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Safeties prepare for competition
SAN DIEGO – As the first-team units prepared for the first play of team drills during the second day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), safeties Eric Weddle and Kevin Ellison were lined up in the defensive backfield, as expected. The pair combined for 22 regular-season starts last year.
Though expected, the other safeties on the roster are not conceding the starting jobs.
Creating a depth chart months in advance of training camp in many instances is an exercise in futility. You’re more likely to produce a sheet of paper more illegible than the game book for a 21-inning baseball game than a meaningful indication of what the starting lineup will look like in September.
Four other safeties remain on the roster, including San Diego’s fourth-round draft pick Darrell Stuckey of Kansas.
Steve Gregory, Paul Oliver and C.J. Spillman each started at least one game last season for the Chargers.
So how will the roster spots and playing time get divided?
Ellison and Stuckey acknowledged competition within the unit but felt it a warranted and common byproduct of playing in the National Football League.
“I think at any position, when you’re in the NFL, you’ve got players that can play. None of us would be here if we weren’t somewhat capable of doing something,” Ellison said. “It’s simple. If you play bad, you get taken out.”
Ellison thinks a year of experience puts him in a better position than when he started last year as a sixth-round pick. He reached double-digit tackles Nov. 8 against the New York Giants and deflected two passes. He added eight more to the ledger against Cleveland and sacked Carson Palmer during a 27-24 win over Cincinnati late in the season.
“Any time you get live bullets, it’s gonna help you the next year,” he said. “You’ve seen it before. There’s a lot I’ve got to work on, definitely, but it does help to have some experience and knowing it’s not just a fresh and new thing.”
The athletic, versatile Stuckey conceded he needs to work on seeing the whole field and recognizing what’s happening but he won’t have to help turn around a team that’s won the AFC West four consecutive seasons.
The Jayhawks went 6-6 his redshirt freshman season at Kansas and he helped them produce an Orange Bowl victory by starting all 13 games the next year.
He smiled at the thought of joining a team he called a Super Bowl contender and relished the competition that will unfold soon.
“So far the safeties are pretty helpful,” Stuckey said. “They understand the best man will win the job. If you beat me out, you deserve it.”
“Get better every single day is the best thing I can do right now, because we’re all out there deserving to play,” Stuckey added. “There are minimal mistakes. I think the thing about competition is it makes all of us better and it forces the person who wins the starting job to be that much better.”