5 Things We Learned About San Diego Chargers During Preseason
The lessons learned between the end of Preseason Game No. 3 and the end of Preseason Game No. 4 were not drastic or dramatic.
The blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers did not tell fans too many new things. We still know the offense will try to execute at a fast tempo, the play calling will be balanced and the backups are a concern. Fans knew those things following the win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Most of what was learned was from management and coaching and how new general manager Tom Telesco and new head coach Mike McCoy plan on running the San Diego Chargers this year and in years to come.
Money Is No Object
There were a few intriguing questions in San Diego leading up to mid-day Saturday when all NFL teams had to trim to 53 players.
One of the biggest was what would happen to Robert Meachem. The wide receiver had underperformed in 2012 and had not looked good in the preseason. But Meachem had a guaranteed $14 million contract and releasing him would mean paying him to not play.
McCoy had been saying he wanted to find the best players and he meant it, because Meachem’s play definitely did not put him as one of the best players and he was cut.
Another intriguing roster question was along the offensive line. King Dunlap outperformed others to earn the starting left tackle spot, but who would be his backup?
The options were second-year Mike Harris, who was the starting left tackle in 2012 despite being an undrafted free agent who only played right tackle at UCLA, and Max Starks, an NFL veteran with Super Bowl experience.
McCoy and Telesco went with Harris, waiving Starks in the first round of cuts to get to 53 players. According to Pro Football Talk, Starks got paid $160,000 for his preseason work.
Like Meachem, just because Starks was due money did not mean a roster spot was secured.
A few players were brought in during the offseason who had ties with coaches while with other teams.
Offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger played under new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt while with Arizona.
Offensive guard Chad Rinehart was with Buffalo when new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris was coaching the Bills offensive line.
While Ohrnberger and Rinehart were relatively secure roster spots (especially Rinehart), running back Foswhitt “Fozzy” Whittaker was a real question mark. Whittaker played with the Cardinals under Whisenhunt and was a pretty quiet signing for San Diego in March.
In fact, the Chargers scooped up Whittaker the day after Arizona released him.
It was unknown how many running backs San Diego would have on its final 53-man roster, but Fozzy was able to walk-a, walk-a, walk on to the squad thanks to a fantastic preseason where he led the team in rushing (39 carries, 155 yards).
He was a fan favorite because of his underdog role, unique name and determined running.
Whittaker earned his roster spot with his play, not his connection to Whisenhunt.
Familiarity Does Not Guarantee
Richard Goodman, Mike Willie, David Molk, Steve Schilling and Sean Cattouse had history with the San Diego Chargers.
Willie was on the practice squad for most of 2012, but the others were on the active roster. There was a stretch of games at the end of 2012 where Cattouse, a safety, looked like the second-best defensive back on the team after All-Pro Eric Weddle.
Goodman was the primary kick returner a year ago, while Molk and Schilling were reserve offensive linemen.
Despite their familiarity with the team and organization, all failed to make the final roster.
Not Taking Chances
General manager Tom Telesco had a couple of hard decisions to make in order to trim the roster to 53.
Placing a player on the practice squad is not as easy as it sounds. The player has to be waived and then re-signed to the practice squad. There is a time after being waived and before joining the practice squad where other teams are able to pick up that player.
Running back Fozzy Whittaker was thought to be a potential practice player. Whether his play deemed him an important option to the offense in 2013, or Telesco was afraid another team would snatch him up. That's just one more reason Whittaker made the final 53.
Quarterback Brad Sorensen looked like the best signal caller for the first three preseason games (OK, at least the first two games) before sliding in the finale against San Francisco.
Still, Telesco and Company did not want to gamble on putting the seventh-round draft pick on the waiver wire, so Sorensen made the team and the Chargers will carry three quarterbacks to start 2013.
Former general manager AJ Smith did not make a lot of adjustments to the roster following the initial cuts. According to UT San Diego’s Kevin Acee "not a single transaction was made" between the final preseason cuts to opening day in 2011 or 2012.
Whether it is a sign a new manager is in charge, a kick in the pants to the players on the roster or an honest attempt to get the best players available, Tom Telesco made a bevy of moves following Saturday’s final 53 announcement.
Outside help was brought in and players who thought they secured a roster spot were let go.
Four newcomers were added, and all four are defensive players.
Sean Lissemore is a defensive lineman formerly with the Cowboys, Drake Nevis is nose tackle formerly with the Colts, Terrell Manning is an inside linebacker formerly with Green Bay and Reggie Walker is an outside linebacker formerly with Arizona.
Other players who did not practice with San Diego this preseason were claimed off waivers. Tight end Jake Byrne, receiver Toney Clemons, offensive tackle Kenny Wiggins and defensive end Will Pericak now make up half of San Diego’s practice squad.