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Keeping a Watchful Eye on the Rookies

Louis Vasquez
Louis Vasquez

I love watching the rookies as camp progresses.  Not just Larry English and the rest of the draft choices, but even the undrafted free agents (UDFA).  The Chargers have a pretty impressive recent history with UDFAs, from Antionio Gates and Kris Dielman of the storied UDFA class of 2003 to Mike Tolbert last year.  So I thought it would be interesting to start tracking all the rookies and what is being said about them.  If we've been paying attention, we've probably heard plenty about the high draft picks, but some of the other guys we might not pick up on just because we haven't heard their name very often.  So this list will help to give some context to these guys we are hearing about.  Most of the news is about the high picks and I'll summarize that, and a lot of the camp fodder guys we won't hear anything about, but there are some guys who were UDFAs who are already starting to make a name for themselves and might unseat some vets and find their way onto the 53 man roster.

I've included names, positions, and number, so when you attend one of the next two practices at the Q, you can see how they're doing...

Name # Round Notes
Larry English - OLB 52 1 We all know about English. Barring injury there is no chance he starts this year. That being said, he will be on the field a lot during passing downs and may get some time on running downs as well. He was impressive in shorts and has continued to impress with pads on. Has been struggling with a tight hamstring recently.
Louis Vasquez - G 65 3 Definitely the future at RG for the Chargers. Despite coming from a spread offense where he was rarely in a three point stance and did a lot of pass blocking, he has picked things up pretty well. He is competing with Kynan Forney for the starting position. A recent interview with OLine coach Hal Hunter indicated that he still has some stuff to learn. I'm betting on him not starting by week 1, but I would not be surprised if I'm wrong. August 6 note: Vasquez is not practicing and is wearing a protective boot...
Vaughn Martin- DT 92 4 Coming out of Canadian college football (they play Canadian rules) he has a lot to learn technique-wise. All reports say his athleticism and natural talent are as impressive as we've heard. That being said, technique is key in the NFL. His hasn't been mentioned much since the pads went on, and I think he is hitting a steep part in the learning curve. I heard Don Johnson (DLine coach) say he has seen Martin do some amazing things, but he still has a ways to go. Martin is the future, the only question is how effective he can be until then. I think there is very little chance of him starting in week 1, or anytime this year.  Hopefully, he can start contributing to the DL rotation at some point early in the year.
Tyronne Green - G/C 69 4 Only news about him so far is about him being beaten three straight times by Ogemdi Nwagbuo in the Oklahoma drill.  Will be competing with Scott Mruczkowski for the backup guard and center job.  If Green loses the battle, he will probably head to the practice squad, if another team doesn't pick him up.
Gartrell Johnson - RB 33 5 Some guys look good in shorts and then look worse when the pads come on.  Gartrell is NOT one of them.  He is a guy whose measurables at the combine weren't so good and his draft stock fell despite a productive college career.  He has been effective and people have talked a lot about him since the pads went on.  He is probably duking it out with Michael Bennett for the #3 RB spot, but will make the team either way.  He should also get a lot of time in the pre-season games so keep your eye out for #33
Brandon Hughes - CB 36 5 Not a lot of news about Brandon since he signed his contract mid summer.  He has been mentioned a lot on injury lists, which is not good.  He is probably competing with Cletis Gordon for the 4th and final CB spot.  Former Charger coach Mike Riley says Brandon runs like a Gazelle.  So he's got that going for him... which is nice.
Kevin Ellison - SS 25 6 Reported to camp a bit late, but it probably won't hurt him.  Is chasing Clinton Hart and Steve Gregory for playing time.  Hart has been an effective SS in the past despite a big down year last year, and Gregory is really hitting his stride entering into his fourth year.  Both seem to be responding to the challenge Ellison represents.  So Ellison is going to really have a great camp to even see the field once the regular season rolls around. 
Demetrius Byrd- WR 82 7 Will not be reporting to camp.  Is still recovering from his pre-draft car accident.
Darry Beckwith - ILB 46 UDFA The first of the UDFAs.  Darry was the subject of a UT article about how his staying in school another year dropped him from an early second day pick to UDFA.  Bummer.  None the less, I think this is the kind of guy who AJ loves to find.  He is a bit undersized for the ILB position, but is another guy who has been mentioned positively since the pads came on.  His hit of Gartrell in one of the biggest hits of camp so far.  I think the release of Wilhelm has opened the door for Darry to make the 53 man roster, but this would require us to keep 5 ILBs.
Kory Sperry - TE 47 UDFA Hasn't been mentioned a lot, but is in competition with Kris Wilson for the 3rd and final TE spot.  Sperry is more in the Gates mold while Wilson is more of a Manumaluena blocker type.  I'm betting Sperry ends up on the practice squad.
Dan Gay - OT 71 UDFA Another UDFA I was hopeful for when the Chargers signed him.  Haven't heard a lot about him either way
C.J. Spillman - FS 30 UDFA The last UDFA who I thought had any chance of making the 53 man roster this year.  Haven't heard anything about him. 
James Chandler - TE 45 UDFA
Greg Carr- WR 8 UDFA
Charly Martin- WR 13 UDFA
James Holt- OLB 53 UDFA
Truman Spencer - P 4 UDFA
Rodgeriqus Smith - WR 3 UDFA
Rashaad Jackson- DT 77 UDFA
Ryan McDonald - C 60 UDFA
Wopamo Osaisai - CB 38 UDFA on the list of injuries once
Ben Muth - G 72 UDFA on the list of injuries once
Anthony Felder - OLB 58 UDFA Originally signed as a UDFA and then released in June.  Resigned after Wilhelm was released.
Kestahn Moore - RB 30 UDFA Signed after Curtis Brinkley was shot.


As you can see, not a lot of notes about the guys further down the ladder.  The guys who don't make the 53 man roster may be added to the practice squad if no other team picks them up, there are 8 players on the practice squad.  I think a max of 2 of the UDFAs will make the 53 man roster, preseason games will flesh this out further.

There are two cutdown dates set by the NFL, Sept 1 - 75 players and Sept 5 - 53 players.  Cuts will probably start before those dates although not before the 1st preseason game.  I'll update this list again near the end of the month after we've got a few preseason games under our belt.