The preseason is halfway over. The Chargers sit at 0-2. The record is of no importance at all, but what does have Bolts fans biting their nails is the myriad of injuries that the team has endured. The lack of depth in the roster is very evident. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco is doing his very best to shore up that fact, but as quickly as he adds players others have been going down with injury. Bearing this mind, I realize that the 53 man opening day roster I present to you today is under the premise that no one else gets injured. That is probably asking a lot. I have analyzed the first two preseason games more than a half dozen times. I have looked at every play and every player to put this roster together. I break it down by position and give you a quick thought about what has stood out to me. I also included photos of players that have impressed me thus far.
Coach Rogers’ 2013 San Diego Chargers
Quarterbacks: Philip Rivers, Brad Sorensen, Charlie Whitehurst
Thoughts: I still believe in Philip Rivers. With better protection this year, he will bounce back. Brad Sorensen has really impressed me! He has demonstrated the ability to move in the pocket while maintaining downfield vision and then deliver strikes under pressure. In my mind, Sorensen should be the number 2 quarterback ahead of Whitehurst.
Halfbacks: Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Brown, Fozzy Whittaker
Thoughts: Ryan Mathews has been running downhill and delivering blows to defenders. He looks like he realizes he’s playing for his future as a Charger. Will he be able to stay healthy though? I bet not, that’s why I kept four halfbacks on the roster. I had a tough time deciding between Edwin Baker and Fozzy Whittaker for that fourth spot. In the end, Fozzy seemed to show the better versatility of the two.
Fullback: Le’Ron McClain
Thoughts: Though Gronkowski hasn’t done anything to hurt his cause, I cannot see the Bolts keeping more than one fullback on the roster. To me, McClain is the more complete player.
Tight Ends: Antonio Gates, John Phillips, Ladarius Green
Thoughts: Gates is a no brainer and Phillips has been blocking solidly and catching the ball well since arriving in San Diego. Ladarius Green is ready to step in and make an impact in the passing game. He has great hands and his route running has improved tremendously since last season. He still must continue to improve his run blocking but expect big things from this young man in the very near future!
Wide Receivers: Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal, Dan DePalma, Mike Willie, Seyi Ajirotutu
Thoughts: I know, I know… Seven wideouts?! My logic here is simple. The receivers are banged up terribly and will probably be going in and out of the active roster all season long. The players I’ve listed will likely not clear waivers and make it to the practice squad- and I’d hate to lose any of them. My affection for Mike Willie is well documented. I believe he has amazing upside and with continued coaching could blossom into a star. The player that has impressed me the most thus far however is Dan DePalma. Awesome ability to get open and great hands! He seems like he’d be clutch for us on third downs.
Offensive Tackles: D.J. Fluker, King Dunlap, Brandyn Dombrowski, Max Starks
Thoughts: The line is a work in progress, but is showing the ability to maul people in the running game. Fluker and Dunlap have stood out to me as the most consistent of the bunch. Max Starks got beat badly on a play against the Bears which led to a sack of Rivers and a fumble. We can’t have that obviously, but on every other play of that game Starks was solid. Brandyn Dombrowski can play either tackle or guard, which makes him valuable depth-wise.
Offensive Guards: Chad Rinehart, Jeromey Clary, Rich Ohrnberger
Thoughts: Rinehart and Clary will start and they have looked good in run blocking. Clary is a much better guard than tackle. He still is a liability in pass protection however. Ohrnberger is an adequate backup and he can play center if need be. Some of you may be wondering about Johnnie Troutman. What I’ve seen of him this season is inconsistency and the inability to move defenders off the ball. He has been pushed around with ease. He needs to hit the weight room hard! I’m hoping we can sign him to the practice squad, which I outline at the end of the article.
Centers: Nick Hardwick, Colin Baxter, David Molk
Thoughts: Hardwick is the heart of the offensive line, so he is a no-brainer to make the squad. Baxter has nice versatility since he can play center or guard. David Molk is progressing nicely and if Baxter must spend some time at guard, Molk can be the main backup to Hardwick.
Defensive Ends: Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes, Jarius Wynn
Thoughts: I realize this is a small group heading into week one, but the injury situation in the receiving corps forced me to make this tough decision. I love the play of all three of these guys though! Liuget, in limited action, has been unstoppable. Reyes is a budding superstar who will force teams to account for him and Wynn has great strength. We’re in great shape here- barring injury of course…
Nose Tackle: Cam Thomas, Kwame Geathers
Thoughts: Slim at this position depth-wise as well. These two horses can get the job done however. Both of them have great strength and rarely get pushed off their spot. Of course if an injury occurs, then some tweaking of the roster would have to occur with a release of a wide receiver made to facilitate the signing of another defensive lineman.
Outside Linebackers: Dwight Freeney, Jarrett Johnson, Larry English, Tourek Williams
Thoughts: Dwight Freeney is a player with a chip on his shoulder. He is out to prove to the 31 teams that passed on him that he is still a force to be reckoned with! The knee injury to Melvin Ingram opened up this opportunity for Freeney and he plans on capitalizing. Jarrett Johnson is our next best option on the other side. He’s decent against the run but can be a liability in coverage. Larry English is in a contract year, so you’d have to think he’ll have his best year as a Charger. That wouldn’t be hard to do considering he has been a non-factor to this point in his career. Tourek Williams makes the team as a special teamer in kick coverage.
Inside Linebackers: Donald Butler, Manti Te’o, Andrew Gachkar, Bront Bird
Thoughts: Donald Butler is a beast. He is all over the place making plays. The Bolts are in negotiations to sign this valuable player to a long-term contract. Let’s hope it gets done! Te’o has been limited due to a foot sprain, but he was solid in the nine plays he was in on. He has been receiving rave reviews from his teammates throughout training camp and that has to mean something. Gachkar, though not spectacular, is a decent backup option for the defense and special teams. Bront Bird looked completely incapable of playing in the regular defense against the Bears, but I kept him for kick coverage only.
Cornerbacks: Derek Cox, Shareece Wright, Johnny Patrick, Greg Gatson
Thoughts: Cox and Wright are clearly the best of the bunch. The sign of a good cornerback is when your name is rarely mentioned during a game and that’s been the case with Derek Cox. The Seahawks and Bears rarely threw to his side. Wright has improved quite a bit and has rarely been out of position thus far in the preseason. He has also shown great hustle- running down Matt Forte from behind preventing a touchdown. Johnny Patrick and Greg Gatson have looked good at times and vulnerable at times. Still, they are the best of the remaining options in my opinion. A few of the new cornerbacks should end up on the practice squad in case we need them later in the season…
Free Safeties: Eric Weddle, Sean Cattouse
Thoughts: Weddle is a Pro-Bowl caliber safety so he’s a no-brainer to make the team. Sean Cattouse has impressed me with his hitting ability and his solid tackling. He could be a standout on kick coverage teams, similar to the way Darrell Stuckey shined last season.
Strong Safeties: Marcus Gilchrist, Darrell Stuckey, Brandon Taylor
Thoughts: Marcus Gilchrist makes the transition to strong safety this year and has looked solid doing it. Is he an all-pro? No. He seems to be providing a consistency at this position- something we’ve lacked for years. Darrell Stuckey is more than capable of being a starter as well. That would allow Gilchrist to switch back to cornerback if injuries dictated it. Brandon Taylor has yet to live up to the expectations he inherited when the Bolts drafted him last season. He is clearly a backup at this point, but he continues to learn…
Specialists: Punter – Mike Scifres, Kicker – Nick Novak, Long Snapper – Mike Windt
Thoughts: Nothing new to add here. These three will return.
Practice Squad: Jahleel Addae (S), Damik Scafe (DE), Marcus Cromartie (CB), Johnnie Troutman (G), Edwin “Rock” Baker (HB), Luke Tasker (WR), Josh Johnson (CB), William Middleton (CB)
Thoughts: The NFL allows each team to place eight players on the practice squad each season. These are the eight that, to me, have earned that right. Addae’s energy is impressive. He was player number 54 in my assessments for this list. Scafe was on the team last year, but has been pushed all over the place this year. Still, he’s got real potential. Cornerbacks Cromartie, Johnson and Middleton could use the coaching and one of them may improve enough to make a run at the squad next season. Rock Baker has shown flashes of stardom, but they are just too few and far between at this point. Troutman must get stronger to be effective. Luke Tasker has shown good field vision in the return game, but we have Eddie Royal for this season.
Injured Reserve: Danario Alexander (WR), Jonas Mouton (ILB), Steve Williams (CB)
Physically Unable to Perform List: Melvin Ingram (OLB)
Thoughts: This designation means that Ingram must sit out the first six games of the regular season, after which the Bolts will have three weeks to decide whether or not to allow him to begin practicing again. After the first practice back, the team then has an additional three weeks to activate Ingram to the 53 man roster. If either of the aforementioned deadlines pass, Melvin must remain on the PUP list for the rest of the season. He is healing ahead of schedule, so you never know…
Well, there you have it Bolts fans! What do you think? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Add your thoughts below or tweet me (@CoachRRRjr).
Until next time… Believe in the Bolt!