Early Projections for San Diego Chargers' Final 53 Man Roster
The final 53-man roster for the San Diego Chargers will look exactly, or at least fairly similar, to the following projection after what's happened in the past few weeks with the NFL draft and free agency.
The new regime in San Diego put together a solid draft of talent at some much-needed positions, and free-agent signings have also helped to fill holes at spots the Chargers had gaping holes.
There's still a long ways to go until the roster really starts to shape up for the beginning of the 2013 season, but here's a look at what next year's version of the Chargers will look like.
2012 Stats: 26 TD, 15 INT, 3,606 YDS
2012 Stats: N/A
Analysis: Philip Rivers simply cannot have a bad season in 2013. Another year filled with costly turnovers and a losing record would more than likely cause an outcry for his removal as the starter.
Coach McCoy and Tom Telesco are extremely confident in Rivers' ability to lead the team, but how much more can the team put up with if he continues to struggle with interceptions and fumbled snaps?
2012 Stats: 1 TD, 707 YDS
2012 Stats: 4 TD, 301 YDS
2012 Stats: 0 TD, 220 YDS
2012 CFB Stats: 16 TD, 2,168 YDS
*rushing statistics only*
Analysis: Like Rivers, Ryan Mathews is another player with his back against the wall this season. Mathews' 2012 season was riddled with clavicle problems and his two previous seasons haven't been eye-catching.
Telesco believes Mathews can be a bell-cow back, but that didn't stop him from bringing in ex-New England Patriot Danny Woodhead as an insurance policy.
Woodhead and Mathews should be able to split time equally as they're both similar backs, but it's Mathews who has a lot to prove to the Chargers organization next season.
2012 Stats: 0 TD, 42 YDS
*rushing statistics only*
Analysis: Le'Ron McClain will return for a second stint with the Chargers after doing a fine job of clearing the way for Mathews last season.
2012 Stats: 5 TD, 814 YDS, 56 REC
2012 Stats: 7 TD, 658 YDS, 37 REC
2012 Stats: 2 TD, 207 YDS, 14 REC
2012 Stats: 1 TD, 234 YDS, 23 REC
2012 Stats: N/A
2012 CFB Stats: 6 TD, 737 YDS, 61 REC
2012 Stats: 0 TD, 0 YDS, 0 REC
*receiving statistics only*
Analysis: This year's crop of receivers is the strongest it's been in years. On paper, this group looks like one of the better receiving corps in the division.
Three players fans should be excited about this season are Danario Alexander, Vincent Brown and third-round draft choice Keenan Allen.
Alexander and Rivers had a red-hot connection in the passing game last season, and the fact that San Diego had almost no trouble re-signing him is a big gimme. Brown, who is recovering from a season-ending ankle injury in 2012, is another target Rivers could have successful chemistry with as well as a guy coaches and fans are looking forward to returning.
As for Allen, he was an absolute steal in the third round and could potentially work his way into a bigger role after he recovers from a knee injury.
2012 Stats: 7 TD, 538 YDS, 49 REC
2012 Stats: 1 TD, 55 YDS, 8 REC
2012 Stats: 0 TD, 56 YDS, 4 REC
Analysis: In his 10th year in the league, Antonio Gates proved he still had some gas left in the tank, but the 32-year-old could be on the decline in 2013.
Thankfully, San Diego acquired some young blood with former Dallas Cowboys tight end John Phillips. The 25-year-old will be looked to for help in the run game, but don't rule him out as a pass-catcher. After missing 2010 with a torn ACL, Phillips came back with a strong showing of 15 receptions for 101 yards in 2011.
Ladarius Green, who was drafted in the fourth round last year, was considered a project during his rookie season so it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff utilizes him in his sophomore year.
2012 Stats: 14 games, 12 starts
2012 Stats: 5 games, 3 starts
2012 Stats: 15 games, 9 starts
Analysis: The 2013 NFL draft came and went, and the Chargers still don't have a left tackle. Free agency is still a possibility, but as of right now, the left tackle spot is by committee.
King Dunlap had the most starts last season with Philadelphia, and Mike Harris is probably a close second after he started nine games in place of the often-injured Jared Gaither.
Rivers will have to have eyes in the back of his head once again as his blindside remains a weakpoint of the offensive line.
2012 Stats: 13 games, 4 starts
2012 Stats: N/A
Analysis: Guard is equally concerning on the left side of the offensive line after Tyronne Green was unable to lock down the spot last season.
Now, San Diego will likely entrust that spot to former Arizona Cardinal Rich Ohrnberger, who started four games for his club in 2012.
Johnnie Troutman, who was drafted in the fifth round last year, is expected to compete for the starting job, but he remains a question mark after missing his entire rookie season with a pectoral injury.
2012 Stats: 16 games, 16 starts
2012 Stats: 4 games, 0 starts
2012 Stats: 12 games, 0 starts
Analysis: It might seem a little unusual to have a three-deep depth chart of centers but Colin Baxter is the one guy of this group who could move over and play guard if the team needed him to.
Nick Hardwick is the lone offensive lineman remaining with the team who started all 16 games last season, and San Diego had better hope he can pump out out another 16-game season in 2013.
David Molk, meanwhile, is expected to be Hardwick's successor at some point when the 31-year-old decides to call it quits.
2012 Stats: 7 games, 2 starts
2012 Stats: 2 games, 0 starts
Analysis: Louis Vasquez will still play in the AFC West during the 2013 season, but not in a Chargers uniform. Vasquez bolted to Denver in the offseason, leaving San Diego with yet another huge gap in its offensive line.
The best replacement Telesco could find in his budget is five-year veteran Chad Rinehart. The former Buffalo Bill has a familiarity with new offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris, who was brought over to San Diego from Buffalo in the offseason, but he played in just seven games last season because of an ankle injury.
Even at full strength, Rinehart is average at best in giving the Chargers a push in the run game or protecting Rivers.
Somebody to look out for here is Jeromey Clary, who is rumored to be considering a switch to guard after spending last season at the right tackle spot. Clary struggled protecting the edge, but maybe a move inside would do him good.
2012 CFB Stats: 13 games, 13 starts
2012 Stats: 14 games, 14 starts
Analysis: The Chargers didn't grab a franchise left tackle in the draft, but they may have drafted a franchise tackle for the opposite side in Alabama's D.J. Fluker.
Left tackle was in demand, but certainly not in supply for this year's draft, and San Diego made the right pick in selecting the next available guy. Fluker can come in and start immediately on the right side, ending any concerns on Rivers' front side.
Jeromey Clary had his chance to be the team's starter but he was simply overmatched against some of the league's better edge rushers. Hopefully, Clary can remain a starter by making the move over to guard and get the help he needs.
Left Defensive End
2012 Stats: 51 TAK, 7 SCK
2012 Stats: 6 TAK, 2 SCK
Analysis: Former 2011 first-round pick Corey Liuget really came into his own last year after having a relatively quiet rookie season. Liuget proved he can be a threat as a pass-rusher while holding down his end in the run game.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano had instant success with San Diego's defense in his first year, developing the unit into one of the league's top rushing defenses, and it's because of him that Liuget and some of these younger players were able to shine on the defense.
With Pagano still handling defensive duties even after the regime change, the Chargers' defense should continue to prosper under his tutelage.
Right Defensive End
2012 Stats: 28 TAK, 5.5 SCK
2012 Stats: 0 TAK, 0 SCK
Analysis: The youth movement on defense was a thing of beauty last season. San Diego struck gold with 2012 second-round pick Kendall Reyes, who proved Melvin Ingram wasn't the only draft choice with pass-rushing skills.
Reyes fit in to Pagano's 3-4 scheme perfectly, utilizing his size and athleticism to stuff the run and chase quarterbacks. He and Liuget are going to make an exciting duo next season on a defense that still has a strong front seven returning.
2012 Stats: 20 TAK, 0 SCK
2012 CFB Stats: 40 TAK, 1 SCK
Analysis: The Chargers lost two veterans in Antonio Garay and Aubrayo Franklin at the defensive tackle spot this offseason. Garay headed out to New York while Franklin remains a free agent.
Now, the Chargers must rely on three-year man Cam Thomas to take over the middle of the defensive line. Thomas was used in a rotation last season and performed well on Pagano's defense, but it's uncertain how he'll fare in a larger role on defense.
San Diego also added some girth with the signing of a big rookie nose tackle out of Georgia by the name of Kwame Geathers, who measures at an estimated 6'6" and 330 lbs. and is by far the bigger man than Thomas, so we'll have to wait and see if he can make the roster and function in San Diego's 3-4.
Physically, Geathers is a match made in heaven for the 3-4 because he can clog running lanes, but it remains to be seen if he's athletic enough to move around and get after the quarterback as well.
Left Outside Linebacker
2012 Stats: 41 TAK, 1 SCK
2012 Stats: 13 TAK, 1.5 SCK
Analysis: No more waiting in the ranks for Melvin Ingram. After a fairly productive rookie season, Ingram has the opportunity to be on the field a lot more instead of just being a situational pass-rusher.
Shaun Phillips' signing with the Denver Broncos means the Chargers are going to lose their sacks leader from a season ago. Phillips racked up 9.5 sacks in 2012 at the ripe age of 31.
Ingram shouldn't be expected to match that exactly, but he does need to bring pressure and be a well-rounded outside linebacker (stopping the run, dropping back in coverage, etc.).
Ingram will get his collection of sack victims, but it may not be as impressive as Phillips last season.
As for Larry English, he's on his last legs with the team that drafted him in the first round almost five years ago. English hasn't even come close to expectations, and it's pretty obvious the new regime has no trouble cutting dead weight. He needs to make something happen in 2013.
Left Inside Linebacker
2012 CFB Stats: 113 TAK, 1.5 SCK
2012 Stats: 39 TAK, 2 SCK
2012 Stats: 1 TAK
Analysis: Believe it or not, Manti Te'o isn't already penciled in as the starter at inside linebacker despite his decorated career at Notre Dame or the fact that San Diego traded up in the second round of the draft to get him. This could actually turn out to be a pretty competitive position battle between Te'o, D.J. Smith and Jonas Mouton.
Mouton, was originally slated to take over the open spot left by Takeo Spikes, but the addition of Te'o in the draft and Smith through free agency fogged things up a bit. Smith has prior starting experience with the Green Bay Packers, which could be an edge in the decision process.
In the end, Te'o will get the nod at the slot next to Donald Butler because of his instincts. Te'o may not be the biggest or the strongest, but he showed at Notre Dame that he can be a field general on the defense.
Right Inside Linebacker
2012 Stats: 77 TAK, 3 SCK
2012 Stats: 23 TAK, 1 SCK
2012 Stats: 18 TAK, 0 SCK
Analysis: Donald Butler had a breakout season in 2012 and solidified himself as one of the leaders on defense. With Takeo Spikes gone, Butler could have some trouble having another impressive year if he's having to look out for his new partner on the inside.
If Te'o is the guy lining up next to him, Butler will have to man double duty in making plays and helping his running mate keep it together. Te'o may be a polished prospect but he's brand new to San Diego's way of running things.
Right Outside Linebacker
2012 Stats: 40 TAK, 1.5 SCK
2012 CFB Stats: 46 TAK, 6.5 SCK
Analysis: Veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson did his part in helping the Chargers stop the run in 2012 and he'll do the same in 2013 in his 10th season.
Behind him, San Diego may have found a gem in the sixth round with Florida International standout Tourek Williams. The Chargers lost a former FIU alum in Antwan Barnes to the New York Jets during the offseason and they could be replacing him with a fellow Panther in Williams, who finished his collegiate career second to Barnes on the stat sheet.
2012 Stats: 59 TAK, 0 INT, 2 PDEF
2012 CFB Stats: 80 TAK, 3 INT, 10 PDEF
Analysis: After parting ways with Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer in the offseason, the Chargers have no choice but to go with the young guns in the secondary.
Marcus Gilchrist will be entering his third NFL season, and while he's had some playing time at the nickel on defense, he's relatively new to a starting role. Shareece Wright is another candidate to challenge for this spot after he had a brief stint of success in the preseason last year before sustaining an injury.
Telesco added more depth with fifth-round draft choice Steve Williams as well.
2012 Stats: 60 TAK, 4 INT, 11 PDEF
2012 Stats: 17 TAK, 0 INT, 2 PDEF
Analysis: With both starters gone, ex-Jacksonville Jaguar Derek Cox becomes San Diego's most experienced corner.
Cox totaled 12 interceptions in four seasons with the Jags and was highly coveted by teams in the offseason.
Cox should be somebody John Pagano can rely on in coverage, but he won't have much help in a weak secondary.
2012 Stats: 6 TAK, 0 INT, 0 PDEF
2012 Stats: 0 TAK, 0 INT, 0 PDEF
Analysis: If Brandon Taylor flops in his first full year as the incumbent starter at free safety, the Chargers could have a big problem on their hands.
Talor doesn't have much depth behind him, and it's important to keep in mind he's untested himself after sitting behind Atari Bigby last year. Not only does Taylor face the added pressure of returning from a season-ending knee injury, he must also deal with fitting into a starting role early.
2012 Stats: 97 TAK, 3 INT, 9 PDEF
2012 Stats: 12 TAK, 0 INT, 0 PDEF
Analysis: You need him to play defense? Eric Weddle can do that. You need him to return punts? Weddle can do that as well. Even when you need a volunteer for a fake punt run? Weddle is up for that too.
Weddle was the ultimate iron man for San Diego last season, performing a vast array of jobs when the team needed him to do so. As one of the league's top safeties, Weddle has a full plate with a young secondary taking over in 2013.
He'll be expected to take on a lot more responsibilities and try to improve a pass defense that wasn't so hot last year.
2012 Stats: 81 punts, 3,914 YDS, 48.3 AVG
2012 Stats: 18/20 FGM, 33/33 XPM
2012 Stats: N/A
Analysis: San Diego's special teams unit will look exactly as it did for most of last season except fans won't be awaiting a return of Nate Kaeding from an injury.
Instead, Nick Novak is the kicker in San Diego after signing a four-year deal in the offseason. Kaeding, meanwhile is officially done kicking in the NFL, citing injuries as the main reason for his retirement.