5 San Diego Chargers Bound to Break Out in 2014
The last three draft classes have produced up-and-coming talent for the San Diego Chargers, including five players bound to break out in 2014.
Looking back at the 2013 season, there were a handful of players who had breakout seasons to help lead the Chargers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The most notable was Keenan Allen, who had a record-setting rookie year. Allen was snubbed for the title of Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press, but his season was still one of the most productive on the team.
Here are five players to expect breakout seasons from in 2014.
5. Vincent Brown
2013 Regular Season: 41 Receptions, 472 Yards, 1 Touchdown
2013 Postseason: N/A
2014 Outlook: Injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd in 2013 provided Vincent Brown with a unique opportunity to fill a starting role, but it was Allen who emerged as a No. 1 receiver for the Chargers.
Alexander, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL in August, underwent a second surgery to his right knee in January, per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Floyd is under contract for another two seasons, but there is uncertainty as to whether the 32-year-old can resume his playing career following a serious neck injury, Gehlken writes.
If Alexander and Floyd are unavailable in 2014, that leaves Allen, Brown and Eddie Royal as front-runners to lead San Diego's receiving corps.
4. Melvin Ingram
2013 Regular Season: 4 Tackles,1 Tackle for Loss, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble
2013 Postseason: 3 Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 1 Interception, 1 Pass Defended
2014 Outlook: A torn ACL suffered during OTAs forced Ingram to spend the majority of his second year rehabbing.
Melvin Ingram returned in Week 14 against the New York Giants and managed to play out the rest of the season, even tallying a late interception of Andy Dalton in a postseason win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The former No. 18 overall selection in 2012 got off to a promising start in his rookie season and plans to pick up where he left off before the setback.
The Chargers defense lacked a pass rush with Ingram and Dwight Freeney gone for most of the year, but that should change with the return of both in 2014.
3. Shareece Wright
2013 Regular Season: 54 Tackles, 9 Passes Defended, 1 Interception
2013 Postseason: 7 Tackles, 4 Passes Defended, 1 Interception
2014 Outlook: Derek Cox was easily the most disappointing free-agent signing in 2013, but his struggles actually benefited Shareece Wright.
With Cox benched midway through the season, Wright assumed responsibilities as the team's top corner and improved week by week despite injuries. By season's end, Wright had grown into a decent No. 1 and experienced some ups and downs in his first postseason.
Fans praised Wright for an interception that sealed the win in Cincinnati but were overcome with frustration when he dropped a surefire pick of Peyton Manning in the divisional round. Even with the team thought to be looking for corner help in the draft or free agency, Wright should still be able to build off a nice 2013.
2. Manti Te'o
2013 Regular Season: 41 Tackles, 7 Tackles for Loss, 4 Passes Defended
2013 Postseason: 6 Tackles
2014 Outlook: A foot injury in the preseason delayed Manti Te'o's regular-season debut until Week 4, but it didn't seem to affect him the rest of the way.
Te'o had a team-leading seven tackles for loss on a Chargers defense that ranked 12th in run defense. Considering all the distractions that went on leading up to the draft, Te'o managed to escaped the media spotlight in San Diego and focus on football.
With a year under his belt and most of the weight lifted off his shoulders stemming from the fake girlfriend controversy, Te'o should be in a position to have a breakout season in 2014. The front office is reportedly working on a contract to re-sign Te'o's running mate in Donald Butler, according to Gehlken, which would only help the first-year linebacker moving forward.
1. Ladarius Green
2013 Regular Season: 17 Receptions, 376 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
2013 Postseason: 5 Receptions, 41 Yards, 1 Touchdown
2014 Outlook: For those who may be wondering where the future successor to Antonio Gates will be coming from, look no further than Ladarius Green.
The second-year tight end averaged 22.1 yards a catch last season and established himself as a serious red-zone threat. Thankfully, Gates hasn't decided to hang up his cleats yet, so Green will still have time to continue his development.
If Green's athletic grab against the Bengals in the postseason is any indication of what the future holds for the 23-year-old, then the tight end position is in for a smooth transition.