10 Dark-Horse Candidates to Make San Diego Chargers' Final 53-Man Roster
Ten dark-horse candidates will attempt to make the San Diego Chargers' 53-man roster during the team's training camp set to open on July 25.
The competition in camp will be fierce considering the numerous additions made to the roster during the offseason. In rookies alone, San Diego drafted six players and signed 21 undrafted free agents (20 remaining after the departure of Courtney Gardner).
The following players are currently sitting relatively low on the team's depth chart, but they have the potential to rise up and avoid being cut before the start of the season.
Chris Gronkowski, FB
Chris Gronkowksi has bounced around from team to team since entering the league in 2010 with his most recent pit stop being in Denver.
As it stands right now, Gronkowksi is considered to be a long shot to make the final roster, but Rotoworld has hinted at the possibility of the Chargers clearing more cap space with the release of Le'Ron McClain.
McClain is the team's best lead-blocker option for Ryan Mathews, so the move seems preposterous to even consider, but it does make sense from a business standpoint.
Even if he doesn't end up taking McClain's job at fullback, he can still work his way onto special teams during training camp.
Colin Baxter, C
Colin Baxter and David Molk have both been in competition to back up Nick Hardwick at center since the beginning of last season. Baxter was let go in favor of Molk but re-signed with the team in late 2012 when the offensive line was hit with injuries.
Baxter and Molk will go at it again during training camp, but I see Molk winning the battle once more in 2013.
However, that doesn't mean Baxter is for sure cut when the season starts. The Chargers still need help at guard even with Chad Rinehart and Jeromey Clary starting.
Kenny Okoro, CB
Cornerback is a thin position as a result of free agency. The Chargers will replace Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason with ex-Jacksonville Jaguar Derek Cox and second-year player Shareece Wright.
As for the reserves, San Diego claimed former New Orleans Saints cornerback Johnny Patrick and drafted Steve Williams out of Cal.
ESPN AFC West blogger Bill WIlliamson noted that two defensive backs with strong minicamps were fellow undrafted rookies Jahleel Addae and Kenny Okoro.
Okoro, a 6'1" defensive back, started 13 games for the Demon Deacons and recorded 38 tackles and nine pass deflections.
If Okoro can carry his strong play into training camp, he should have an opportunity to fill out the depth chart and see some field time on special teams.
Richard Goodman, WR
Richard Goodman had job security in 2012, but he may be sweating it out during training camp.
The Chargers were able to afford a roster spot for a kick return specialist last year, but with six legitimate receiving threats on the depth chart, it's a possibility the team could leave the return duties to someone else.
Still, Goodman may be saved by the fact that the team isn't all that thrilled in keeping Robert Meachem around much longer, or Eddie Royal for that matter.
Thomas Keiser, LB
When Melvin Ingram was forced out of action due to a torn ACL suffered in OTAs, GM Tom Telesco made the headline move to pick up veteran pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, but the team also claimed ex-Carolina Panthers DE Thomas Keiser.
In his rookie year, Keiser recorded four sacks and an interception in just eight games but an elbow injury the following season slowed his development as he was placed on IR.
Carolina was quick to give up on Keiser as a developmental player, but San Diego has opted to give him a chance to regain that promising start.
Tourek Williams, the Chargers' sixth-round draft choice, will likely be Keiser's biggest competition.
Luke Tasker, WR
After a record-setting season at Cornell, WR Luke Tasker will attempt to make the Chargers roster by any means possible as an undrafted free agent.
His father, Steve Tasker, enjoyed a decorated career with the Buffalo Bills during the early 90s, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors on seven occasions including a Pro Bowl MVP in 1992. Luke's father was regarded as one of the best special teams players ever.
While the younger Tasker is a skilled receiver, my guess is the Chargers hope he can contribute on special teams coverage.
If the apple doesn't fall very from the tree in the Tasker family, I'm sure special teams coordinator Kevin Spencer would love to have Luke make the roster.
Jahleel Addae, SS
Central Michigan's two-time defensive player of the year resembles a heat-seeking missile on the football field.
Despite playing in the East-West Shrine Game, Jahleel Addae was not invited to participate at the combine even after the career he had with the Chippewas.
Addae went undrafted, but the situation in San Diego suits him well. As Brandon Taylor continues to recover from an ACL injury, Marcus Gilchrist and Darrell Stuckey have been taking reps at strong safety.
Gilchrist, a converted cornerback, and Stuckey, San Diego's best special teams defender, have an advantage over Addae in experience, but the rookie could crack the competition at strong safety during training camp.
Nick Becton, OT
The Chargers bolstered their offensive line with D.J. Fluker through the draft and several veterans in free agency, but the team also sought out help in the form of undrafted rookie OT Nick Becton out of Virginia.
Becton started all 13 games at left tackle for the Hokies as a senior after rotating in during his junior year. Becton, a top recruit out of high school, was projected to be a late-round pick but wound up going undrafted.
The Chargers are set with starters in Fluker and former Pittsburgh Steeler Max Starks, but the depth behind them hasn't officially been determined. If Becton has a good training camp, he could make the roster as a backup offensive tackle.
Byron Jerideau, DT
Cam Thomas was all by himself on the depth chart at defensive tackle, but the Chargers went out and brought him company with the signings of three undrafted rookies (Kwame Geathers, Byron Jerideau and Brandon Moore).
Of those three, Geathers is likely the favorite to fill in behind Thomas, but Jerideau is a dark horse that could make the cut as a third option at defensive tackle.
Standing 6'1" tall and a beefy 325 pounds, the former South Carolina Gamecock certainly has the strength to play the position.
Michael Hill, RB
Missouri Western State RB Michael Hill ran circles around his Division-II competition, finishing the year with 2,168 yards on the ground for the Griffons.
A runner-up for the Harlon Hill Award (D-II version of the Heisman) and Offensive MVP of the Raycom All-Star Classic, Hill ended up going undrafted despite his accomplishments.
Even with Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown filling out the depth chart behind Ryan Mathews, Hill has a real shot at making the 53-man roster.
On top of the fact that Mathews is now considered injury prone, Hill can make the team based on his play (he demonstrated that with his performance in the Raycom All-Star Classic in January).