In less than two weeks, the Los Angeles Chargers will report to the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa for the second consecutive year.
Training camp gives fans a first look at the team coming off the offseason. It’s a chance to see the new rookie class and any free agents the team has brought in on the field at the same time. Enthusiasm and optimism are high as fans hope to see a team they believe can win the ultimate prize.
But of course, training camp is an opportunity for those fringe players fighting for roster spots. For fans who aren’t only interested in obtaining as many autographs as they can, this is what makes training camp fun.
We know that Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and guys of that ilk are just looking to get through camp healthy and ready for the season to start. Their jobs aren’t in jeopardy.
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But for a handful of players, they want to show coaches that they can be counted upon to step up in a key moment or be a guy the team can look to when a player goes down, something the Chargers have dealt with entirely too often.
Nelson Spruce would definitely be one of those fringe players.
The wide receiver from Colorado likely expected his career to be flourishing by this point, but that hasn’t been the case. The Chargers will be the fourth NFL team he’s been on and perhaps the last. He’s also still looking for his first career reception in a regular season game.
In Los Angeles, Spruce will join a team that is already fairly deep at the wide receiver position. Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams are going to be part of the team. How many spots does that leave?
But Spruce, a 6-foot-1-inch receiver is a guy who can go up and make plays on those 50-50 balls. Philip Rivers likes those guys.
Geremy Davis, Artavis Scott and sixth-round pick Dylan Cantrell will all be in the mix for a roster spot as well. Is there room for Spruce?
Back in May I made some bold predictions. One of those predictions was that Spruce would make the roster. I’m not coming off of that now.
Spruce finished his college career as the Pac-12 Conference’s all-time leader in receptions with 294. He accomplished that by doing whatever was asked for him as a member of the Buffaloes but what he excelled at was by running the deep route and just getting better position against defenders to make plays on the ball.
As as member of the Chargers, Spruce figures to be best used as a slot receiver. He has a great pair of hands and he’s not afraid to go across the middle and take a hit. His toughness may be his best physical trait and that should help him stand out in camp.
In addition, he can help the team as a punt returner if Benjamin is not going to be used in that role going forward. He returned some punts in college and though he doesn’t offer an explosiveness as a return man, he is a smart, sure-handed player who will reliably field the ball and turn it over to the offense.
That’s the main responsibility of a punt returner.
Spruce knows he likely faces tough odds of being on the right side of the cut line when roster decisions are made, but he will show up in Costa Mesa ready to prove he belongs. He has the talent to raise some eyebrows in camp.
When the coaching staff sits down to choose the top 53 players, one of the more difficult decisions it could face is what to do with Spruce.