SAN DIEGO – The Chargers’ special teams became an asset in 2011 with an influx of young players, which bodes well for next season.
General Manager A.J. Smith and the player personnel department have found several kicking game contributors in recent NFL drafts.
A pair of Chargers from the last two drafts tied for the team lead in special teams tackles and a college free agent signed in 2010 ranked fourth in average yards per kickoff return (27.5).
San Diego’s kickoff coverage improved from 26th to 11th in the NFL, allowing 5.7 fewer yards per return.
“We do have a good core of young guys and I think it bodes well for our future,” Head Coach Norv Turner said.
The Chargers selected second-year safety
Stuckey arguably had his best game against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in Week 9. He collected two tackles on kickoff and punt coverages and also recovered an onside kick off the foot of
Gachkar, a linebacker, had the most productive rookie season by a Chargers seventh-round pick since Brandon Siler in 2007 (21 special teams tackles).
Undrafted rookie linebacker
Second-year long snapper
Veterans Tolbert and
Special teams often are the least-discussed aspects of football, but as a head coach, Turner knows the influence the kicking game has on the outcome.
“The first thing you want to do is always make sure you’re secure with the ball and you’re not giving up plays and field position because you’re mishandling the ball,” Turner said. “Then the next thing is: are you making plays that can impact the game? Game-changing plays?”
San Diego’s special teams made several in 2011.
In addition to his high NFL kickoff return rank (fourth),
The Chargers executed a pivotal fake punt Week 14 against Buffalo. All-Pro safety
In the season-opener against Minnesota,
The Chargers immediately signed Novak, who opened the season by making 12-straight field goals and set team records for makes of at least 40 and 50 yards (12 and four).
“We take pride in setting the tone and we enjoy being out there,” Stuckey said. “Special teams come out first regardless every game. We definitely know our role on the team and we strive to be consistent.”