Projected San Diego Chargers' Final 53-Man Roster, Training Camp Edition
Trimming the allotted roster of 90 players down to 53 in training camp will come down to nitpicking as the San Diego Chargers prepare for the start of the 2013 season.
The Chargers were left bone-dry at certain positions as a result of free agency, while other units have one too many contenders. General manager Tom Telesco has filled the roster and now it's up to the new coaching staff to pick the best 53.
Here is the projected final 53-man roster slated to come out of training camp for the Chargers.
(2): Philip Rivers, Charlie Whitehurst
Analysis: Regardless of how Philip Rivers has fared the last two seasons with the Chargers, head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt are confident the 31-year-old quarterback can return to elite status in the NFL.
Even with the record-setting turnovers and sacks, Rivers still ranked among the top 10 quarterbacks in touchdown passes and completion percentage in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons, so he's obviously doing something right.
As for Charlie Whitehurst, the backup job is his to lose in training camp. With all the experience he has, it's going to take a miracle for Brad Sorensen or Mike Hermann to overtake Whitehurst.
(3): Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Brown
Analysis: Time is running out for Ryan Mathews to establish himself within the Chargers organization, and that rookie contract of his will officially expire in just two short years. Technically, this isn't a contract year for the former first-round pick, but it's more than likely a turning point in his career as the new front office analyzes his worth in the upcoming season.
Granted he stays healthy, Mathews can be that "bell cow" back and put his injury-prone past behind him.
Right behind Mathews on the depth chart are two very productive third-down options for Philip Rivers. Last season, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown had 40-plus catches and more than 300 yards receiving apiece for their respective teams.
(1): Le'Ron McClain
Analysis: Le'Ron McClain will play his second season with the Chargers after he was signed as a free agent in 2012. Former Chargers head coach Norv Turner had hinted at the fact that McClain might play a bigger role on offense last season, but the fullback was targeted just 10 times in the passing game and given only 14 carries.
McClain is recognized more so for his lead-blocking ability, but he's an overrated pass-catcher and runner.
(6): Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Robert Meachem, Keenan Allen
Analysis: NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal ranked San Diego's wide receivers group as the second-worst in the league next to the Oakland Raiders, and yet the Chargers ranked 12th in receiving touchdowns last season among all 32 teams.
Rosenthal stated the following in his article:
The Chargers' top guy is Malcom Floyd, then five more players who should be No. 3 receivers.
For the record, Danario Alexander is now the top guy in San Diego with Floyd complimenting him on the opposite side. As for Vincent Brown, he has the potential to be more than just a No. 3 receiver now that he's healthy.
(3): Antonio Gates, John Phillips, Ladarius Green
Analysis: Despite the shift into the latter part of his career, Antonio Gates still managed to continue his legacy in 2012 when he broke Lance Alworth's franchise record for touchdown catches in Week 16. The 33-year-old looked "quick and fit" during OTAs but it's a reach to believe he'll continue at this pace much longer.
Still, Gates will be a factor in San Diego's offense this season assuming he can take care of his body. The plantar fasciitis wasn't a problem in 2012, but bruised ribs sustained in the season opener did have an effect on his play as the season progressed.
The Chargers brought in John Phillips from Dallas to aid in blocking up front and Ladarius Green is a developmental player left over from the A.J. Smith era.
(4): Max Starks, D.J. Fluker, King Dunlap, Michael Harris
Analysis: Gregg Rosenthal was also not very fond of the Chargers' offensive line, which he ranked worst in the NFL in his article:
The Chargers have a center and a right tackle, so that's a start. But it's fair to question if rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker will be a huge asset in pass protection.
This, of course, was before San Diego acquired longtime Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks, so Rosenthal could have a change of heart by now.
The Chargers will no doubt struggle up front, but the group they have in place for this season is loads better than the ever-changing lineup that took the field in 2012.
(4): Chad Rinehart, Jeromey Clary, Rich Ohrnberger, Johnnie Troutman
Analysis: Offensive guard is, by far, the weakest position group on the roster for the Chargers in 2013. After losing Louis Vasquez in free agency to the rival Broncos, San Diego was forced to convert Jeromey Clary from right tackle to right guard.
On the left side of the line, the Chargers will likely start ex-Buffalo Bill Chad Rinehart, who has struggled to stay healthy during his five-year career.
One player to keep an eye during camp is second-year player Johnnie Troutman. The fifth-round pick from a year ago was forced to miss his rookie season with a pectoral injury, but he's "hungry to prove himself" according to chargers.com managing editor Ricky Henne.
(2): Nick Hardwick, David Molk
Analysis: The Chargers have been blessed to have one of the best veteran centers in the league stick around for another season. Nick Hardwick had been contemplating retirement in 2011 but opted to continue playing. These last few years of his current contract, however, may be the last of his career.
Behind Hardwick, San Diego will probably look to their seventh-round pick from a year ago in 2011 Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year Award winner David Molk.
(4): Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes, Jarius Wynn, Damik Scafe
Analysis: San Diego's defensive ends really showed promise in 2012 as Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes both performed exceptionally well in their respective second and first years, combining for 12.5 sacks on the defensive line.
Having Dwight Freeney around to watch in practice will only make them better as pass-rushers.
(3): Cam Thomas, Kwame Geathers, Byron Jerideau
Analysis: Defensive tackle is not a strong point of the defense this season, but it is a young group that could could be good in the future.
Cam Thomas has just five starts in his career but he's played in all 16 games the past two seasons for the Chargers, mostly because he was part of the rotation that featured Antonio Garay and Aubrayo Franklin.
Now that both veterans are gone, Thomas will have to step and serve as a mentor to his fellow defensive tackles Kwame Geathers and Byron Jerideau.
Even though both players are undrafted free agents and their likelihood of making an NFL team isn't that promising, the need for depth at this position is strong enough that both make the team.
(5): Jarret Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Larry English, Thomas Keiser, Tourek Williams
Analysis: San Diego may have lost a rising star in Melvin Ingram after he suffered an ACL tear during OTAs, but there's enough veteran depth on the roster to reassure fans that all is not lost.
On one side, the Chargers have a proven run-stopping specialist and 12-year pro in Jarret Johnson. On the opposite side, the Chargers will debut their biggest pickup of the summer as Dwight Freeney takes the field for his 13th season.
San Diego will also need at least one of their reserves to step up this season, and that group is made up of former first-round pick Larry English, free-agent pickup Thomas Keiser and this year's sixth-round draft pick Tourek Williams.
(4): Donald Butler, Manti Te'o, D.J. Smith, Jonas Mouton
Analysis: Donald Butler and Manti Te'o could end up being one of the best young inside linebacker duos by the end of this season if everything goes well.
Butler has already proven himself as a standout on defense with back-to-back seasons of solid play, while the verdict on Te'o is still up in the air. The former Notre Dame linebacker had an outstanding collegiate career, but can he translate that to the NFL with the added media attention?
Rounding out the linebacking corps is ex-Green Bay Packer D.J. Smith and former second-round pick Jonas Mouton. The position battle between these two should be fierce as both are young and relatively inexperienced. Smith achieved starting status with the Packers in 2012, but an injury forced him to the sideline early.
(4): Derek Cox, Shareece Wright, Steve Williams, Johnny Patrick
Analysis: The cornerback position was ravaged by free agency as both starters were lured away by other teams, but the Chargers were able to replenish the position somewhat with a starter in former Jacksonville Jaguar Derek Cox.
Shareece Wright, a second-year player with no starting experience, will take the spot opposite Cox.
The slot corner, which was played by Marcus Gilchrist last season, will go to either fifth-round draft pick Steve Williams or ex-New Orleans Saint Johnny Patrick.
(5): Eric Weddle, Marcus Gilchrist, Darrell Stuckey, Brandon Taylor, Jahleel Addae
Analysis: The Chargers are already set at free safety with arguably the best one in the NFL but strong safety is a completely different story.
Marcus Gilchrist was converted from cornerback to fill the open void, but Brandon Taylor was drafted last year for the sole purpose of taking over the position in the future. To add to that, Darrell Stuckey has also taken snaps in practice at the position and the Chargers have a hungry undrafted free agent in Jahleel Addae in the mix.
The edge has to go Gilchrist right now just because he was so prominently featured in the secondary last season, but Taylor is a strong second.
(3): Nick Novak, Mike Scifres, Mike Windt
Analysis: Fresh off signing his new four-year, $6.6 million deal, Nick Novak will permanently handle the team's kicking duties after filling in on an on-call basis for the often-injured Nate Kaeding.
Mike Scifres will return for his 11th season with the Chargers and fourth-year player Mike Windt will be the team's long-snapper.
Last 5 in
(5): Larry English, Byron Jerideau, Tourek Williams, Damik Scafe, Ladarius Green
Analysis: Larry English will make it by the skin of his teeth thanks to Melvin ingram's injury. The timetable for him to finally breakout has long passed and if he doesn't succeed this season then he might as well say his goodbyes in San Diego.
The rest of these players will be the last in simply because the depth at their position will be pretty much set early in camp.
Last 5 out
(5): Richard Goodman, Chris Gronkowski, Edwin Baker, Andrew Gachkar, Bront Bird
Analysis: There is simply not enough room for a seventh receiver on the Chargers' roster, and that leaves kick-return specialist Richard Goodman without a team in 2013. If there was an injury or some other scenario that allowed for the team to bring back somebody, Goodman could potentially come back depending on the circumstances. The same goes for Chris Gronkowksi and Edwin Baker.
Andrew Gachkar and Bront Bird, meanwhile, were primarily special teams players the past couple seasons but both are targeted casualties by the end of camp.