AFC West: King Dunlap

King Dunlap probable vs. Giants

December, 6, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers have a chance to start the team's projected starting offensive line for the first time since Week 3 of the regular season against the New York Giants on Sunday.

Left tackle King Dunlap made it through a full week of practice, and is listed as probable on San Diego’s injury report. Dunlap missed the past three games with a neck strain.

If Dunlap starts, rookie D.J. Fluker will move over to his regular spot of right tackle, and Jeromey Clary will kick inside to his regular position of right guard. Rounding out the offensive line would be Chad Rinehart at left guard, replacing second-year pro Johnnie Troutman, and Nick Hardwick at center.

Hardwick, a 10-year veteran, is the only offensive lineman who has not missed a start this season. Hardwick did not practice most of this week because of a neck stinger, but was a full participant at Friday’s practice, and is listed as probable for Sunday.

“We’re just looking for the best group of five that give us the best chance to win,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. “They’ve all done a phenomenal job all year of protecting Philip [Rivers], run blocking and just having position flexibility.”

Receiver Eddie Royal (toe/chest) was the only San Diego player that did not practice on Friday. Fluker (ankle) was listed as a limited participant, but is probable for Sunday. Royal and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand) are questionable for Sunday.

Fluker, defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe), receiver Lavelle Hawkins (knee) and defensive end Corey Liuget (knee) are all probable for Sunday.
SAN DIEGO -- Playing extensively for the first time in his NFL career, San Diego Chargers offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman expectedly has had his share of bumps in the road.

A fifth-round pick out of Penn State by San Diego in 2012, Troutman did not play his rookie season because of a torn pectoral injury he suffered before the draft. Thrust into a starting role at left guard after Chard Rinehart suffered a serious toe injury against Philadelphia, Troutman's played through injuries in starting nine games for the Chargers.

But Troutman could be headed back to the bench. With left tackle King Dunlap (neck) a full participant for a second straight day, head coach Mike McCoy could go back to the team's projected starting offensive line that has not been used since Week 3 of the regular season against the Eagles -- Dunlap at left tackle, Rinehart at left guard, Nick Hardwick at center, Jeromey Clary at right guard and D.J. Fluker at right tackle.

"I prepare myself every week like I'm going to go out there and play," Troutman said. "Even though I might not be getting the first-team reps, you've got to go out there with the mindset that you're going to get out there and play. If you don't, then you won't be prepared."

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt likes the progress Troutman has made this season.

"I think Johnnie's done a good job," Whisenhunt said. "He's grown into the position, which is important. We didn't know a lot about Johnnie coming in here. We knew essentially, this was like his rookie year and he got thrust in to playing probably a lot quicker than we anticipated. You've got to give him credit. He's handled it well."

McCoy directed some pointed comments toward Troutman for a personal foul penalty he was baited into by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict after a 48-yard field goal by Nick Novak late in the game against the Bengals. San Diego had to take the 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff, which allowed Cincinnati to get better field position on the return.

"It's something that whether you get baited to or not it's unacceptable," McCoy said. "That's what I told him instantly after the play happened. I'm sure you all saw that. After the game, talking to the team it's something that we can't accept. You don't want any unsportsmanlike conducts. That's going to happen from time to time. In a critical time, it was the worst time possible to have that happen."

Troutman leads the team with eight accepted penalties for 55 yards, including six false starts.

"I don't feel like my penalties have been an issue," Troutman said. "Early on I got a couple false starts, but there's just a lot of stuff going on out there early when you first get out there, and with the speed of the game you get a little anxious. Last week I got that little cheap thing. But for the most part I think I've played inside the guidelines of the game."

With the Chargers at 5-7 and still in the playoff hunt, McCoy is tasked with putting the best team out on the field that can win right now. But he also has to make sure younger players like Troutman continue to develop within the organization.

Eight of San Diego's 22 starters are doing so for the first time in their pro careers this season. The NFL is a bottom-line business, so wins matter. But in the first year of general manager Tom Telesco and McCoy's rebuilding effort, the duo also has to determine which players will be part of the team's ability to create sustainable success long term.

For now, McCoy says he's focused on beating his team's next opponent, the Giants

"It's all about winning," McCoy said. "Through experience and repetition you'll get better at anything. But we haven't done that all year long [focused on developing players]. We're not going to start that now.

"It's a matter of doing whatever you can to win. And I think the more people play, the better they're going to be over time. But you don't go into a game saying we're going to develop this player."

Which means the development of young players like Troutman could be put on hold.

"Every week we're going to try to play the best five, whoever we think those best five guys are," McCoy said. "Sometimes it takes a week of practice to determine who those guys are and how the health of your football team is. We'll make that decision this week also."

Mathews, Dunlap return to practice

November, 28, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- Two impact players returned to practice on Thursday for the San Diego Chargers.

Running back Ryan Mathews (hamstring) and starting left tackle King Dunlap (neck) both practiced on Thanksgiving Day.

Mathews had to leave last week’s win against Kansas City in the second half because of a lingering hamstring issue he’s been dealing with for the past few weeks. But Mathews is expected to play on Sunday.

Dunlap has not practiced since suffering a neck injury against Washington on Nov. 3. Rookie D.J. Fluker has started the past two games at left tackle in place of Dunlap.

“It’s good to get him out there,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said about Dunlap's return. “Like we’ve said, we try to get all 53 out as soon as we can. They’ve all worked extremely hard at this point in time, so when you have injuries, certain players take it differently. And it’s hard for certain guys to sit out. So it’s good to get him back out there.”

In his fourth season, Mathews is 11th in the NFL in rushing with 721 yards, and is on pace to have his second 1000-yard rushing season.

Mathews is one of five running backs this season with at least three 100-yard rushing games. A group that includes LeSean McCoy (4), Adrian Peterson (4), Eddie Lacy (3), Marshawn Lynch (3) and Alfred Morris (3).

Tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring), center Nick Hardwick (neck), safety Darrell Stuckey (concussion) and receiver Eddie Royal (toe/chest) did not practice for a second straight day.

Linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand) practiced for a second straight day. He was a limited participant, along with Dunlap and Mathews.

Defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe), defensive end Corey Liuget (shin) and long snapper Mike Windt (ankle) were full participants for a second straight day.
SAN DIEGO -- Left tackle King Dunlap has suffered two concussions and a neck injury this season, so you can understand if the San Diego Chargers want to make sure he’s fully healthy before letting him take the field with a helmet and shoulder pads again.

“They’re just being a little more cautious with it, with everything [that’s happened],” Dunlap said.

Dunlap missed San Diego’s past two games with a neck strain. Before that, he missed two games earlier this season with concussion issues. Rookie D.J. Fluker has filled in and played solidly for Dunlap at left tackle, but would be better suited to return to his regular position of right tackle.

Dunlap said he’s trying to stay in game shape by running and working out in the weight room with the team’s training staff.

“I ran with Coach Kent [Johnston] today,” Dunlap said. “I just go in there and work out with him by myself, which is pretty rough when you’re the only one. But I just get in there and get with him every day, and that’s what kind of keeps me going.”

San Diego coach Mike McCoy provided no timeline for Dunlap’s return.

“We’re taking it day to day with King,” McCoy said.

Along with Dunlap, five other players did not practice for San Diego on Wednesday. They include tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring), center Nick Hardwick (neck), running back Ryan Mathews (hamstring), safety Darrell Stuckey (concussion) and receiver Eddie Royal (toe/chest).

Gates, Royal, Hardwick and Mathews should be fine and ready for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

“Some of those guys are resting,” McCoy said. “It’s that time of year. There are a number of guys that we’ve got to get as healthy as possible, and feeling as fresh as possible on Sunday. So there’s certain players that we will do that with for the rest of the year on a consistent basis.”

Linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand) returned to practice for the first time after missing last week’s contest at Kansas City. Johnson was a limited participant.

Defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe), defensive end Corey Liuget (shin) and long snapper Mike Windt (ankle) were full participants.

Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram enters his second week of practice. The South Carolina product remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he rehabs from anterior cruciate ligament surgery performed in May.

The Chargers have until Dec. 10 to place Ingram on the 53-man roster or leave him on the reserve PUP list.

“When Melvin’s ready to be out there we’ll put him out there,” McCoy said. “He’s getting better every day.”
SAN DIEGO -- Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram said he had a good week of practice, but will not be added to his team’s active roster for the San Diego Chargers" target="_blank">San Diego Chargers' game at Kansas City.

“I’m not playing this week,” Ingram said. “They’ve been through a lot more stuff than I have. I’ve just been through rehab, working out and conditioning stuff. But they’ve been through training camp and almost three-fourths of a season. So I just need to work on everything, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”

Ingram remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, but practiced for the first time this week, moving fluidly and showing some explosion through individual drills during the early portions of practice.

However, Ingram still is a little over six months out from having surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The Chargers have until Dec. 10 to add Ingram to the active roster, or place him on the reserve PUP list for the remainder of the regular season.

“Until you practice enough and do certain things, you’re not going to be in football shape,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. “You’ve got to get out there and put the pads on, and do things a certain way before you get in football shape. He’s worked extremely hard, and he’s in good shape right now.”

McCoy on if Ingram will play this season: “I think that he’s got a very good chance. But it’s also something where we’ve got to each day pick it up for him, and see how his knee responds. He’s done a great job with it these last three days. So we’ll take it week by week and see how he feels.”

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand), left tackle King Dunlap (neck) and receiver Eddie Royal (toe) did not practice on Friday. Dunlap is listed as out. Johnson is doubtful, and Royal is questionable.

McCoy said that Johnson played with a similar hand injury while with the Ravens. Johnson's left hand is in a soft cast after having surgery to fix the issue on Monday. Johnson's already missed three games this season due to a lingering hamstring issue.

“I’m always hopeful, yeah,” said Johnson, when asked about the prospect of playing this week. “Any injury slows you down and limits you, but everybody’s dealing with stuff, especially at this point in the season.

“This is a very important game for us and everybody needs to carry their weight. I’ve struggled with that this year with all my injuries. That’s not something new, but that’s something you’ve got to deal with.”

San Diego’s nickel cornerback Johnny Patrick (concussion) was cleared to practice on Friday after sitting out most of the week, and was a full participant. Patrick is questionable for Sunday’s game.

With Johnson and Ingram likely out, the Chargers likely will go with Thomas Keiser and Tourek Williams at outside linebacker, with Reggie Walker and Adrian Robinson serving as backups.

Center Nick Hardwick (neck), receiver Vincent Brown (shoulder), safety Jahleel Addae (ankle), receiver Keenan Allen (knee), running back Ryan Mathews (hamstring), defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe) and linebacker Manti Te'o (elbow) were full participants and are probable.

Broncos-Chargers matchup of the day

November, 9, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the San Diego Chargers hired a new general manager in Tom Telesco and new head coach in Mike McCoy this past offseason, the team looked over its list of impending free agents and decided to simply let most of them walk.

Denver Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips was in that group despite having led the Chargers in sacks in 2012 with 9.5, and having led or finished second on the team in sacks in eight of his nine years in San Diego. The Chargers didn’t re-sign Phillips and the veteran floated in free agency for almost two months until the Broncos signed him to a one-year deal during NFL draft weekend.

[+] EnlargeShaun Phillips
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsShaun Phillips helped provide a steady pass rush for Denver while Von Miller served an early-season suspension.
Phillips then became a rather important signing for the Broncos when Von Miller had to serve a six-game suspension to open the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Phillips currently leads the team with 6.5 sacks and it will be intriguing to watch how the Chargers handle their former outside linebacker with left tackle King Dunlap.

“Shaun’s been great,’’ Broncos interim head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I mean, if you look at us losing [Elvis Dumervil] and how are we going to fill that void -- it was a big question all through camp. Shaun came in -- he’s a very smart guy, great experience and poise. He brought a certain element to our defense that we would miss without him.’’

Phillips has routinely lined up as the right defensive end when the Broncos are in their traditional 4-3 look on defense. But they have shown a 3-4 look on occasion, including 20 snaps in the Broncos’ win over the Washington Redskins, with Phillips and Miller at the outside linebacker spots.

But with Miller expected to get plenty of attention as he continues to try to round into form – he has one sack in his two games back in the lineup – Phillips should see plenty of single blockers and Phillips has consistently said he believes he should always have a chance to get to the quarterback in man-on-man situations. Overall, Phillips has played 343 snaps on defense, or 69 percent of the team's plays, and that's the second-highest total on the team among defensive linemen behind only Derek Wolfe.

Dunlap was one of the free agents the Chargers brought in to try and revamp their offensive line. He was originally slated to be a swing player who could back up at either left or right tackle. But Dunlap then beat out Max Starks for the job and Starks was released during the preseason.

At 6-foot-9, 330 pounds, Dunlap has a huge reach advantage on most rushers he faces, but Phillips will have the quickness to get to the corner at times, especially if he can get Dunlap to look inside from time to time. Dunlap has played better over the past eight games than he graded out in recent seasons, but the Chargers have also pushed the pace on offense with Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers getting the ball out quickly.

As a result, the Chargers’ front, which consistently had difficulty keeping the rushers off Rivers last season when he was sacked 49 times and threw 15 interceptions, has benefited from the change in offensive philosophy. Through eight games, Rivers has been sacked 12 times and has thrown seven interceptions.

For his part Phillips said this week he expects just another day at the football office.

“Everyone is like, ‘I know you’re pissed off,’ but I’m not pissed off,’’ Phillips said. “I made a lot of money and a lot plays and made a lot of friends in San Diego. The fun part is going back to play against your old friends, not really the old team. … Again, there are no hard feelings. I just want to go out there and win. … Honestly, it’s business as usual.’’
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed in the locker room after the San Diego Chargers' 24-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A reflective Rivers: Philip Rivers talked about becoming the second player in franchise history to eclipse the 30,000-yard passing mark with his effort against Jacksonville. Rivers has 30,023 yards, joining Dan Fouts, who finished his 15-year career as the Chargers all-time passing leader with 43,040 yards. “It’s kind of a ‘wow’ to myself when it hits you,” said Rivers, who received the game ball from coach Mike McCoy in the locker room. “It’s humbling when you hear that. And the first thing that comes to my mind is how many guys are involved in that happening. You don’t throw 30,000 yards to yourself. There’s a lot of guys that have been on the receptions end of it. No. 85 [Antonio Gates] has been on the other end of a lot of them. And then there’s a lot of guys up front that have protected for you to get the ball off.” One of those offensive linemen is longtime center Nick Hardwick. “It’s just a pleasure to work with such a great guy, a great teammate and true friend,” Hardwick said. “He’s the most competitive person I’ve ever been around. It’s a real honor.” Rivers also confirmed that his wife, Tiffany, did not give birth to the couple’s seventh child while he was in Jacksonville.

Still work to do: While players look forward to having some time off during the bye week, players understand there’s more work to do. Defensively, the Chargers have not given up a touchdown in 11 quarters, and did not allow a touchdown in back-to-back games for the first time since the first two weeks of the 2002 season. But, as safety Eric Weddle said, it’s better for players to learn from their mistakes by winning instead of losing. “The games and plays that you learn from help build your identity and who you are,” Weddle said. “So for us to play like we’ve played the last two and a half games is big -- and not reading the press and feeling like we’re all that -- but just staying closed-minded, staying the course and staying focused. It’s really a testament to these guys, the older players getting the young players right and the coaches coaching us up. Look at the guys that we had out there, and we’re playing lights out. It’s exciting, but we have to keep going upwards. We can’t take a step back.”

Last time Fluker played left tackle? Try high school: You can’t blame rookie offensive lineman D.J. Fluker for feeling a little uncomfortable moving over to left tackle in the opening quarter after King Dunlap left the game with his second concussion of the season. Fluker was drafted as San Diego’s long-term answer at right tackle, and had not played left tackle since his high school days in Foley, Ala. “I was a little nervous,” Fluker said. “So I had to kind of calm down, and the coaches just told me to be patient and it will come. And eventually that happened. I got beat a couple times, but I haven’t been over there for so long. Other than that, I think I did OK.” For the most part, San Diego’s offensive line kept Rivers clean, holding Jacksonville to just one sack.
SAN DIEGO -- Chargers middle linebacker Manti Te’o is expected to make his regular-season debut on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Notre Dame product made it through a week of practice as a full participant after missing the first three games due to a foot injury, and is listed as probable on the team’s injury report.

However, San Diego coach Mike McCoy stopped short of saying the rookie definitely will play on Sunday.

“He’s had a great week of practice,” McCoy said. “And it’s been great for him to kind of get back out there, and get into the flow of things. So it’s looking good today.”

For his part, Te’o says he’s ready.

“I get to play with my guys, so I’m excited,” Te’o said.

If he plays, one of the questions Te’o will face is how he performs once the opening whistle blows. Conditioning could be an issue. The Chargers attempted to replicate game speed in practice, but things always move a tick quicker once a player is on the field.

“I could go out here and play hoops against these other coaches, but if they’re going to throw me in some live action down there at San Diego State, I think it’s going to be a shock to me, first of all, because I ain’t that good,” joked defensive coordinator John Pagano. “Game speed is always going to be faster than anything else. So that’s something he’s going to adapt to very quickly.”

Fellow linebacker Donald Butler said he’s anxious to see what Te’o can do.

“It means a lot, obviously,” said Butler, who’s also probable for Sunday after practicing fully all week. Butler’s dealing with a groin issue. “They brought him in here to be an impact, and play with me. And we had a good week of practice. So I’m excited to see him go out there to see what he can do.”

While Te’o returns, the Chargers likely will be without three starting offensive linemen when they take the field against a talented Cowboys’ defensive front.

Left tackle King Dunlap (concussion), left guard Chad Rinehart (toe) and right guard Jeromey Clary (clavicle) did not practice all week, leaving their availability in doubt for Sunday.

Dunlap is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, along with cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring). Rinehart and Clary are listed as doubtful. Center Nick Hardwick (shin) is probable. Receiver Malcolm Floyd (neck) has been ruled out.

With those three out, the Chargers are looking at a projected starting five of Mike Harris at left tackle, Johnnie Troutman at left guard, Hardwick at center, Rich Ohrnberger at right guard and rookie D.J. Fluker at right tackle.

Recent addition Stephen Schilling also could be in the mix at guard. And McCoy also could move a big body like tackles Nick Becton, Kenny Wiggins or Andrew Tiller up from the practice squad.
No matter what five guys line up on Sunday, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said he’ll have his group ready to go.

“Let me say this: they have a good front and are playing well together,” Whisenhunt said, when asked about the Cowboys defensively. “It’s never easy. We have different guys that we’re not exactly sure where it’s going to shake out for Sunday. There’s not much we can do about it. We’re still going to play. We’re still going to kick off at 1pm. We just have to prepare our guys the best we can and know in that situation we’re going to battle. Our guys have done that. They have battled, so that’s what we’re expecting to do on Sunday.”
SAN DIEGO – Even after practice ended, Manti Te’o still wanted more work.

So while teammates exited the field, Te’o focused on form tackling and explosion with a tackling pad.

“You guys should get a picture of that,” fellow linebacker Bront Bird told a line of photographers as he walked to the locker room.

Inactive for the first three games due to a foot injury, Te’o was a full participant in practice for the first time since suffering the injury in the team’s first preseason game. He appears ready to play in his first regular-season game on Sunday.

“That’s the goal,” Te’o said. “So once coach [Mike McCoy] gives me that green light, I’ll be ready.”

Te’o said the hardest part has been putting in the work on the practice field during the week, only to have to watch his teammates go out and play on Sundays without him.

“Sundays are the time to have fun,” he said. “You do all your work throughout the week during practice, you get all of your mistakes out and you grind during the week. And Sundays are that celebration at the end. So I finally get to go out there now.”

Right guard Jeromey Clary said he suffered a clavicle injury during the opening quarter against Tennessee, but played through it in part because the Chargers didn’t have anybody else to put in. Left tackle King Dunlap and left guard Chad Rinehart also had left the game with injuries, leaving San Diego with no backup offensive linemen.

“I didn’t feel great,” Clary said. “But I was still able to go, so I finished it out. At times maybe there were things that I couldn’t do as well as I wanted to, and it was evident on my part – I don’t know if anyone else noticed. But I wasn’t happy with what was going on. But it was the best thing to do.”

Clary said he is day-to-day, and he doesn’t know if he’ll play on Sunday.

“I’m going to go home and get some rest,” Clary said. “Hopefully I’ll sleep really good tonight, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Along with Clary, Dunlap (concussion) and Rinehart (toe) did not practice. Center Nick Hardwick (shin) was a limited participant in practice, as was pass-rusher Dwight Freeney (not injury related).

Full participants for the Chargers included Te’o, middle linebacker Donald Butler (groin) and right tackle D.J. Fluker (concussion), who returned to the field after missing last week’s game.

Receiver Malcom Floyd (neck) and cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring) also did not practice. After meeting with doctors to evaluate Floyd’s situation on Tuesday, McCoy said the team still is figuring out the right plan of action.

“We have a good idea what’s going on with him,” McCoy said. “But we’ve just got to make sure we’re doing exactly what’s right for him and his situation. And we’re looking for him to get back out here as soon as he can.”

Upon Further Review: Chargers Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the San Diego Chargers' 20-17 loss at the Tennessee Titans:

Offensive line woes: San Diego headed into Sunday’s contest already down an offensive lineman when D.J. Fluker was ruled out because of a concussion. Michael Harris played solid in place of Fluker at right tackle. But the Chargers potentially lost two more starters up front against Tennessee. San Diego coach Mike McCoy told reporters after the game left tackle King Dunlap had a concussion. Left guard Chad Rinehart also had a turf toe injury in the second half and did not return. Already thin up front, the Chargers do not have enough quality depth to withstand that many starters being out heading into next week’s Dallas game.

[+] EnlargeRonnie Brown
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiRonnie Brown's touchdown was San Diego's first rushing score in almost a year.
Throw to score, run to win: While the Chargers have one of the top passing offenses in the NFL through three games, they still have trouble consistently running the ball. San Diego’s struggles to move the chains late to close out games can be partially attributed to the team’s inconsistent ground game. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Ronnie Brown's 1-yard touchdown run in the second half was San Diego’s first rushing touchdown since Week 5 against the Saints last year. That’s a head-scratching statistic. The Chargers finished with a respectable 102 rushing yards against Tennessee. Ryan Mathews led the way with 58 rushing yards on 16 carries. Third-down back Danny Woodhead added 31 yards on the ground and had seven catches for 55 yards. But the Chargers failed to successfully run the ball when it mattered most -- at the end of the game.

Turnover drought: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says that one of his primary philosophies is “It’s all about the ball” -- meaning take care of it on offense and look for ways to create turnovers on defense. Through the first three games, San Diego has struggled in one of the top indicators on whether a team will win or lose: turnover differential. San Diego has created one turnover through three games, which is among the worst in the league. However, the Chargers did create a sudden-change situation when Tennessee punter Brett Kern fumbled the snap, recovering his own fumble at Tennessee’s 30-yard line. The Chargers turned that opportunity into a Nick Novak 44-yard field goal. The Chargers have a minus-3 turnover differential through three weeks.

Third down struggles: Heading into Sunday’s contest, the Chargers were converting an impressive 58.6 percent of their opportunities on third down, tops in the NFL. But against Tennessee, the Chargers finished just 3-of-9 on third down, including being 0-for-3 in the first half. Just a week ago, San Diego ran a season-high 79 plays against an up-tempo Philadelphia offense. However, that same offense managed just 53 plays compared to 68 plays for Tennessee. The Titans’ ability to effectively run the football also led to a 31:38 to 28:22 edge in time of possession.
Most significant moves: This is a thin roster, so there weren’t a ton of standout cuts here. But there were two veteran names of note to get the axe in the first year of the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era in San Diego. Tackle Max Starks and receiver Robert Meachem were cut. Neither were very good this summer. Starks was signed to be the left tackle. But he was beaten out by King Dunlap and then by young Mike Harris to be the swing tackle. Meachem, signed in 2012 by the previous regime to be the No. 1 receiver, was a disaster. The team is thin at receiver and Meachem is guaranteed to make $5 million this season. Still, the Chargers decided to move away from him. Other cuts of note were center David Molk and pass-rusher Thomas Keiser. Both were expected to have roles going into camp.

Going young: This is a team that is rebuilding and the 53-man roster shows it. All six draft picks (cornerback Steve Williams is on the injured reserve) made the team and three undrafted free agents -- safety Jahleel Addae, nose tackle Kwame Geathers and defensive end Brandon Moore -- made the 53-man roster. U-T San Diego reports it’s the first time since 2007 that every draft pick made the team and the first time in 10 years that three undrafted free agents made the roster. Telesco is looking for youth to make an impact. The opportunity is there for these youngsters.

What’s next: This roster is far from set. The Chargers are going to be a work in progress. I expect Telesco will tinker with the bottom of this roster for the next several weeks, maybe even all season. As an executive in Indianapolis, Telesco was known for his eye for talent and for being able to pick up pieces off the street. Thus, this is his time to shine. He has plenty of work to do in San Diego. The Chargers could use depth on the offensive line, at receiver, on the defensive line, at outside linebacker and in the secondary. The team’s special teams was weak in the preseason. That’s a telltale sign of poor depth. So, more players are needed. Among the players San Diego could potentially look at are receivers Lavelle Hawkins, Chris Harper, Russell Shepard, Tavarres King, linemen Ben Ijalana, Fernando Velasco, Jake Scott and Danny Watkins and defensive tackle Drake Nevis.

Players cut: CB Cornelius Brown, OT Nick Becton, DE Frank Beltre, S Sean Cattouse, TE Ben Cotton, CB Marcus Cromartie, LB Phillip Dillard, CB Greg Gatson, CB Logan Harrell, DE Jerrell Harris, RB Michael Hill, CB Josh Johnson, LB Thomas Keiser, WR Robert Meachem, CB William Middleton, LB Dan Molls, WR David Molk, OT Randy Richards, TE David Rolf, G Steve Schilling, OT Max Starks, WR Luke Tasker.
Max Starks was supposed to be the consolation prize at left tackle after the San Diego Chargers couldn’t find a blindside protector for Philip Rivers in free agency or in the draft. However, Starks’ stay in San Diego was short-lived.

In a move that had been expected, the Chargers released the former Pittsburgh starter. He was the biggest name among the 11 players San Diego cut Friday. They still have to trim 11 players to get down to the 53-man limit Saturday.

Starks was never really in the race at left tackle. Fellow free-agent pickup King Dunlap took control of the battle early. In the end, Starks lost his job because he couldn’t hold off second-year player Mike Harris. Harris, an emergency starter at left tackle last season as an undrafted free agent, will be the swing tackle.

Meanwhile, the Jets reportedly have cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay, who had spent the past four seasons with the Chargers. The Chargers don’t have much depth on the defensive line, and Garay knows the San Diego system if the team is looking for a veteran.

Raiders, Chargers on the bubble

August, 27, 2013
Here are two players each from the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers who may face being cut by Saturday’s 53-man deadline date:


Guard Mike Brisiel: He is not a great fit for the power-blocking scheme and he has missed time with injuries. But this is not a deep group. Oakland may not feel comfortable getting rid of him.

Tight end Richard Gordon: It would be a surprise, because he is a fine blocker. But Oakland is pretty wide open at tight end. If the Raiders feel like their other young tight ends offer more potential than Gordon, he could be sent packing.


Receiver Robert Meachem: If Meachem wasn’t guaranteed $5 million, there would be no doubt he would be cut. After a poor first season in San Diego last year the new brass isn’t seeing much from Meacham this year. The Chargers are not deep at receiver. But a lack of confidence in him could make his release possible.

Tackle Max Starks: He is battling the young Mike Harris for the swing tackle spot. Starks was signed to be the left tackle, but it seems like that is King Dunlap's job. I could easily see the Chargers go with Harris’ potential over Starks if the team doesn’t think Starks can start.
The Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers will enter the 2013 season with among the worst left tackle situations in the NFL.

According to the voters in our AFC West poll, the Raiders’ situation is worse than the Chargers’ at the position. We asked readers to vote on which team has it worse at left tackle entering the season. As of 6 p.m. ET Wednesday, 64 percent of the votes believe Oakland’s situation is worse, while 36 percent voted for San Diego.

The Raiders have issues because standout Jared Veldheer is expected to miss at least half the season with a triceps injury. Oakland currently has Alex Barron at the spot. He didn’t play in the NFL last year and he struggled in New Orleans on Friday. Oakland could look for other options at the spot, but there are currently no established left tackles on the roster.

Meanwhile, San Diego was unable to find a clear answer at the position in free agency or in the draft. They have King Dunlap and Max Starks, both signed in the offseason, competing. Dunlap is likely winning the battle. The Chargers used Mike Harris -- who started at left tackle as an undrafted rookie last year -- in practice during the weekend.

I can see why Oakland received the most votes because it seems like it’s in a tougher spot to start the season and that was the question of the poll. The good news for Oakland is Veldheer should play this season. The Chargers have no Veldheer to look forward to returning.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Poll: Worst left tackle situation

August, 20, 2013
The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have arguably the worst left tackle situation in the NFL heading into the season.


What team is headed into the season with the worse situation at left tackle?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,029)

The Chargers’ issues have been a reality all offseason. San Diego was unable to find a clear answer at the position in free agency or in the draft. They have King Dunlap and Max Starks, both signed in the offseason, competing. Dunlap is likely winning the battle. The Chargers used Mike Harris -- who started at left tackle as an undrafted rookie last year -- in practice during the weekend.

In Oakland, the Raiders have issues because standout Jared Veldheer is expected to miss at least half the season with a triceps injury. Oakland currently has Alex Barron at the spot. He didn’t play in the NFL last year and he struggled in New Orleans on Friday.

Oakland could look for other options at the spot, but there are currently no established left tackles on the roster.

Who do you think has it worse going into the season? Please take our poll. We will review the results Wednesday.