San Diego Chargers Preseason: Week 3 Stock Report
From ballyhooed prospects to established veterans, several San Diego Chargers have been anything but predictable this offseason.
Each of their performances in Week 3 of the preseason versus the San Francisco 49ers could be a glimpse into their NFL futures—either making the leap to stardom or being ousted from San Diego’s roster before the regular season begins.
Four Chargers’ stocks are up. Playing well is the most obvious indicator of a rising stock—Corey Liuget can attest to this. Improved health or an increase in snaps also gives players the opportunity to showcase their skills, and consequently an improved stock.
On the other hand, four Chargers’ stocks are down. We’ll limit the criteria of a falling stock to on-field performance. Backups and bubble players are especially vulnerable to declining stocks—guys like Tevin Reese need to turn around their preseasons before it’s too late.
With the most important week of the preseason in the books, let’s look at the stock reports of eight Chargers players.
All data on number of snaps played is via Pro Football Focus.
Stock Up: Corey Liuget, DE
Liuget terrorized a typically dominant 49ers offensive line and had a stat line that would make even J.J. Watt blush. In 23 snaps he generated two tackles for loss, one sack, two quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one batted pass, per Ricky Henne of Chargers.com.
Liuget's superb use of his acceleration and power versus San Francisco showed why he was a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft. His best play of the game came on a devastating strip-sack of Colin Kaepernick.
This was Liuget's most impressive performance as a Charger by far. He has always shown flashes of his high-end talent, particularly at rushing the quarterback, but has never put it together for a Pro Bowl-caliber season. If he continues to stay this hot into the regular season, the Chargers defense will spend less time being pushed around and more time imposing its will.
Liuget's stock is way up as a result of his performance, with an All-Pro berth a possibility if he sustains this level of play. Since Kwame Geathers is injured for a Bolts defensive line already lacking depth, Liuget will need to take the next step if the Chargers are to be feared defensively.
Stock Down: Tevin Reese, WR
Tevin Reese, a fast-but-undersized seventh-round pick out of Baylor, has shown little other than his trademark speed as a Charger.
This dilemma was especially apparent against San Francisco: Reese had a bad drop in the fourth quarter and just one catch for four yards. Kevin Acee and Michael Gehlken of The San Diego Union-Tribune left him off their 53-man roster prediction, as well as the practice squad.
Reese acknowledged his Sunday shortcomings, which is a start. But considering he can't field kickoffs and has caught a total of three passes this preseason, he will have to completely turn it around and light up the Cardinals in order to make the roster.
Reese's upside in the NFL is likely as a gadget player who can use his speed and athleticism to get by defenders. That upside might never be reached if he doesn’t improve his hands and physicality. His time in San Diego will be short.
Stock Up: Jason Verrett, CB
Sidelined in Weeks 1 and 2, Verrett played seven snaps against the 49ers and didn't hear his name called once. For a cornerback, that’s typically a good thing.
Yes, Verrett failed to do anything outstanding, but simply being on the field means that he has fully or nearly recovered from labrum surgery, which is a huge boost for San Diego's cornerback depth. He looked healthy and will likely see more action in Week 4.
The lack of snaps means one of two things—either the coaching staff trusted Verrett enough that he didn't need to see extended Week 3 action, or they are wary of his durability. Chances are it’s the former. If durability was a concern, the team likely wouldn't have risked those seven snaps in the first place.
As pointed out by Nate Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Verrett played in San Diego’s dime defense as its left cornerback versus San Francisco. This might be a preview of Verrett's role early in his rookie season. If he plays well enough in sub-packages, a promotion could come his way with the underwhelming Shareece Wright in front of him.
Stock Down: Steve Williams, CB
In Week 3, Blaine Gabbert frequently targeted Steve Williams in coverage and had plenty of success. Yes, Blaine Gabbert.
In the second quarter, San Francisco engineered its first touchdown drive with Gabbert throwing completions for 17, 19 and five yards, all with Williams nearby. It was a disappointing performance from the second-year cornerback.
Last year's fifth-round pick, Williams didn't play in the 2013 regular season but was an intriguing stash with plenty of potential. That potential has yet to show on the field, however. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Williams has a minus-2.3 grade in coverage this preseason, worst among Chargers cornerbacks, and quarterbacks have a passer rating of 87.3 against him.
Williams isn't a lost cause—he ran a hand-timed 4.25 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and has plenty of talent to spare. He also remains very green professionally due to his injury-riddled 2013—extra time to get his feet wet could help out immensely.
Even if inexperience is the culprit, Williams still needs to bounce back in the final preseason game if the Chargers are to trust him with regular-season snaps.
Stock Up: Ryan Carrethers, NT
Ryan Carrethers has not been a Liuget-level star this preseason—the fifth-round rookie has made one solo tackle in 65 snaps. He looks the part of a developmental prospect rather than a crucial cog of the Chargers' 2014 defensive-line rotation.
However, with backup nose tackle Kwame Geathers sidelined with a serious leg injury and starter Sean Lissemore dealing with an ankle injury, the Chargers will have to give more snaps to Carrethers this season than originally planned. Carrethers now has the opportunity to see major playing time on a thin San Diego front, which boosts his stock in a big way.
The Chargers need to give Carrethers plenty of opportunities in the fourth preseason game, as the 6’1”, 337-pound nose tackle has plenty of size but is raw coming out of Arkansas State. His pass-rushing skills in particular need work.
San Diego should pursue free-agent options on its defensive line regardless of how Carrethers plays next week. What the team will find out against Arizona is how dire the situation is, especially if Lissemore misses an extended period of time.
On a defense that already struggles against the run, Carrethers will be counted upon even if he isn't ready.
Stock Down: Marion Grice, RB
San Diego’s sixth-round pick just a few months ago, Marion Grice’s roster spot is in danger due to his underwhelming preseason and the impressive play of undrafted rookie Branden Oliver.
Grice totaled 14 carries for 35 yards against a decimated Cowboys defense in Week 1, and added three carries for 17 yards versus Seattle in Week 2 of the preseason. Grice looked the part of a plodder with no defining trait that could help him make the roster, especially in a running-back group as deep as San Diego's.
Grice performed better at San Francisco in Week 3, gaining 36 yards on seven carries. He had a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter thanks to a strong second effort. However, his work wasn't enough to save his falling stock and grab a definitive edge over Oliver, who had three carries for 12 yards and a nice blitz pickup in the game.
The competition between Grice and Oliver will likely go down to the wire in Week 4, when San Diego faces the Arizona Cardinals. Oliver should have the edge due to his speed and potential on special teams, but neither runner will see much 2014 regular season action regardless of his performance.
Stock Up: Malcom Floyd, WR
After suffering a career-threatening neck injury in Week 2 of the 2013 season, Malcom Floyd appears to be back on track, garnering training-camp MVP honors from Tom Krasovic of The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Floyd's return to form has been obvious throughout the offseason—Ricky Henne of Chargers.com said he “hasn't lost a step” and routinely made acrobatic catches in camp.
Playing in non-contact drills is one thing—being tossed into live action against a hungry opponent is another beast entirely. But Floyd is handling his return perfectly. The 33-year-old wide receiver has played in 55 preseason snaps without any difficulties—that alone puts his stock up in a big way.
Floyd's two catches for 30 yards this preseason might not be overwhelming, but his contributions to the team have always come via his deep speed and 6’5” presence rather than gaudy statistics. He drew a holding penalty in Week 1 to set up the Chargers nicely at the one-yard line.
A healthy and spry Floyd should equal a happy Philip Rivers. In a Chargers offense that thrives in the short and intermediate areas of the field, he will play a crucial role as the team's field-stretcher and No. 2 receiver across from Keenan Allen.
Stock Down: Kendall Reyes, DE
Kendall Reyes has always been a decent pass-rusher, but his struggles against the run are magnified on a flaky San Diego front seven.
The 2014 preseason hasn't changed the scouting report, as Reyes has been part of a Chargers run defense that has given up the third-most rushing yards this preseason and an average of 4.9 yards per carry, per CBSSports.com.
Reyes did improve versus the 49ers, and recovered a fumble that Liuget forced on Colin Kaepernick. If both players live up to their potential, the defense will be vastly improved heading into the regular season.
The chances of Liuget delivering are high—the chances of Reyes delivering are much lower. It would require Reyes holding up blockers less and doing what he does best instead—targeting a gap and speeding through it. He simply doesn’t have enough of an anchor to clog the line of scrimmage, but defensive coordinator John Pagano seems content to let Reyes be pancaked.
A Reyes benching isn't likely. There is a lack of established players behind him and San Diego is desperate to get pressure from any player besides Liuget. Reyes is entering his third NFL season, so there is room to grow. But if something doesn't change soon, teams will continue to run directly at Reyes for big gains.