An in-depth look into who I think will make the San Diego Chargers’ 53 man roster when teams must reduce the size of their team on August 31st.
Quarterbacks: Philip Rivers, Brad Sorenson
Part of the reason why Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhut were hired by the Chargers was to “fix” Philip Rivers; San Diego still thinks he is the franchise Quarterback despite struggling the past couple seasons (behind a horrid offensive line). Sorenson was a 7th round pick in the 2013 NFL draft and played impressively in his two preseason games so far with the Bolts. He outplayed Charlie Whitehurst in the first preseason game but Whitehurst bounced back in the 2nd game and played just as well (if not, better) than Sorenson in the second game. The next two weeks will decide who ultimately wins the job as the 2nd string QB. My money is on Sorenson because although he is fairly old for a rookie (25) he is 6 years younger than Whitehurst and has more time to develop and grow. If Whitehurst ends up winning the job despite all this, watch for Sorenson being stashed on the practice squad or even perhaps forcing the team’s hand in keeping 3 QB’s.
Runningbacks: Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Brown
Mathews has all the talent in the world and if he stays healthy I see this as a breakout year. The acquisition of Danny Woodhead gives us the closest thing to Sproles since he left; he has a similar skill set: small, quick, fast, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and an underrated pass-blocker. Ronnie Brown is a vet who was the 3rd down back last year but can take a pounding if he was called on to take a bulk of the carries in an emergency situation (which may very well be the case with Mathews’ injury history). I could see Fozzy pushing Brown for his spot on the roster as he has been playing well, but as of now it is Ronnie Brown’s job to lose.
Fullbacks: Le’Ron McClain
Chris Gronkowski definitely gave McClain a good push but ultimately I believe the front office decides to go with the fullback that has had success running the ball in the past with Baltimore as extra insurance in case Mathews goes does go down with an injury this year.
Wide Receivers: Malcolm Floyd, Vincent Brown, Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal, Robert Meachem, Dan Depalma
The health of the Chargers’ receivers is a definite concern to the team. Danario Alexander thought he left all his injury concerns behind him when he came to San Diego mid-season last year but sadly that isn’t the case as he tore his ACL in training camp and is out for the season. Malcolm Floyd also suffered a knee injury in training camp but his was a lot less severe (knee sprain) than Alexander’s, he will miss the rest of the preseason and hopefully will be ready for week 1 of the regular season. I fully expect Vincent Brown to have a huge year for the Bolts and become a household name for fans of every NFL team. Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen have chances to produce but both have had their encounters with the injury bug. A new front-office regime brings new opportunity to players who may have struggled with the team in the past. This is only good news for Robert Meachem who was expected to be a difference-maker last season when the Chargers signed him to a 4-year, $25.5 million contract that included a $7.5 million signing bonus. Because of that contract, cutting Meachem would result in a salary-cap hit of upwards of $10 million. It seems that the Chargers are stuck with Meachem this year, however if he doesn’t produce the way he was expected to when he first got to San Diego then the Chargers can cut him from the team and save approximately $3 million. Dan Depalma is another guy who I think the Chargers have to think long and hard about. He’s a young Wes Welker-like receiver who has been showing a lot of promise in training camp, a guy who runs crisp routes that Rivers can depend on those crucial 3rd downs. Coaches also rave about how well he has been performing on special teams, which is a very important factor if a team is going to keep 6 receivers.
Tight Ends: Antonio Gates, John Phillips, Ladarius Green
No real surprises here, future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates looks to have a bounceback year after a slightly subpar year by his standards. Look for Gates to have a big year as the wide receiver position is a question mark at this point with all the injuries. John Phillips was brought in this season from Dallas as a replacement of sorts to the departed Randy McMichael. Both players have similar skill sets: they block well and can catch the ball when asked to. Ladarius Green is a young athletic tight end who has been having a solid preseason so far. I’d like to see him bulk up a little more to be an adequate blocker but he shows great promise in the passing game.
Offensive Tackles: King Dunlap, DJ Fluker, Max Starks, Nick Becton
DJ Fluker is an absolute monster in the run game and will hold down the Right Tackle spot for a long time. King Dunlap and Max Starks are in competition for the Left Tackle spot and it seems that King Dunlap has distanced himself from Starks in the competition as of after the 2nd preseason game against the Bears. Neither of these guys have enormous contracts so it is almost certain that both will be kept on the roster no matter who wins the starting spot. Nick Becton has the capability of playing both Tackle spots as well as both Guard spots. At one point he was projected to go in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL draft but eventually went undrafted because he doesn’t possess the strength he should as an offensive lineman(19 reps on bench press at the NFL Combine).
Offensive Guards: Chad Rinehart, Jeromey Clary, Rich Ohrnberger, Johnnie Troutman
Chad Rinehart and Jeromey Clary have the Guard spots locked down and while I am not a very big fan of Clary’s, he is the best we have at this time at the position. During the preseason game against the Bears, there was a play that gave me flashbacks to seasons prior. Clary was beat bad and Rivers went down because of it. Moving Clary to Guard didn’t completely mask his incompetence in the passing game it seems. However, he is a solid run blocker and should create huge holes along with Fluker on the right side of the line. Ohrnberger is a capable backup should one of the starters go down with an injury and Troutman is a young player that has some potential that warrants keeping him on the roster.
Centers: Nick Hardwick, David Molk
Hardwick has been the leader of the San Diego offensive line for years now and is still a solid player. I gave David Molk the nod over Colin Baxter not only because Molk is younger but also was utilized a fair amount last year as a goal-line tight end to get a bigger push up front.
Defensive Ends: Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes, Jarius Wynn, Damik Scafe
Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes’ futures are very bright. Together they make up the best, young DE tandem in the league. Jarius Wynn is a capable backup for both DE positions and Damik Scafe has been shown more reps than James McFarland.
Nose Tackles: Cam Thomas, Kwame Geathers
The Nose Tackle position of the Chargers is very thin… depth-wise. Undrafted free agent Kwame Geathers is listed as 6’6” on the depth chart and weighs in at 335 lbs. Geathers, a rookie undrafted free agent, is expected to backup Cam Thomas, and although I think Thomas will succeed in his role as starter, it should be noted that he is a first-time starter this upcoming season. The Nose Tackle position is arguably the most important in a 3-4 defense so hopefully the lack of depth here isn’t a thorn in the Chargers’ side.
Outside Linebackers: Dwight Freeney, Jarret Johnson, Larry English, Tourek Williams, Frank Beltre
It’s safe to say that future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney’s spot on the roster is safe. Jarret Johnson is aging but is still very strong against the run. It is a make or break year for Larry English, a former 1st round pick, I expect him to be on the field in place of Johnson on passing downs to get after the QB. Tourek Williams and Frank Beltre are both rookies who look to get some reps in the rotation during the season but will be mostly utilized on special teams.
Inside Linebackers: Donald Butler, Manti Te’o, DJ Smith, Bront Bird, Andrew Gachkar
Donald Butler is a Pro Bowl player at this point and is only getting better. Manti Te’o, the polarizing 2nd round pick, will be lining up alongside Butler and will progress nicely learning from him. DJ Smith is a guy that is often overlooked but the guy is a very solid player that could start for most other 3-4 teams in the league. Bront Bird took some 1st team reps with the starters with Te’o’s injury keeping him out this past week and he looked a little lost. However, Bird is a very solid special teamer and he will make the team because of it. Andrew Gachkar also makes the team on his ability to play special teams.
Cornerbacks: Derek Cox, Shareece Wright, Johnny Patrick, Marcus Cromartie
Derek Cox and Shareece Wright are clearly the starters. Wright has shown great improvement from last year and excels in man coverage. With Steve Williams out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle, Johnny Patrick looks to be the team’s nickel back. However Patrick was also hurt during the Bears game and diagnosed with a concussion; he is week to week. Marcus Cromartie seems to have the family trait of speed, if he’s smarter than his brother he will be a solid special teamer and corner when called upon.
Free Safeties: Eric Weddle, Jaheel Addae
Weddle is, in my opinion, the best overall safety in the league. Jaheel Addae has been playing very solidly as of late for San Diego. The 5’10” safety flying around the field, rocking dreads and making plays certainly catches the eye. He has also been playing well on special teams, which will help his chances.
Strong Safeties: Marcus Gilchrist, Darrell Stuckey, Brandon Taylor
Making the switch from Cornerback to Strong Safety is Marcus Gilchrist and he has been looking good doing it. Darrell Stuckey was the Chargers’ best special teamer last season and looks to produce again this year. Brandon Taylor is coming off an ACL tear from late last season and looks to continue developing.
Special Teams: Nick Novak, Mike Scifres, Mike Windt
Nick Novak looks to improve from a solid year hitting on 90% of his field goal attempts. Scifres is still one of the best punters in the league. Mike Windt is the long snapper… ‘nuff said.