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San Diego Chargers: What to Watch for at OTAs

Marcelo VillaCorrespondent IIMay 20, 2013

San Diego Chargers: What to Watch for at OTAs

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    The first week of OTAs for the San Diego Chargers did not go as planned after the team lost Melvin Ingram to an ACL injury, but it will be a new day in San Diego this week with several things to watch for when the team resumes OTAs.

    The Chargers will continue to learn head coach Mike McCoy's system on offense and address the additional task of finding a replacement for Ingram on defense.

    The team agreed to a two-year deal with former Indianapolis Colt Dwight Freeney on Saturday, May 18, with hope that he'll fill in for Ingram, but how he'll fit in the defense is something defensive coordinator John Pagano will plan for as team activities roll on.

    Here are several things to watch for during the Chargers' OTAs.

Development of Jeromey Clary at Right Guard

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    After six seasons of work at the right tackle spot, Jeromey Clary will enter uncharted territory as he attempts to make the move over to right guard.

    The six-year veteran got in some reps at his new position during last week's OTAs and will continue to grasp his role as team activities resume this week.

    Clary stated that he felt good about his first day of practice at right guard and is eager to learn more.

    Even Philip Rivers and head coach Mike McCoy feel confident in Clary's ability to make the switch, but we'll have to wait and see if he can make the adjustment without any major hitches during the next few weeks.

Switch to Safety for Marcus Gilchrist

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    Last week, it was noted during OTAs that Marcus Gilchrist, who normally is at cornerback, would be taking reps at strong safety next to Eric Weddle.

    Because of the departure of Atari Bigby and the injury to Brandon Taylor, the team needed to add more depth at the safety position. The Chargers did sign an undrafted rookie in Jahleel Addae, but coach Mike McCoy felt the need to move Gilchrist and ensure he had the best players on the field at all times.

    Experience at playing safety, Gilchrist embraced the switch, according to Chargers.com managing editor Ricky Henne, and will continue to work at both safety and corner during the offseason.

    Gilchrist may not be penciled in as the starter on Day 1, but it's a valuable asset to have veterans like Gilchrist and Darrell Stuckey getting their reps in just in case the plan for Taylor to assume that role doesn't work out.

D.J. Fluker's Progress

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    The massive man from Alabama received high praise from his head coach for his leadership skills during rookie mini camp, and his work ethic continued to flourish during OTAs.

    D.J. Fluker's progress will be fun for fans to watch during OTAs because the sky's the limit for this rookie. After playing in the nation's best program, Fluker is already a seasoned player with maybe just a few kinks to work out in a new system.

    What will be really interesting to see is how he and Jeromey Clary work together on the right side of that line. More than likely, both men will be helping each other out as Clary learns his new position and Fluker attempts to get comfortable with his new line.

Manti Te'o's Progress

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    The media circus for Manti Te'o didn't take long to arrive as cameras and reporters were crawling all over Chargers Park during rookie mini camp, but Te'o appears to be handling everything well as he attempts to earn the respect of his teammates with his strong work ethic.

    As he gets in more practice during OTAs, Te'o should continue to get better learning the new system, especially considering he has the right attitude going forward.

    Last week, Te'o was shielded from the media by coaches in an attempt to keep the rookie away from any distractions. It was an understandable move and a good one if you ask me.

    From what teammates have said, Te'o has progressed well. Eventually he'll have to face the media again and deal with more prying questions, but by keeping him away from that a bit, you're allowing him to focus on football and getting adjusted.

Keenan Allen's Progress

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    Aside from his recent fashion blunder, Keenan Allen's progress has been going swimmingly, especially with news that all is well with his knee.

    The third-round pick has been labeled as one of this year's biggest steals in the draft by many experts and Allen will get his chance to prove that he was indeed a steal during OTAs.

    With such depth at receiver on this team, Allen will really have to compete to move himself up, but if he can perform like he did at Cal, then he should have no trouble breaking into the top-five.

How Will Dwight Freeney Fit into San Diego's 3-4 Defense?

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    Saturday's big announcement of Dwight Freeney's deal with the Chargers was good news to Charger fans after hearing of Melvin Ingram's ACL tear just a few days earlier.

    The only problem is figuring out how he'll fit into John Pagano's defense and where he'll line up. 

    When the deal was first reported, there were a number of analysts who stated Freeney could only be effective when his hand was in the dirt. The former Indianapolis Colt had played in a 3-4 scheme last season but enjoyed many years of success in a 4-3 in previous years with the team.

    NBC analyst Tony Dungy didn't think Freeney was suited for a 3-4 defense while ESPN analyst and former Colts front office executive Bill Polian disagreed, stating there was no question he could fit in San Diego's 3-4.

    Either way, Chargers fans can rest assured that Pagano will find some way to get his new weapon in a position to get after the quarterback. The veteran pass-rusher has proven he can be a huge threat, requiring a lot of attention from offensive lineman, which could benefit other players like Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, allowing them to get free and get after the quarterback as well.

Who Will Step Up in Light of Melvin Ingram's Injury?

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    Dwight Freeney's signing certainly helps lessen the blow of Melvin Ingram being lost for the year, but the Chargers still need one of their own to step up in his absence in case John Pagano uses Freeney as a situational pass-rusher.

    Freeney is one of the best pass-rushers in the league. but the team may not be able to count on him in coverage scenarios. 

    The original replacement plan for Ingram was to have Larry English step up. The former first-round pick hasn't lived up to expectations and he has no choice but to make something happen in 2013, the final year of his contract.

    The team also drafted Tourek Williams in the sixth round of this year's draft to add depth to outside linebacker. The former FIU defensive end has pass-rushing qualities that could garner some attention if needed.

    Freeney will be the answer to San Diego's need for a pass-rusher, but one more player will be looked to as well.

Can Mike McCoy Get the Offense to Gel Together?

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    One of the main reasons that Mike McCoy was brought to San Diego as the new head coach in the first place was to help a struggling offense that performed terribly last season.

    The plan for improvement starts in OTAs, as the offense begins to learn McCoy's system. The hope is that this new system will create some balance and help Philip Rivers get his confidence back.

    The most important thing right now is for the offense to start jelling as a unit and gain some familiarity with one another.

    A big problem last year was the lack of chemistry between Rivers and some of his receivers. The receiving corps hasn't changed much with the exception of Keenan Allen, so Rivers will be able to give it another go with this group and try to make a connection somehow.

    The offensive line was equally bad as it succumbed to injuries and allowed defenders to get their licks on Rivers. McCoy will have to give his quarterback more protection and allow him to make better decisions. 

    McCoyo will also have to figure out how to use his backfield duo of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. The running game hasn't been all that successful in recent years for the Chargers, but it was a strong point of McCoy's offense in Denver.

    Working out all these problems and finding solutions will all be part of the plan in OTAs.

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