The expectations of second-year players raise drastically and the Chargers are expecting big things out of players such as Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes. New general manager Tom Telesco did not draft these players, meaning that he does not have any ties to them. If the second-year players don’t perform up to his expectations, they are subject to being waived.
Here are some expectations of some players from the 2012 Chargers draft class as they enter their second season in the NFL.
The success of Melvin Ingram hinges on whether the Chargers re-sign fellow outside linebacker, Shaun Phillips. If Phillips returns, Ingram will have a similar role as the one he had last year. Ingram was used mostly in pass-rushing situations where he would replace Jarret Johnson and was featured on special teams.
If the Chargers decide to move on from Phillips, who turns 32 in May, Ingram will have a much more expansive role on the Chargers defense. There is no doubt that Ingram is a great pass-rusher but there is a concern whether he can be one on a regular basis. With Charger fans still upset over Larry English's career in San Diego, there is pressure on Ingram to perform and show that he deserves to be in this league.
Ingram needs to prove that he can be an every down outside linebacker just like Phillips is. If he can do this and is given the opportunity, expect Ingram to have a successful 2013 season.
Kendall Reyes was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft and had a great rookie campaign. The defensive end completed the Chargers defense perfectly and his statistics were impressive. Reyes tallied 5.5 sacks and 28 total tackles. These numbers were the reason that Reyes was named to the ESPN All-Rookie Team.
Reyes had his coming out party against the Jets where he had 3.5 sacks and five total tackles. Reyes will have high expectations placed on his coming into his sophomore year. He has the potential to be one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the entire league and the progress that he makes from his rookie year to his sophomore year will be a great way for the Chargers to judge his celling.
Reyes was given a lot more opportunities toward the end of the season and will be given even more in 2013. Expect Reyes to continue to cause problems for opposing offensive lines and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2013 (assuming the Chargers aren’t in the Super Bowl).
Brandon Taylor tore his ACL Week 16 against the Jets and the Chargers will be forced to wait and see how Taylor responds to surgery. Taylor did not see much playing time in 2012 before his injury, so the Chargers were not quite able to get a read on how much of a factor he will be once he is healthy.
The Chargers hope that Taylor’s sophomore year will mirror Donald Butler’s sophomore year. Butler missed his entire rookie year due to injury but was able to learn the defense and is now one of the best inside linebackers in the AFC. Taylor can use this offseason to watch a lot of film as well as complete his rehab process.
Once Taylor returns to practice and eventually game action, he will need to show much better field awareness in order to be considered an every down safety. Meanwhile, the Chargers are stuck in a tough position as they try and figure out their safety position. If Taylor is able to return by training camp, he should be a starter alongside Eric Weddle. Taylor has the ability to be great, but it will come down to his knee and his field awareness.
Ladarius Green was somewhat of a disappointment in his rookie season. Green only appeared in four games, catching four balls for 56 yards. Green found himself No. 4 on the Chargers depth chart behind Antonio Gates, Randy McMichael and Dante Rosario.
Green will need to improve his blocking ability in his sophomore year in order to be more of an asset for the Chargers. He is ahead of McMichael and Rosario in route running and catching ability but is far behind in blocking, which really caused his lack of playing time in 2012.
Green has all the tools to be a great tight end in the NFL. He just needs to round off his game in order to get on the field more. Another poor year of production and Telesco might have to look to adding a tight end in 2014. Antonio Gates is not getting any younger and the Chargers need to find a replacement as soon as possible.
If there is a sophomore Charger that could break out, it would be Edwin Baker. The seventh-round selection in last year’s draft, Baker spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. It is no secret that Ryan Mathews has serious injury concerns. The Chargers need to find more stability at running back and the first place they will look is Baker.
At 5’8” and 200 pounds, Baker has the size to take the beating that an NFL running back takes. Baker will likely be on the 53-man roster this year, which means that he will be given an opportunity to make plays. Mathews cannot be an every down back and the Chargers could turn to Baker to spell Mathews on first or second downs.
Baker showed at Michigan State that he can also be used in the passing game on both routes and blocking. This skill set will force the Chargers to take a serious look at getting Baker on the field.