As training camp enters its final week, anxiety for a number players around the league is at an all-time high.
For these players, this week represents their last opportunity to impress their organization and earn a spot on a National Football League roster.
As for coaches and general managers, they have to deal with the pressure of picking the best 53 possible men to make up their rosters.
For A.J. Smith and Norv Turner this is a very important week. This is most likely their last chance at putting together a team that is capable of competing for a Super Bowl. Every roster spot matters, which makes every single cut a well-thought out process. At some positions the roster is basically set but, for other areas on the depth chart, many questions remain.
Here are four players who will be the toughest for the Chargers to cut as they work their way down to a 53-man roster.
Jackie Battle arrived in San Diego as a free agent following a season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The coaches hoped that he would help backup Ryan Mathews as well as help the team on third down and goal-line situations. Battle had a decent season last year for Kansas City, and when the Chargers announced that he would be signing with them, I was very impressed.
However, the impressive play of Ronnie Brown this preseason has really hurt Battle’s chances of making the team.
Brown has shown that he still has gas left in his tank, and his ability to run the Wildcat makes him a lock to make the roster. Le’Ron McClain also can fill in at running back, as well as help out with goal-line and short-yardage carries.
These two running backs basically make Battle unnecessary.
The Chargers had hoped that Battle could come in and become an instant help, but his skill set just does not line up with what the Chargers need. With the need to carry extra offensive lineman, there just is not enough room for Battle.
It is going to be tough to cut such a talented running back, but he does not help the Chargers in areas that require extra attention.
Kory Sperry will put the Chargers in a very tough spot when it comes time for roster reduction.
On one hand, he is a very strong blocking tight end and—after watching Charlie Whitehurst get blasted on every play against the Vikings—the Chargers know they need as much blocking help as they can get.
But on the other hand, the Chargers right now are loaded at tight end. With Antonio Gates healthy and joined by Randy McMichael, Dante Rosario and fourth-round draft pick Ladarius Green, there just is not a lot of room for Sperry.
The final tight end spot will likely come down to Sperry and Green. The Chargers are very high on Green, who also happens to be very raw. They would like to keep Green in order to help speed up his development as Gates’ eventual replacement.
The Chargers will have to decide if they want to keep an extra offensive lineman or a tight end and the Bolts will ultimately choose to keep an extra offensive lineman. The Chargers offensive line is in such bad shape that they need all the extra bodies they can acquire.
This will be the major factor in why Kory Sperry will be cut.
Although he kicked the game winning field goal against the Minnesota Vikings in the third game of the preseason, Nick Novak will not be on the final 53-man roster for the Chargers.
Nate Kaeding looked extremely strong as he made his two field goal attempts, both from 50-plus yards. Novak also went 2-2 on his field goal attempts against the Vikings, but they were from much closer in—and were much shakier.
Cutting Novak will be a tough call given how talented a kicker he is. Charger fans know how kicking can affect games, seasons and postseason hopes, and Novak proved last year that he is a viable option at placekicker. I don’t believe that the Chargers knew that, when Kaeding returned from his ACL tear, Novak would be able to perform as well as he has this preseason.
But Kaeding has shown that he is the stronger kicker and deserves to keep the job.
If the Chargers did not have such other glaring needs on their roster, such as depth on the offensive and defensive lines, keeping both kickers might be a consideration. But that's a luxury San Diego simply can't afford.
Novak will be cut, but he will be picked up by and kicking for another NFL team this year. Hopefully, he does not help a team beat the team that cut him this preseason.
Cam Thomas and the Chargers find themselves in a very rough spot.
Thomas is a still-improving young player who will be entering his third year in the NFL. The problem with Thomas is that he finds himself on a team loaded with front-seven players on defense.
The signing of former New Orleans Saint Aubrayo Franklin has pushed Thomas under the cut line. The Chargers will likely carry six defensive linemen. With players such as Kendall Reyes and Antonio Garay, the defensive line is going to be solid in 2012.
There just simply is not a spot for Thomas, who is talented enough that he will find work quickly somewhere else in the league. The only hope that Thomas has of making San Diego is if he beats out Jacques Cesaire.
But that doesn’t seem likely as the Chargers head into their final week of training camp.
Once again, the lack of depth at offensive line is hurting players at other positions who are trying to make the team. The Chargers will probably carry more offensive linemen than defensive linemen as they continue to struggle to figure out the starters and backups across the OL.
Cutting Thomas will be a tough decision, but with the talent at his position, it is one that the Chargers front office has to make.