Ranking San Diego Chargers' Top 5 Sleepers to Watch in Camp
Making an impression at training camp is absolutely essential for players not well known on the roster. How else can they expect to make the team if nobody knows who they are?
When the San Diego Chargers open the doors for camp on July 30, it won't take long for the sleepers to emerge in practice. A couple of nifty plays combined with the proper attitude and work ethic is all it really takes get noticed by coaches. Making them remember you is the hardest part.
The following is a top-five list of players who will be looking to make a name for themselves this summer.
5. Josh Lambo
Nick Novak has been one of the most efficient place-kickers in Chargers history, but kickoffs have not been a strength of his. In fact, Novak has led the NFL in kickoff returns, yards and lowest number of touchbacks the past two seasons, per SportingCharts.
I'm not suggesting the Chargers release someone as clutch as he is, but it wouldn't hurt to add a bigger leg for kickoffs. Josh Lambo, a former goalkeeper selected in the 2008 MLS draft, has adequate leg strength to kick for distance but lacks experience putting it between the uprights—he attempted just 25 field goals in two seasons at Texas A&M.
Keeping two kickers might seem odd, but it's not unheard of.
4. Jeremiah Sirles
Jeremiah Sirles took the plunge with San Diego as an undrafted free agent, spending the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad before joining the active roster in November. He made his debut in relief of injured starter Johnnie Troutman against the San Francisco 49ers and registered his first career start in the season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The starting job at right guard is Troutman's to lose for the moment, but Sirles could be closing in on it with a strong performance in camp. Offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris has been impressed with the growth shown by Sirles thus far, telling Henne:
Jeremiah grew from being a right tackle and a little bit of guard last summer, and now he is growing so much more across the offensive front playing multiple positions. That second year is always a big growth year. His confidence is there. He executes. He is a very tough competitor, and very productive.
3. Colton Underwood
In his weekly fan mailbag, Chargers.com managing editor Ricky Henne took on the state of San Diego's outside linebacker position and how it might shake out this season. Colton Underwood was among those he discussed as being able to step up in the absence of Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson, who are no longer on the roster.
Underwood was unable to stick with the Chargers after camp last season, but he returned shortly after a brief stint on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad. Now is as good a time as any for him to carve out a roster spot with Freeney and Johnson gone.
2. David Paulson
In wake of Antonio Gates getting slapped with a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, the Chargers will be looking for someone to fill out the depth chart at tight end, at least until Gates is eligible to return on October 5. That someone may already be on the roster in the form of David Paulson, a former seventh-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2012.
The 6'4", 246-pound Paulson was cut by the Steelers before the start of the 2014 regular season, but prior to his release, he managed to play in all 32 games while earning nine starts from 2012-13. He stands the best chance of making the active roster as a reserve tight end while Gates serves his suspension.
1. Titus Davis
Titus Davis was among the top 10 impact undrafted free agents in this ESPN Insider piece by Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc., and he believes the former Chippewa can surpass a couple of veterans for playing time:
While Davis doesn't have great suddenness, he has good size, runs polished routes and has strong awareness, making him a nice fit with QB Philip Rivers, who throws with excellent anticipation and timing. Davis has a chance to push for playing time against Austin Pettis and free-agent signee Jacoby Jones, who is coming off a down year (9 receptions in 2014), behind starters Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd.
The Chargers don't have a pressing need for receivers right now, per se, but eventually they will. Floyd has stated next season will be his last, as reported by Michael Gehlken for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Davis could be someone they try out to replace him.