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Who will be the San Diego Chargers' 5th WR?

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Every season, there seems to be one position group that has a lot more guys in it than necessary going into camp. This year, that group seems to be the Wide Receiver unit.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Wide receiver position group will typically have 5 members kept on the 53 man roster for any given season.  A team might (rarely) keep 6 receivers, but that has not been the case for the Bolts for quite some time.  The San Diego Chargers currently list 11 wide receivers on the roster headed into camp at the end of the month.  That means for 6 of those men, the dream of being an NFL player is probably going to be deferred for at least a few games or a season, if not over completely.

With the composition of that unit on the roster, it will be a case of 7 men battling for 1 open spot on the 53 man roster or (possibly) a stint on the practice squad.  Let's start at the top of the unit:

The Locks

If the Bolts had a game to play Sunday, these four men would be on the team:

  • Keenan Allen
  • Malcom Floyd
  • Stevie Johnson
  • Jacoby Jones

Jacoby Jones may give some of the guys fighting for a job some hope.  Jones has had some big moments in the NFL in Houston and Baltimore.  A high proportion of those moments have been as a returner.  The coaches may decide that Jones warrants a spot as special team ace and wants 5 "regular" receivers on the team. I doubt that happens.

Some of Jones' other big moments have come as a receiver, including being a big part of the Ravens pantsing the Broncos at home in a playoff game.  As a receiver, Jones has the ability to stretch the field and he is an asset in 3 and 4 WR formations.  He is a credible option as a number 3 or 4 receiver.

The Camp Bodies

While it is theoretically possible for one of these players to make the team, that event would probably be awful news for the team and its fans.  Because about the only way that will happen is a plague of injuries to the receiving corps on a biblical scale...

Titus Davis

Davis is a good route runner, but not fast or quick enough to get reliable separation from the coverage he is likely to see in the NFL.  If he were a couple of inches taller, he might have gotten a low round draft selection as a guy physical enough to work in tight spaces and make contested catches.  Reportedly, he has strong, reliable hands.  At his size though (6'1", 190 pounds), you need to be a burner or have incredible athletic ability to make an NFL roster.  Prediction:  1st round cut casualty.

Tyrell Williams

Williams has a fantastic combination of size (6'4") and speed (4.38 40).  He went undrafted due to his NCAA pedigree of Western Oregon.  Scouts also reported that his catching technique was flawed (too many body catches) and that his route tree is limited.   It remains to be seen if he can adjust to the level of competition and improve his skills enough to warrant a longer look from the team.  Prediction:  Final Cut casualty.

Demetrius Wilson

At 6'1" and 190 pounds, Wilson is like Davis in that he does not have enough speed (4.49 40) to attract attention, or size to compete for contested balls.  He only caught 26 passes in his two years at Arkansas; he also missed all of the 2013 season with a torn ACL.   He looks to have a real uphill battle ahead of him.  Prediction:  1st round of cuts casualty.

The Battleground

Of the remaining 4 receivers on the roster, 3 of the 4 are returning Chargers.  Another was a 2011 3rd round pick, with 47 NFL games of experience and the chance for a fresh start.  This is where the REAL fight for the team's 5th receiver will happen.

Torrence Allen

Undersized (6' & 185 pounds) and from a small school, Allen overcame some long odds to make it onto the practice squad last year.  His intelligence, toughness, and discipline earned him a spot on the practice squad.  He is eligible for another season on the practice squad and unless his skills have surpassed Inman's, that seems to be his current ceiling. Prediction: Practice Squad

Javontee Herndon

Another practice squad "veteran", the former Razorback was a team mate of Demetrius Wilson.  Herndon is also undersized (6' & 194 pounds), but was another smart, tough player that got better during camp last year.   He also made it onto the practice squad.  For both Herndon and Torrence Allen, they are going to be in a dogfight all of August for the last receiver spot or another year on the practice squad. Prediction: Practice Squad

Austin Pettis

A native of the City of Orange, the former Boise State standout and 2011 Rams 3rd round pick is the potential wild card in this group.  He does have 47 games of NFL experience.  His production for the Rams was modest over the first 3 seasons and the team had a logjam of skill position players going into 2014.  After some crucial drops against the Eagles and being late for a meeting in mid-October, the team decided to save $600,000 in cap room and cut him on October 20th last season.  He spent the rest of 2014 on his couch.

He does have decent size, speed, and athletic ability though.  If he has made up his mind to re-focus on the game and put everything he has into making the Bolts roster, he could be a threat to Inman, Allen, and Herndon.  He is also Telesco's insurance policy for any pre-season mishap with Jacoby Jones, as Pettis has returned punts in the NFL.  He is NOT eligible for a practice squad assignment.  Prediction: Final cut casualty.

Dontrelle Inman

Inman did make the team last season as its 5th receiver and languished on the inactive list for 9 games.  He flashed some potential in the wild comeback win against the 49ers in Week 16 and probably should be considered the favorite to win the job once again.  With his 2011 season on the Jags practice squad and 2014 being on the 53 man roster for all 16 games (active for 7), he is also not eligible for the practice squad.  Prediction:  Makes the 53 man roster.

The Hope

Allen and Herndon, interviewed during OTA's, both echoed what Rivers told them in 2014 after they were signed to the Chargers' practice squad:  "Malcom Floyd spent his first two seasons on the practice squad.  Keep working.  Get better.  You're not done and you have not failed."  With Floyd set to retire after 2015, the competition may be different next season, but for now, both of these men might be well advised to remember what the leader of the offense they hope to star in someday told them last year.