At the onset of this offseason it would have been fair to say the Chargers had a glaring need at the defensive end position. Most fans could see the decline in veteran Jacques Cesaire’s play during the 2010 season and the fact that he really wasn’t meant to be an every down player in the first place made the need even that much more pressing. A free agent to be whenever the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached, Cesaire is considered very low on the pecking order that the Bolts are most urgent to re-sign.
But should he be?
The answer to that question seems to be an emphatic ‘yes’ on the surface with the drafting of Corey Liuget to become a day one starter on the defensive line, but it might be wise to keep Cesaire around for one more year as a potential mentor for the rookie. Mentors for young players are a popular trend in today’s NFL to groom the youngsters and give them a chance to learn the subtle nuances of the game under an experienced wing.
As strange as it seems to ask an aging player to show a rookie (who will eventually replace him) the ropes, Cesaire has already made it clear that he would be a willing participant in such an arrangement with Liuget. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Cesaire called Liuget to welcome him to the team and offer him some words of encouragement. Of the conversation, Liuget said: “He’s the guy I’m battling with for the spot. He said, ‘Hey, if you need any help you can stay with me.’”
That is quite a classy move from the veteran Cesaire who will be 31 years of age by the time training camp is scheduled to begin. He simply seemed to think it was the appropriate gesture on his part even offering Liuget a place to stay at one point during their discussion. When asked about Liuget, Cesaire said: “This is a young kid coming to the NFL. I can show him the ropes, mentor him, show him how to be a real pro…He is a good kid. He is probably one of the most respectful first-rounders I have ever met. I want this kid to be the best. If he is going to take my job, he better be the best.”
Receiving that type of praise from a veteran poised to be pushed aside in favor of this young player has to spell good things for the Chargers move in landing Liuget. It’s clear that Cesaire still has a fire to compete for the starting job, but realizes that eventually father time will catch up to him. According to the former undrafted free agent out of Southern Connecticut State in 2003, he still wants to be in San Diego next season even though the team appears ready to turn the page on his tenure as a starter at defensive end. The veteran Cesaire said: “I do want to come back to the Chargers. I love San Diego, I love the organization, I love all my teammates.”
There has to be a place on the Bolts’ roster for a player of Cesaire’s character and resolve as he has previously faced a similar challenge. In 2005, the team used its second first round pick (28th overall) to select defensive end Luis Castillo out of Northwestern. He faced that test head on as well remaining a starter for the team in 30 of the last 33 games. It all came with a happy ending however as Cesaire points out when speaking of Castillo saying: “The last guy the Chargers drafted in the first round to replace me, I ended up being in his wedding.”
Regardless of just how tight Cesaire and Castillo are or how close he and Liuget ultimately become, it seems his days as a starter with the Chargers are numbered. It would be wise for the team to do its best to keep him in the fold for at least one more season however to give Liuget guidance and turn him into a lasting impact player for the team.
The transition from college to the NFL is difficult enough for most rookies without the added pressure of expectations to be a day one starter while adjusting to a position change from defensive tackle to the end in the 3-4 scheme. Having an extra set of eyes in Cesaire to watch over Liuget and make sure he is taking the right steps in order to be successful could make a huge difference in just how well the rookie plays for years to come. Bring back Cesaire in 2011 Chargers, even if it is for no other reason than merely to provide a watchful eye for Liuget’s growth and development into an NFL starter.
It’s your turn. Do you think the idea of having a mentor on the depth chart at any position on the field is a good idea for the development of rookies? Is Cesaire the type of player that you think the Bolts would consider re-signing in a backup mentoring role? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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