San Diego Chargers: Sean Lissemore

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.
Like most other NFL organizations, the San Diego Chargers are a team that builds and maintains its roster through the draft. General manager Tom Telesco doesn’t necessarily put any more value on securing impact players through the draft, versus trade or free agency.

But annually selecting rookies that can make an impact on a team’s roster is important, particularly when you consider the player will be under the team’s control for at least four years, likely at an inexpensive salary.

So getting detailed medical evaluations and vetting players through the intense interviewing process are the most important things for teams this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Of the 53 players that finished the season on San Diego’s roster, 23 were secured through the draft, compared to 27 free agents, two through trades, and one claimed off waivers.

The Chargers have seven original picks in this year’s draft, one in each round beginning with the No. 25 overall pick. So they will be paying close attention to the more than 330 players invited to this year’s combine.

Along with evaluating draft prospects, Telesco will have an opportunity to meet with middle linebacker Donald Butler's representation as the Chargers try to get him signed to a multi-year deal before he hits free agency next month.

Here are five things to keep an eye on regarding the Chargers.

1. Physical cornerbacks who can turn and run: A major area of need for San Diego is improving the overall talent and depth at cornerback. Last year’s top free agent signee Derek Cox likely will not be back after being supplanted in the starting lineup by Richard Marshall. San Diego’s 2013 fifth-round selection Steve Williams could work into the conversation at corner in 2014. The Cal product sat out his rookie year after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during preseason play. But the Chargers need to add a couple physical corners who can cover -- through the draft, free agency or trade. Some names to keep an eye on include Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy. Those players stand out to me because of their length, athleticism and playmaking ability.

2. Edge rushers needed: The Chargers have several veterans at this position, but you can never have enough athletes who can rush the passer. And San Diego struggled at creating consistent pressure, particularly on third down. Three guys potentially available on Day 1 of the draft who could make an impact include Missouri’s Kony Ealy, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, and Auburn’s Dee Ford.

3. A run-stuffing defensive tackle: San Diego gave up an average of 4.59 yards per carry on defense in 2013, No. 29 in the NFL. Cam Thomas started the most games at defensive tackle, but will be a free agent in March. Sean Lissemore finished as the team’s starter at the end of the season, but needs to add some bulk to effectively fill this position. San Diego could certainly use a two-gap defensive tackle to control the middle of the defense, similar to Dontari Poe in Kansas City. Potential candidates in the draft include Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III, Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman, and Penn State’s Daquan Jones.

4. Improved interior offensive line depth: With center Nick Hardwick contemplating retirement and veteran guard Jeromey Clary a potential salary-cap causality, the Chargers need to add some depth to the interior of the offensive line. Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Stanford’s David Yankey are the top rated guards in this year’s draft. And USC’s Marcus Martin could be the long-term answer for a team at center.

5. Add a couple explosive playmakers: San Diego could use some help in the return game. Keenan Allen should not be the team’s main punt returner. He’s too valuable on offense. And the Chargers could use someone with some juice in the kick return game. Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, and Oregon’s De'Anthony Thomas makes some sense because of their ability to create explosive plays on offense and in the return game. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers needs a few more weapons on offense to make his job easier, and all three of these players would fit the bill.
SAN DIEGO -- Good morning. The San Diego Chargers’ playoff chances were not helped by the Miami Dolphins (8-6) win at home against New England on Sunday.

However, San Diego’s path to the postseason remains the same. The Chargers need to win their final two games at home against Oakland and Kansas City, finishing alone at 9-7. Along with that, the Dolphins have to lose their final two games at Buffalo and at home against the New York Jets, coupled with the Ravens (7-6) losing two of their last three games. The Ravens travel to Detroit to face the Lions in Monday Night Football, then finish the season at home against New England and on the road at Cincinnati.

This projected playoff scenario using ESPN’s playoff machine shows the Chargers getting in at 9-7 as the last AFC Wild Card team, and traveling to Cincinnati for a rematch against the Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs.

Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated provides an updated look at the playoff picture after Week 15 results.

ESPN Dolphins beat reporter James Walker writes that Miami’s win over New England makes the Dolphins’ path to the playoffs simple -- win at Buffalo and at home to the New York Jets in the regular season finale and they are in.

In this ESPN Insider piece, Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus ranks the roster depth of every NFL roster. The Chargers are placed at No. 13 in the league, which I thought was a bit high. Jahnke: “The Chargers have used a nickel defense most often this season, which makes Sean Lissemore (+15.2), Lawrence Guy (+8.5) and Cam Thomas (+2.4) all backups -- with Lissemore standing out the most. Whether you consider Woodhead or Ryan Mathews the starting running back, both have played very well when called on. Ladarius Green (+9.3) also looks like a future star at tight end. The Chargers tried to fix the offensive line in the offseason, but it still has a little ways to go. Due to injuries, they lack players who can come off the bench and provide a pass rush off the edge.”

Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus takes a look back at San Diego’s big win over Denver last week.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego talks to Melvin Ingram about his long road back from ACL reconstructive knee surgery.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com offers five lessons learned from San Diego’s win at Denver.

Role players step up on Chargers' D

December, 16, 2013
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SAN DIEGO -- Because of injury or poor performance, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano has constantly juggled his starting lineup and defensive rotations this season.

[+] EnlargeThomas Keiser
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackThomas Keiser is tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks.
Some of the lineup changes have been a reaction to the type of offense his team faces from week to week. For example, in a win against at Denver last week, the Chargers mostly used a lineup of five defensive backs to match up with the Broncos' up-tempo passing attack.

The Chargers used a total of 16 players on defense against the Broncos. Recently, Pagano’s rotations have produced better results. San Diego’s allowed just 13.7 points per contest in the team’s last three games, two of which were wins for the Chargers.

“Play with a physical mindset, play a physical game and play with effort,” Pagano said have been points of emphasis in improving his unit’s performance. “Those are the things that take defensive players or defensive units to the next level, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Against Denver, the Chargers have held the explosive Broncos’ offense to an average of 24 points a contest in two games.

“They’ve got one of the best offenses in the history of the game,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said about his defense’s effort against the Broncos. “They’re very explosive, and everybody knows what they can do. So give John Pagano and his staff a ton of credit. That’s an outstanding performance by the defense.”

These role players on defense have stood out for the Chargers this season.

OLB Thomas Keiser: The Stanford University product began the season on the practice squad. But after season-ending injuries to Dwight Freeney and Larry English, Keiser was added to the active roster in Week 5 and took on more of a role as a third down pass-rusher. He’s tied for the team lead with a career-high 4.5 sacks and corralled his first interception of the season against Denver on Thursday. At 6-4 and 260 pounds, Kaiser has enough speed and strength to get home off of the edge and is improving his pass coverage skills.

LB Reggie Walker: Pagano calls him Mr. Opportunity. Signed by San Diego just before the season began on Sept. 2 after he was released by Arizona during final roster cuts, Walker has played all four linebacker positions for the Chargers. The Kansas State product has started in four games. Walker has 41 tackles, three sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

S Jahleel Addae: An undrafted rookie free agent out Central Michigan, Addae played mostly when the Chargers put six defensive backs on the field in obvious passing situations. However, Addae made his first start against Denver last week, finishing with two tackles. Addae has 31 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on the year.

CB Richard Marshall: The eight-year veteran took over for a struggling Derek Cox at cornerback three weeks ago, helping to stabilize the back end of San Diego’s defense. Marshall has 51 tackles and six pass breakups on the season.

DE Sean Lissemore: Picked up in a trade with the Cowboys this season for a seventh-round pick, Lissemore helped anchor a run defense that allowed just 18 rushing yards to Denver last week. Lissemore has 21 tackles, two sacks and an interception on the year.

Playing-time breakdown: Chargers

December, 3, 2013
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SAN DIEGO -- An examination of the snap counts from Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

OFFENSE (Based on 65 snaps)

Quarterback -- Philip Rivers 65.

Running back -- Ryan Mathews 36, Danny Woodhead 27, Le'Ron McClain 4 Ronnie Brown 1.

Wide receiver -- Keenan Allen 65, Vincent Brown 63, Seyi Ajirotutu 5.

Tight end -- Antonio Gates 60, Ladarius Green 60, John Phillips 4.

Offensive line -- D.J. Fluker 65, Jeromey Clary 65, Johnnie Troutman 65, Chad Rinehart 65, Nick Hardwick 65.

Offensive analysis -- With slot receiver Eddie Royal unavailable due to injury, the Chargers predominantly played two-tight end sets against the Bengals. Ladarius Green played a season-high 60 snaps. ... All five offensive line starters made it through the game without an injury taking them off the field for a second straight week. ... Philip Rivers finished 5 of 10 for 73 yards, no touchdowns and an interception on third down. ... Rivers 80.0 passer rating was his lowest this season.

DEFENSE (Based on 62 snaps)

Line -- Corey Liuget 43, Kendall Reyes 43, Cam Thomas 39, Sean Lissemore 25, Lawrence Guy 20.

Linebacker --– Donald Butler 61, Reggie Walker 59, Manti Te'o 56, Tourek Williams 45, Thomas Keiser 19, Bront Bird 2.

Secondary -- Eric Weddle 62, Marcus Gilchrist 62, Shareece Wright 61, Richard Marshall 61, Johnny Patrick 17, Jahleel Addae 6, Darrell Stuckey 1.

Defensive analysis: After being replaced in the starting lineup, cornerback Derek Cox did not play a single snap on defense for the first time this season. But Cox played seven snaps on special teams. ... Sean Lissemore played a season-high 26 snaps, totaling four tackles. ... After struggling to start the game, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton finished 8 of 13 for 149 yards and a touchdown in the second half. ... San Diego's defense has forced four turnovers the past two games. The Chargers' offense has scored just 10 points off of those turnovers.
All four San Diego Chargers on Friday's injury report are defensive players.

That’s not exactly ideal heading into a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on a short week. The Chargers, who blew a 21-point lead in the second half to Houston on Monday night, have to face the fast-paced, Chip Kelly Eagles’ offense.

Depth can become a problem if these injuries are an issue.

Only one San Diego player is listed as out -- rookie Manti Te’o. It is no surprise. The inside linebacker has not practiced since suffering a foot injury Aug. 8. Bront Bird will continue to play for Te’o.

The other San Diego players on the report are all probable. They are defensive ends Corey Liuget (shoulder) and Sean Lissemore (elbow) and safety Brandon Taylor (knee).
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
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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.

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