruptive, could push his former team-mate Logan Harrel for a PS spot
Sam Schwartzstein a C from Stanford. He looks pretty solid in this highlight video, but C is probably the only position which has some depth on the Oline. Unless they release Nick Hardwick which I highly doubt.
Tony Burnett S/CB/OLB from USC. He didn’t have a true position at USC, played Safety as a Sophomore, CB as a Junior and OLB as a Senior. He is a downhill player and looks awesome in run support in this video, but there isn’t much tape in here on his pass coverage skills. He ran a hand time of 4.44 but an electronic “official”time of 4.58, watching the tape the 4.58 is probably about right. I don’t see much chance of him making it either, since safety is a little crowded.
The last player is a G from SDSU Riley Gauld. I couldn’t find any tape on him, however he does have NFL size at 6-4 312lbs and put up a respectable 29 reps of 225 at his pro day.
The Chargers have had a revolving door in the defensive backfield next to Eric Weddle for years now. With the release of Atari Bigby the Chargers have only Darrell Stuckey, a special teams Ace, and last year’s 3rd round pick Brandon Taylor who is coming off an ACL tear. The Chargers did not draft a safety but after the draft they added SS Jahleel Addae out of Central Michigan.
Addae is a very high motor player, as you can see by his highlight video here. A bit undersized, listed at 5’10 195, Addae makes up for it by playing with reckless abandon. He flies around the defensive backfield like a missile and makes his impact felt with each hit. He doesn’t throw his body around uselessly though. Addae is a very reliable tackler recording 302 tackles in his college career, including 15 tackles for loss (7 of those last season) and 3.5 sacks. Addae isn’t a liability in pass coverage however, recording 8 interceptions and 21 passes defended.
I was fortunate enough to have a chance to ask Jahleel a few quick questions and here is what he had to say.
@Boltfanindenver – Jahleel, first off congratulations on getting picked up by the Chargers. Leading up to the draft there was some speculation you could be a mid-late round pick, does it give you a chip on your shoulder to prove yourself having gone undrafted?
Addae – Yea it definitely does, you know growing up everyone dreams of being drafted but we also dream of being in NFL, which I am so I’m grateful. I have always been the underdog and have always had to prove myself. It’s nothing I’m not use to and you can tell by the way I play the game with energy and passion how much love i have for the game and the want to prove those who believe in me right and the ones who don’t or overlooked me wrong.
@Boltfanindenver – Going to the Chargers you will share a defensive backfield with one of the best Safeties in the league in Eric Weddle. How does it feel getting the chance to play next to him and learn from him?
Addae – It’s a great opportunity. My goal is to one day be mentioned with his name. He is one of the elite safety’s in the NFL and I’m willing to learn from him an soak everything up like a sponge from how he prepares, works , leads and handles himself on and off the field.
@Boltfanindenver – The Chargers front office said multiple times that they were focused on bringing in leaders to this team. What leadership qualities do you bring to the Chargers?
Addae – I was a captain for my university two years in a row. I love to lead. Both vocal and by my actions. Being a leader also makes you work twice as harder knowin that your peers are watching your every move and wanting to see how you conduct yourself on and off the field. First I have to make roster and become a vital part of the team on special teams and defense and that’s my main focus right now.
@Boltfanindenver – Did you have any contact with the Chargers leading up to the draft?
Addae – Yes I spoke with them about a week before the draft here and there.
@Boltfanindenver – With your aggressive style of play, you stand a good chance of being a preseason favorite with fans. So they get it right, what are some of the nicknames you picked up while in college?
Addae – “Hitman” & “the predator” because of my long flowing dreadlocks.
Personally I think Jahleel stands a good chance of making this team and will be very fun to watch this pre-season. He will likely start out as a special teams contributor but with Taylor coming back from injury and Stuckey not having earned a starting spot after a few years of trying, Addae does stand a good chance for some playing time.
If you’d like to wish Jahleel luck this off-season and welcome him to #boltnation, his twitter handle is