Despite only having been in San Diego for going on three years, Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco have been quick to establish a modus operandi, or M.O., for how they manage their roster. They've been painful predictable in their devotion to their veterans, always deferring to their more experienced players regardless of how poorly they may play (see: Troutman, Johnnie and Lissemore, Sean). In other words, they prefer being safe over being sorry and they never deviate from this approach until their hand is forced. Well, almost never.
To the surprise of many, ball coach and general manager bucked two years of operational history when they decided to keep underrated free agents Josh Lambo, Kyle Miller and Tyreek Burwell on their 53-man roster. Make no mistake, the Chargers' brain trust put their entire roster on notice with those decisions. Even at the risk of gambling with team chemistry or dealing with growing pains, they made it known that things are changing in San Diego; everyone must produce if they want to remain a Charger.
I know what you're thinking; I'm being overly dramatic. Fair enough, but let's take a look at the positions affected by these decisions, because I think they make my point for me. Why do you think they took calculated risks at kicker, tight end and offensive guard, all positions at which they face either questionable production or longterm uncertainty? Simply put, thy were sending a message.
New View at Kicker
As steady and accurate as Nick Novak was when it came to kicking field goals (87.8% career FG%), he continually put the defense in pad positions with short kick offs. From 2013-2014, a period during which no other team converted fewer than 27% of their kick offs into touchbacks, Nick Novak only managed a touchback on 11.7% office kickoffs. So Novak wasn't just bad at half his job, he was abysmal. With that in mind, the team kept the younger and cheaper Josh Lambo, whose big leg produces one touchback after another (in practice). I may have my doubts about how it pans out, but I applaud the courage it took to make the decision.
A New Direction at Tight End
The situation at tight end is similar but different. Fourth year pro Ladarius Green has struggled getting his legs under him in the NFL, failing to develop as a blocker, route runner and professional. That lack of growth has led to a reduction in playing time, as evidenced by the fact that he only received 25 targets and participated in 27.4% of offensive snaps in 2014, down from 33.3% and 30, respectively, in 2013. With the future of the position very much up in the air, Telesco and McCoy kept Kyle Miller, who proved him self to be a valuable blocker and receiver in the preseason. It's put up or shut up time for Ladarius Green and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see the team cut ties with him after the 2015 season.
Last but certainly not least, that brings us to Tyreek Burwell's presence on the 53-man roster, which I see as a shot across the bow of Johnnie Troutman. Without diving too deep into this, the coaching staff couldn't have appreciated seeing Troutman, a player they've repeatedly stood behind despite poor play, sulk like child after losing his job to Joe Barksdale. There was no fight, no fire, no attempt to prove the coaches wrong, he basically just quit on himself. I can't think of a better way to challenge a former starter than forcing him to compete with an underrated rookie for a backup job, and I'm stunned this particular coach decided to take this particular tactic given his history.
I believe complacency breeds mediocrity, which I think is a big reason why the Chargers have had a difficult time getting over the 9-7 hump upon which they've been perched the last two seasons.