I think if you’d asked enough people within the fan base who the best-kept secret is on the Chargers roster, you’d likely end up with a handful of different names. Morgan Fox would be a very popular name, but there’s certainly more role players than him that deserve some praise.
Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine recently took to the task of tabbing one player on each of the 32 teams as their club’s “best-kept secret” heading into this upcoming season. For the Chargers, Ballentine believes that player is none other than safety Alohi Gilman who could be in line for a starting role this season after former starter Nasir Adderley announced his retirement earlier this year.
Here’s everything Ballentine had to say about the Chargers’ former sixth-round pick in 2020:
“If Alohi Gilman’s trajectory continues into 2023 he’s going to be a vital part of the Chargers secondary.”
“The 2020 sixth-round pick has taken on a little more responsibility every season. In 2022, he started six total games, including the wildcard playoff game in which he registered the third-highest grade of any defender according to PFF.”
“Last year, Gilman had to battle with Nasir Adderley for playing time. The veteran had the leg up in the competition starting alongside Derwin James and made 15 starts, however, he announced his retirement in March at 25 years old.”
“If the Chargers didn’t believe Gilman was ready to step into a starting role they would have likely targeted a safety early in the draft or signed a veteran in free agency. However, the draft has come and gone and the Chargers didn’t target any player worth a look as a starter.”
“There are still some veterans on the market like John Johnson III, but the Chargers haven’t made a move yet. It would appear Gilman is just going to continue to work himself into a bigger role.”
Gilman started five games in 2022 while playing a role in every other game throughout the year. He recorded career highs with 58 total tackles and three pass breakups to go with a lone interception that helped the Chargers seal their victory over the Browns on the road.
#Chargers DB Alohi Gilman made two critical defensive plays to help with Los Angeles' win over the Chiefs.— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) September 27, 2021
- Avoids blockers & makes open field tackle on Demarcus Robinson to limit to a FG.
- Flies across the field to make the diving interception to set up game-winning TD. pic.twitter.com/TLLugXa5Y0
With nine total starts to his name in his three-year career, Gilman will be the most-experienced safety on the roster entering training camp outside of Derwin James should the team decide not to add anymore bodies.
I’m not so sure that’s what the Chargers will end up doing, however. Former Rams safety John Johnson III is still out there and I don’t see how the team wouldn’t try to stack this roster as much as possible ahead of what could be a pivotal season for both Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley. J.T. Woods, the team’s third-rounder in 2022, would have to take a massive leap forward in his tackling to give any semblance of confidence in his ability to be a starter in the NFL this season and I can’t say I’d put much money on that assumption anytime soon.
If Johnson does not end up a Charger, It’ll be Gilman opposite James, but maybe — just maybe — he’ll follow in Drue Tranquill’s footsteps as the next Notre Dame alumni to breakout for the Chargers.
But that’s just wishful thinking, of course.