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Injured Reserve: Who’s staying and who’s gone?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Like a bad song you can’t get out of your head, the Chargers were once again ravaged by injuries which stopped the fans from truly seeing what this team could do if they had most of their starts healthy at the same time.

To begin the season, the team was without Derwin James, Melvin Gordon, and Russell Okung. After the opener against the Colts, they were down Hunter Henry. Following week 2 against the Lions, they lost Adrian Phillips. This trend would continue until guys like Mike Pouncey, Forrest Lamp, and Travis Benjamin were all placed on injured reserve. Not to mention rookie free safety Nasir Adderley, who was potentially going to be a starter in his first season, never got healthy enough to play and was shut down for a “redshirt” season.

Now with that train wreck behind us, we look forward to 2020 in hopes of a 2018-type streak of injury luck. There are currently nine players listed on the team’s official IR page. Some are starters, some are players the team had hopes for, and some were essentially just camp bodies that couldn’t catch a break. I’m going to go through the list, one-by-one, and discuss whether they are likely staying or getting cut heading into next season, starting with...

S Nasir Adderley

It was with pure elation that Chargers fans celebrated the selection of Adderley with the 60th pick in the second round of last year’s draft. The former Delaware Blue Hen was consistently mocked in the first round leading up the draft, sometimes as the first safety off the board entirely. So of course it was incredible to watch the FCS All-American fall all the way to the Chargers’ second pick of the draft.

Once selected, many fans expected Adderley to be the eventual starter across from Derwin James once his hamstring healed from his pro day workout. Once it did, Adderley got to play in the team’s final preseason game against the 49ers where he recorded his first professional interception. His hamstring unfortunately couldn’t hold itself together and he would never see the field again. We late came to find out he suffered from a hamstring “split”, which is a bit more severe than the tweaked hammy we all thought he had.

Obviously Adderley is going nowhere. While the worst-case scenario is that he becomes another Forrest Lamp, his injury seems to be more of a unfortunate series of events than a guy who is injury-prone. If he stays healthy, I expect Adderley to find his way onto the field sooner rather than later with a good chance of supplanting Rayshawn Jenkins as the starting free safety.

WR Travis Benjamin

If you’ve been around BFTB long enough, you already know my opinion on Benjamin. If you are new to the site, I’ll try to sum this up in as few words as possible.

The amount of trust and loyalty that the Chargers have given to Benjamin has been incredibly misplaced and he’s done more damage to this team on the field than he has given it value as a wide receiver.

But, in all fairness, it wasn’t Benjamin’s fault that Philip Rivers continuously forced throws to him down the field while he was double-covered. I fell out of favor with Benjamin years ago when he made it very apparent that he was allergic to contact and would lose yards before ever allowing a defender to make contact with him.

He’ll likely be remembered by some as the guy who made the clutch catch to continue the game-winning drive against the Chiefs at Arrowhead in 2018 but that one moment isn’t enough to erase all of the bad. Benjamin is almost a sure-thing to be gone before next season as the Chargers attempt to fill their WR3 position with someone else.

WR Dylan Cantrell

On of my draft darlings during the 2018 cycle, Cantrell started his time with the Chargers on the best foot you could ask for. During training camp his rookie year, every other report from camp seemed to be about how impressive Cantrell was and how amazing his last catch was. It definitely got a lot of expectations going for the rookie but the hype lasted all of about six days before Cantrell was taken down by a bone bruise. He was subsequently waived and signed to the practice squad a day later. Cantrell would stay on the PS until early December when he was promoted to the active roster but still never saw the field in ‘18.

I wrote about how I believed Cantrell could win the third wide receiver job prior to the 2019 season but that story came to a real quick and similar close when the former Red Raider fell victim to injury once again and was placed on IR before the season really began.

Cantrell came out of Texas Tech as a very productive wideout with an elite physical skill-set. He was tall, fast, and could jump out of the gym. His size/speed/explosive combination was unique and it’s exactly why I was so excited that the team drafted him. He still has a load of potential and that’s why I ultimately believe the team will continue to keep Cantrell around, at least for the next season. If they think Cantrell develop into a cheap WR3, then that would also open up another pick in this year’s draft class.

TE Sean Culkin

One of the recent UDFA success stories for the Chargers, Culkin has worked his way from a seldomly-used receiver at Missouri to a reliable depth piece at tight end. He played sparingly through the first four weeks and it’s a complete bummer that he went down with an injury following his one and only catch this past season.

I have a feeling that the Chargers may part ways with Virgil Green in an attempt to gain any cap space that they can and I think Culkin is a backup plan behind the backup in case they go after a tight end in this year’s draft.

I think Culkin survives cuts just because he provides more value than not. He’s come on as a decent receiving threat within his small sample size and you can never have too many tight ends that can run block. Just take a look at what the Ravens did this past season.

WR Geremy Davis

I don’t Davis has done anything to warrant being cut from the team, but he also hasn’t done a ton to stay with them, either. He is a good run-blocking receiver and added value as a special teams contributor but now that the team as ST aces such as Drue Tranquill and Derek Watt, there just doesn’t seem to be any place for the veteran to stick.

I simply expect Davis to be a victim of time, which means the team will likely realize they don’t need an almost thirty-year old receiver who has less than 10 career catches to his name.

OG Forrest Lamp

Forget the notebook, the story of Forrest Lamp is the saddest thing I have ever experienced.

He was the draft crush of all draft crushes for me back in 2017 and you couldn’t have paid me to imagine his first three years playing out how they just did. After a rookie season that was negated by a torn ACL, he was essentially given another “redshirt” year when the Chargers decided to leave him inactive for more games than not.

We all thought the nightmare was over when Lamp finally got his first career start following the injury to Mike Pouncey. Well...that last less than two games. Lamp was bitten once again by the injury bug and an ankle injury made him lost for the second half of the season.

Lamp still has as much potential as anyone on this team. He’s been graded as one of the better linemen on this team by Pro Football Focus (again, small sample size) and just need a legitimate chance. Not a “wait until someone gets hurt”-type of chance, an actual commitment to him as a starting guard moving forward.

Lamp will stick around for one more year, but then I’m all out of guesses as to what happens next if he winds-up sitting for yet another season. And if I have to watch Lamp go be successful somewhere else, then I’m ABSOLUTELY going to cry like a baby.

OT/G Koda Martin

Martin came to the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse. He started a ton of games at Texas A&m before finishing as a grad-transfer with the Orange and then went on to get engaged to the head coach’s daughter. As an experienced player at right tackle, Martin had a great shot at making the team’s final roster to start the season. But of course, injuries had a different idea for him.

I think Martin’s chances of staying are 50/50. If he’s valuable enough, I don’t see why the team wouldn’t keep a depth piece on the cheap. If he doesn’t prove his worth, then he’ll just be a guy who wore the bolt at one point in time.

C Mike Pouncey

Even after signing an extension through 2020, there isn’t a 100% chance Pouncey is on the Chargers this season. Neck injuries are serious things and at this point in time he hasn’t been cleared yet by the medical staff. Pouncey has been the centerpiece of this offensive line, figuratively and literally. The Chargers will need him back no matter who ends up taking snaps from him.

If Pouncey is cleared, expect him back in powder blue. On the off-chance he decides to retire, the Chargers will one more problem to deal with before next season.

TE Andrew Vollert

Vollert was a promising young tight end that the Chargers seemed to really like during the preseason. It sucks that he was lost for the season on a big catch and run during a preseason exhibition game. This team loves their tight ends who can catch passes and that is first-and-foremost what Vollert is adept at. He’s likely a practice squad stash unless they draft another tight or find another that they like in the undrafted player pool.