Breaking Down Chargers' Biggest Training Camp Battle
With less than a week before we see the Chargers in action, there are a few positions to keep an eye on.
As usual, the left tackle position is up for grabs. King Dunlap looks to have the edge over Max Starks—for now anyway—but the entire offensive line is in disarray. The only lock for a position is Nick Hardwick, who has been manning the middle of the offensive line for almost a decade.
The rest, including first-round draft pick D.J. Fluker, are struggling in the early goings of camp. Chad Rinehart will almost certainly be starting at left guard, unless Johnnie Troutman, who was injured his entire rookie season last year, impresses the coaches and earns that spot. They could also move one of them to right guard, seeing that Jeromey Clary will be starting there.
Expect San Diego to play most of the linemen in a variety of different positions during the preseason.
Although the offensive line is pretty much up for grabs, the wide receiver position seems like the Chargers' biggest training camp battle.
After Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander, the position is a complete mess. Vincent Brown should be the No. 3 receiver, but he's been held out of practices with a hamstring injury. That opens the doors for the other receivers.
According to Chargers.com, Eddie Royal is determined to rebound this year after a disappointing first season in San Diego. Then there is Robert Meachem, Keenan Allen and surprise camp standouts Mike Willie and Dan DePalma. Add Deon Butler, Luke Tasker and Richard Goodman, and all of a sudden you have 11 receivers to choose from.
Bolts From the Blue thinks the Chargers will keep only six receivers for their spread offense. They may keep seven depending on how the rest of the roster plays out. Although, there's no way they keep more than seven.
Let's look at the locks to make the team.
Like Nick Hardwick, Malcom Floyd has been with the Chargers for almost a decade. He has struggled with injuries over the course of his career and has never established himself as a No. 1 receiver. His 6'5'' frame gives him great chemistry with Philip Rivers. Almost every season, Floyd is poised for big things. Let's hope this is the year he really breaks out.
Danario Alexander will start alongside Floyd. Alexander is another player that has struggled with injuries in his career. His injuries, on the other hand, have been a lot worse. He entered the league as an undrafted rookie with an enormous amount of potential. Like Floyd, Alexander is also 6'5''—making him an ideal target for Rivers as well.
Alexander was brought in midseason last year on account of many different injuries to the in-house receivers. He played very well, scoring seven touchdowns in only 10 games. He also had 658 yards on 37 receptions. If he stays healthy, he will be a diamond in the rough found by the Chargers.
Vincent Brown is my favorite of the bunch. The San Diego State Alum had a decent rookie season, catching 19 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. Heading into last year, Brown starting gaining attention around the league. He was called a sleeper by almost every fantasy analyst out there. Many expected Brown to breakout in 2012, but instead, he broke his ankle and missed the entire year.
It's been almost a year since Vincent Brown last competed in an exhibition game and close to 20 months since playing in a regular-season game. Although he's missed five-straight practices, Brown is impressing once again during training camp, according to UT-San Diego.
Robert Meachem will be making around $7 million in 2013. If the Chargers cut him, they would still have to pay him his $5 million that's guaranteed, so don't plan on that happening. As of now, it looks like San Diego will be paying Meachem all this money to be the fifth or sixth receiver. Meachem will most likely be kept for salary concerns rather than talent or depth-wise.
Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen may end up being one of the biggest steals of the 2013 NFL draft. The former Golden Bear is returning to full health after an aggravating knee injury that cut his college season short. According to Chargers.com, Allen is working hard to get used to the professional level of play. Allen will not be needed right away, but the Chargers will keep him on the roster.
Four players look to be locks to make the roster, leaving two or three spots open for grabs. Here are the players vying for a position on the San Diego Chargers' wide receiver depth chart.
Eddie Royal was the other receiver A.J. Smith signed in the summer of 2012. Like Meachem, Royal disappointed almost everyone. He never made a big play and struggled to stay healthy. As mentioned above, Eddie Royal is focused on a bounce-back season.
He doesn't have the same height as other receivers, but his speed surely makes up for it. If the Chargers decide to keep Vincent Brown away from the slot, Eddie Royal will have another year of opportunities in front of him. Punt returning could land him a roster spot as well.
Mike Willie spent the entire 2012 season on the Chargers' practice squad and made the active roster a few separate times. San Diego signed him after going undrafted out of Arizona State. His athleticism will make it tough for the Chargers to cut him.
Richard Goodman has been a Charger for three years, returning kicks for the last two. He only has one touchdown, which was in 2011, but his return average of 27.6 is one of the highest in the league. He hasn't been used very much offensively in recent years, but that could change with a new coach and offensive coordinator. In his three-year career, Goodman has caught only one pass for 25 yards.
Dan DePalma has been very precise and sharp during training camp. His footwork and route running has impressed many, but his hands need work. He gets to the right spot, but dropping passes doesn't help you make the roster.
Deon Butler spent his first four seasons on the Seattle Seahawks, but struggled to really stand out. The Chargers signed him to add depth and competition to the training camp battle. Like DePalma, Butler's hands need improvement.
Luke Tasker was signed by the Chargers after going undrafted out of Cornell. The only thing he's really impressed people with in training camp is his special teams ability. That may or may not be enough to land him a roster spot come September.
Predicting the Depth Chart
- Malcom Floyd
- Danario Alexander
- Vincent Brown
- Keenan Allen
- Eddie Royal
- Robert Meachem
- Richard Goodman
If the Chargers decide to only keep six receivers, Keenan Allen may take over Goodman's role as the kickoff returner. They could also let Royal go and have Danny Woodhead return punts or even Keenan Allen as well. Mike Willie and Dan DePalma will most likely be signed to the practice squad, giving the Chargers a total of nine receivers to pick and choose from.
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