Roster Analysis: San Diego Chargers

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is an in-depth look at the San Diego Chargers as they prepare for their season-opener against the Houston Texans, Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Philip Rivers. Backups -- Charlie Whitehurst, Brad Sorensen.
Rivers sets sail on a season of resurrection -- in some eyes. Rivers laughs at the notion that he has be "fixed" but among the reasons Mike McCoy was hired was to get Rivers back on track. He has looked comfortable running McCoy's hurry-up offense this summer and is healthy. But how keen his blockers and pass-catchers are will have more to do with his return to elite status. Whitehurst is valuable in that he has game experience and has a relationship with most the receivers. The team is high on Sorensen and will carry three at this position.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Ryan Mathews, FB Le'Ron McClain, RB Danny Woodhead, RB Ronnie Brown, RB Fozzy Whittaker.
Mathews had a stellar preseason, hitting the holes with quickness and running downhill on most his successful carries. But he did cough up the ball on the goal line against Chicago; ball security remains a concern until he proves otherwise. Still, he was among the top Chargers this summer. McClain will lead the way; he's a sturdy veteran. Woodhead is a mystery in that he played in but one preseason game and practiced sparingly. But if healthy, he will be a fun gadget for McCoy to use as a rusher and receiver. Brown survived on the bubble; Whittaker was a long shot to make it, and did.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Antonio Gates. Backups -- Ladarius Green, John Phillips.
Gates looked downright spry in camp for a 10-year pro, especially one that has had as many injuries as he has. He doesn't get much yardage after the catch anymore, but he can still position his body at the first-down marker for a fresh set of downs and is a keen red-zone target. Green blossomed during the summer and will be the second-pass catcher to Gates. Phillips has a knack for delivering the blocks.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown. Backups -- Eddie Royal, Keenan Allen, Seyi Ajirotutu.
Floyd is No. 1 but the top concern is him staying on the field -- a problem he has had throughout his career. He was hurt most of camp with a knee injury and he's hopeful he'll be ready for the opener. He gives Rivers a nice, lanky target down field. Brown missed last year with a broken ankle but has bounced back well. He's not a burner but runs good routes and has good hands. Allen has been like a typical rookie -- up one day, down the next. But the Chargers like his length and potential. Royal was a starter before bruising his lung and his availability going forward is a concern. Ajirotutu has had previous stints with the Chargers had has a good relationship with Rivers.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT King Dunlap, LG Chad Rinehart, C Nick Hardwick, RG Jeromey Clary, RT D.J. Fluker. Backups -- T Mike Harris, G Johnnie Troutman, G/C Rich Ohrnberger.
Dunlap outlasted Max Starks in the most spirited in camp. It was clear Dunlap was the better player, but he had a few hiccups as well. Rinehart is new but has meshed well with the veteran Hardwick. Clary slid inside after Fluker was selected in the first round and has held up OK. Fluker looks like a beast on runs, not so much in pass protection. How quickly he gets up to speed for when Rivers throws will be a big factor in how this revamped unit performs. The depth here is thin; it's imperative the starters stay healthy.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Kendall Reyes, DT Cam Thomas, RDE Corey Liuget. Backups --DT Sean Lissemore, DT Kwame Geathers, DE Jarius Wynn, DL Drake Nevis.
Reyes and Liuget are the bookends for the present and future. Both are good and young. They're apt to get after the passer, despite being ends in a 3-4. Thomas has to prove he's up to the task as starter; stopping the run was a preseason woe. Depth was addressed with the late additions of Lissemore and Nevis.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Jarret Johnson, ILB Bront Bird, ILB Donald Butler, OLB Dwight Freeney. Backups -- OLB Larry English, ILB Manti Te'o, ILB Andrew Gachkar, OLB Tourek Williams, ILB Reggie Walker, ILB Terrell Manning.
Butler could get some Pro Bowl recognition this year; Johnson sets a nasty edge on running plays. But Te'o got hurt in the first preseason game and didn't see the field after that. That means Bird is forced into a starting role and it remains to be seen what his shelf live will be. English has a great chance, after Melvin Ingram was lost for the year with a knee injury, to prove that he isn't the bust everyone has said he is. But so far the former first-rounder has just been a guy in camp. Freeney is the key as we'll see what he has left at age 33. But he looked good in the preseason; he'll need some help opposite him or the blocking schemes will be slanted his way.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Derek Cox, RCB Shareece Wright, SS Marcus Gilchrist, FS Eric Weddle. Backups -- CB Richard Marshall, CB Johnny Patrick. SS Darrell Stuckey, FS Jahleel Addae.
Weddle is back and he's All-Pro quality. But he's the only one here from last year's opening day secondary unit. Cox has looked good after coming over from the Jaguars but there are still questions about Wright's consistency. Gilchrist is a first-time starter as well and had a roller-coaster summer. Patrick was to be the nickel back, then absorbed a concussion, forcing the team to sign Marshall. For now, Marshall will take Patrick's role.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Nick Novak, P Mike Scifres, LS Mike Widnt, KOR Fozzy Whittaker, PR Keenan Allen.
The legs are good, with Scifres flipping the field-position game with regularity and Novak proving last year is he consistent, with his misses usually coming from 50-plus yards. Whittaker will get a shot at returing kicks after the late release of Richard Goodman. Allen gets first crack at returning punts; he had a fumble in a preseason game doing just that. Royal might take over that role at some point, depending on his health.

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