Clinton Hart Is Cut: First Domino Falls for Chargers
A second-year starter, Hart received a large contract extension midway through 2008, making his release all the more surprising. However, his limitations in coverage and tackling struggles may have contributed to his release.
Hart has also struggled with injuries, as a neck stinger kept him out of the lineup for several games last season, during which time the Chargers' defense did not seem to skip a beat in his absence.
It is not known yet if rookie Kevin Ellison or veteran Steve Gregory will get the starting nod on Monday Night Football versus the 5-0 Broncos, but the smart money is probably on Ellison. A.J. Smith seems to believe that he has someone on the roster capable of filling Hart's vacated position, and if Gregory was that man, he would have been in the starting lineup long ago.
Ellison's physical presence, along with his increasing comfort level in Ron Rivera's defensive scheme as his rookie season progresses, seems to make the most sense as the team's first choice.
The bye week most likely gave them a chance to further evaluate the development of the sixth-round pick tabbed with eventually taking over in the starting lineup, and Norv Turner and the Chargers' coaching staff must have liked what they saw.
The Chargers re-signed defensive tackle Ian Scott to fill Hart's spot on the roster and bolster their depth along the injury-plagued defensive line.
This is likely only the first of several moves Smith and the Chargers will make before Tuesday's trade deadline, as there are still several glaring weaknesses on this team that must be addressed.
Look for the Chargers to be in the market for help along the offensive and defensive lines, especially now that they have additional financial flexibility with the release of the underperforming Hart.
It is also possible that the team will explore a trade of Shawne Merriman, as rookie Larry English is improving every week and Merriman has yet to make any sort of significant impact this season.
If another team steps up and offers Smith a second-round pick, it might be "Lights Out" for Merriman's time in San Diego.
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