There are a couple of things that went through my mind when the Chargers came out with the 53-man roster, one of them seemed to be the most concerning issue. It's the fact that there are only 21 players out of that 53-man roster versus the 29 players that are on defense. I believe having more defensive players will obviously fix special teams coverage which hurt the Chargers early in the 2009 season, but also help the Chargers be flexible in whichever teams they prepare for. I'm not here to talk about the defense, but rather the offense.
Two quarterbacks. Two running backs. Two full backs. Three tight ends. Four wide receivers. Eight offensive linemen. When you see a team that passes as much as the Chargers do and don't really have the five WR's or at least three QB's depth you're used to seeing from the previous years, it makes you wonder, what the hell is going on? I thought about every logical conclusion and something really surprising happened, it made sense to me on what Norv Turner and AJ Smith was thinking.
Under Turner's guidance in the past, the Chargers often used two WR's, one RB, one FB, and one TE on practically every offensive formation. What allows the Chargers to stay in a single personnel but offer different looks is the ability for many of the Chargers offensive players to be dual weapons. The WR's line up on the outside as usual. The RB lines up at their spot as usual. But the two players that must be dual or even triple threats are the FB and the TE.
The FB, in the Chargers offense, must be able to catch the ball or protect the QB from the shotgun pro-set formation. That same FB must also have the ability to be a effective lead blocker when the Chargers run the ball out of the I-back formation. Also, if called upon, the FB must be able to get short yardage when he carry ball. Such a FB can be found in both Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester which gives the Chargers tons of versatility.
Mike Tolbert has been taking many reps at RB. He has shown great promise during the preseason games thus far. In essence, Tolbert is really the third RB on the rosters while also being a FB. That versatility he has gave way to the Chargers not carrying another RB. Jacob Hester also can be called upon to play RB if he had too. Both players allow the Chargers to carry less RB's than the usual NFL roster.
The TE, in the Chargers offense, must be very versatile. A Chargers TE must be able to stretch the field from the short game to the mid-range areas in the passing game. Not only be a great pass catcher, but also be a great pass catcher lining up practically anywhere on the field. Such a TE can be found in Antonio Gates and newly acquired TE Randy McMichael.
Antonio Gates can be lined up as a traditional TE, outside receiver, FB, or inside slot receiver. He's able to attack a defense from practically any position on the field. It isn't Gates however that allowed the Chargers to carry only four WR's, it was the arrival of Randy McMichael.
In the past, the Chargers had Gates, Brandon Manumaleuna, and Kris Wilson. Out of the three TE's, only Gates offered the Chargers the versatility to play majority of the downs during a game. With neither Manumaleuna or Kris Wilson having the ability that Gates have, it forced the Chargers to carry five WR's on a 53-man roster. With the addition of Randy McMichael, it allowed the Chargers the comfort to carry only four WR's this season.
McMichael has practically the same versatility that Gates have. He can line up as a traditional TE. He can line up as a outside receiver. He can be lined up as a FB. He can also line up as a slot receiver. McMichael gives everything similar to what Gates does for the Chargers.
With the addition of McMichael, there is a formation that we'll more than likely see a lot of this season. The double TE formation. Could you imagine what that will do to opposing defenses? Both Gates and McMichael are too fast for majority of the LB's in this league and too physical and big for any cornerback or safety to cover. Not to mention they can line up anywhere on the field.
The key to the Chargers offense this season is flexibility, versatility, and dynamic play calling. Without having players like Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester, Randy McMichael, and Antonio Gates, this 53-man roster wouldn't look that strong on the defensive side of the ball. Having McMichael at TE, with the abilities he offer, lets the Chargers not carry a extra WR. With the ability of Mike Tolbert to run the ball effectively, it lets the Chargers not carry a third RB on the roster. I'd be going too far in saying this but if the Chargers somehow get both Philip Rivers and Billy Volek injured in one game, look no further than former QB Legedu Naanee coming in to save the day.
From a roster and offensive scheme perspective, the Chargers offense did help the team by upgrading their weakness, the defense. Not only does the Chargers offense have versatility and flexibility, the defense now have that also. Who ever thought that small contributing players, like Tolbert and McMichael, would help out in such a big way.