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Los Angeles Chargers position battles: Can top rookies start from day one?

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 05: Jerry Tillery #99 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after making a tackle against the Texas Longhorns during the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 5, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 05: Jerry Tillery #99 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after making a tackle against the Texas Longhorns during the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 5, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers used their first two draft picks this offseason on two exciting new defensive players.

Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley bring plenty of promise to the team this year and many fans feel that they solve two of the team’s biggest issues from last year. Whether or not Tillery and Adderley end up being the team’s missing links remains to be seen, but how soon will each of these players be in the starting lineup?

That question will be answered soon.

Since both players were high draft picks, it’s likely expected that they will be starters in the season opener. But that may not necessarily be the case.

Tillery probably has the better chance to be a day one starter, but the Chargers also have Brandon Mebane and second-year defensive tackle Justin Jones on the roster. For added depth, the team also has Damion Square, T.Y. McGill and seventh-round draft pick Cortez Broughton.

As for the two starting defensive tackles, it will likely be some combination of Tillery, Jones and Mebane. Tillery would have to beat out one of those players in order to get into the starting lineup and that is certainly possible.

Mebane is the second-oldest player on the roster behind only Philip Rivers, but he brings the kind of experience that Tom Telesco valued this offseason. Jones went through the bumps and bruises of his rookie season but most expect him to be better this year.

There’s no doubt that Tillery is a more talented player than both of them, but how soon he acclimates to the professional level and grasps the defensive scheme of Gus Bradley will dictate how soon he cracks the starting lineup. Still, it would be a bit of a surprise if he doesn’t line up for the first defensive snap of the season at one of the defensive tackle spots.

In Adderley’s case, there might be a little more competition.

We know that Derwin James is going to be one of the starting safeties, but along with Adderley, Rayshawn Jenkins, Adrian Phillips and Jaylen Watkins should be in the mix for the other spot. However, Adderley is certainly the favorite and definitely the guy the team views at the long-term answer.

Phillips is a key piece of the defense, but he probably works better in some of Bradley’s sub-packages than he does an every-down safety. Jenkins is a guy looking to turn some heads this summer though.

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We must consider that Adderley wasn’t drafted to be a rotational or complementary player. The Chargers were likely quite shocked to see that he was still on the board at No. 60 overall (much as they were when Tillery was still on the board at No. 28). When he was there, visions of lining him up in the same defense as James began dancing in Tom Telesco’s head.

Adderley’s athleticism and versatility will lead to him winning the job.

Though both new rookies will have to prove they are ready, fending off some veterans in the process, we should expect both to be part of the starting lineup as soon as the season opens against the Indianapolis Colts.

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