The Los Angeles Chargers wrapped up rookie minicamp on Sunday. Anthony Lynn and his staff had their first chance to get a look at all the newcomers to the Chargers roster.
With a plethora of undrafted free agents and the seven draft picks at the team’s facility, it marked another important date on the offseason calendar. Although not much can be taken away from a handful of practices in May, nobody went down with a major injury, and that’s something to be thankful for.
With months to go before the rookies even put pads on, now is a fun time to project how the incoming draft class will perform in their rookie campaigns.
Derwin James - 73 combined tackles, 4 interceptions, 2.5 sacks
Derwin James is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. He should slide into the starting free safety spot and his versatility will allow him to play on every down. With the struggles the linebacking corps had last season, James could also be asked to make a ton of tackles in the second level.
James should also be a factor in the turnover department. With one of the deepest cornerback units in the league, James should be able to take some chances and pick off some passes in his rookie year.
Expectations are high for the Florida State product. However, James is in a position to succeed with the Chargers. James landed with a team that boasts a defensive coordinator who has a tremendous track record with young safeties. And a terrific supporting cast that will allow James to have a strong rookie season.
Uchenna Nwosu - 35 combined tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Nwosu has been a big talking point among Bolts fans. Many felt that Los Angeles reached on the USC linebacker, while others believe he could fit nicely at outside linebacker.
One of the most glaring weaknesses for the Chargers is at linebacker. The defensive line and secondary are among the league’ best. Nwosu will likely be tasked with a big role in for a rookie. Veteran Kyle Emanuel seems to be the safe option at one of the linebacker positions, but his strength is in the run game. Nwosu will likely be the man to take the chunk of the snaps on passing downs.
The 6.5 sacks may be a little steep for the rookie, but now that Chris McCain has signed with Indianapolis, Nwosu could have success as the third pass rushing option.
Justin Jones - 27 combined tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
With Corey Liuget suspended for the first four games, Justin Jones will have his chance to solidify a role. Last season, Darius Philon was able to take advantage of opportunities, Jones will be in a similar situation in 2018.
Brandon Mebane and Philon will likely be getting the bulk of the snaps early on in training camp, but Jones will have a shot to win a starting role. Los Angeles’ interior defensive line play last season was subpar and general manager Tom Telesco selected Jones to beef up that unit.
Kyzir White - 45 combined tackles, 1 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Kyzir White may burst on to the scene in a similar way that Desmond King did last season. He has the build to play a hybrid linebacker-safety role for Los Angeles. With his enforcer play style, White could unleash plenty of bone-crushing hits across the middle.
The Chargers entrusted Adrian Phillips to play in the same role last season, so White will have to work his way up the depth chart if he wants to see serious playing time. Plus, King may see time at free safety so James can make an impact in the front seven.
Even if White gets buried early on in the season, he should be an impact player for a hard-hitting Chargers defense.
Scott Quessenberry - 6 games played
In all likelihood, Quessenberry will be depth in his rookie season. If the Los Angeles offensive line remains healthy, there doesn’t appear to be a spot for him at the moment. Quessenberry does have versatility at guard and center so if a starter does go down, he may be the primary option off the bench.
Quessenberry may very well be called to action at some point this season. Mike Pouncey has an injury history and guard Forrest Lamp missed his rookie season with a torn ACL.
Dylan Cantrell - 25 catches, 250 yards, 3 touchdowns
The Chargers have a relatively deep receiving corps. Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin highlight a solid unit. Cantrell will likely make a minor impact in his rookie season regardless of the talent in front of him.
Mike Williams was sidelined for the majority of 2017, Tyrell Williams failed to take the next step and Benjamin plays a different style of receiver.
Odds are it will be a quiet rookie campaign for the sixth round pick, but if he shows signs of potential, the Chargers will have a tough decision to make on both Williams and Benjamin’s future.
Justin Jackson - 34 attempts, 227 total yards, 15 catches, 1 touchdown
Los Angeles looks set at the top half of their running back depth chart. Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler will get the bulk of the work, but the Chargers are still searching for a third option at running back.
He won’t play a major role in the Chargers offense, but that third running back could help Gordon and Ekeler see more success in 2018. Los Angeles had next to no production from their third running back last season, even a small boost could help a talented running back room.