<a href="http://d.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/ap/20080830/capt.746e1e28f3a547899021a0ec37384a7f.chargers_49ers_football_caps108.jpg"><img class="alignright" title="San Diego Chargers quarterback Billy Volek (7) passes against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter of their preseason NFL football game in San Francisco, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. " src="http://d.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/ap/20080830/capt.746e1e28f3a547899021a0ec37384a7f.chargers_49ers_football_caps108.jpg" alt="" width="222" height="171" /></a>
Well, being that yesterday's game was little more than a pick-up game for bubble riders, I'll focus this write-up more on the major event that followed the game - the final roster cut-down to 53. Today, the Chargers cut 20 players, many of whom we Charger fans have been watching for over a month now:
<li> LB Antwan Applewhite</li>
<li>LB Eric Bakhtiari</li>
<li>WR Gary Banks</li>
<li>S Tra Battle</li>
<li>CB Josh Bell</li>
<li>TE Wade Betschart</li>
<li>S Brian Bonner</li>
<li>RB Eldra Buckley</li>
<li>DE Andre Coleman</li>
<li>DT Lamar Divens</li>
<li>G Brandyn Dombrowski</li>
<li>DE Keith Grennan</li>
<li>DT Keith Jackson</li>
<li>WR Mark Jones</li>
<li>T Tyler Luellen</li>
<li>LB Terna Nande</li>
<li>T Tony Pape</li>
<li>LB Carlos Polk</li>
<li>G Erik Robertson</li>
<li>RB Marcus Thomas</li>
Granted, this traumatic event happens every year, but it's still a time for either happiness or sadness, primarily for the player himself, but also in part for the fan that's been following him. Cutdown day is when the season really begins - when the boys with jersey numbers are the ones that will carry you into and through the season... and hopefully beyond. Those without numbers go on, either to another team, or to another life altogether.
One thing we have to keep in mind, however, is the fact that many of the players cut today will be placed on the eight-man Practice Squad as soon as they clear waivers, so the pain may only last a little while for some of these guys.
I also have to mention my dismay at discovering that Scott Chandler, the Chargers' third round pick last year, is spending this year on IR. According to reports, it's another toe injury, which has seemed to haunt this Charger team like the ghosts of Christmas. What is going on with toes at the Charger complex? It's uncanny.
All that now aside, let's have a look at some of my reactions to this Cutdown Day.
1. CARLOS POLK. One of the Turk's victims this Saturday is long-time Charger special-teams fixture Polk, who joined the team in 2001 as a fourth-round pick. He never contributed too much to the linebacking corps he was nominally a part of; but his fiery on-field demeanor, his maturity in the locker room, and his outstanding Special Teams play was a positive influence to a young team on the rise - a young team that might have grown beyond his abilities as the years went on. The seven-year veteran spent a great deal of his time on the Injured Reserve list, particularly in 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2007, nursing various injuries. In the years he was healthy, however, he accumulated a total of 112 tackles, 4 sacks, as well as earning Team Special Teams Player of the Year honors in 2002 and 2003, The Ed Block Courage Award in 2006, and the team's Most Inspirational Player Award on 2007 (which he split with Philip Rivers).
2. LAMAR DIVENS. I was hoping to see more of this kid this year, but apparently AJ and his staff decided he was not ready for the active roster. I had my fingers crossed that the 6-3, 333 pound Divens was going to start making strides as an heir apparent to Jamal Williams, and he did do some good things this preseason against St. Louis (3 tackles and a fumble forced). However, he had very limited time in the other three games, and now it's not looking as if he'll get any meaningful PT this season. I am still hoping he'll land a spot on the practice squad and, hopefully, continue to develop into the something better for the Chargers.
3. MARCUS THOMAS. A few fans were looking out for the 6 foot, 215-pound back from UTEP who AJ drafted in the fifth round. Most expected him to be the subject of the Charger habit of developing LT's next backup years ahead of time. From Chatman to Turner and now to Sproles, Thomas was likely going to be the next in line. However, this is apparently not the year from him to make the regular season squad. If he passes waivers, he will likely make the practice squad, but it's still a bit of a shocker to see an fifth-round running back drafted by AJ not make the active roster. Still, this is most likely because of another running back who <em>did</em> earn a number - and who is my number one GOLD.
1. MIKE TOLBERT. WOOHOO! That's the first thing I thought after scanning quickly through the cuts and finding his name absent. He had a terrific game against the 49ers as a member of the starting rotation, catching 3 passes out of the backfield for 32 yards and a touchdown. The 5'9", 243 pounder demonstrated great hands, a Lorenzo Neal-like desire for contact, and a little bit of shimmy for a man of his weight. Tolbert lead his diminutive alma mater, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, in rushing his senior season, with 111 rushes for 748 yards and 9 touchdowns. He will be the first player ever from that school to play in a regular season NFL game. He finishes this preseason with 4 rushes for 21 yards, and 7 receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. LT, being interviewed on television during the game against the Cowboys, commented that Tolbert - more than any of the new rookies - had impressed him the most during Training Camp. That, plus a tremendous game against the 49ers, was probably what got this plucky UFA on the squad. Another AJ gem? We shall see - but I think so. This writer's darned happy he made it.
2. ANTOINE CASON. There was never any real threat that Cason would get cut, but I still wanted to see him flash something this preseason. Boy, did he ever. Cason had a great preseason, leading the Chargers in tackles over the four-game span (21), as well as getting an interception against the Rams that he took back 53 yards, looking slightly Cromartie-esque in the process. It's a benefit to him that he's got two tremendous corners in front of him in Cro and QJ; he'll have the time to ease into the NFL at the nickel spot, where he'll likely split time with Cletis Gordon, who also had a great preseason - besting Cason in INTs with 3, 2 of them against SF last night. All of a sudden, a position that the Chargers have been weak at for what seems like decades is a position of strength. I think that there's good things ahead for Cason and the Charger secondary.
3. PRESEASON IS OVER! Time to get to Tampa. Bandwagon departing in 5... 4... 3... 2...
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