There’s nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in all of us and the San Diego Chargers’ roster is ready to experience that same feeling over the coming weeks. With training camp under way and 90 players present competing to earn their way onto the final 53 man cutdown by the beginning of the season, this camp promises to provide some real intrigue.
Depth is a coveted thing among NFL personnel departments and on paper, the Chargers are as deep as they come this offseason. According to quarterback Philip Rivers: "This is going to be the most competitive camp we've had since I've been here. We have a lot of experienced players vying for important spots, and jobs are going to be hard to come by. I think it's going to bring energy and an edge to what happens on the field and in these preseason games. Competition makes everyone better, and I'm sure it will bring out the best in us."
While that is the adage at the beginning of nearly every training camp, this year it seems even more applicable than usual. The Chargers have a bounty of talent at several key skill positions like running back where Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Le’Ron McClain, Jackie Battle, and Curtis Brinkley are joined by rookies Edwin Baker and Michael Hayes. That doesn’t even include fullback and short passing game specialist Jacob Hester who also figures into the discussion.
There are plenty of other areas where competition will be ferocious and the special teams angle will be the most important factor in deciding who makes the final roster and who gets cut. Third round rookie safety Brandon Taylor is well aware of this and he isn’t taking his place on the roster for granted as he said: "Special teams are crucial for a young player like me. I know I'm a drafted guy, but everybody's hungry for a job and you need to be at your best every single day. For me, that means showing that I can do different things and contribute in the kicking game. Every day, I want to prove to the coaching staff that I belong here and that I can play at this level."
Clearly an attitude like that will go a long way in convincing the coaching staff that a player is worthy of a roster spot. That drive to contribute in any way possible in order to make the team better is an element that the Bolts have been missing in recent years. Head Coach Norv Turner agrees saying: "It's going to be exciting. I believe we have a lot of talent on this roster, and it will be interesting to see who rises to the top and which guys can make an impact in multiple areas."
This influx of talent and change in attitude is courtesy of the massive roster overhaul undertaken by General Manager A.J. Smith this past offseason. Several pieces were let go while just as many key components were welcomed into the locker room. Smith realizes that the team he once assembled into the so-called ‘most talented team in the NFL’ has been on the brink of mediocrity in terms of public opinion. According to the GM: "We have lost our respect in the league and our credibility in the league. We were an elite team. You miss one year in the playoffs? Okay. You miss two? You deserve everything that's being said about you.''
For a guy with as much pride as Smith has, his candor during this offseason has been quite admirable. Having the ability to look in the mirror and demand change from oneself is a difficult task, but he has done just that over these past seven months.
This is a year where the Chargers finally feel like they need to earn their respect and that is a powerful motivational tool. QB Rivers said: "That's the mentality we have right now. Not being in the playoffs the last two years, we've developed that feeling, and our feeling right now is we've had enough. We have a little edge about us now. But, you know, you've just got to go out and do it."
Talking about the edge and showing it are two different things. 2012 promises to be an interesting one for a team in a rebuild on the fly type of mode with tons of talent and competition across the roster. Add in the factor of having something to prove and this should be a dangerous Bolts club with a chip on their shoulder in the season ahead.
Now it’s your turn to weigh-in! Do you think this Chargers team is the deepest in A.J. Smith’s tenure as GM? Will the competition with veterans on the bubble for roster spots make this team better as a result? Do you see special teams value deciding who is kept and who is cut when the roster is whittled down? Has GM Smith’s newfound humility helped to improve this team enough to make the playoffs in 2012? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!
Labels: Chargers Practice 2012
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