FanPost

Potential Special Teams Impact on Veteran Roster Decisions

We have arrived at training camp! Finally.

I have been meaning to put out a post on my view of how special teams impact could impact some roster decisions on Chargers veterans. Here we go. PFF data is here.

Nick Niemann

In case you didn't already know this, Niemann is an absolute lock to make the roster. As a rookie last season:

  • Niemann played the most special teams snaps (363) on the roster; not only that, he was #1 in kickoff return snaps (95), #1 in kickoff coverage snaps (100), #4 in punt return snaps, tied for #3 in punt coverage snaps (50, just 1 snap behind the co-leaders), and #1 in field goal block snaps (79).
  • He had the highest PFF special teams grade (81.1) on the team.
  • He led the team with 10 tackles and 1 assist on special teams; the next closest player was Justin Jackson, who had 6 tackles.

So... lock.

Alohi Gilman

Data on Gilman's special teams performance last season:

  • Gilman was #6 on the team in special teams snaps, with 206.
  • His PFF special teams grade (69.4) was #10 among 64 Chargers players who played at least 1 snap on special teams.
  • If we narrow it down to players who played at least 51 special teams snaps (average of 3/game), that cuts the pool to 37 players, and Gilman's PFF special teams grade ranked #6 in that group.
  • Gilman had 4 tackles, 2 assists, and 0 missed tackles. Only 1 Chargers player had 4+ special teams tackles and 0 missed tackles -- Tranquill.

I'm not sure I would call Gilman a lock, but I project him to make the final roster, in large part due to his special teams contributions.

Tevaughn Campbell

Campbell wasn't as good as Niemann or Gilman on special teams, but he reportedly ran a 4.36 40 in 2015, which obviously helps on special teams (and defense). Consider:

  • He was #7 in special teams snaps (190) in 2021.
    • His PFF special teams grade (61.1) ranked #31 out of 64 Chargers players who played at least 1 special teams snap and #19 out of the 37 players who played at least 51 special teams snaps.
    • He had no missed tackles or penalties.
  • He was #10 in special teams snaps (167) in 2020.
    • His PFF special teams grade (68.9) ranked #10 out of 61 Chargers players who played at least 1 special teams snap and #7 out of the 36 players who played at least 48 special teams snaps (3/game).

I think Campbell will make it as the 5th corner primarily because the team is poised to contend, and I think a veteran 5th CB (with speed!) is more valuable than a late round rookie like Taylor or Deane (plus, it should be feasible to stash Taylor and Deane on the practice squad). Special teams should help Campbell to make it.

Kemon Hall

I think Hall is unlikely to make the 2022 roster for a number of reasons. But I have heard mention of him practicing at gunner, as if he has a chance to make it for special teams. Consider:

  • Hall was #3 in special teams snaps (299) in 2021.
  • But he was the only Chargers player with 3 special teams penalties, and he also had 3 missed tackles, which tied with Ogbongbemiga for the team lead.
  • Predictably, his PFF special teams grade (52.3) was bad, ranking #56 of 64 Chargers players who played at least 1 special teams snap and #31 out of the 37 players who played at least 51 special teams snaps.

It is a crowded field for DBs. IMO there are a number of other players ahead of Hall who I view as fighting for one roster spot: CB Taylor, CB Deane, and S Webb. I can't see Hall beating all of them out, barring injury. I do think he is a solid practice squad player, though.

Gabe Nabers

I think Nabers is unlikely to make the 2022 roster over Horvath, and special teams is a big reason, since Nabers only played 47 snaps on offense last season and made no impact. Consider:

  • Nabers was #10 in special teams snaps (138) in 2021.
  • He had 0 tackles, 1 assist, and 2 missed tackles.
  • His PFF special teams grade (58.9) was not good, ranking tied for #51 of 64 Chargers players who played at least 1 special teams snap and #24 out of the 37 players who played at least 51 special teams snaps.

Not only has Nabers failed to make a positive impact on offense or special teams, the team drafted Zander Horvath, who has a much more compelling profile, both athletically and based on college production (on offense, at least). Horvath's Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.83 ranked #27 among 1,632 RBs since 1987. I can't seem to find the RAS for Nabers, but suffice it to say, it isn't close to Horvath's.

I expect the coaching staff will see Horvath as a player who can make a greater positive impact on both offense and special teams, and I project Nabers to miss the final roster.

On the Record

I have posted previously that I project all of Niemann, Gilman, and Campbell to make the final roster, and I don't expect Hall or Nabers to make it. Special teams is one reason for all of those projections.

Thoughts?

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.