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Melvin Ingram (54) and Corey Liuget (94) are two young defenders San Diego hopes continues to improve and contribute.
If the Chargers want to reclaim the AFC West title, the team needs to have depth and second-string players pushing for playing time. There are a number of players on the San Diego roster who could blossom into major contributors and possibly starters if they reach their potential.
Offensively, wide receiver Vincent Brown had 14 receptions in 14 games his rookie year and looked promising in the 2012 preseason before a broken ankle sidelined him for the entire year. If Brown can rehab physically and mentally from that injury he could be one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets.
Tight end Ladarius Green was supposed to be Antonio Gates understudy last year and the rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette caught everything thrown his way in 2012. Granted, he was only active for four games and was only targeted four times, but he caught all four throws.
If he could grow more as a professional and see the field more, Green could be a major weapon considering how much Rivers uses his tight ends and how many games Gates misses every year.
Edwin Baker was the seventh-round draft pick for San Diego last year and spent most of 2012 on the practice squad. Only after Ryan Mathews broke his clavicle did the former Michigan State bruiser get moved to the active roster. He never saw playing time.
If he could develop into a short-yardage back, or even someone who could spell Mathews from time-to-time, Baker would be contributing. At 5’8” and 200 pounds, Baker could be the bowling ball back the Chargers missed once Mike Tolbert went to the Carolina Panthers.
Defensively, the Chargers had young players really step it up in 2012. Linemen Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes looked great at times. If those two can continue developing, the defense as a whole improves.
What the Chargers need is Cam Thomas to step up his productivity. In 38 career games, the former North Carolina Tar Heel has only 47 total tackles, six sacks and three tackles for loss.
By comparison, Reyes had 16 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and two tackles for loss in his rookie season. Because Aubrayo Franklin and Antonio Garay might have played their last games with the Chargers, San Diego is going to need Thomas to step up his game.
Brandon Taylor, much like Brown, is going to have to overcome an injury. Taylor spent much of his rookie year on the practice team.
In his first start of the year, the former LSU captain registered three total tackles and half of a sack in less than three full quarters against the New York Jets when he tore the ACL in his right knee. The Chargers need another safety to play next to Eric Weddle, and San Diego thought they found the right player in Taylor.
Melvin Ingram showed spots and flashes of production, but overall the first rounder needs to make a leap forward from his rookie to sophomore year. It was a penalty by Ingram that kept the Saints drive alive that eventually ended with the game-winning touchdown back in October. He played well on special teams, but the team needs him to develop into a starting outside linebacker and pass rusher.