Oct 19, 2013; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Tevin Reese (16) makes a catch as Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Sam E. Richardson (4) defends during the first half at Floyd Casey Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
GM Tom Telesco has been very busy this offseason, despite the lack of sexy free agent signings (outside of Brandon Flowers). A flurry of roster moves have begun to show a clear pattern that reveals Tom Telesco’s plan to make the Chargers a contender. Telesco started clearing dead wood from the roster in his first season, but he’s really accelerated the process as we enter training camp 2014. A radical departure from the A.J. Smith administration, this new philosophy has brought a lot of excitement to the team. This new philosophy focuses on speed, agility and timing on both sides of the ball. The question is, will this translate to a championship?
Let’s examine a few select players signed and released so far in 2014:
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A few things jump out from this list. First, on both sides of the ball, Telesco clearly favors speed and playmaking ability over size. Much has been made about the Big Cornerback (see: Seahawks, Seattle) vs. Little Cornerback (Flowers, Verrett, etc) debate. Understandably, when a team wins a Super Bowl, the rest of the league wants to try to copy that team’s formula. Telesco has the courage and foresight to buck that trend. This isn’t limited to the outside players on defense. On offense, Tevin Reese is beginning to make waves in camp. Danny Woodhead is an established playmaker and safety valve for Philip Rivers. The 5′ 10″ Donald Brown was signed in free agency to fill the void if/when Ryan Matthews (6′ even) departs after the season. If Eddie Royal can stay healthy, he remains an undersized playmaker in the slot. The clear trend is to value speed over size – a hallmark of Telesco’s days in Indianapolis.
Another obvious trend is to clear out the dead weight from the roster left over from the prior administration. Let’s be honest – A.J. Smith built a winner in San Diego, but his drafts were hit or miss. The roster was left with precious little depth when A.J. departed, and wasted draft picks had to be dealt with. The Jonas Mouton pick has always been a mystery. He was drafted in the 2nd round in 2011, when most draft services had him rated as a 4-5 round prospect at best. He was somewhat productive in college, but produced absolutely nothing in the NFL. A new GM has no loyalty to the draft picks of the previous GM, so out the door Mouton went. Telesco seems to realize that rebuilding the roster depth behind the starters is a constant process and can’t be fixed immediately. As the roster evolves, he’s taken the opportunity to release unproductive and/or injury prone players that could no longer be relied upon. Brandon Taylor, Charlie Whitehurst, and Larry English were never going to contribute anything to this team. Kellen Clemens is a clear upgrade at backup QB – a guy who can come in and win a few games if necessary.
The $64,000 question – does Jeromy Clary qualify as another guy who needs to be released, a guy who will never contribute to the team? Not exactly. For all the grief he’s taken from the fans for his below average play at RT, his work at guard is at least not going to lose the Chargers any games. He may not qualify as dead weight, but if Telesco sees a chance to upgrade, don’t be surprised to see Clary moved to the IR or waived-injured list.
The roster is taking shape, and the Chargers are deeper and faster in 2014 than they were in 2013. Telesco hasn’t hit any home runs with the personnel, but he’s hit solid doubles and put the Chargers in scoring position. And one thing’s for certain – this team will be fun to watch.