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2014 Training Camp Battles

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by AnteaterCharger, Jul 20, 2014.

  1. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    Training Camp Competition
    By: Loren S. Casuto Bolttalk Podcast Co-Host


    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, ladies and gentlemen. Football (our kind, not the kind we watched in June/July to get us through the boring months) is in the air and the pre-season is almost here. While pre-season is never something to get excited about (beyond the whole “Oh my goodness football is back!!” vibe you get for a quarter of the first pre-season game) it does mean we are closer to the regular season. For Charger fans this is an especially exciting time as we look to see what McCoy, Telesco and the team can do to build upon a surprising playoff run. With that in mind here are the top battles as we enter training camp.

    Strong Safety: Marcus Gilchrist vs. Jaheel Addae vs. Alden Darby

    Of all the battles, this is the only starting job open. Gilchrist moved from nickel corner to strong safety and, like most of the secondary, played poorly initially. By the end of the year he had shown better run stopping and instincts but remained a liability in zone coverage. Also by the end of the year he was giving up more playing time to not only Darrell Stuckey but an undrafted Chippewa. Addae was a trendy undrafted free agent pick in a stacked class. Over the season he improved in every facet until he was pushing hard for playing time. He brings a physical presence the team hasn’t had in years and has shown skill in deep coverage. Darby is this year’s Addae but in a far less impressive class. Formerly the starter at Arizona State, Darby has played every single position in the backfield at some point his career. His versatility is impressive as are his instincts but he isn’t great at any specific area. He reminds me a lot of Steve Gregory, and could have an even better career.

    Prediction:

    Gilchrist might be the incumbent but his competition is far better this year. I really think Addae will take the starting job and run with it. Darby has the versatility to be a major contributor this year and could secure a roster spot as a backup safety. That could leave Gilchrist out of the picture and, potentially, off the roster.

    Right Guard: Jeromey Clary vs. Johnnie Troutman vs. Chris Watt

    I didn’t think this was a competition until recent news turned it into a potential camp battle. Clary has been a constant whipping boy amongst fans but in 2013 he played well at guard and helped to stabilize the offensive line. However he remains the highest paid offensive lineman on the team; it was believed that he would be cut as soon as free agency opened up yet remains on the roster. One news item turned this from nothing into a potential camp battle; it was recently revealed he had two off-season surgeries and might not be ready for training camp. Into that void is the Chargers’ third round pick - Chris Watt who spent the last two years as Notre Dame’s starting left guard. Watt doesn’t look good in gym shorts and didn’t impress at the combine. However he plays well with great functional strength, hand placement, instincts and intelligence and can move around enough to get the job done. Watt is the kind of player that will blow past his draft expectations and be a steady effective starter for years. But Watt isn’t running with the first team, Johnnie Troutman is. Troutman started numerous games at left guard and played well with impressive power and intensity. However he was very inconsistent, made a number of costly mental errors and his performance at right guard in the playoffs was abysmal.

    Prediction:

    I’m mentioning this as a competition but I really don’t believe it is. The Chargers love the idea of continuity, and this would be the first time in since 2009 that the team has the same offensive line since the previous year. Baring a fantastic camp and preseason from either Troutman or Watt I don’t see how Clary doesn’t remain the starter. Watt and Troutman might fight for a roster spot, and in that case I give the edge to the former Golden Domer.

    Back up nose tackle: Ryan Carrethuers vs Kwame Geathers

    While the 2013 Chargers had defensive woes literally everywhere, the nose tackle position went from being solidified to a failure. Cam Thomas was supposed to finally become the starter, and there was a raw young giant in Kwame Geathers to back Thomas up. Fast forward a year and Thomas left for Pittsburgh after being ineffective and eventually losing his job to Sean Lissenmore, who remains the starter. Even though he’s closer to 300lbs than 350lbs, Lissenmore provided a major spark to the defense and was very effective in the run game. Even though Geathers was active for a few games he contributed little beyond a costly penalty in the home opener. Geathers still has impressive size, power and speed, as well as a year in the Pagano system, but remains very raw with questions of whether he can ever fully put it together. The Chargers seem somewhat concerned as they spent their first Day 3 pick on Ryan Carrethuers; the former Red Wolves starter was amazingly productive and combines amazing strength with a good understanding of leverage from his wrestling days. However there are questions about his game intelligence and he lacks mobility or speed.

    Prediction:

    The only way this will be determined is in the day-to-day of training camp. I’ve giving the temporary edge to Carrethuers because of his experience and production at the college level. If Geathers can actually utilize his immense talent he’ll go from being a camp question to a starter very quickly.

    Fifth outside linebacker: Thomas Keiser vs. Cordarro Law vs. Tourek Williams vs. Larry English

    The Chargers will enter the 2014 Training Camp with a far deeper outside linebacker group than in 2013 Last year’s Chargers were thin at OLB with little beyond Melvin Ingram and Jarrett Johnson after letting Shaun Phillips and Antwaan Barnes walk. The year started bad with Ingram going down with a torn ACL and proceeded to get worse; at one point the teams’ top 5 outside linebackers were all out either for the year or an extended period. By the second half of 2013, the team was utilizing a sixth round former defensive end (Tourek Williams), an inside linebacker (Reggie Walker) and a Panthers cast off (Thomas Keiser) as their starters. This year the team has much more depth; Ingram returns and looks to build on a fantastic end of the year. Johnson will start and continue to be the outstanding run stopper and edge setter that he’s always been. Freeney should be healthy and be a lot fresher coming off the bench in third down situations, and rookie Jeremiah Attaouch will get the chance to learn and contribute in a rotation. That leaves the question of a fifth outside linebacker and the competition will be fierce. Keiser produced more than any other OLB and provided some nice plays throughout the year. He’d be the lock 5th linebacker if not for an off-the-field incident that makes the team and fans question his value. Tourek Williams had played 4-3 DE most of his career and had a hard time adjusting to outside linebacker, though he did have a big sack of Peyton Manning and numerous players complimented his work ethic. Larry English remains a constantly injured, but likeable, bust who can be somewhat productive when healthy. Law is a CFL standout; he had 15 sacks for the Calgary Stampeders in 2014 and has good burst but was unable to make it in an NFL training camp the previous year.

    Prediction:

    Had it not been for a sucker punch, I have no doubt Keiser would’ve locked this position up. As of now I’m calling it a two horse race between Keiser and Law. Williams doesn’t have the physical tools to be a 3-4 OLB and with this much depth I don’t know how English remains on the team, but I’ve said that before.

    Cornerback: Shareece Wright vs. Jason Verrett vs. Steve Williams vs. Brandon Ghee vs. anybody else

    No position needed a makeover more than cornerback. The 2013 Chargers managed to make the playoffs in spite of a horrible cornerback corps that had little talent or success. Last year’s big free agent acquisition, Derek Cox, was so bad he was cut after one year and replaced with Brandon Flowers from Kansas City. Flowers should fit the Chargers scheme perfectly and immediately became the top corner. Everything after that is up for grabs. Wright played poorly in his first year starting but got better as the season progressed, developing into an average corner. He’s not a burner (see the Philadelphia game) but showed improved instincts and coverage ability with an outstanding performance against the Bengals in the playoffs. He will likely be the #2 starter, but that’s far from a lock. First round selection Jason Verrett is short but fast, instinctive and intelligent with a skill set that is a perfect fit for the Chargers’ scheme. He is recovering from off-season surgery but look for him to push hard for a starting position. Steve Williams is something of a clone of Verrett and looked impressive in preseason until tearing a pectoral muscle. Now healthy he’s already showing off the same speed and instincts that intrigued the coaches last training camp. Brandon Ghee has all the physical talent but has never been able to stay healthy. He’s the biggest corner the Chargers have at 6’0 200lbs and if, he can stay healthy, could push hard for playing time. From there the team has options ranging from young and inexperienced (Marcus Cromartie) to battle hardened from last year’s failures (Crezdon Butler) to very experienced and somewhat effective (Richard Marshall).

    Prediction:

    With a new hand the team can really let the best players start as opposed to throwing anyone into the fire. I’m betting that Wright will remain a starter opposite Flowers with Verrett handling nickel duties and Williams in the dime. The team might keep another corner and that’ll come down to Ghee’s health vs. Marshall’s veteran presence.

    6th Receiver: Tevin Reese vs. Dontrelle Inman vs. Brelan Chancellor

    I believe that I discussed this same position at this time last year, the only difference are the names. Now it’s Keenan Allen as the number one receiver after a stellar rookie campaign. From there you have two often injured but talented contributors in Eddie Royal and Malcolm Floyd. The former is coming off a career year and the latter is making his return after a scary neck injury. It’s been a long time since either made it through a complete season. Vincent Brown will be in the rotation, and though healthy, was ineffective all year. Fifth on the depth chart is Seyi Ajirotutu who is a perennial fan favorite that is well trusted by Rivers and is a solid special teamer. From there we get confusion as to who might stick around. Reese is a burner selected in the 7th round and could be the teams’ first speedy deep threat in years. However he needs a great deal of development on his route tree as well as to regularly eat California burritos to reach a respectable weight. Chancellor would appear to be a good fit as his speed, route running and return ability are what the team is lacking. Inman is a wild card; he’s an impressive physical specimen at 6’3 205lbs and caught 50 balls for 6 touchdowns with the Toronto Argonauts, helping them win the Grey Cup. Can he be the next CFL standout to become successful in the NFL? Time will tell.

    Prediction:

    The Chargers will carry seven receivers with Inman and Reese making the team. I don’t think if the team would risk stashing Reese on the practice squad. I don’t see Chancellor making the team. Inman is a wild card but has the physical skills to really surprise people if given the chance.

    Punt Returner/Kick Returner: Anybody vs. Somebody

    No team has gotten less out of their returners than the San Diego Chargers. The last time the team had a real threat at these positions was 2009 when Darren Sproles and Antonio Cromartie held them. Last year the Bolts were stuck with aging Ronnie Brown returning kicks (no sense) and #1 receiver Keenan Allen returning punts (less sense) with scat back Danny Woodhead in the mix (little sense). The only reason these three were out there was that the Chargers had absolutely nothing else available. The team has some interesting pieces to the return puzzle but no one seems to know where they fit. RB Marion Grice has returned punts and kicks throughout his career at Arizona State but isn’t particularly fast or hard running. WR Tevin Reese has the speed but as mentioned desperately needs strength and weight to handle the pounding he’d get at a position he hasn’t held since high school. RB Kerwin Williams and WR Brelan Chancellor have been returners in college and this might be their only way to make it on the roster. CB Steve Williams has intriguing ability but has never been a returner. DB Marcus Gilchrist used to return kicks and punts at Clemson but has never been given a real shot with the Bolts. Could Eddie Royal return to a position he hasn’t performed at in years? As noted above there are a number of options, but how would they all fit in?

    Prediction:

    This is a complete crap shoot. With so many options and so many questions you’d hope the Chargers won’t return to Allen/Woodhead as the top returners. As it stands my guess is that the team uses PR/KR as the reasons to keep Grice and Reese on the roster, as well as their intriguing skill set for 2015. Still this is anyone’s game.

    Top 5 on the bubble

    1. Tourek Williams OLB

    Showed very little last year, even with extended playing time. Now with OLB stacked he might not have a reason to stick around.

    2. Larry English OLB

    English has been on this list since 2011 and yet he sticks around. This might finally be the year after drafting Attaouche.

    3. Kwame Geathers NT

    He and Carrethuers are battling for the same spot. Geathers has tons of talent but needs to show he can put it together.

    4. Damik Scafe DE

    Yet another number crunch especially with Lissenmore and Guy playing well. He needs to show why he should be on this roster, and fast.

    5. Marcus Gilchrist DB

    This is a dark horse candidate but he was exposed for his poor coverage ability and the depth at corner and safety is far better this year. If Addae and Darby step up their game, watch for Gilchrist to become expendable.

    Top 5 concerns

    1. King Dunlap LT

    Dunlap had the best season since he was screaming War Eagle. I have questions if he can do it again.

    2. Manti Te’o ILB

    He was seen as the most NFL ready. One bad injury in training camp and a relatively poor season later, Te’o must step up his game. He’s got the tools to do so, and has been working hard, but he needs to show why the team traded up for him.

    3. Ryan Mathews RB

    Much like Dunlap, Mathews finally showed everything Chargers fans were hoping for last year. And just like Dunlap, there’s a question whether he can do it again, especially with free agency looming.

    4. Shareece Wright CB

    Another free agent at the end of the year, Wright started poorly and got better. Can he maintain his starting spot with a first round draft pick breathing down his neck?

    5. Kendall Reyes DE

    I heard a great deal that Reyes wasn’t used correctly, but here is a 3-4 DE who could rarely hold up against single, much less double team, blockers. Even with five sacks he took a step backwards last year and needs to reverse course ASAP.

    Top 5 I’m excited to see

    1. Brandon Flowers CB

    Never look a gift bouquet in the mouth. The team tries to sign a #1 CB again, but this one fits the system and is looking for AFC West payback.

    2. Marion Grice RB

    It was surprising to see the team take another running back after signing Donald Brown. His skill set and versatility are intriguing and could be incredibly valuable on the field. He, over all other draft picks, will have to fight the hardest to make the roster.

    3. Dwight Freeney OLB

    The spin master is coming off a pretty tough injury at age 34. He should be in a better position to contribute as a pass rushing specialist and few are better in this league at getting sacks. But is there anything left in the tank?

    4. Dontrelle Inman WR/Cordero Law OLB

    The two Canadians were Telesco’s first FA signings even before FA started. Both bring an impressive list of skills but are competing in two of the deepest groups on the team.

    5. Ladarius Green TE

    Everyone is starting to notice that Green could be a superstar. He played well in limited time, but now he has to show he can be a threat even when other teams know he’s coming.

    Top 5 Undrafted Rookies

    1. Alden Darby DB

    A potential day 3 selection that fell, he reminds me a lot of Steve Gregory. Darby can play anywhere in the back four and his heart and instincts help with some of his missing physical tools.

    2. Chris Davis CB

    The hero of the Iron Bowl, Davis has incredible return potential, decent zone coverage skills and very impressive tackling ability for a cornerback. If he can return kicks/punts he’ll make the team.

    3. Craig Watts OG

    Don’t get drafted or signed as UDFA? No problem. Just go work out for three days and put on a clinic. Watts is a mauling power guard that would be right at home next to Fluker, but can he step up in a crowded field.

    4. Tenny Palepoi DL

    The Chargers selected a few intriguing defensive linemen but Palepoi has shown impressive strength and versatility in limited opportunities. He has a chance with the defensive line in some flux.

    5. Brelan Chancellor WR

    The special teams player of the year in his conference, he’s a prototypical slot receive in his size, speed and agility. In a full WR group he could make the team with his return ability and could vault up the depth chart with injuries.
     

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