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Young WRs make cases
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SAN DIEGO – Aside from scouts and a few family members, most of the eyes at games follow the football.
Regardless of things that happen on the periphery, the leather spheroid determines the outcome. It’s no wonder it gets tracked so closely, often into the hands of a receiver.
As far as young, undrafted players go, then, it’s easy to see why San Diego’s trio of receivers has inspired interest.
“That position, you tend to get guys opportunities to jump out at you as compared to maybe a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “I think every team in the league has decisions to make at (receiver).”
Turner and Philip Rivers have been asked numerous times about the unproven wide receivers, beginning at OTAs in May. They’ve mostly given generic answers, telling the questioners it was too early to single anyone out.
That tune changed this week as a position group that originally included eight undrafted free agents without NFL experience whittled down to Jeremy Williams, Seyi Ajirotutu and Richard Goodman. While Turner avoided hinting which of them, if any, would make the roster after Saturday’s final cuts, he did offer a more detailed analysis Monday when asked about an Ajirotutu catch near the sideline that was ruled an incomplete pass against New Orleans.
“If I was doing the review upstairs I would’ve called that a catch. I thought he did a great job of getting that second foot in. It was a nice play so I may have to evaluate it based on that, but Tutu’s done some good things,” Turner said. “Obviously (Williams) has been consistently good throughout the entire camp. Goodman’s come on of late and been impressive in some of the things he’s done on the practice field and obviously on the returns.”
The evaluation process, Turner noted, will continue this week, especially Thursday during the fourth preseason game at San Francisco.
Ajirotutu, 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, leads the team with 106 receiving yards this preseason and is tied for third with five receptions.
“This is a very good opportunity. I get a chance to make this team,” Ajirotutu said. “(This game) is going to make or break if I’m on this team come next week.”
Goodman, 6-foot and 192 pounds, caught one pass for 12 yards and returned three kickoffs for a 37.7-yard average. He missed the third preseason game with a hamstring issue.
“Even if I don’t touch the ball and I’m covering a kickoff, I’m covering it like it’s the Super Bowl,” Goodman said. “I want to be a person who can contribute and help get the ‘W’ for the Chargers whether it’s covering a kickoff, returning a kick, (playing) receiver or even (playing) receiver and making some blocks.”
Williams, 6-foot and 203 pounds, caught one pass for nine yards, returned a punt for three yards and returned two kickoffs for a 28.5-yard average.
“This is my last chance. This is my big game,” Williams said. “I’ve had my share of rookie mind lapses, but I’ve been grinding and I’ve been making plays as well, so this weekend I’m going to try to do my best and make as many as I can.”
The Chargers are not mandated to keep a certain number of players at each position once the final roster is announced. It’s likely they will keep four or five spots for receivers, most or all of which will be filled by Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis and Josh Reed.
But there could be a spot or two available for one of the young guys as well.
The practice squad always is an option for San Diego to keep young players with the potential to develop, but it’s no sure thing from the team’s or player’s perspective. Making the 53-man roster is, and Thursday is the final chance for these three players to influence that decision.
“It’s just like a final exam when you’re in school. You put your most into it. You study like you’ve never studied before,” Goodman said. “But you’ve got to be comfortable.
“Everybody knows how big this game is for a lot of guys who are on the bubble, free agents and guys at my position, but just go out there and do what you’ve been doing in the first three preseason games. Obviously guys who are still here have been doing something right.”
FACING FORWARD: Former first-round pick Davis may get his most extensive chance to impact the Chargers since his rookie season.
After playing in 14 games in 2007, Davis suffered a groin injury the next season and got squeezed by other talented receivers last year.
Injuries, Davis surmised, have been his biggest difficulty. A tackler rammed his hip during a kick return in the preseason opener and he did not make a catch against Dallas. He returned to catch three passes for 41 yards at New Orleans.
Turner has maintained that Davis always has had the physical ability and does not count him among the group of players that needs evaluation in Thursday’s preseason finale.
“The couple of injuries he’s had, they’ve been pretty good hits,” Turner said. “I’ve got a pretty good understanding for what Buster can do so I don’t know that (playing him Thursday) is as important as some other guys.”
Davis understands the pressure for him to contribute on the field and stay healthy and said it comes with the responsibility of being a first-round pick. But he’s not going to worry himself to poor health or get into any verbal jousts about the subject.
“The season’s about to start. We’ll see,” Davis said. “It’s the only thing I can say.”
PRACTICE WEATHER: Sunny, 74 degrees. Read