Mailbag: Breaking Down Two of the Top Position Battles

Q:  I get ragged on lots because I love preseason football. Bro, I love watching those diamond gems in the rough make a team like last year and Dexter McCoil. Tell me I'm not crazy lol. Thanks. – Jasper M.

A:  You are not crazy!  While it may not have the same drama as a regular same game, watching players scratch and claw their way fighting to earn a roster spot, and in the process, fulfilling a lifelong dream is one of my favorite moments of the year.  I vividly remember Dontrelle Inman scoring a 70-yard touchdown in 2014’s preseason opener vs. the Dallas Cowboys.  Fast forward two years and he started all 16 games for the Bolts in 2016.  That same game saw Branden Oliver break out, while others like Tyrell Williams, Jahleel Addae and so on used the preseason to launch their careers.  So I’m with you; the preseason is not only a necessary tool but one that provides dramatic storylines. I can’t wait to see who the next Charger is to use it as a springboard!

Q:  Where does Andre Williams fit in the running back personnel? Is he the primary backup to Melvin Gordon? – Stanley Agbulos

A:  Head Coach Anthony Lynn is on record saying he believes in using multiple backs.  While he plans to ride Melvin Gordon, the battle to back up the Pro Bowl rusher is going to be fascinating to watch. Branden Oliver, Kenjon Barner, Kenneth Farrow, and as you mentioned, Andre Williams, have all tasted success as a backup in the NFL.  The Bolts traditionally have carried six running backs or so into training camp, so there is a good chance another gets added either during or after the draft. As you noted, Williams is strongly in the running. After spending the majority of 2016 on the practice squad, he made a huge impression in the season finale when he toted the rock 18 times for 87 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.  How each running back fits into the rotation will be a big storyline to watch, and Lynn made it clear he is high on Williams’ skillset:

“I think Andre Williams is going to step up and do what he did his rookie year in New York.  Oliver, I’m happy to have him back.  I’ve watched him for a long time.  He was at the University of Buffalo. I think we’re pretty solid, (but) we’d like to add to it (so) don’t get me wrong…. Coming out of school and studying Andre, he’s a big back who ran with good power.  He’s a very disciplined athlete who has lost some weight.  He’s quicker now, and he still runs with power.  Just teach him some things out of the backfield and in the receiving game that can help him get more touches.  He’s going to be fine.”

Q:  With the absence of Brandon Flowers, who do you envision coming into that nickel role? Is that person on already the roster or will the Chargers pursue them through the draft? Thank you. – Marcus Reichert

A:   Like I mentioned with the running backs, history shows the Chargers will likely add at least a couple rookie cornerbacks.  A pair of Pro Bowlers are entrenched outside in Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward, but the battle for the nickel position is wide open.   Three returning corners from last year who figure to get a crack at it include Craig Mager, Trovon Reed and Trevor Williams. Then there is the pair of promising youngsters in Randall Evans and Mike Lee who are also fighting for the role.  At this moment, there is a five-man battle that is anyone’s game.  Since competition brings out the best, I am eager to watch the cream rise to the top.

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