Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC West [Print without images]

Saturday, July 26, 2008
Chargers position battles

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Chargers' starting lineup is settled with battles only at backup spots.

 
 AP Photo/David Zalubowski
 Darren Sproles is a standout return man but has yet to prove he can carry the load at running back.

No. 2 running back: Darren Sproles vs. Jacob Hester

Yes, you know a team is in good shape when its biggest concern is the backup tailback position. But this is a position of concern for San Diego as it tries to reach the Super Bowl. Superstar LaDainian Tomlinson was banged up in the playoffs last season and at 29, he has to be careful not to become susceptible to wear and tear. Plus, his super-backup Michael Turner is now in Atlanta after cashing in during free agency.

Sproles is an interesting player and a dynamic return man. But he is small and has yet to prove he can carry the load. That is why the Chargers moved up in the third round to take Jacob Hester. The LSU product can also play fullback. Hester is tough and was a winner in college. It will not be a surprise if Hester becomes Tomlinson's top backup. But Sproles is a weapon and he will be a factor as well.

Intensity index: Hot

No. 3 cornerback: Antoine Cason vs. Paul Oliver

Like the backup running back position, the nickel cornerback position battle is usually not all that hot to follow. But the Chargers do play in the nickel defense package about 60 percent of the time, So they will need a capable player here. The team drafted Cason out of Arizona with the No. 28 overall pick with designs of him becoming the nickel cornerback behind Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. Cason is a smart player and was a playmaker in college. But Oliver won't be easy to beat out. He is feisty and has shown he is capable of doing the job. But when push comes to shove, a first-round pick should end up winning the job.

Intensity index: Mild