Chargers 2013 Training Camp Battles


Carpe Diem et omni Mundio
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Jan 19, 2006
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Chargers 2013 Training Camp Battles
By: Loren S. Casuto

First Battle: Offensive GuardJeromey Clary vs. Johnnie Troutman vs. Chad Rhinehart vs. Rich Ohrnberger

The Offensive Line was the biggest area of need for the Chargers since January and where the 2012 season’s line was thin, this year the team has a surprising amount of depth. As it stands Nick Hardwick will return to anchor the line for his tenth year and the tackles are set with Max Starks on the left, D.J. Fluker on the right and King Dunlap backing them up. The real battle will be inside at the guard where there are four bodies for two spots. Jeromey Clary had been a weak link for numerous years at right tackle. With the drafting of Fluker, the team will see if he can play right guard instead. Johnnie Troutman spent all of last year recovering from pectoral surgery but Norv Turner was and Mike McCoy is interested in Troutman’s strength and consistency. To those two the Chargers brought in a pair of free agents; Chad Rhinehart spent the last few years in Buffalo with the Chargers’ new OL coach as a backup, but shined when given an opportunity to start. Ohrnberger played four games last year for Ken Wisenhunt and actually was starting left guard at Penn State, the same as Troutman.

Opinion: I think it’ll be Chad Rhinehart at left guard, Johnnie Troutman at right guard, Ohrnberger backing them up and Clary out the door.

Second Battle: Backup Nose Tackle
Kwamie Geathers vs. Byron Jerideau

The Chargers begin 2013 with incredible starting talent on the defensive line, but very thin and inexperienced depth. Nowhere is that more apparent than backup nose tackle; baring a late free agent signing the team will have an undrafted free agent rookie backing up starter Cam Thomas. Geathers comes from a football family and is massive at 6’6 345lbs, but with John Jenkins starting Geathers got little time on the field. What Geathers lacks in experience and technique he makes up for in size, strength and a surprisingly quick burst. If given some coaching and time, Geathers has all the physical tools to become dominant. Jerideau is the opposite; the nose tackle in a 4-3 Jerideau started for two years on a line brimming with fantastic talent. At 6’0 334 he is short with a squat build and limited burst but is impressively strong and stout at the line of scrimmage. Jerideau also saved his best for the big games, putting on an amazing performance this year against LSU.

Opinion: This will be a very interesting battle; raw with all the tools or strong, short and experienced. I’m willing to bet whichever player loses will still find his way onto the practice squad as the team would be foolish to lose two very talented and raw nose tackles. With that said, I’m going with my bias and Kwamie Geathers.

Third Battle: Strong Safety
Darrell Stuckey vs. Marcus Gilchrist vs. Jahleel Addae vs. Brandon Taylor (maybe)

The Chargers have one of the best free safeties in the league in Eric Weddle but strong safety has been a constant rotating problem since the release of Rodney Harrison. The team thought it solved the problem by drafting Brandon Taylor, but he tore his ACL in his first start, week 16. Now the team has to find someone to hold the position down, at least until Taylor gets back to speed. Stuckey was originally drafted to be the strong safety but got pushed aside after an initial poor performance. Since then he’s become a very good backup and special teamer. Gilchrist would likely be the nickel cornerback if not for this situation, but his experience at safety and scheme versatility will give the Chargers lots of options regardless. Addae is an undrafted free agent from Central Michigan who has been singled out by name by Pagano and McCoy for his performance. A two year starter with great striking ability, closing speed and quick twitch reflexes, Addae has the make up of a real find.

Opinion: If Brandon Taylor is healthy he will be starting; he needs experience and playing time and would fit in well with a young team. If not, Gilchrist is too versatile and talented not to throw into this position. Stuckey might be too valuable at his positions to be moved. Addae is the wild card.

Fourth Battle: 5th & 6th Wide Receiver
Richard Goodman vs. Eddie Royal vs. Robert Meachem vs. anybody else

Baring injuries the Chargers will have their top four wide receiver positions locked down with Malcolm Floyd, Danario Alexander, Vincent Brown & Keenan Allen. For the remaining one or two spots, expect there to be a mad scramble. Goodman has remained on the team for three years despite this columnist’s poor opinion and limited success. I’ve called Goodman a guaranteed cut for two straight years and as such won’t bother commenting on his odds. Eddie Royal was signed to be the team’s slot receiver but poor performance and injuries derailed such. Still Royal will now be playing for a coach that he had his most success under and his return ability gives him an extra dimension. Meachem was a disaster his first year not only because of poor play but because the team can’t use a deep man when the QB is being hit after three seconds. With his large salary it’s almost a guarantee he’ll make the team. From there it’s a group of undrafted or street free agents that include Mike Willie (two years on practice squad), Luke Tasker (son of Steve Tasker and impressive route runner) and Deon Butler (speedster formerly with Seattle)

Opinion: I can’t see how Meachem isn’t on the team because it’s almost as expensive to cut him as to keep him. From there it’s a matter of general value to the team and Royal’s return and slot experience could make him more valuable, but I’ve counted Goodman out too many times.

Fifth Battle: Backup Inside Linebacker
Jonas Mouton vs. Andrew Gachkar vs. Bront Bird vs. DJ Smith

At the end of 2012 the Chargers had one very impressive inside linebacker and a big question mark for the other. Donald Butler had a second fantastic year and Jonas Mouton would be ‘starting’. By the end of the draft the Chargers were set at inside linebacker with the talented but controversial Manti Te’o being selected in the second round. Now the question is, who will be the backups? Mouton, already considered to be one of the worst Chargers 2nd round picks in recent memory, had been unable to get on the field, even when Spikes was injured, and had done little in practice to show he belonged. Just before the draft the Chargers snatched DJ Smith from waivers. Smith had been a starter for the Packers prior to tearing his ACL & MCL in week 6. The short but savvy linebacker was a sixth rounder who earned a starting job but is still recovering from surgery. Gachkar was a seventh rounder in 2011 who has become a good special teamer and played well in spurts at linebacker, but is still learning the craft. Bront Bird was an UDFA two years ago from Texas Tech and has been on and off the Chargers roster but is a good special teamer who, like Gachkar, can play well in limited duty at linebacker.

Opinion: The Chargers will find a way to keep DJ Smith, they really like him even if he spends the beginning or all of the year on the PUP. If that’s the case it’ll likely be Gachkar, who is too valuable at special teams, and Bird. Short of having the camp of his life, Mouton will be gone.

Sixth Battle: #2 Running Back
Ronnie Brown vs. Edwin Baker vs Foz Whittaker vs. Michael Hill

Much like the offensive line, the Chargers have most of their running back order set in stone. Once again Ryan Mathews will get first crack at the starting running back job. The talent is there but can he stay healthy for anything approaching a full season, especially after breaking his collarbone twice? On third downs the Chargers will bring in free agent Danny Woodhead whose speed, catching ability and shiftiness will bring back some of the excitement and options when Darren Sproles was a Charger. But the backup running back (and ostensibly the starting spot if Mathews fails/gets injured) is a wide open field. Ronnie Brown was brought in to be a third down back and surprised with effective running between the tackles. He’s not the shifty back he was 9 years ago but his ability and veteran savy are impressive. Edwin Baker was a 7th round steal last year who drew comparisons to Ray Rice, but the only time “Rock” saw the rock was on the practice field. It’s disconcerting that even when the team was screaming for a running game last year, they didn’t bring in Baker. He’ll get another crack at it but he’s on a short leash. From there you get into the less established names the Chargers brought in. Whittaker, who has the coolest first name in this year’s free agent class (better even that King Dunlap) was a speedy jack of all trades at Texas specializing in wild cat and kick off returns. If he’s recovered from the ACL/MCL injuries at the end of 2012, he could bring a very unique and fast element to the team. Michael Hill was the Division II rushing champion and runner up for their Heisman award. A unique combination of very good speed, shifting ability and a very low center of gravity, Hill has all the features you’d want in a starter (reminding some scouts of Michael Turner) but needs to make a big leap from Missouri Western to the NFL.

Opinion: I have been high on him for a long time and I think Michael Hill will stun people and take the job. Brown has great determination but there’s little tread left on the tires and I question Baker’s ability after failing to even get a look last year. Whittaker is a wild card and if he could put anyone’s job at risk it would be the kick and punt returners, along with Danny Woodhead.

Players I’m most excited to see

1) Manti Te’o: After all the media hype and insanity, I’m very excited to see what he brings onto the field
2) Keenan Allen & Vincent Brown: One is an impressive route running rookie, the other a hometown favorite coming back from a broken ankle. If both stay healthy, this might be one of the deepest groups in the league.
3) Shareece Wright: It looked like things were coming together until an injury at the end of last year’s pre-season. Now he gets the opportunity he’s always wanted.
4) Dwight Freeney: How much is left in the tank and can he play the 3-4 any better? The future Hall of Famer remains a deadly pass rusher, a much needed commodity.
5) Nic Becton: Keep an eye on this undrafted free agent tackle that could be a future left tackle. Has all the physical qualities but limited experience.
6) Mike Hermann: A Division 3 quarterback with a similar style of play to Tim Tebow, but with a much better arm and accuracy. He gets on the field and things could be very exciting

Players who need to put up or shut up

1) Jeromey Clary: Expensive and ineffective is no way to play. If he can’t make it work at guard, he’s gone.
2) Larry English: Not since 2010 has he been given such an opportunity to start and show what he can do. He doesn’t get any more chances after this.
3) Robert Meachem: No one questions his work ethic but much like Clary, he can’t be expensive and ineffective again.
4) Cam Thomas: He finally gets a starting opportunity, he can either take this DL group into the stratosphere or weigh it down.
5) Danario Alexander: The talent has always been there, just like the injury history. More major left knee surgeries then toes on his left foot. If he can show last year wasn’t a fluke, he’ll be well rewarded and become one of the biggest free agent steals of the last five years.
6) Jonas Mouton: Never well received when drafted, never thought highly of when the team chose to let street free agents start in front of him. It’s no longer a question of can he start, it’s a question of whether he belongs on any NFL roster.

Top 5 UDFA that will surprise

1) Marcus Cromartie DB Nebraska – brother of Antonio Cromatie, can fly and has a much better work ethic.
2) Frank Beltre LB Towson – Talented and fast pass rusher who plays with a chip on his shoulder, considered one of the steals of UDFA.
3) Jahleel Addae S Central Michigan – Mentioned above, has all the ability and will surprise when given a chance. Could take the strong safety job.
4) Brandon Moore DE Texas - Watch for him to become primary backup, three year starter who was a fantastic penetrator and, but for a bad neck injury, would have been drafted.
5) Luke Tasker WR Cornell – Hard to see how he makes the roster but the son of special teams great Steve Tasker who runs incredibly precise routes could be hard to pass on.