Every year, Around the NFL picks a candidate from each team for their “Making the Leap” series.
It’s fun to read. It also gets you pumped up before the season. For the San Diego Chargers, the candidates have provided mix results.
This year, inside linebacker Denzel Perryman was their pick. The hard-hitting thumper was a good choice. After getting the chance to start late in the year, Perryman showed why he was worth a second-round pick in the 2015 draft.
With that said, let’s take a look back and see who else was picked to have breakout seasons for the Chargers.
2012: NT Cam Thomas
2013: DEs Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes
2014: TE Ladarius Green
2015: CB Jason Verrett
Well, only two of those five players are still on the team, so that should sum it up right there. But let’s go into a little more detail.
Cam Thomas and Kendall Reyes are similar cases. They both flashed potential in their first or second year, and they were both even picked as Pro Football Focus’ “Secret Superstars” in the past. So what happened?
Thomas was buried on the depth chart early on, but he never shined when taking over as a starter. He was a threat in the passing game, but was inconsistent as a run defender. The Chargers looked smart not to re-sign Thomas when his rookie contract expired after the 2013 season. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014, and he finished the year as PFF’s worst qualifying defensive end. In 2015, he only played 187 snaps on defense, which was less than 17 percent of the team’s snaps, and finished with 11 total tackles. He signed on with the Los Angeles Rams for the 2016 season.
Reyes, well, he forgot how to play football after dominating his rookie year. He and ex-Chargers linebacker Donald Butler hosted a new football camp this summer called “How to dupe coaches and fans into thinking you are good at sports.”
As for Liuget, he’s not a star–yet. He is paid like one, though. In Liuget’s defense, he hasn’t had a partner-in-crime to help take the pressure off him. 2016 first-round pick Joey Bosa could be that guy, and if he does, everybody will know the name Corey Liuget by the end of the year.
Ah, the curious case of Ladarius Green. The 6-foot-6 Green was a matchup nightmare. He was too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties. The problem was Antonio Gates: he continued to play at a high level, which meant less playing time for Green. Even though Gates was suspended four games last season, Green never took over the way we all wanted him to. He didn’t play poorly by any means–he finished with career-highs in touchdowns (four) and yards (429)–but he wasn’t a game-changer. Injuries played a role, too. Green got a nice payday from the Steelers in the offseason, and he will finally have the chance to be a full-time starter.
Speaking of stars, Jason Verrett was named to the Pro Bowl last season and is on his way to becoming one of the best corners in the game. Scouts knocked on his size, but Verrett is having the last laugh. As long as he can stay healthy, he will be a top corner for many years to come.
I expect Perryman to follow in Verrett’s footsteps.