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Heated roster battles expected to center on four key positions

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Kevin Acee
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    9:26 p.m. July 30, 2009

    Scott Mruczkowski would be the first to tell you he's no genius, but it didn't take a 140 IQ to draw a conclusion from the Chargers' moves on the second day of April's draft.

    The team selected a guard in the third round and another player who's moving to center in the fourth round.

    Those are the two positions Mruczkowski plays.

    “Maybe they're going another direction,” he recalled thinking.

    Much ink will be spilled and many megabytes filled with discussion about the training camp battles at right guard, safety, inside linebacker and defensive end – as those involve starting positions and significant playing time – over the next month.

    But as the full squad works out for the first time Friday morning, there are more than those four battles. Perhaps more intriguing to those inside Chargers Park than the average fan will be how the bottom of the roster shakes out. There are only so many spots available on this team that has stayed so largely intact in recent years. (Thirty-one players, including 17 of the projected starters on offense and defense, have been with the Chargers since 2006.

    There are 48 players in camp that were on the roster at season's end, plus Buster Davis, who was on injured reserve.

    As a starting point, that leaves four spots that are obviously open on the final 53-man roster.

    The Chargers drafted eight players, seven of whom have a viable chance to make the team (the eighth being seventh-rounder Demetrius Byrd, who is recovering from an auto accident). They also signed free-agent linebacker Kevin Burnett, who will certainly be on the team.

    So there are at least four more players than there are available spots on the final roster. That doesn't account for any rookie free agents who might surprise coaches over the next month.

    Names fans have come to know, players that teammates have grown to love, are playing for their jobs over the next month.

    Mruczkowski. Brandon Siler. Mike Tolbert. Antwan Applewhite. All recognizable, all perhaps expendable due to numbers – and not numbers just at the position they play.

    Do the Chargers keep nine or 10 linebackers? Nine or 10 offensive linemen? Five or six running backs? Four or five safeties? Which players make the biggest contribution on special teams?

    “Guys think they're competing against a guy at their position,” head coach Norv Turner said. “And sometimes they are. But in a lot of cases they're competing against guys at other positions for those last five or six roster spots.”

    As for Mruczkowski, he begins camp as the No. 2 center and will see some time at guard. He knows he has to hold off fourth-round pick Tyronne Green, who plays both positions as well.

    “It's all motivation,” he said this week. “I'll be damned if someone is going to take my job without a fight.”

    That will make for a great camp, presuming the others on the bubble feel the same way.

    And knowing it's the battle for starting jobs that is of utmost interest for most, here is a synopsis of those four fights:

    Right guard

    Even when Kynan Forney was signed last September, it was with an eye toward him starting this season. Forney, a fierce run blocker, has 89 starts on his resume and should be considered the favorite. But third-round pick Louis Vasquez has impressed coaches with his smarts and movement to complement his size (6-feet-5, 325 pounds).

    Strong safety

    Clinton Hart is the incumbent, and in a way so is Steve Gregory, who started four of the final six games as Hart struggled with a neck injury. The Chargers drafted Kevin Ellison in hopes they could get a more instinctive, physical player to challenge those two. Ellison likely didn't hurt himself too much by missing the three rookie practices, and this would appear to be a scintillating battle. With so many packages and different skills the trio possess, all three figure to get field time this season.

    Inside linebacker

    The five-year stability of the Donnie Edwards era is definitely long gone. Matt Wilhelm, who started 23 of the past 37 games, was released last week. Kevin Burnett was signed as a free agent and will play a lot (certainly in passing situations). He also has his sights on starting at that “Mo” linebacker spot. Tim Dobbins started 12 games and was probably the defense's most improved player last season. Burnett will have to show a physicality that rivals Dobbins' ferociousness to wrest the starting job from him.

    Defensive end

    This will be a rotation, as coordinator Ron Rivera mixes his defensive potion. Jacques Cesaire, who has started 35 games the past five seasons and played plenty more snaps, will begin camp as the starter at right end. Ryon Bingham will get a shot to unseat him. Both of them, and fourth-rounder Vaughn Martin, are versatile and can move inside in the nickel package. Martin, coming from Canadian college football, has lots to learn but is expected to contribute this year.

  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

    Jul 11, 2006
    WE could be witnessing the making of the best Charger's club ever.
  4. Showmeyourbolt

    Showmeyourbolt Well-Known Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    God, that defensive end position is so ****ing weak right now. If Martin doesn't play much this year, then we could be in deep ****. We'll have to rely on Bingham and Ian Scott as our two primary backups, and at the rate Jamal and Luis get injured, the odds are that both will get a ton of playing time. That defensive line could be a problem.
  5. PowderLove

    PowderLove Former Mod, Current Slacker

    Jul 12, 2007
    JAQUES CESAIRE bring the pain
  6. MMJ4mil

    MMJ4mil BoltTalker

    Oct 3, 2006
    This team is stacked.... Now they just have to perform...
  7. SDRaiderH8er

    SDRaiderH8er Well-Known Member

    Apr 27, 2006
    I fixed it for ya

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