Let's do a run-down of the current San Diego Chargers' roster by position to see what is left for Tom Telesco to do before training camp in August.
Philip Rivers, Charlie Whitehurst
I don't feel certain that Whitehurst will be with the Chargers this year. There's very little reason to have 3 QBs on an NFL roster with the way the rules protect QBs these days, but the team needs to start planning for a future beyond Philip Rivers. It wouldn't surprise me to see him cut during the preseason if a rookie comes in and plays well. It would save the team $1.3 million in cap room.
Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead*, Ronnie Brown, Fozzy Whitaker*, Le'Ron McClain
That's fine. That's enough. They'll bring in 2-3 more guys for training camp and the preseason, and one of them may make the team, but Kid Dynamite doesn't have to lift another finger, really. Cutting McClain would save the team about $1.5 million in cap space, but that's dependent upon if the new offensive coaches feel like they need a Fullback.
Antonio Gates, John Phillips*, Ladarius Green, Anthony Miller
This group is done. No place to add anyone.
Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Richard Goodman
This group isn't as bad at they look. Danario Alexander isn't leaving because he's a Restricted Free Agent and the only way the Chargers don't match his offer is if somebody loses their mind and forgets how bad his knees have been for the last 5 years or so. The team can bring back fan-favorite Mike Willie and Kashif Moore if they want.
They might consider drafting a WR if they're not comfortable with Meachem and Brown as the #1 and #2 guys in a year or two, but it'll be a midlevel pick.
Jared Gaither, Chad Rinehart*, King Dunlap*, Nick Hardwick, Jeromey Clary, Johnnie Troutman, David Molk, Colin Baxter, Mike Harris, Kevin Haslam, Steve Schilling
Those are just the guys signed for 2013. Eleven players total, for a section of the roster that will probably keep 8 players on the roster and 2-3 on the practice squad. Sure, Gaither could still be cut, but there's not a ton of open places left after that. Can you find five starters you'd be happy with from that group?
Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes, Cam Thomas, Damik Scafe
Oh, boy. Here's a problem we were all hoping we wouldn't have to deal with. Aubrayo Franklin, the team's starting Nose Tackle in 2012, is now an Indianapolis Colt. Antonio Garay, the team's starting Nose Tackle in 2010 and 2011, is now a New York Jet. Their replacement is....uhh.....well, Cam Thomas is the new starter by default. Damik Scafe, who has been on and off the practice squad for years, is the default "4th defensive lineman".
For a coaching staff that focuses heavily on rotations to keep guys fresh, especially along the defensive line, they're going to need to add more (talented) bodies or work on a change in philosophy. These four guys won't cut it.
Jarret Johnson, Melvin Ingram, Larry English, Donald Butler, Jonas Mouton, Andrew Gachkar, Bront Bird, Phillip Dillard
Based off what the team has said about Jonas Mouton not being able to fill Takeo Spikes' role as the Mike Linebacker, there seems to be a fair amount of dead weight here. I guess you could call them "special teamers" if you want to be nicer about it.
I'm going to say this as explicitly as I can: If the rest of the defense is fantastic and the Mike Linebacker stinks, the Chargers defense will not be good. At the very least, they won't be good against the run. Consider new-starter Cam Thomas isn't known for being stout against the run, it becomes even more important to get some talent there to replace Spikes (who didn't walk away, but was released).
I haven't even touched on the fact that Johnson will be starting at OLB without anyone backing him up (important at his age), and that Melvin Ingram (who was awful in his rookie season) and Larry English (who has been awful since his rookie season) are the only two pass-rushing LBs on a team that runs a 3-4 defense and relies heavily on LBs to get to the QB.
Derek Cox*, Shareece Wright, Marcus Gilchrist, Johnny Patrick, Arthur Hobbs, Greg Gatson
That group could be just fine if the new coaching staff really loves Shareece Wright. GIlchrist is good enough to be the nickel CB, and the rest are good enough to fill any spots at #4 and #5 CB. It wouldn't be a great group, but it probably wouldn't be terrible. If the coaching staff doesn't love Wright, they'll have to make another move.
Stuckey hasn't been trusted to be anything but Kassim Osgood for years now, Taylor isn't going to be ready for the start of the season and Cattouse can't play Strong Safety. Not only is it very important for Telesco to find himself a starting Strong Safety through free agency or the draft, it's pretty important for him to find a decent backup for the spot as well.
Nick Novak, Mike Scifres, Mike Windt
They're good here. The team signed back Novak and Windt and now won't need to worry about any of these 3 spots for years to come.
So, Where are the Holes?
- Backup QB (maybe)
- Offensive Line (maybe)
- Defensive Line (specifically NT)
- Inside Linebacker
- Outside Linebacker
- Cornerback (maybe)
- Strong Safety
That's a fair amount of work to do. If this team is going to compete in 2013, it's going to require an awful lot of luck from this point on.