After the draft, every pundit was quick to compliment A.J. Smith on doing an excellent job in the offseason. He had filled all the necessary holes via free agency and the draft. Right? Right?!? Ummmm....
This position was a mess last year. It was Antwan Barnes, a half-broken Shaun Phillips and some white guy. A.J. went to task on it, adding veteran Jarret Johnson from the Baltimore Ravens via free agency and drafting Melvin Ingram in the first round. In addition, 1998 first round draft pick Larry English seems to be bolstering this group by finally being healthy throughout an entire preseason.
A long-time hole in the San Diego Chargers secondary. A.J. took the same approach with this position as he did OLB, attempting to fill it both via free agency (Atari Bigby) and the draft (Brandon Taylor). You double your odds of fixing the problem this way.
Vincent Jackson departs and there's nobody around to replace him. A.J. does the next best thing. He signs Robert Meachem as his deep threat, Eddie Royal as his underneath threat, and then starts collecting pass-catching TEs via free agency and the draft. He couldn't find a single puzzle piece that fit the gap left by Jackson, so he glued a bunch of little puzzle pieces together. Seemed like the best plan.
Those are all well and good, but now it's starting to look like he may have forgotten about a few positions....
A potential Hall of Fame Left Guard and one of the league's best Left Tackles left the team. Surely, if the team were going to compete, they would need to focus on replacing them the way they did the positions above. So the team filled those holes by..........signing Jared Gaither, aka "The Big Lazy", and Rex Hadnot.
Hadnot has been fine, filling the hole left by Tyronne Green. Will Green be as good as Dielman? No, but that's fine. A.J. had a choice between trying to fill Dielman's shoes or trying to fix the pass rush problem and he chose defense. I can't fault him for that.
The Big Lazy has been......noticeably absent. He hasn't actually practiced with the team in a month. It looks very unlikely that he'll see a single snap of preseason football. There's an outside chance that he'll never play again (much less this season), because his back pain (which can't be found by any sort of scan) doesn't seem to be dissipating at all.
Could the team have predicted that? Well, no, but if they had gone after the LT and LG spots as much as they did the spots above, we wouldn't be quite as worried.
Sometimes it's too easy to feel comfortable about a certain position. Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer have histories of being healthy. What chance is there that they'll get injured? Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright are kids, they won't get dinged up. Corners never tackle much anyway, right? Well, all of these four guys have been injured on-and-off throughout the preseason. And, because the team didn't want to have to get stuck in the position of cutting a draft pick or a free agent signing, there's no backup plan.
No, you can't plan for 75% of your Cornerbacks pulling their hamstrings at the same time. Still, if the depth here continues to be a problem and the Strong Safety position isn't perfect, there are going to be a lot of people blaming the Chargers' stubbornness in not moving Jammer to SS as the reason the CB position is in shambles.
Where do we go from here?
Well, WR still isn't perfect, but one hopes that it'll get better when Eddie Royal is back and Meachem starts developing chemistry with Philip Rivers. Also, you can't really plan on Vincent Brown breaking his ankle.
The team is still very, very thing at Inside Linebacker. Luckily, that hasn't become a problem (yet), so I didn't mention it above. That's a position where the team may have had a little too much faith in Jonas Mouton.
There will be plenty of decent CBs and Offensive Linemen hitting free agency after final roster cuts on Friday. I would count on the Chargers going digging through that garbage heap to try and find something that can tie them over until their depth gets a little healthier.