Alright, book report alert. I'm about three-quarters of the way through John Feinstein's Next Man Up, where he tags along for a ride on the Baltimore Ravens 2004 season. You know that season. Deion Sanders, Jamal Lewis going to prison, etc. It's been a great book and I can't wait to finish it and review it for you guys.
One of the best things about reading the book is understanding the cross-over of roster spots. Jonathan Ogden had gotten injured and was going to miss the first game of the season. Because of this, the team needed to keep an Offensive Tackle that they had planned on cutting and had to cut a special teams player (Harold Morrow) that they had wanted to keep. Sometimes you don't realize that a roster spot taken for another position can be a roster spot taken away from your position.
What I want to do, now that we're starting to get a clearer image of the team, is try to figure out which players are "At Risk" and why.
Let's start with Stephen's initial effort to predict a 53 man roster for the Chargers. Here it is broken down by position.
- QB - Rivers, Volek, Whitehurst
- RB - Tomlinson, Sproles, Johnson, Bennett
- FB - Hester
- WR - Jackson, Chambers, Floyd, Naanee, Davis
- TE - Gates, Manumaleuna, Wilson
- OT - McNeil, Clary, Shelton, Dombrowski
- OG/C - Dielman, Hardwick, Forney, Mruczkowski, Vasquez
- DL - Castillo, Williams, Bingham, Cesaire, Martin, Scott
- OLB - Merriman, Phillips, Tucker, English, Applewhite
- ILB - Cooper, Burnett, Siler, Dobbins, Beckwith
- S - Weddle, Hart, Oliver, Gregory, Ellison
- CB - Jammer, Cromartie, Cason, Gordon
- K/P/LS - Kaeding, Scifres, Binn
Not a bad list. I think there's a couple of people left off that shouldn't have been and a couple of people left on that could go. Here's some of the players on the Chargers roster that you may think are safe but are "at risk" to be cut.
Carrying 5 safeties is ridiculous. One of them is going to have to go. I think Gregory makes the team no matter what and the real battle is between Hart and Ellison. With a great camp I think Ellison starts the season as the backup SS, splitting time with Gregory. With a less-than-stellar camp, I think Ellison gets cut. One thing that I don't think I've ever mentioned here is my philosophy about players that missed a lot of time in college due to injuries: "If you can't stay healthy in college, you probably can't stay healthy in the pros." The players are bigger, stronger, faster, etc. What Ellison needs is 4 great preseason games, a handful of great practice days and to stay healthy the whole way through. If he does that, Clinton is gone.
Two-time Pro Bowlers don't just grow on trees, but Stephen doesn't even have Kassim making the roster. I disagree with that, but I still think he'll need to prove himself in camp. There's a lot of very good college LBs in camp this year that will be going all-out on special teams to try and take his spot. I know a lot of people don't like Kassim's complaining, but it's mostly contained to the offseason. I think KO just hangs around with his boys, that know that he's 6'5" with soft hands and great speed, and they tell him that the team is screwing with him. At least he knows that when camp starts it's time to take orders.
The man with the unpronounceable last name (merch-COW-ski). He's done a good job of filling holes for the Chargers for the past few seasons, but his time may be up. Forney or Vasquez will be the primary backup OG and Tyronne Green will be pushing for the spot of backup C. Considering the team has always had a backup Center besides Mruczkowski, I'm going to assume that it's not his best position. I think Green wins this spot easily. Keep in mind that the Chargers typically have all but one or two draft picks on the roster for week 1.
I personally think Gordon's a good dimeback, but he did get burned quite a bit in the playoff game against the Steelers. They were looking for him because he couldn't stay with their WRs. I think he has a good chance at keeping his job, because Hughes sounds like he'd bring nothing to the table in terms of special teams (Gordon covers punts), but that doesn't mean he can survive with a bad camp.
The Chargers website has Wilson listed as a FB. Is that a good thing or bad thing for him? It could mean that he can play both TE and FB well and they just decided to list him there, or it could mean that the team told him he has no chance to make the team as a TE. He has no chance of making the team as a FB either. Not with Hester and Tolbert ahead of him. From the little bit I've seen of him, I've really come to like Kory Sperry, the undrafted free agent TE from Colorado State. He's 6'5" and has good hands. He could be another Gates with the right coaching. If Wilson makes the team it will be because of his blocking.
The backup Offensive Tackle position is packed. There's L.J. Shelton, who is sure to make the team barring any injury, Corey Clark (who the Chargers still like), Dombrowski, and Dan Gay, who was a hot undrafted free agent. Although Dombrowski has been pretty good, he's facing younger competition. And although the team likes Jeromey Clary, they'd probably like somebody to be pushing him as well. I could see Clark having a good camp and pushing Dombrowski off the roster.
Look, I like David Binn as much as the next guy. I don't think he's every had a bad snap in his career. However, after playing 16 years in the league he's become rather expensive for a long snapper. $1.5 million in 2008. Also, he's not going to be around forever. It's time to start looking for a successor. If one of the guys looking for an Offensive Line spot can prove themselves to be a good long snapper, and a cheap alternative to Binn, the team may go that route. It would provide a little bit more versatility as well since I don't think Binn has the skills to play any of the Offensive Line positions.
Do you have any thoughts about Bolts From The Blue? Any tips you want to send our way? Whenever you have something to say, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly.