AFC West: Tom Telesco


SAN DIEGO -- Led by one of the best passing offenses in the history of the game, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos thwarted the San Diego Chargers' effort to reach the Super Bowl for the first time under quarterback Philip Rivers.

[+] EnlargeJeremiah Attaochu
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsJeremiah Attaochu's selection at No. 50 signifies a clear effort by the Chargers to improve their pass defense.
After the season was over, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and the rest of the team's personnel department made preparations to fix San Diego's deficiencies defending the pass. Through the first two days of the draft, the Chargers made an effort to close the gap with the AFC's favorite to return to the Super Bowl.

San Diego finished last season at No. 29 in passing defense, giving up 259 yards a contest. The Chargers also allowed 58 passing plays of 20 yards or more, tied for No. 24 in the NFL.

San Diego selected fiesty TCU cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round and moved up seven spots in the second in a trade with Miami -- giving up the No. 57 and No. 125 picks -- to grab Georgia Tech pass-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu at No. 50.

Those selections represent an effort for the Chargers to get better at defending the pass in 2014.

“As far as pass defense goes, it's rushing the passer and covering people,” Telesco said. “So it's not rocket science. We've got to get to the quarterback a little more, and we've got to cover people. Luckily we've got two guys that are high-energy players and high-motor players that also have really big-time athletic skills.”

At 5 feet 9 and 189 pounds, Verrett has the versatility to play on the perimeter or in the slot and the physicality to get to the quarterback as a blitzer.

Telesco said Attaochu, a quick-twitch pass rusher at 6-3 and 252 pounds, was the guy San Diego wanted on Day 2.

“He's a player that we had targeted early on,” Telesco said. “He'll get to the quarterback. That's his big thing. He's a relentless pass rusher with a huge motor. But then he combines that with an excellent first step, which is big for pass rushers.”

Telesco said Attaochu has played outside linebacker and defensive end, so he's a scheme fit for what defensive coordinator John Pagano wants to do.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Attaochu, a native of Nigeria who just started playing football his freshman year of high school, will have the benefit of learning from one of the best pass rushers in the game in Dwight Freeney.

“That's the first thing that I told him -- that you're very fortunate to be able to work with someone like Dwight Freeney,” McCoy said. “When Dwight came in here last year, from Day 1 up until the last game of the season, he was a true pro. Even before he got hurt, he was always out there trying to help the younger guys.”

Along with Freeney serving as mentor, McCoy said Attaochu can learn from the example fellow pass-rusher Jarret Johnson sets by the way he works.

Attaochu should be an attentive student.
SAN DIEGO -- During his pre-draft media availability with reporters Wednesday, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco was asked about the silly season that generally takes place during the lead-up to the draft, with teams providing misleading information to reporters and analysts in order to disguise their true intentions.

Telesco said with so much information on the draft available, he feels less compelled to make things up.

"It just seems like now there's so much media attention that you don't even have to lie anymore, because who knows what's right or wrong," Telesco said. "So I'd rather not tell you something than lie."

[+] EnlargeTom Telesco
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackTom Telesco is trying not to focus too much on the negative with more time to study before the draft.
Telesco also commented on having two extra weeks this year before the draft takes place in May.

"Initially I wasn't in favor of it," Telesco said. "But they make the rules, and we follow them. So if they're going to give us two more weeks, we're going to use it to our advantage.

"It has allowed us to do a little more extra information on people, do some extra projects we probably couldn't have done. But I think you have to be careful that you don't stare at the board too long. There's sometimes you look up there, and all you see is the negatives for every player, the longer you stare at it."

Telesco was asked about the blueprint the Seattle Seahawks used defensively to defeat the Denver Broncos, San Diego's AFC West rival, in the Super Bowl. He indicated the Seahawks haven't exactly reinvented the wheel.

"Fast and physical, everyone's looking for that," Telesco said. "They just executed better than anyone else right now. But we know what we have here. And we know on defense we have to be fast and physical, be able to rush people and cover people. Since Paul Brown that's what they've been trying to do."

Asked specifically about Seattle's penchant in finding tall, lanky cornerbacks who can cover like Richard Sherman, Telesco said finding those players is harder than it appears.

"Everybody has been looking for -- for years and years -- big corners that can cover," Telesco said. "I mean there's nobody that goes into the fall and says, 'You know what, I want some really small cover corners.' Everybody wants big and fast.

"Richard Sherman is a great corner. He's big. He's fast. He's physical. He plays the ball. He's what you want. But there's just not that very many of them. ... We need guys who can cover people, No. 1, and tackle. And if they come in a smaller size, they come in a smaller size. If they're average-sized, they're average-sized. But if you hold out looking for just Richard Sherman, you'll be waiting a long time."

The Chargers will have players report for training camp July 24 and hold the team's first practice July 25. San Diego is scheduled to hold a rookie minicamp May 16, a week after the draft.
Conservative and cautious in his approach to player acquisition, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has shown a willingness to be aggressive in the draft in order to get the player his team wants.

As vice president of football operations for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, Telesco was part of the decision-making process that sent a fourth-round pick (No. 97 overall) and a fifth-round pick in 2013 to San Francisco for a 2012 third-round pick (No. 92).

The Colts selected a pretty good player, receiver T.Y. Hilton, with that pick.

During that same draft, Indianapolis traded the team’s sixth-round pick (No. 172) to Philadelphia for offensive tackle Winston Justice and the Eagles’ sixth-round pick further down in the same round.

The Colts turned around and traded that sixth-round pick (No. 187) to the New York Jets for quarterback Drew Stanton, picking up the Jets’ seventh rounder (No. 214) later in the draft.

Indianapolis selected defensive end Tim Fugger with the pick from the Jets.

Running the draft on his own for the first time in 2013, Telesco traded a second-round pick (No. 45) and a fourth-round pick (No. 110) to Arizona in order to move up to No. 38 to take Manti Te'o.

So Telesco has shown a willingness to move around in the draft. I proposed a scenario earlier in which the Chargers could move down in order to pick up more picks in this year’s draft and add depth to this year’s roster.

In an interview with Fox Sports San Diego, Telesco talked about the flexibility of drafting at No. 25.

“At 25, it’s really difficult,” Telesco said. “So you have to be flexible. You set the board, and we talk about how the board has to talk to you. You can’t manufacture players, you can’t manufacture positions. So you have to be flexible at No. 25 -- not only position or player, but whether to trade up, down or wherever you may go.”

Telesco also discussed how the personnel department will manage the last few weeks of the draft. He said a lot of pre-draft preparation is the finalization of how a team will handle decision-making.

“We have players we like, now we have to figure out how to get them -- that’s the big thing,” Telesco said. “We go through a lot of scenarios looking at who’s going to be there -- which group of guys are going to be there, and how do we have them ranked. And then who are we going to take first -- and that goes through all positions.

“Those last couple days, we try and go through every possibility that could happen on draft day. So when draft day comes, we know exactly what our decision will be. And there’s not a lot of discussion at that point.”

While many mock drafts have San Diego selecting a cornerback in the first round, Telesco indicated he has high hopes for cornerback Steve Williams. A 5-10, 185-pound cornerback selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of Cal, Williams missed all of last season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in exhibition play against Chicago.

“Stevie Williams was having a great camp for us,” Telesco said. “He’s a nice man cover corner. He’s really quick, has some ball skills but unfortunately got hurt for us during the preseason. We looked at it as a redshirt year. He got a chance to get stronger in the weight room.”
Tom TelescoAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackComing off a playoff season, Tom Telesco hopes to build the Chargers into a perennial contender.
SAN DIEGO -- A patient decision-maker with just a week on the job, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco helped his new franchise make perhaps the most impactful move in recent memory when he hired Mike McCoy as the team’s new head coach a little over a year ago.

The detail-oriented McCoy, who had been the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator, led the Chargers to their first playoff appearance since 2009. Along the way, he resuscitated the careers of quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Ryan Mathews.

Telesco and McCoy have San Diego headed in the right direction, re-establishing a good working relationship between the personnel department and coaching staff that had turned sour under former head personnel man A.J. Smith.

Telesco and McCoy let their actions speak louder than their words. McCoy divulged little about his team in weekly conversations with reporters, concerned with leaking information to the opponent.

Telesco shares a similar approach, preferring to speak in generalities about his team’s performance. For now, the hushed approach has proved effective.

On the field, Telesco said he was attracted to McCoy’s knack for teaching his coaching staff and players what he wanted to accomplish, along with an ability to adapt.

“He’s direct with the players,” Telesco said of McCoy. “He defines what he wants from them, so there’s no gray area. So everyone knows what’s exactly expected of them, and I think that’s a great trait to have.

“We had some ups and downs, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a team in transition. And you saw on the field that sometimes we looked like a pretty good football team, while other times you could say we looked pretty far away.

“So we were a little inconsistent early in the year, but he always kept the players focused. Even when we were 5-7 and most people had counted us out, the players were locked in on Mike the whole time. And you saw that on the practice field every day.”

The Chargers were a surprise entry to the playoffs last season. But San Diego has several aging foundational players in place, including Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, center Nick Hardwick and safety Eric Weddle.

It’s the mild-mannered Telesco’s job in Year 2 to help provide McCoy with more tools to make a deeper playoff run in 2014, which means talent upgrades in the secondary and defensive and offensive lines, along with improving overall team speed through the draft and free agency.

Like most general managers, Telesco’s mantra is to build through the draft.

Telesco, 41, received his foundation for football while playing receiver at Division III John Carroll University in Ohio. And he cut his teeth in the personnel department of one of the best in the business, spending 15 years in Indianapolis under former NFL head personnel man Bill Polian. Indianapolis appeared in the playoffs 12 times, winning eight division titles and a Super Bowl during that time frame.

“He had a really great process with the way we did things,” Telesco said about his former boss. “We were very consistent. We tried to make as many good football decisions that we could, and that included taking opinions from everybody. One thing about Bill is he always listened to everybody, coaches and scouts -- and even younger guys like me when I first started.

“It doesn't mean he’s always going to go with what you said, but he always listened, which was great. We just worked the process, and we always stayed true to the process.”

The Chargers drafted well under the direction of Telesco in 2013, selecting right tackle D.J. Fluker in the first round, linebacker Manti Te’o in the second and offensive rookie of the year candidate Keenan Allen in the third round -- all key contributors in their first season.

Along with those picks, Telesco found some bargains in free agency, signing running back Danny Woodhead and offensive tackle King Dunlap to two-year deals, and offensive lineman Chad Rinehart to a one-year deal.

Rinehart returned to the Chargers on a two-year deal before the onset of free agency.

However, everything did not go perfectly. Telesco’s top free-agent signing, cornerback Derek Cox, struggled through the first half of the season, and was eventually replaced by Richard Marshall.

Signed to a $20 million, four-year deal, the Chargers released Cox last week, saving $1.65 million in cap space and $4.25 million in cash.

“All the decisions that we make in this business, you’re never right all the time,” Telesco said. “And you try and learn.”

With free agency set to begin this week, the Chargers have little cap space to make a big splash. So expect Telesco to use his seven draft picks wisely, and once again spend sensibly in free agency in pursuit of building the Chargers into a perennial Super Bowl contender.
San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco talked with reporters in San Diego for about a half hour on Wednesday on a wide range of subjects as his team heads into the offseason. The following are some of the highlights from that interview session.

The need for speed: The Chargers head into the offseason with 12 pending unrestricted free agents and seven selections in this year's draft. Telesco was asked about his team's priorities in terms of improving the product on the field moving forward.

“Offensively, we probably like to infuse some speed,” Telesco said. “The more weapons we can give Philip [Rivers] the better, so I think that'd be one. Defensively, one thing we have to do better is get off the field on third down, create some turnovers, which we started to do later in the year but at the beginning of the year we had a hard time forcing turnovers, so that'd be a couple things.

“Special teams wise, it would be nice to add a return game with some dynamic ability there. We've got two guys here that we have pretty high hopes for with Kerwynn Williams and Tobais Palmer, which were two of the better returners in college last year when they came out, so we'll see what they have.”

Telesco added that improving the pass rush also will be a priority this offseason.

[+] EnlargeTom Telesco
AP Photo/Paul Spinelli"We want to keep the core of this team together," said Chargers general manager Tom Telesco.
Talks with Donald Butler resume: On signing the team's own free agents, Telesco said that talks will resume, between the team and Butler's representation, in an effort to get the University of Washington product signed before the free agency period begins in March.

“We'll start working on that probably after the Super Bowl,” Telesco said. “We've been in contact with them, but I've enjoyed watching Donald play this year and I've enjoyed watching his growth.

“I remember just watching him, he played at Notre Dame his senior year with University of Washington, they lost in overtime. It was a great game and I came away from that game really liking a couple guys. He was one of them and I've been able to kind of follow his career from afar here and then now here this year. I've enjoyed watching him. He's a great guy to have around.”

Retooling, not rebuilding: Telesco was asked about the importance veteran players such as Rivers, Nick Hardwick, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle serving as mentors for the team's younger players. Telesco said coach Mike McCoy never saw his job in San Diego as rebuilding, but retooling a roster around a group of talented veteran players.

“We want to keep the core of this team together,” Telesco said. “When I arrived last year, there was already a great core of players here that we inherited and that we were lucky to have. You have to have those guys to teach the rookies and young guys the right and wrong way to do things.

“We never really saw it as a rebuild,” added Telesco. “We just thought we could keep adding pieces to this and keep going. We knew we had a lot of work in front of us, and we still have a lot of work in front of us.

“It's nice to have some momentum from this past year going into next year, but in reality we have to go back out and earn it again. What happened this past year is gone. We have to get it back in the offseason and really earn our way back again.”

Salvaging Derek Cox: Telesco talked about Cox's struggles in his first season. The second year of cornerback Cox's four-year, $20 million salary is guaranteed for injury only. If Cox is on San Diego's roster on the third day of the new league year once it begins in March, his $4.25 million salary is guaranteed. But releasing Cox in February after the Super Bowl, the proration of Cox's $3.9 million signing bonus would accelerate into the 2014 salary cap for the Chargers. So San Diego would save $1.65 million in cap space and $4.25 million in cash by releasing Cox. Telesco said the plan for now is for Cox to be around in 2014.

“He worked just as hard in practice after he wasn't starting anymore as he did before,” Telesco said. “He helped us on special teams. We will see where it goes, but will continue to work with him.

“There are no absolutes but sometimes guys need some time. That's why free agency is so hard. You take someone out of one environment and put them into another, not all the time are they going to flourish right away, so we will continue to work with him. This isn't the first time we have ever seen a free agent go from one team to another and have some bumps in the road right off the bat."

Telesco said that he does not know at this point if receiver Malcom Floyd will return from a serious neck injury that cut short his 2013 season. However, the plan is for edge rusher Dwight Freeney to come back from a torn quad and play next season. Freeney is set to make $3.5 million in non-guaranteed salary in 2014.

Manti Te'o on the rise: Telesco said the organization liked the development of middle linebacker Te'o in his rookie year, and believes he will take another jump of play in his second season.

“We are very pleased with his development,” Telesco said. “Everyone knows he got set back a little with the foot injury. He got his feet wet, learned on the run and the great thing is we saw positive steps every week.

“I can't remember where it was during the season, but it got to the point where three or four weeks in a row, you saw bigger steps every week. He ended up playing maybe a little bit over 50 percent of the snaps this year and ended up with over 60 tackles. Do the math. That's pretty good. I think he is one guy, with the position he plays, in a full offseason, I think we will probably see a big jump from him from his freshman to his sophomore year here. I am pleased with his development.”
The San Diego Chargers added four defensive players Sunday.

The team claimed defensive lineman Drake Nevis from the Indianapolis Colts and linebacker Terrell Manning from the Green Bay Packers. Earlier in the day, the team traded a 2015 conditional seventh-round pick to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, and signed linebacker and special-teams standout Reggie Walker. He was with Arizona.

Nevis is a good player who should help the defensive line depth. He was in Indianapolis with first-year San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. I think he can be a good player. All four of the players should help with depth and help San Diego’s special teams. it was poor in the preseason.

The Chargers added three players to the practice squad: tackle Nick Becton, linebacker Thomas Keiser and cornerback Marcus Cromartie. They were all cut by the team Saturday. The Chargers have five more openings on the practice squad.

Chargers begin to revamp

September, 1, 2013
A day after setting the 53-man roster, new San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco went to work, adding depth to a roster that needs to get deeper.

Telesco started with the defense. The Chargers acquired defensive tackle Sean Lissemore from Dallas for a conditional 2015 seventh-round pick. Lissemore adds to a thin position. He is a good fit for the 3-4 defense. The fourth-year player could be a rotational player.

The Chargers also signed linebacker Reggie Walker. He was previously with Arizona where he played for new San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and new San Diego special-teams coach Kevin Spencer. Walker is known for being a strong special- teams player. That’s vital. The Chargers were awful on special teams in the preseason.

To make room for Lissemore and Walker, the Chargers reportedly cut linebacker D.J. Smith and put defensive tackle Damik Scafe on injured reserve.

Running back Edwin Baker, cut by San Diego, signed with Denver’s practice squad.
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.

Chargers season prediction: 6-10

August, 28, 2013

For the long haul, I think the San Diego Chargers are heading in the right direction as they begin the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era. However, I am not convinced we will see immediate progress.

San Diego went 7-9 last season, the final one of the A.J. Smith-Norv Turner partnership. It was the first time the Chargers had a losing record with Philip Rivers as their starting quarterback, a stretch that dated to 2006.

I foresee the won-loss record getting slightly worse -- San Diego finishing this season 6-10 -- because the Chargers just aren’t very deep. Telesco and McCoy are the right men for the job. They will turn this team around.

But for the immediate future, I think the Chargers may struggle. They are dangerously thin at key spots.

The offensive line is not up to par and I think it will have a difficult time giving Rivers the necessary protection. The receivers group is injured and could suffer further damage as the season goes on.

I like the core of the defense, but there are pass-rush questions and depth issues in the secondary. This is what the Chargers are: a promising work in progress. But for the short term, that could mean a losing season in the first year of the new regime.

Predicted finish in AFC West: third
The San Diego Chargers' signing of Richard Marshall on Friday was a move that smart teams make.

Sure, the Chargers have bigger needs at other positions, including receiver and offensive line. But this is an overall thin roster and they need help at cornerback, as well. When a solid player becomes available, he should be pursued. Kudos to new general manager Tom Telesco to secure Marshall, who was cut earlier this week by Miami.

He signed a one-year deal. Terms were not immediately available, but I am sure they are not detrimental to the team.

Marshall is not a defense-changing player, but he will help. Marshall, 28, could end up starting opposite free-agent pickup Derek Cox. Shareece Wright is slated to start, but he doesn’t have the experience Marshall, who is known for being a strong leader, has. At the least, Marshall should be the nickel cornerback. This addition lengthens the Chargers’ talent and depth at the position.

Marshall’s signing in San Diego is fairly natural. He played for San Diego head coach Mike McCoy and secondary coach Ron Milus in Carolina and San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona.
A look at keys for the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night when they head to Chicago for their second game of the preseason. The game will be shown live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET:

Stay healthy: There have been numerous injuries in the NFL this summer and arguably no team has been hit as hard as the Chargers. They have had several key players go down. San Diego did not have much depth to begin with, it cannot afford to absorb many more serious injuries. This team has been ravaged by injures the past few years, and, sadly, it seems like the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era is starting with the same adversity.

The receivers: With Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out with injuries, receivers like Vincent Brown, rookie Keenan Allen and backups Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem must step up now and show they can have a strong bond with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The running backs: Starter Ryan Mathews was solid in a cameo role last week. Versatile backup Danny Woodhead should make his debut in this game. With the receiving crew thin, the Chargers will have to show they can run the ball.

The offensive line: The first unit played well against Seattle last week and many members of the organization is confident in the group. Another strong outing against a good defense will further instill confidence in a unit that's one of the biggest concerns for the team.

Dwight Freeney: He played well last week in a limited role. Freeney put pressure on the quarterback and showed a good burst. He needs to do it again. The Chargers are depending on Freeney as the team’s best pass-rusher. Star safety Eric Weddle said opposing teams will have to game plan for the 33-year-old Freeney.

Last week, when starting San Diego receiver Danario Alexander was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his knee, both general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy said the Chargers had enough depth at the position not to worry about finding a veteran receiver.

They have to re-evaluate that plan even after it appears the team dodged a huge problem. Initially, the Chargers thought the team’s other starting receiver, Malcom Floyd, suffered a torn ACL on Monday. However, the team says initial results showed he has a knee strain. Floyd will be further examined.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Floyd will send the MRI results to other specialists, including Dr. James Andrews, to confirm the initial diagnosis of a strained knee. Even if the initial diagnosis is accurate, it is expected that Floyd will not return until the regular-season opener and possibly not until Week 2.

This scare should be a lesson to the Chargers’ brass. They must go find a veteran.

Going into training camp, the Chargers’ receiving crew was considered fairly deep. But the potential problem was nearly every player in the group had big injury histories, including Alexander and Floyd. The other four receivers in the rotation, Vincent Brown (who missed all of last season with an ankle injury), rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem have all been considered fragile in the past.

Thus with these issues already popping, San Diego needs to go find some insurance.

One of the reasons the Chargers didn’t sign a receiver when Alexander was hurt was the team wasn’t thrilled with the available class of veterans. Now, with the need growing, the Chargers may not have the luxury of being choosy. Two veterans initially come to mind -- Brandon Lloyd and Laurent Robinson. Lloyd played for McCoy in Denver and Robinson was in the Chargers’ camp two years ago and has worked with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Neither one of these players would come in as top-of-the-rotation players, but they would add depth to a position that is becoming increasingly vulnerable in San Diego.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting tight end Dallas Clark could sign with an undisclosed team this week. Could it be in the AFC West?

Oakland could use a veteran tight end as it tries to find production from several inexperienced players. Oakland coach Dennis Allen has often said the Raiders would be open to a veteran at the position. Denver is solid at tight end, but he played with Peyton Manning for years in Indianapolis. Clark has ties to new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco from their Colts’ days together. Tight end depth is decent in San Diego, though. Kansas City is deep at tight end.

Tight-end needy contenders such as Baltimore and New England could be favorites to land Clark.

In other AFC West notes:

Kansas City rookie right tackle Eric Fisher was of practice Sunday with a shoulder ailment. He told the Kansas City Star he plans to play Friday against San Francisco. It was reported that Fisher had a minor hand injury after the New Orleans game Friday. Fisher, the No. 1 overall draft pick in April, looked good in the game.

U-T San Diego chronicles the adversity Chargers’ top pick D.J. Fluker’s family has overcome. Check this story out.
SAN DIEGO -- Gone is the omnipresent GM lurking from the large deck that hovers over the practice field.

Gone is the comfortable head coach who went at his own pace.

It’s a new day for the San Diego Chargers. There is new energy in America’s Finest City.

Change was badly needed. The Chargers arguably had the best roster in the NFL five years ago, but it never paid off. The lack of success finally cost general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner their jobs after another lackluster season in 2012.

The Chargers’ fans demanded new leadership for the stagnant franchise. They got their wish. The Chargers now have some of the youngest, freshest leaders in football as the team moves past the stale days of the Smith-Turner era.

Smith was famous for watching practice from the deck of his office. New general manager Tom Telesco, 40, watches practice from the sideline. There are no messages of pecking order being sent from the general manager’s office. Telesco, in a camp-issued T-shirt and shorts, could easily be mistaken for an equipment manager.

The head-coaching switch from Turner to Mike McCoy, 41, is almost as distinctive as the change at GM. McCoy’s practices have appeared to be crisper and more detailed-oriented than in the past. There isn’t much downtime in San Diego’s practices. Everyone’s moving at all times. That wasn’t always the case under Turner.

“I think we’re getting a lot done,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Coach McCoy clearly has a plan. It’s been impressive. ... The big thing is everyone has bought in to him. The reality is we are .500 over the past three years. It was pretty easy to buy in what’s now going on here.”


[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziPhilip Rivers threw 15 picks last season to just 26 touchdown passes.
1. The quarterback: Rivers is a major focal point of this training camp. Telesco hired McCoy, Denver’s former offensive coordinator, with an eye toward fixing Rivers. The quarterback has struggled the past couple of years, particularly with turnovers. McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the former head coach of Arizona, form a strong quarterback-coaching tandem and quarterback coach Frank Reich is also highly regarded. All three men believe in Rivers, and it seems to be paying off. Rivers has looked fantastic in training camp. His confidence is high, and his passes are accurate. It is vital for both Rivers and the Chargers that he has a good season and the team continues build around him. If not, it could be a crossroads season for both the franchise and Rivers’ career.

2. The offensive line: Because of injuries, this unit has been terrible the past couple of years. No matter how much Rivers improves, he won’t have much of a chance if he doesn't have protection. The Chargers' line has four new starters. It is not a great unit, and there will be some growing pains. But the group is getting rave reviews for being athletic and tough. Rivers is impressed and trusts the group. He thinks it’s deeper with players such as rookie D.J. Fluker at right tackle and veterans King Dunlap and Max Starks competing at left tackle. Dunlap is leading the race. But if there are injuries, this group appears better equipped to weather them than last year's squad.

3. The rookie linebacker: The Chargers are thrilled with inside linebacker Manti Te'o. He will start in the team’s 3-4 schemes. He has looked good in training camp and has fit in with the locker room. The hoax he was involved in at Notre Dame is not a factor. The Chargers love the way he works and practices. He is instinctive, and he plays faster on the field than his combine times suggested. The Chargers think Te’o is ready to make a big impact.


[+] EnlargeManti Te'o
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsThe Chargers are happy with the progress of second-rounder Manti Te'o, who's slated to start at inside linebacker.
The Chargers are loaded with young talent on defense. Any defense that has Eric Weddle at safety, Te’o and Donald Butler at inside linebacker and Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes at defensive end is an impressive group.

I think these players will be the core to one of the better defenses in the coming years. The Chargers are doing backflips over the combination of Liuget and Reyes. Liuget is entering his third NFL season, and Reyes is entering his second. Liuget was terrific all of last season, and Reyes showed serious pass-rush potential toward the end of the season.

While this defense has some holes, there are some exciting pieces here.


The Chargers are pretty thin in a lot of places. I think this team is on the rise, but it may not be a quick fix. There are too many positions where depth is an issue.

San Diego has dealt with the injury bug already. Pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, the No. 18 overall pick in 2012, suffered a torn ACL in May. Starting receiver Danario Alexander and backup linebacker Jonas Mouton suffered the same injury during camp.

Alexander's and Ingram’s injuries are particularly worrisome. This team can’t afford to lose high-end talent before the season starts. Other positions vulnerable to injuries include the offensive line (even though the depth is better than in the past), defensive tackle, edge rushers and the secondary. There isn’t much wiggle room on this roster.


  • The Chargers appear to be well-coached. The influx of offensive coaches and the return of several defensive coaches, led by coordinator John Pagano, makes for a nice mix. Most of the new blood was needed on the offensive side of the ball.
  • The team feels great about Dwight Freeney, who was signed to replace Ingram. The Chargers are convinced Freeney still has something left in the tank and will be a difference-maker.
  • The Chargers like the progress of nose tackle Cam Thomas, who they think is ready for a breakout year. Coaches and teammates are talking him up big.
  • San Diego is looking to add depth on the defensive line. Free agent Justin Bannan on is still on the team’s radar. I think we will see the Chargers be active on the waiver wire at a few positions.
  • Free-agent guard Chad Rinehart is showing solid leadership skills.
  • The team loves free-agent running back Danny Woodhead. He has been a camp star and should take pressure off starter Ryan Mathews. Expect to see Woodhead used in several different ways. He could be a poor man’s Darren Sproles, perhaps.
  • Yes, tight end Antonio Gates hasn’t had a superstar season in years because of injuries, but the team likes what they see from him. He may have another year or two left in the tank.
  • Ladarius Green, Gates’ potential successor, is still growing. But he has shown flashes. He has natural pass-catching ability.
  • While there are questions at cornerback, the Chargers feel like Derek Cox and Shareece Wright will be an upgrade over last year’s starting duo of Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason.
  • Rookie quarterback Brad Sorensen has been up and down. He has a good enough arm to keep him on the 53-man roster.
  • Cornerback Johnny Patrick has looked good. He could see a lot of action in nickel situations.
  • Fifth-round pick Tourek Williams is getting looks at both defensive end and outside linebacker. The team would like for him to contribute at linebacker.
  • Robert Meachem, a big-money, free-agent bust last season, has been given new life after Alexander’s injury. Still, I have my doubts that Meachem will make much of a difference. He hasn’t been a standout in camp.

Chargers camp notes

August, 7, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- Thoughts from the Chargers’ training camp practice Wednesday:

Coach Mike McCoy spoke to his team for an extended period at the conclusion of practice. He has the attention of this team.

McCoy, 41, was asked to reflect on his journey to coaching on the sideline Thursday night against visiting Seattle in his first game as a head coach. He credited several coaches in his life all the way down to his Little League days and his parents’ upbringing.
  • U-T San Diego reports starting receiver Vincent Brown will not play Thursday. It is not surprising. He is coming back from a hamstring injury. It doesn’t appear that running back Danny Woodhead will play, either. He has been out with an undisclosed injury for nearly a week.
  • McCoy backed up general manager’s Tom Telesco’s tact that the Chargers have good depth at receiver even after the season-ending knee injury starter Danario Alexander suffered Tuesday. Alexander’s career has been intercepted by major knee injuries since his college days. McCoy expressed how badly he felt for Alexander. Fellow receiver Robert Meachem called the injury “heartbreaking.”
  • McCoy expressed how little the current depth chart means. He said all it is, at this point, is “a piece of paper.” Lots of jobs still to be won and lost, starting with Thursday’s preseason opener.