Chargers needs going into the off-season


Carpe Diem et omni Mundio
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Jan 19, 2006
San Diego, CA
Chargers needs in the 2014 Off-Season
By: Loren S. Casuto
Bolttalk Writer/Podcast co-host

1) Cornerback (1-3 new players)

No position on the Chargers is in need of a bigger overhaul than the position that was the most consistent source of embarrassment for the team and fans. Shareece Wright started poorly but got better and showed flashes by the end of the year. He is the only member of the current group guaranteed to stay put. Derek Cox was signed to a big money deal, was burned repeatedly in the worst season of his entire career, was benched by mid-season and is now gone. Richard Marshall replaced Cox and played better but that’s more of a criticism of Cox than praise for Marshall. Crezdon Butler gave up the game winning touchdown against the Titans, saved the game against the Cowboys and barely played from there. Johnny Patrick had a flash or two of success but showed why the Saints cut him before ending up on IR, and why he was cut by the Chargers. Marcus Cromartie didn’t play, Steve Williams was injured early and though the team likes him, they won’t go into the season with him at #2. This team must add cornerbacks and cornerbacks that will work in Pagano’s system. Will the team be willing to shell out big free agency bucks for someone like Walter Thurmond or Alteraun Verner after last year’s failure? Will the top two draft eligible (Justin Gilbert and Darqueeze Denard) be available in the first or would Telesco reach on the second tier including Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett? With such a deep group in both free agency, including some players Telesco is acquainted with, and the draft, this position should be the focus of attention.

2) Guard (1 player)

What a difference a year makes. Offensive Line as a whole was considered the biggest need at this time last year. Now the Chargers have a far stronger lineup thanks to the addition of bookends DJ Fluker & King Dunlap, as well as the development of Johnnie Troutman. The Chargers will need to address right guard not just for talent but financial reasons. Jeromey Clary slid from right tackle to right guard where he, in a commendably selfless manner, stepped in to not only learn the new position but mentor DJ Fluker. Few people would disagree that Clary is the type of person you want on your team, but Clary is at best an average right guard. In addition he carries one of the biggest salaries this year at $4.55 million, at a time the Chargers desperately need to free up cap room. There are some very intriguing guards in the first three rounds of the draft, as well as an interesting high level free agent (Jon Asamoah). The Chargers did resign Chad Rhinehart who played very well at left guard but was injured far too frequently. Either way the team will be adding just one new starter this year, unlike this time last year.

3) Outside Linebacker (1 player)

No Charger position was as hampered by injuries as was OLB, an important position in any system but crucial in the 3-4. At one point the Chargers had their top 4 outside linebackers either out for the season, most of the season or for extended time. They lost Melvin Ingram in off-season workouts (though he made an impressive comeback) and signed Dwight Freeney who lasted less than half the season before ending up on IR with a torn quad. Larry English resumed his traditional role as IR Captain and Jarrett Johnson was out repeatedly with injuries. While the play of guys like Thomas Keiser (who might be a valuable role player), rookie Tourek Williams (little to show for his play) and Reggie Walker (seriously playing out of position) was commendable, the team suffered from a lack of pass rush. The Chargers must find someone else who can be, if not immediately, a starter within a year. In 2015 the Chargers will lose Freeney, English and Johnson to free agency. The top two draft options will likely be gone in the top 10, but from the late first to the early third there are some interesting names like Dee Ford, Trent Murphy, Marcus Smith, Kony Ealy, Kyle Van Noy and Jeremiah Attaochu. Or would the Chargers wait longer and draft another player with tons of media attention, Michael Sam? The Chargers would be well advised to come out of this off-season with some kind of playmaker.

4) Nose Tackle (1 player)

This was the year the Chargers were going to see what NT Cam Thomas, a rotational player for the last few years, could finally do as the starter. The results were disappointing. Thomas was not able to be a space eater and demand double team blocks. In truth he was regularly moved aside by one blocker, which made the entire defense less effective. It got bad enough that he was demoted in favor of Sean Lissenmore. The Chargers have a pair of interesting UDFAs from last year in Kwame Geathers and Byron Jerideau, but the team will not go into the next season relying on those two. While there is an interesting first round option (Louis Nix from Notre Dame), the Chargers might prefer the veteran route with players like Earl Mitchell, BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett, Linval Joseph and Paul Soliai available. If they can be had for the right price, they would serve as good mentors for the younger players. Or would the Chargers go hunting for later round selections like Ryan Carruthers (Arkansas State), Zach Kerr (Delaware) or Daniel McCullers (Tennessee)?

5) Running Back (1-2 players)

Of all the players and positions that revitalized the Chargers, none was so dramatic as the running game. Ryan Mathews finally became the back that people were expecting when he was drafted in 2010. He was healthy, ran with authority and was a major contributor. It only took until the year before he went into free agency, but Mathews is now the feature back. Danny Woodhead, when not overused, gave the Chargers the speed and threat they have missed for two years. The fan favorite showed incredible determination and skill as a scat back and third down contributor. While the Chargers got more out of Ronnie Brown than many expected (including the touchdown that ended Cincinnati’s playoff hopes), the 32 year old is at the end of his career. The team needs a third running back, ideally one that can pick up the hard yards between the tackles and move the pile. Someone who can keep Mathews fresh while maintaining the steady running attack, something Woodhead can’t do. In addition the Chargers look to add another full time running back just in case both Woodhead and Mathews leave at the end of the 2014 season? The team could look to free agency with low tread bruises like Toby Gerhardt, Anthony Dixon and Jonathan Dwyer are. If they go to free agency, don’t expect someone before the third round, but you’ll find players like Charles Sims, Lache Seastruck (less bruiser, more slasher) Andre Williams and maybe even Carlos Hyde. Wait further and the team might consider Storm Johnson, George Atkinson or even San Diegan Tyler Gaffney.

6) Return Game (1-2 players)

The Chargers were absolutely abysmal in the return game. How bad were they? They had a 32 year old running back with no return experience handling the kick return duties (Ronnie Brown) while occasionally letting their incredibly dangerous scat back handle the role (Danny Woodhead) and out of sheer desperation allowed their rookie of the year candidate and #1 Wide Receiver to return punts (Keenan Allen). For all that, they had less return yards combined than Josh Cribbs did in half a year with the New York Jets. Whereas once the Chargers had returners like Andre Coleman, Ronnie Jenkins, Tim Dwight and Darren Sproles, there’s absolutely nothing there anymore. There is talk that running back Kerwyn Williams, signed to a future’s contract, is being groomed to be the next Sproles, but the team will likely not go into 2014 on that kind of a prayer. It doesn’t matter where, but the team must sign some kind of dedicated return specialist to be more effective. Two Oregon speedsters come to mind; RB/OW De’Anthony Thomas and WR Josh Huff, but the Chargers could solve this and their cornerback issue if Justin Gilbert is available.

7) Center (1 player)

In 2004 the San Diego Chargers drafted a raw and somewhat undersized center from Purdue named Nick Hardwick. It was an interesting selection considering that, at the time, center was the one spot that the team didn’t need help (anyone remember Jason Ball?). Since then Hardwick has been a consistent member of the OL and a fantastic player. However he has one year left on his contract and there’s been reports that he is considering retirement (if that’s the case this shoots to #2 on the list). It was thought the Chargers had a developmental center in David Molk, drafted in 2012, but he didn’t last with the new administration. The draft this year has a number of talented centers, though it’s unlikely that the team will select a center in the first two days. Someone like a Gabe Ikard from Oklahoma, a Trai Turner from LSU (great versatility) or a James Stone from Tennessee would be a good player to groom for a year. Alternatively the Chargers could grab someone like a Marcus Martin out of USC in the second or third round, plug him in at guard for a year, then slide them over to center the following year. Either way this is something the Chargers can’t afford to ignore any longer.

8) Wide Receiver (1-2 players)

What began as a disaster in the making bore incredible success by the end of the year. The Chargers lost expected #1 Danario Alexander to another knee surgery in training camp and lost deep threat and veteran Malcolm Floyd to a scary neck injury in week 2. From there however things got better. Keenan Allen stepped into a starting role and never looked back, becoming one of only five 1,000 yd receivers in their rookie season and breaking numerous Chargers rookie records for Wide Receivers. Eddie Royal had one of his best seasons ever in terms of yards and touchdowns, however he was constantly injured for now two years in a row. Vincent Brown was finally healthy for a full season but even with teams focusing entirely on Gates and Allen, he couldn’t beat teams second cornerbacks. From there the team has little; Seyi Ajirotutu seems destined for the scrap heap and Lavelle Hawkins was never active. While the team did sign CFL stand out Dontrelle Inman, it would behoove the team to add someone else. They did restructure Royal, so he will be staying for the foreseeable future. Brown might stick around just because he’s cheap, but he needs to step up in a hurry. This is an incredibly deep free agent and draft class with options about from talented with limited snaps (Andre Roberts, Golden Tate) to big names (Hakeem Nicks, Doug Baldwin) to top quality picks in the first three rounds (Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks, Marquise Lee) and some fantastic talent later on (L’Damian Washington, Jalen Saunders, Brandon Coleman, Jeff Janis). The team would be foolish not to invest some money/picks in this group.

9) Quarterback (1 player)

Philip Rivers, comeback player of the year, revitalized offense, etc etc etc. This section isn’t about him or about Brad Sorensen, who played well in pre-season and didn’t sniff the field the entire year. Both those players are sure to stay. Charlie Whitehurst is an expensive backup at a time when the team needs to cut salary wherever it can. Look for the Chargers to try and find a cheaper quarterback to compete with Sorensen for the #2 role. While there are some options later in the draft (Tom Savage, Stephen Morris, Keith Price, Jeff Matthews), I don’t see the Chargers drafting anyone before the 6th unless someone amazing just falls into their lap. However the team has to start thinking about some sort of back up and maybe someone to groom to eventually (way down the line!) take over for Rivers.

10) Left Tackle (possibly 1 player)

As mentioned above, King Dunlap was one of the reasons behind the improvement of this team. When he played, the Chargers offensive line was a lot better than it was last season. Dunlap showed impressive pass blocking skills while being an incredible asset blocking downfield on screens. However Dunlap was out on three separate occasions with concussions and neck injuries, and he’s had similar injury troubles in past years. When he was out the Chargers experimented with Mike Harris (who made huge strides from last year and could be a fantastic swing tackle), DJ Fluker (who was game and fought hard but belongs on the right side) and Kenny Wiggins while also having Nic Becton as a long term project. Dunlap has absolutely earned the right to be the left tackle in 2014, and many fans hope he stays around long term. However the team would be foolish not to prepare a backup plan. Could the Chargers select someone in the first three rounds with interesting names like Antonio Richardson, Jawuan James and Zach Martin? How far will Cyrus Kouandjio (DJ Fluker’s Alabama teammate) fall after a poor combine and medical exam? Would they select someone much later like a Bryce Quigley from San Diego State? Are they happy with Becton and will keep him around?
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DanB 21

Mar 2, 2014
Well I was about to post a similiar thread asking the same kind of thing, so I guess I'll just reply to this one instead! :)
As I've said, I don't pretend to know much about football, and I haven't been following the draft as much as I should have this year, but this would be my route of thinking anyhow:

I completely agree with Corner being our most pressing need. The mock has mentioned the names, Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verret. I remember reading one of these having a ceiling as a number 2, which I don't think is what we need, or is worth a 1st round pick. Shareece seems like a competent number 2, (and hopefully Steve Williams will be a great nickel), but unless we trade up I don't see us getting a starting corner. I believe picks are more important to the team at this point, so maybe trading up isn't the option. The last 1st pick corner I recall making any noise was Janoris Jenkins, so good starting corners seem rare.
That said, free agency seems stacked with corners, but not ones who would seem to fit our weird defensive system. I was hoping for Sam Shields, Cromartie and Talib seem more like man to man guys to me. Unless we say 'cover that guy all game', I don't know if they would work. Perhaps Verner or Vontae Davis? I like the idea of someone young with good coverage skills.

My 2nd need would be DT. Cam Thomas was a crying shame, (as was the entire front 3!), so the idea of Louis Nix with the first would be my ideal pick. That said, we do have Geathers who looks like a machine, but wasn't on the field at all last year which suggests he isn't. Does anyone know if he is actually any good? No-one in free agency strikes me. Didn't Raji change his position to a 4-3 DT? Perhaps Soliai, but he's quite old, a young front 7 seems to be our objective. Other than that, I can't see anyone who would be big enough.

OLB is a huge need as well I think. Getting Ingram back was fantastic, and a young player opposite sets us up well for the future. I really hope we re-sign JJ, but no one else bar Keiser or Tourek seem worth it. Should we get Shaun Philips back for a year to tide us over? Or maybe take a chance on Lamarr Woodley? Either way, pass rush needs to be addressed severely to help our secondary.

Offensive line looks much better now. King Dunlap is great, but I worry for his durability, so maybe a fairly early pick on a tackle would be good. I'm so glad we re-signed Reinhart, and as for Clary, as we know ladies and gentlemen, this team can never have too many Offensive linemen!! John Asamoah is a tempting prospect, but what about Zane Beadles however? We still have some good guys on the line, Ohrnberger played well at Center too, so I think we're ok there.

Running back is easy for me. If they aren't going to keep Mathews, go get someone early in the draft! Other than that, I can see Blount being a good hard runner to rest our starters.

At receiver, I'm actually in the camp that we could really use another great one. We don't know if Malcolm will be back, I don't trust Alexander's durability, and Royal and Brown are both slot receivers. Dan De Palma looked fantastic in the preseason and training camp, maybe it's time to bring him in? That said, with this year's talent in the draft, especially WR, is it possible someone like Kelvin Benjamin would drop to us? Another big-man receiver, I'm not sure what he's like, (I'm sure some of you guys do), but he would be my first choice. Though a speedy receiver would help a lot I think. Would we go after Emmanuel Sanders or James Jones perhaps?

As a side note, would we look at Antoine Bethea or Kendrick Lewis, (T.J. Ward?!), in free agency?

Sorry for the massive post! :)
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