It was just two weeks ago that I issued my “report card grades” for the first-year players on this year’s Charger roster.
What has changed since then? Not much, except for the fact that these guys may need to play and contribute even more than what was expected back then.
Injuries have really hit the Bolts hard this summer. The opener at Oakland is less than a week away and AJ Smith is still looking for “depth” guys. Will these players be any more than placeholders or will they really make an impact? That remains to be seen.
What is known is that there are more question marks going into the regular season than in recent years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the past, the Chargers (and the “experts”) have overestimated their strengths. Over the past two years, the boat keeps springing a new leak. Will the Bolts address their problems and will the players be good enough? That’s what the next four months are for.
As for the rookies, WR Mike Willie didn’t survive the final cut. Richard Goodman, who appears to have no moves to speak of on returns, was retained for special teams purposes. The other four guys I profiled are still with us and will be counted on to step in immediately and make plays.
None will be under a microscope as much as Mike Harris. Jared Gaither’s status has been the dominant theme of the preseason. His health (or lack thereof) is troubling, but the handling of his status has been pathetic.
Nonetheless, Mike Harris will protect Philip Rivers’ blind side on Monday Night against the Raiders. He had some strong moments and frightening sequences in preseason. The team informed him he’d be starting about a week ago. I’m assuming this was to give him time to adjust and to also give him a confidence boost that he’d be “the guy.” A.J. Smith will bolster the line after the opener depending on Harris’ performance. It behooves Smith to wait until Tuesday since the team can avoid guaranteed money in any contract it issues by doing so.
Melvin Ingram sat out the last preseason game, but probably could have played if it had counted. Expectations were high for “Super Melvin” going into the exhibition season and only increased by what he showed while playing. Whether or not he’s asked to do more than rush the passer will depend on whether the Chargers defense can improve from its atrocious performance of a year ago, especially on third down. Ingram’s play will obviously also dictate how many snaps and how involved he is in the defense.
The same thing goes for Kendall Reyes. Not much was known by fans about Reyes, who played his college ball at Connecticut. The recently-released Jacques Cesaire also played in the Nutmeg State, but Reyes was drafted with much higher expectations. He looked very strong during the preseason, but it remains to be seen how he’ll adjust when the games count. Corey Liuget also had a strong preseason and was far from a standout a year ago.
The sample size on Brandon Taylor is still too small to predict his impact. How many reps he gets will depend on the play of Atari Bigby. Taylor may be the strong safety of the future, but his role in the present is predicated on what Bigby can give the Chargers in 2012.