Chargers Second string standouts: Preview

Jun 14, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end hunter Henry looks on during minicamp at Charger Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end hunter Henry looks on during minicamp at Charger Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Once the NFL preseason kicks off, I will be starting my second string standouts series.

This series is going to be highlighting the best second or third string performers in that week’s game. For this post I’m going to break down all of the backups that I think will play very well during the upcoming season.

Hunter Henry – TE

The Chargers second-round pick out of Arkansas, Hunter Henry is going to have a big rookie year in San Diego. The sure-handed tight end will be set to play behind Antonio Gates. Technically speaking, Henry is second on the depth chart so he will be the backup but expect the Chargers to run a lot of two tight end sets to get both Henry and Gates on the field.

There’s no hiding Gates’ age. At 36, Gates is always an injury risk. With Henry being his eventual successor, it is going to be intriguing to see if Henry can takeover some of Gates’ workload in year one. Henry is an NFL-ready prospect. He has arguably the softest hands on the team and catches everything in sight.

Along with his receiving ability, Henry is solid run blocker. That’s almost a necessity when paired next to Gates who has never been much of a blocker. When both are on the field there’s no telling if the Chargers are going to pass or run the football to Henry’s side.

I don’t expect crazy receiving numbers during his rookie season. Philip Rivers and Gates have arguably the best chemistry in the NFL and Henry will play second-fiddle to the future hall-of-famer until he retires. He may have a big game or two if Gates goes down with an injury or teams just don’t have the players to cover all of the Chargers targets. Expect steady improvement and a great understanding of the offense by season’s end as he gets ready to jump into the starting role in the near future.

Darius Philon – DE

At the moment, Darius Philon is a starting defensive end for the San Diego Chargers. That will all change once Joey Bosa signs his contract and reports to camp, but for now it’s great to see Philon get his opportunity.

As camp has opened up, Philon has been playing really well with the first team defense. When he gets moved to the backup role, he will be seeing the most snaps when Bosa or Corey Liuget need to rest.

Philon was a sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft and has worked his way up the depth chart.

In Eric D. Williams’ (ESPN) article about Philon’s great play in camp, Philon talked about how hard he works.

“Whether I’m with the starters or the 3s, I’m going to always work at it as I’m taking my last rep.”

Chargers fans have to love hearing this. Philon is trying to make it as hard as possible for the coaches to force him out of the starting role. Regardless of where Philon ends up, he should play very well in 2016.

Jatavis Brown – ILB

To be completely honest, I could see Jatavis Brown playing all over the field, but so far in camp he has been seen at middle linebacker frequently. At most times, he has been playing with the second team defense but saw some time with the first team along with Nick Dzubnar on Monday.

Brown has been playing brilliantly as he’s been making plays from sideline to sideline and could be the primary backup at the inside linebacker position. During one play at camp, Brown got a sack on quarterback Kellen Clemens before he could even finish his drop back. His physical skills are mind-boggling and he could bring a bunch of different elements to this evolving Chargers defense.

He will probably be rotating in and out of plays at different positions a ton throughout the season. I could only guess where his best fit is but if he is playing this well at linebacker maybe he sticks there. If he does, there’s a good chance he spells Manti Te’o in coverage plays.

Tyrell Williams

The player who I am most excited to watch during preseason is wide receiver Tyrell Williams. Williams is a tall six-foot-three target for Philip Rivers who can stretch the field and allow Rivers to air it out deep.

Although the Chargers backup quarterbacks have been pretty bad in training camp, I hope that one of them can connect with Williams on a deep ball during a game. Williams needs to show that he deserves to be the fourth receiver ahead of wideout Dontrelle Inman.

Here’s a video of Rivers hitting Williams down the field during training camp for your pleasure.

Williams ended 2015 on a high note. He hauled in two passes for 90 yards. One of those catches was on an 80-yard touchdown pass that was ironically the first pass that he ever caught in the NFL.

Following the injury to Stevie Johnson, many felt Williams was going to see time as the third wide reciever. However, the Chargers signed James Jones to be the number three receiver, but don’t count Williams out. His potential is special and he could be the game breaker the Chargers need.





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