San Diego Chargers: Kendall Reyes

SAN DIEGO -- I wanted to share leftover notes from the only open session for the San Diego Chargers' organized team activities this week.

The Chargers have another OTA practice closed to reporters Wednesday but will open things up to the media again Monday.

Oliver impresses: Undrafted rookie free-agent running back Branden Oliver caught my eye again Monday. The University of Buffalo product does not have elite top-end speed, running a 4.56-second, 40-yard time at his pro day. But he consistently showed good vision and quickness through the hole during 11-on-11 drills, with the ability to make defenders miss. Again, take this with a grain of salt because guys do not have pads on and no one is tackling anybody. But Oliver looks like he belongs so far running with the second and third units.

Depth at defensive end: The Chargers have a pretty good defensive end combination with Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes but not much depth behind those two. Lawrence Guy provided good minutes and had an impact as a spot guy last year. Sean Lissemore can slide out from nose guard and play defensive end. The Chargers also are hopefulDamik Scafe can stay healthy and play to his potential. The Boston College product had chance to make the final roster last season but suffered a foot injury and was released with an injury settlement. The Chargers brought Scafe back on the practice squad at the end of last season and signed him to a futures contract in January. Undrafted rookie free agent Tenny Palepoi also has shown flashes at times during practice.

Open competition at returner: San Diego has a lot of bodies competing for punt return duties so far during offseason work. Rookie receivers Brelan Chancellor, Javontee Herndon and Tevin Reese, along with veterans Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen, caught punts during the specialty period. I wouldn't rule out Royal or Allen handling punt return duties come September. Royal started 2013 as San Diego's main punt returner but yielded to Allen during the second half of the season due to a nagging toe injury. And Allen has said that he'd like to return punts again, although San Diego coach Mike McCoy might not like the idea of his No. 1 receiver fielding punts for a second straight year.

Competition at punter: A player to keep an eye on is undrafted rookie free-agent punter Chase Tenpenny, whose presence is viewed as a move to save veteran punter Mike Scifres' leg during the offseason. At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, the Nevada product looks more like a defensive end than a punter. Tenpenny, a left-footed punter, averaged 44 yards a boot at Nevada and finished with 30 punts out of 100 attempts downed inside the 20-yard line. Scifres had a solid 2013 season. He was among the best punters in the NFL in placing the ball inside the 20-yard line, finishing with a league-best 30 of 56 punts inside the 20. He can also kick field goals in a pinch. But Scifres turns 34 in October and is set to earn the second-highest salary among punters for the upcoming season at $3.25 million. Competition at the position could have Scifres thinking about taking a pay cut.
In this series we take a look at 12 players for the San Diego Chargers who are 25 or younger and who could be considered foundational or impact players.

Reyes
Player: DE Kendall Reyes
Age: 24

The skinny: Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Chargers out of the University of Connecticut, Reyes put together another solid season. At 6-4 and 300 pounds, Reyes finished second on the team in sacks with five and totaled 34 combined tackles -- not bad for a 3-4 defensive end mainly responsible for eating up blocks so the edge rushers can get to the quarterback.

Reason for optimism: Reyes' production is trending up, with 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons. So the expectation should be development into a more proficient pass-rusher and stout defender in the run game. In his first full year as a starter, Reyes started in every regular-season game and the two postseason games, playing in a career-high 686 regular-season snaps. Reyes also played through a couple nagging injuries, so durability has been a strength so far early in his career.

Reason for concern: Depth is an issue up front defensively for the Chargers, with only six defensive linemen currently on the roster. San Diego needs to add a couple of talented defensive linemen in the draft, or after the draft through free agency so front-line players like Reyes do not burn out by the end of the upcoming season, particularly if the Chargers make the playoffs again. San Diego also needs to consider how best to use the athletic Reyes to take advantage of his unique skill set as an early-down run stuffer, and a guy who can push the pocket in passing situations.

Morning links: Locker room culture

February, 28, 2014
2/28/14
10:30
AM ET
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, writing for Sports Illustrated, really does a nice job of explaining the complexities of an NFL locker room environment in this article. It’s a must-read this morning.

In this ESPN Insider piece Insider, draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. updates his draft board. Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks moves up the list after a strong performance at the combine.

Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego talks with Chargers defensive lineman Kendall Reyes, who sees growth on his team’s young defense.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has the Chargers selecting TCU cornerback Jason Verrett in his latest mock draft.

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated ranks Donald Butler at No. 46 and Chad Rinehart at 39 on his top 50 free agents list. Bedard also writes that Miami Dolphins' soon-to-be free agent nose tackle Paul Soliai would be a good fit for the Chargers. At the right price, I agree.

Judy Battista of NFL.com reports that the league is considering adding an extra official for preseason games to focus on interior line play. The official would be used on an experimental basis, and would not be employed during the regular season.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland has an interesting read on pro sports taking the next step in using analytics.
 
SAN DIEGO -- At 4-4 overall at the midpoint, the San Diego Chargers are about where they should be heading into the season's backstretch.

Quarterback Philip Rivers' bounce-back season has been one of the main storylines for this team, along with the return of a competitive spirit established by first-year head coach Mike McCoy.

Still, the Chargers face a daunting schedule if they want to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009. San Diego still has five AFC West division contests left -- two each against division leaders Kansas City and Denver.

 
SAN DIEGO -- Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, says his offense shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Indianapolis Colts do defensively in Monday’s matchup here at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Colts, led by defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, and more important, defensive-minded head coach Chuck Pagano, run a similar style 3-4 defensive front as little brother John Pagano, defensive coordinator for the Chargers.

“There are some similarities,” Whisenhunt said. “When you watch tape, you’ll see some things and say, ‘Hey I recognize that.’ But it’s different players. They run some things differently and when you get into some of the different varieties of it, whether it’s the sub packages, there are differences.

“But there’s no question that it helps that we’ve been able to go against the base defense when we’re going against Pags [John Pagano]. John [Pagano] does a nice job with our guys as far as what we see and that’ll help.”

While the schemes may be similar, the Colts pose more of a threat on defense because of the personnel on the side of the ball, including the NFL’s leading sack man Robert Mathis (9.5 sacks), along with ball-hawking cornreback Darius Butler (2 interceptions, one returned for a TD).

So the Chargers will have to do a much better job protecting the football than they accomplished against the Raiders last week, which leads to the first thing I’ll be looking for in tonight’s contest.

1. Ball security: Through five games, Indianapolis has forced 10 turnovers, including seven interceptions. The Colts forced just 15 turnovers all of last season, so this year’s defense is doing a much better job getting after the football. The Chargers turned it over five times against Oakland last week. If San Diego has a repeat performance, this game could be over by halftime.

2. Run the football: Yes, it would be great to see Philip Rivers sling the rock and put up another 400-yard passing day, right? Wrong. The Chargers ran for a paltry 32 yards last week. That’s not going to get it done. If Ryan Mathews is healthy, he should get at least 15 touches to keep the Colts’ defense honest.

3. Wrap-up: Indianapolis is in the top five in the league in rushing, averaging 142 rushing yards a contest. They’ve got a new toy in running back Trent Richardson, and they plan on using him. The Chargers are only giving up 117 yards a contest. It will be important for Corey Liuget, Cam Thomas and Kendall Reyes to play tough up front defensively, and for the back end of San Diego’s defense to make sure tackles in open space.

4. Make a play on defense: It’s been five games, and San Diego’s secondary has yet to haul in an interception. Defensive tackle Cam Thomas has the team’s only pick, and that happened on San Diego’s first defensive play of 2013. The Chargers need to make a couple of game-changing plays on defense to help flip field position, and steal a few possessions from Andrew Luck.

5. A special play on special teams: San Diego’s return game has yet to make a big play this season. Today would be a good day for one. Again, the Chargers will need to match scores with a pretty potent Indianapolis offense. And getting an impact play on special teams could help San Diego’s chances to stay in the game.

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