6 San Diego Chargers Players Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2015
In the short history of the Mike McCoy-Tom Telesco regime, it always seems to be the unlikeliest players to break out for the San Diego Chargers.
In 2013, it was third-round draft choice Keenan Allen. When injuries to the receiving corps propelled Allen to the top of the depth chart, he stepped up in the biggest of ways, setting team rookie receiving records en route to earning runner-up for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Last season, it was undrafted rookie Branden Oliver, who caught his big break in a similar fashion as Allen. Injuries at running back opened the door for Oliver to contribute, and by season's end, he wound up leading the team in rushing.
Who's next in line for a breakout campaign? Read on to find out.
It made all the sense in the world for the San Francisco 49ers to trade for Johnson prior to last season after finishing with the third-worst passing offense in 2013, but why they chose not to use him as much didn't make any sense at all.
According to Football Outsiders, Johnson received less than 30 percent of the snaps at receiver, coming in fourth behind Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and 33-year-old Brandon Lloyd, who finished with just 14 catches all season.
To his credit, Johnson made the most of his playing time, hauling in 70 percent of his targets while averaging 12.4 yards per catch. As the replacement to Eddie Royal in the slot, Johnson should fare well with the Chargers assuming he and Philip Rivers can develop the necessary chemistry. The 28-year-old is only two years removed from the three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons he posted in Buffalo.
Standout performances against Kansas City and Oakland showed Carrethers has a lot of promise. His ability to shed blocks and gobble up ball-carriers at the line of scrimmage didn't go unnoticed. Had it not been for the elbow injury that cut his rookie season short, he might have been able to do a lot better than 12 tackles, but it's a good start nonetheless.
Entering his second year as a pro, Carrethers should be looking at a lot more playing time, especially after how poorly the Chargers defended against the run in 2014. He'll push veteran Sean Lissemore for reps in the rotation at defensive tackle.
The Chargers got more than they bargained for with Mathews, who wound up having a career year in 2014, so it was only fitting they bring him back on another one-year deal in hope of a similar outcome. Mathews was relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback on passing downs and the energy he brought was contagious on the defensive line.
As a late addition to the roster in 2014, Mathews did not have the benefit of a full training camp with the Chargers. He should get a better feel of John Pagano's system this summer.
Chargers fans have been waiting for Ingram to break out for two years now, but injuries haven't allowed the former first-round pick to blossom into the star he was meant to be coming out of South Carolina. A torn ACL cancelled most of 2013 and a hip injury last season forced Ingram to miss seven games.
As Field Yates of ESPN reported in April, the Chargers exercised their fifth-year option on the outside linebacker, which should serve as confidence for the 26-year-old. He certainly looked impressive in the few games he played last season, and the team is thrilled with the work he put in during the offseason, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. See for yourself.
The Chargers' first-round pick in 2014 sat out most of his rookie year after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, but Verrett left fans wanting more in the brief time he was healthy. His game-sealing pick against the Raiders was a top play for sure and possibly a sign of things to come.
In an interview with Jordan Beane of Chargers.com, Verrett said his main focus is playing all 16 games this season. He also added that he's "looking to take over." With Pro Bowler Brandon Flowers as his running mate, he could do just that.
Green appeared on the verge of a breakout campaign last season, but Antonio Gates was simply too good to keep on the sidelines, and thus the Chargers coaching staff was forced to go with the hot hand. But as McCoy explained, the plan is to get Green more involved this season, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Gehlken reports.
The 6'6", 240-pound tight end averaged 11.9 yards per catch last season compared to the 22.1 he posted in 2013. His size and speed create plenty of mismatches on defense, and he has spent the last three years learning from one of the best to play the position.