Each member of the Chargers roster should feel like they have something to prove after back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs, but there are a few players in particular who have expressed that sentiment. While their reasoning is different, that added motivation for each individual is certainly a welcome element to the Bolts roster for 2012. Let’s take a look at each player and their feelings on what needs to improve for them in the year ahead.
He was on the receiving end of plenty of criticism after his well-documented struggles in week 7 against Plaxico Burress and the New York Jets last season. Despite those issues and losing his starting corner position to a rookie, Cason still played relatively well in spurts last season. What made the bad moments stick in the minds of fans more than the good ones was the fact that they often came at critical junctures in games and really set the club back.
His candor after evaluating himself on film really tells the tale as Cason said: "I watched my entire season on film. Everyone has an opinion on it. I do, too. For as tough as others may have been, I'm much harder on myself. I feel like I did a lot of good things, but there were some games and some big moments I didn't like and that people can definitely talk about. But I'm confident in what I can do and, honestly, I'm not worried about anything after that."
That assurance is impossible to coach just like Cason’s tireless work ethic which has really shown through in early practices. His diligence will pay real dividends when the regular season arrives and he is one-on-one with some of the league’s best receivers again. The most telling commentary was when Cason said: "Every mistake you make you have a chance to fix. As (inside linebacker Takeo Spikes) said, 'How can I be complacent with something I can't perfect?' The most important thing is showing up, and to work on ways you can get as close to perfect as possible."
He may have gotten a lot of grief from fans (including myself) after last year’s struggles, but he appears to have grown from that and made it a point to use those issues of the past as motivation. Look for big things from Cason this year as he will be competing hard to maintain his status as starter opposite stalwart Quentin Jammer.
In the case of Butler, the need to prove himself is for a different reason entirely. He will be basically in his second year after his entire rookie campaign was lost to a torn Achilles’. Last year he was a tremendous addition to a thin inside linebacking group, but this season Butler hopes to really show his true talents.
According to him: “My burst to the ball, my reads — everything. I’m a lot quicker out there. I had lost a step, for sure, coming back. I wasn’t quite 100 percent last year. Now, I feel I can burst off my left side, really hold a block and get off a block. I feel a lot faster out there, both physically and mentally.” If his performance last year in accumulating nearly 100 tackles and flying all over the field was less than full throttle, the Bolts have plenty of reason to be excited.
Butler’s need to prove himself is more inwardly motivated than external, but his physical assurance this year should mean a more confident player able to concentrate more on the task at hand and worry less about his previous injury. Expect a breakout season from this 23 year old with a chip on his shoulder.
We all know that this guy has plenty to prove entering his fourth year as a pro without much to his credit at this point. The fact that the team signed Jarrett Johnson and drafted Melvin Ingram in the first round should have sent a loud and clear message to English. If that wasn’t enough however, Head Coach Norv Turner forcing him to report with the rookies earlier instead of later on with the veterans should have done the job.
Clearly the Chargers are on the brink of considering English a bust and turning the page on him. This season will be his last opportunity to make his case for maintaining a roster spot with the team and hopefully that will be enough incentive to get the best out of him.
Staying healthy will be vital for that to have any chance of happening with English missing 19 games over the past two years including 11 a year ago. There will be fierce competition at the outside linebacker position just to make the roster so it’s time for English to show what he’s made of if he wants to stick around.
Now it’s your turn to weigh-in! Which of these three players do you think has the most to prove in 2012? Who do you see succeeding and who do you see falling by the wayside? Do you think the added motivation that each of these guys has will play a big role in determining how they fare this season? How do you see Norv Turner’s role as coach in all of this? Please fill up the comments section with your thoughts!
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