"The best 53" is a phrase we are all getting tired of hearing. Not because it is said so much, but because when we look at the list of 53, It doesn't look like the "best." Injuries are playing a part in the constant roster shuffle for the Chargers this year, so Ill start there.
The Chargers are in injury hell right now. None of the starting offensive linemen are 100% healthy. D.J. Fluker is only 3 weeks removed from a high ankle sprain that sidelines most players for 4-6 weeks, and was back playing a full week ago. Joe Barksdale is probably as close to 100% as you'll get during a football season, but has missed a few snaps in 2 of the 4 games so far. Meanwhile, Chris Watt, Orlando Franklin, and King Dunlap all missed this last game entirely. There is no clear timetable for return with any of them at this point either.
At wide receiver, Malcom Floyd, who is the team's only "deep threat" left the game with a concussion on Sunday. Stevie Johnson left with a hamstring injury, which hopefully means he will be back pretty quickly, but there is always a high risk of re-aggravating those type of injuries. And lets not forget, Jacoby Jones has been holding down a roster spot for the whole first quarter of the season and hasn't even been able to practice due to...well due to something.
Now the secondary has been thin the last two weeks. Jason Verrett has a foot injury that basically has him at 50/50 right now. Brandon Flowers has been banged up. (Wasted) 3rd round pick Craig Mager has been hurt for 2 weeks. And starting strong safety Jahleel Addae has been out for a few weeks as well.
That is a severely banged up team. By my count that is 5 starters that didn't play at all on Sunday, and could possibly be out again on Monday night.
But it has done more than effect the offense and defense. Those backups that are having to fill those spots, are the players that make up most of the starting special teams units. That means during practice, they aren't getting very much time, if any, to practice special teams and correct mistakes. Now I'm sure that isn't the only reason the special teams has played so poorly, but it sure doesn't help.
This team isn't even half way to it's bye week and is already being forced to start 2nd stringers, and during the game, play 3rd string players at multiple positions. It is going to be a rough few weeks as this team limps along.
Part of the reason it is going to be a rough few weeks, is due to how this roster is being managed.
Yes the team spent a lot of money to bring in Jacoby Jones, but if we are being honest, he was brought here to do 1 job. That job is to be the return man. Since week 1 he has not been available to even practice, let alone do that job. Yet he continues to take up one of those "best 53" spots on the roster? Meanwhile one of the only healthy WR's left, Keenan Allen, is put at risk every game back receiving punts and Brandon Oliver does his best Richard Goodman impression trying to return kicks from 7-8 yards deep and only making it to the 17 yard line.
Other players have been wasting roster spots as well. Donald Brown was finally released this last week, although it was reported that the "plan" was to try and bring him back again this week, hopefully that doesn't happen. Johnnie Troutman wasted a spot for 3 weeks before he was finally placed on I.R. Tourek Williams has yet to practice and is still taking up a roster spot. Not sure how players can be part of the "best 53" and not even be sniffing the field on Sundays.
All of these wasted spots have lead to the team forcing hurt players back on the field, probably sooner than they should be, which could come back to bite them later in the year, when the team could be fighting for a playoff spot.
What I think needs to happen
Before any of you say it, yes, it is very easy to be a GM from my couch, but you cannot look at every game the Chargers have played this season and come to the conclusion that things are being done correctly. And rather than just complain about it, I need to have my own solution right? So here it is.
Release Jacoby Jones. He hasn't done anything, the team is still 5 games out from the bye and there are injuries everywhere. Sorry but the team just cant afford to keep holding on waiting for him to get healthy. So who takes his spot? Javontee Herndon is on the practice squad and is surely chomping at the bit to be returning kicks and punts.
Release Tourek Williams, or IR designated to return him. He still is not practicing and so far the team has been doing alright with the 4 healthy OLB's they do have. The team needs more open spots, especially with so many players injured. This leaves a spot to either bring up another WR like Tyrell Williams or maybe a CB, with Greg Ducre on the PS and there are a few free agent CB's that could be had to fill in for a week or two.
Antonio Gates is coming back this week. This makes for a somewhat tough decision. Carry 4 TE's? or flip a coin between John Phillips and David Johnson. Honestly I would drop Johnson here. Phillips has come back and played pretty damn well since being released and re-signed. He has been making tackles on special teams, made a few clutch catches. In my opinion, he has earned the right to stay. I don't see Johnson adding more value than Phillips on Sundays.
I would also think about dropping preseason hero Nick Dzubnar, who has been up and down on special teams, to bring in another OL. Both Craig Watts and Michael Huey can play multiple positions and could be good options. Although before releasing Dzubnar, if Addae can play this week, Adrian Phillips is the first to go.
All in all, it's going to be a rough second quarter of the season until the Chargers get their bye, but if a few roster decisions are made the right way, it could alleviate some of that pain. If Jacoby continues to hold down a roster spot without even practicing, and the team brings back Donald Brown, my local liquor store is going to have a decent uptick in sales over the next few weeks.