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Chargers undrafted watch: QB Mike Bercovici

Nov 21, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) prepares to pass during the second quarter of the territorial cup against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) prepares to pass during the second quarter of the territorial cup against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
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Getting an opportunity to play in the NFL as an undrafted free agent is never a simple task, especially if you are a signal caller.

Following the 2015 NFL Draft, there were 25 remaining quarterback prospects that went undrafted and were quickly looking to join an NFL team.

Of the 25 individuals, 12 never found an NFL home, seven signed with a team but were later cut, three went on to join the CFL and only three quarterbacks that went undrafted are still on an active roster today.

For undrafted quarterback Mike Bercovici, signing a contract in San Diego is a dream come true as he grew up rooting for the Chargers as child. But the 23-year-old aspiring rookie realizes that the dream can quickly change as the next challenge that awaits him will be the biggest he’s ever faced.. making the final 53.

OVERVIEW:

Bercovici got his first starting opportunity at the tail end of the 2014 season, filling in for then quarterback Taylor Kelly. In just three games, Bercovici generated so much buzz from his performance that college analysts had high expectations for the redshirt senior the following year. Prior to the start of the 2015 season, Bercovici was a preseason favorite of ESPN college football analyst Travis Haney and ranked him as No. 1 on his top breakout players list. While the Sun Devils underwhelmed with a 6-7 record as team, the numbers for Bercovici didn’t disappoint.

As the full-time starter in 2015, Bercovici played in all 13 games, throwing for 3,854 yards, 30 touchdowns along with six rushing trips to the end zone. In total, Bercovici ended his tenure at ASU as a unanimous team captain, throwing for 5,332 yards, 42 touchdowns and a 137.9 passer rating.

STRENGTHS:

POCKET PRESENCE – Willing to stand in the pocket under pressure and take a hit in order to complete passes. Capable of improvising when it is called upon and making difficult throws on the run when necessary. Skilled in manipulating the pocket and confusing defenses.

FOOTWORK – Can climb the pocket with good footwork and shows good mobility and solid poise to extend plays. Bercovci ran for 418 yards and six rushing touchdowns during his time at ASU, including a career long 34-yard touchdown run against UCLA last October. At the NFL Regional Combine last February, the 23-year-old ran a 4.75 40-yard dash, which would have ranked him second among quarterbacks who participated at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

ARM STRENGTH – It’s hard to argue that one of the biggest physical attributes to Bercovici’s game is his “cannon-like” arm strength. In 2014, Bercovci completed a game-winning Haily Mary that traveled 55 yards to defeat USC and racked up the passing stats against UCLA (42-of-68 for 488 yards). In 2015, the former Sun Devil tied an ASU record for second all-time, finishing with three games with five or more TDs. Bercovici was ranked as the No. 4 college quarterback with the strongest arm by NFL.com’s Bryan Fischer last season.

QUICK READS – Moves through his progressions quickly and capable of making full-field reads without staring down receivers. Adequate accuracy within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.

LEADERSHIP – Bercovici is a fiery competitor and can take command of a huddle. He plays the game with passion, courage and a competitive mentality. First one in, last one out.

“I think when you play with an edge and a chip on your shoulder, it just gives you a different mindset.” Bercovici told Chargers.com. “You want it harder and this is such an awesome opportunity.”

WEAKNESSES:

SIZE – At 6 feet, 206 pounds, Bercovici doesn’t have the height that most NFL teams covet. His size can limit his vision, making it difficult to see receivers over bigger offensive linemen.

DEEP BALL ACCURACY – While Bercovici’s baseline accuracy is solid by NFL standards, his deep ball accuracy is in need of improvement. The former Sun Devil completed only 25 percent of his passes that traveled over 21-plus yards.

DELIVERY – Throwing motion needs some tweaking as Bercovici will tend to drop his wind up down to the belt level. Can be inconsistent at times in terms of the touch that he places on his passes.

MAKING A CASE FOR THE FINAL 53:

Bercovici will enter training camp as the fourth quarterback on the depth chart behind fellow

Jan 2, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) throws as West Virginia Mountaineers linebacker Jared Barber (42) defends during the first half at Chase Field during the Cactus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

signal caller Zach Mettenberger. The former Tennessee quarterback was acquired off waivers by the Chargers back in May and has a familiarity with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s system. As a former sixth-round pick, Mettenberger made seven starts during his rookie year, throwing for 1,412 yards and eight touchdowns and finishing with a passer rating of 83.4 in 2014. However, Mettenberger drastically regressed in 2015, completing only 60.8 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and seven interceptions and a QBR of 66.7.

Mettenberger clearly has the prototypical size that NFL teams covet. But for Bercovici, size isn’t everything in the National Football League as quarterbacks such as Len Dawson, Drew Brees, Joe Theismann, Sonny Jurgensen and Russell Wilson have proved that success can be attained if your only stand 6-feet tall and below. The experience factor also resides in the corner of Mettenberger, but while he has two seasons in the NFL under his belt, the former Titan is still looking for his first win (0-10) in his young professional career.

Aside from size and experience, Bercovici has the intangibles and quarterback presence that Metternberger has not been able to display as two-year pro. Bercovici possesses better mobility and rushing capability to go along with his strong arm, making him a dual-threat QB. Mettenberger has shown below-average movement, getting rattled under pressure as he has been sacked 31 times in just two years. Bercovici has also displayed decent quarterback intelligence, capable of manipulating opposing defenses with his eyes and making precision throws to move the chains. Decision making has become an issue for Mettenberger as of late. By staring down receivers and displaying below-average accuracy, it has led to overthrows and interceptions.

Finally, Bercovci is a fiery competitor with a desire to lead his team and command a huddle. Mettenberger has been inconsistent as a signal caller and has had more showings of wilting during big-game moments than taking advantage of them.

Both Mettenberger and Bercovci will be vying for roster spots this season, as the Chargers have not carried three quarterbacks on the active roster since 2013. Majority of people believe that Mettenberger will become the heir apparent behind Philip Rivers after current backup QB Kellen Clemens’ contract expires next year. Others, such as NFL analyst Charley Casserly, had a very questionable impression about the potential of the former LSU Tiger.

No doubt, an uphill battle awaits Bercovici over the next four weeks. With only a handful of training camp practices and limited reps in preseason games, the rookie quarterback will have to display his talent to the coaches quickly as he attempts to become a part of his favorite childhood team.

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