7 Most Underrated San Diego Chargers Players in the Last 10 Years

Ian PhilipAnalyst IIIJune 14, 2011

7 Most Underrated San Diego Chargers Players in the Last 10 Years

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    Unsung hero Tim Dobbins was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2010
    Unsung hero Tim Dobbins was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2010Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The San Diego Chargers allegedly aren't very talented anymore, although they were talented enough to win nine games and finish with the No. 1 defense and offense while sustaining an embarrassing amount of injuries. 

    Obviously that is nonsense. There are plenty of talented players on this team with star players everywhere, but the defensive line and that may be changing rapidly.

    When a team has had as many talented players as the Chargers have had over the past 10 years, there are bound to be a few that didn't get the credit they were due because a guy was getting too much credit.

    I invite you to provide feedback if you feel any player was slighted on this list of seven tremendously underrated and underappreciated Bolts.  

Donnie Edwards: The Big Play Maker

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    Donnie Edwards making a big play for the San Diego Chargers
    Donnie Edwards making a big play for the San Diego ChargersHarry How/Getty Images

    What made Donnie Edwards special?

    Edwards' speed, intelligence and durability allowed him to amass over 100 tackles in every season from 1997 to 2007—a span of 11 seasons. He repeatedly made timely interceptions, including game winning interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in San Diego's pivotal 2004 season.

     

    Why was he underrated?

    Edwards walked around in the offseason weighing well under 220 pounds. He was perceived to be a finesse player who never struck fear in the hearts of opponents. Edwards was even criticized by the local newspaper for making too many tackles four or five yards down the field.

    Seriously?

     

    What could he have done to raise his visibility?

    If Donnie Edwards had jumped up and pointed to himself every time he made a big play, he would have been a household name. He really needed a signature dance because he would have been doing it on a regular basis.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    Edwards had a very successful five-year career playing for his childhood favorite Chargers. He helped turn around one of the worst defenses in the league. He was a perfect playmaking compliment to elite pass rushers like Steve Foley, Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. The Chargers have been unable to fill his shoes.

     

    Years with the Chargers: Five years, 2002 through 2006

    Position: Inside linebacker

    Height: 6'2”

    Weight: 227 pounds

    Career stats: 1,000 tackles*, 23.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, 28 interceptions and six touchdowns.

    *Does not include the five seasons prior to 2001 when official tackle statistics were not kept by the NFL.

Steve Gregory: Almost Great

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    Steve Gregory in position to make an interception as usual.
    Steve Gregory in position to make an interception as usual.Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    What makes Steve Gregory special?

    Gregory has an incredible amount of short-area quickness that makes him extremely hard to shake free of by receivers in the slot. He also has the uncanny ability to avoid blockers and break up screen plays.

     

    Why is he underrated?

    Gregory is considered by many to be too small and slow to be a viable option at either safety position, which may be why it seems that the Chargers are continuously trying to either replace him or avoid the need to put him on the field in the first place.

     

    What can he do to raise his visibility?

    He needs to start making big plays. Both he and free safety Eric Weddle are otherwise phenomenal players who don't make enough game changing plays. He only has two interceptions in his career, no touchdowns and has never forced a fumble.

    Far too many interceptions clank off his hands.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    Gregory played exceedingly well during the 2010 season in which the Chargers led the league in pass and over all defense for nearly the entire season. Gregory was suspended for four games after testing positive for a banned substance.

    During Gregory's absence, the defense gave up its only 300-yard passing day of the season to Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans. However, they also held their other three opponents to an average of 159.6 yards passing during that same stretch—including a 128-yard performance by the New England Patriots' Tom Brady.

     

    Years with the Chargers: Five years, 2006 to present

    Position: Free safety, strong safety and nickelback

    Height: 5'11”

    Weight: 195 pounds

    Career stats: 174 tackles, two sacks, 14 passes defensed and 2 interceptions.

Andrew Pinnock: Goodbye Chargers Running Game

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    Pinnock with a rare carry.
    Pinnock with a rare carry.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    What made Andrew Pinnock special?

    Pinnock learned under the legendary Lorenzo Neal for his entire career. When Neal was injured in 2007, Pinnock stepped in and laid the lumber to opposing defenses as the Chargers steamrolled defenses with an average of 176 yards rushing over the final four games of the season. With Pinnock leading the way, LaDainian Tomlinson was able to have a seat at halftime with over 100 yards rushing in the first half a couple of times.

     

    Why was he underrated?

    Though the Chargers used the fullback to create one of the most dominating rushing attacks in league history during Norv Turner's five-year absence from the team, Turner does not see a true fullback as a legit option in his offense.

    As a result, the Chargers offense has lost the toughness and determination inspired by Neal and carried on by Pinnock.

    The Chargers used a lingering offseason injury as an excuse to cut Pinnock.

    Terrible move.

    His replacement, Jacob Hester, is a very good player, but has not been the physically dominating presence the Chargers need to dictate to teams on the ground. 

     

    What could he have done to raise his visibility?

    There wasn't anything Pinnock could have done to stay with the Chargers except lose 30 pounds and become a finesse back. Turner seemed determined to rid himself of all true fullbacks.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    The proof is in the pudding. The Chargers last successful string of rushing performances were at the end of the 2007 season with Pinnock leading the way. When an aging Lorenzo Neal returned to the lineup in the playoffs, the running game immediately declined.

     

    Years with the Chargers: Five years, 2003 through 2007

    Position: Fullback

    Height: 5'10”

    Weight: 250 pounds

    Career stats: 18 carries for 56 yards

Roman Oben: One of the Great Leaders in Chargers History

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    Oben directs traffic like a true leader
    Oben directs traffic like a true leaderStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    What made Roman Oben special?

    Not only was Oben a top-notch left tackle, he was a top-notch person and teacher of young players. He solidified the left tackle position, and his diligence in preparing the young offensive linemen helped transform San Diego's offense into a juggernaut.

     

    Why was he underrated?

    Oben wasn't a highly touted lineman because he simply didn't have the overwhelming physical ability of players like Johnathan Ogden or Orlando Pace.

    His veteran leadership went unnoticed to the casual fan and sportswriter.

     

    What could he have done to raise his visibility?

    As great an impact as Oben had on the Chargers success, he only started for the Chargers for two seasons. Had he played his entire career with the Chargers, there is little doubt he would be considered a great Charger.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    Oben took the time to mentor Shane Olivea, which changed Olivea from a seventh round afterthought to a beast of a right tackle able to handle elite pass rushers like Patrick Kerney and Julius Peppers one-on-one.

    Oben helped solidify the Chargers offensive line for years.

     

    Years with the Chargers: Four years, 2004 through 2007

    Position: Left tackle

    Height: 6'4”

    Weight: 305 pounds

    Career stats: Started 130 games over 12 seasons

Curtis Conway: Steady Receiver Who Was Let Go Too Early

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    Conway in a familiar role for the Chargers. Making a play.
    Conway in a familiar role for the Chargers. Making a play.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    What made Curtis Conway special?

    Conway wasn't a special player for the Chargers, but he was a steady player, and he was what the Chargers offense needed to stay on the field on third down.

     

    Why was he underrated?

    Conway was often injured, but when he was healthy, he was capable of making elite plays. His injury history kept him from truly being a great player.

     

    What could he have done to raise his visibility?

    Conway's lack of of durability is the only thing that stopped him from being a great wide receiver rather than a good one.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    The Chargers made a huge mistake when they let go of Conway in favor of free agent bodybuilder/wide receiver David Boston from Arizona.

    Boston was a flop in the same league as Ryan Leaf, highly touted second-year receiver Reche Caldwell was always injured and future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates was a rookie.

    Without the dependable Conway, quarterback Drew Brees had no go-to receivers while dodging defenders behind a Swiss cheese offensive line.

    Conway was very productive for the Chargers. He had once phenomenal season with the Bolts in 2001 when had 71 catches for 1125 yards with six touchdowns.

    He is now married to Muhammad Ali's daughter Laila.

     

    Years with the Chargers: Three years, 2002 through 2006

    Position: Wide receiver

    Height: 6'1”

    Weight: 200 pounds

    Career stats: 594 receptions for 8230 yards and 52 touchdowns, 50 rushing attempts for 465 yards and three touchdowns

Eric Parker: Role Model to the Chargers Current Crop of Great Receivers

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    Eric Parker converts yet another 3rd down.
    Eric Parker converts yet another 3rd down.Harry How/Getty Images

    What made Eric Parker special?

    Parker did nothing but catch every ball thrown his way. He was a surgeon on third down. All of the young receivers on the team looked up to him and nearly everyone of them pointed to the undrafted Parker as their inspiration.

    It is no wonder that the Chargers brought Parker back as a coach immediately after his playing career ended.

     

    Why was he underrated?

    Parker was not seen as an explosive player. He also was injured a great deal, which prevented him from ever achieving a 1,000-yard season.

     

    What could he have done to raise his visibility?

    Had Eric Parker stayed healthy enough to play for Norv Turner, he may have been much more successful.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    Playing opposite all-time greats Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates for most of his career, cornerbacks had an impossible time containing the precise and dependable Parker on third downs. While the 2006 Chargers offense didn't have the explosiveness of the 2009 edition, defenses couldn't get them off the field in 2006 due in part to Parker's route running and great hands on third down.

     

    Years with the Chargers: Five years, 2002 through 2006

    Position: Wide receiver

    Height: 6'0”

    Weight: 180 pounds

    Career stats: 187 receptions for 2586 yards and 11 touchdowns, 13 rushing attempts for 148 yards

Wes Welker: Bad Move by the Bolts

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    Before Vincent Jackson, there was Welker
    Before Vincent Jackson, there was WelkerRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    What made him special?

    I may never forgive Marty Schottenheimer for this one.

    When Welker was a Charger, his incredible quickness and change of direction ability made him a fan favorite prior to the 2004 season. He was one of those players that fans just knew was special.

    I really feel like Schottenheimer's decision to cut Wes Welker really got underneath GM AJ Smith's skin the same way it got under mine.

    Huge mistake.

     

    Why was he underrated?

    Shottenheimer favored huge receivers like Vincent Jackson to a fault. Not only did Schottenheimer cut Wes Welker after the season opener, he also ordered the dependable Keenan McCardell to the bench in favor of young Jackson with disastrous (playoff) results.

    Welker was not given a fair shot in San Diego under the old school Schottenheimer due to his lack of size.

     

    What could he have done to raise his visibility?

    Had Welker not fumbled on a punt return against the Houston Texans in his first game, he may not have given Schottenheimer the excuse he needed to get rid of him.

     

    What's the bottom line?

    Smith, the fans and initially Schottenheimer were right. Wes Welker turned out to be a special player with rare ability. Welker was so angered after being cut and chose to leave the Chargers rather than sign with the practice squad.

    Good move, Wes. It is highly doubtful that Welker would have had the tremendous career he has had thus far had he stayed with the Bolts.

    The Chargers were joined in their folly by the Miami Dolphins who completely whiffed by trading Welker to the rival Patriots, helping to create an offensive juggernaut that frustrated the entire league in 2007—namely the Chargers.

     

    Years with the Chargers: One game after an electrifying preseason, 2004

    Position: Wide receiver

    Height: 5'9”

    Weight: 190 pounds

    Career stats: 528 receptions for 5657 yards and 23 touchdowns, 13 rushing attempts for 101 yards