Finishing week 4 of the 2012 season has been quite inspiring for the San Diego Chargers. Despite a few players with acute injuries, the teams depth looks very respectable. Three key backup replacements get very good praise: Aubrayo Franklin, Mike Harris and Jackie Battle.
Incumbent Nose Tackle Antonio Garay has yet to play this season, but his replacement, Aubrayo Franklin, has played admirably. Franklin is the heavy anchor of the 3-4 defense, with reputable experience (and has probably earned the starting spot). San Diego has the luxury of having three solid nose tackles on the roster. Franklin, with current backup Cam Thomas, are as good as any nose tackle tandems in league. San Diego’s run defense is outstanding and have not allow a 100 yard rusher this season (like notable opposing running backs Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner and Jamal Charles). Garay’s San Diego’s future is now question, as rumors swirl of his release. Garay is not the player he once was and still remains inactive, but Garay is a club house leader has versatility. He can be moved to defensive end (which can save his job, but probably not longer than 2012).
Undrafted Rookie Free Agent Mike Harris filled in at Left Tackle for the first three weeks and has shown glimpses of starting material, but he is still very raw and needs more training and experience He is a good swing tackle to have on the team and can backup both offensive tackle spots. His combination of coach-ability, foot-work, heart and size proves he will be in San Diego for a long while. It was a huge bombshell to see Harris start the first three weeks of 2012, but he played as well and held off respectable pass rushers in Cameron Wimbley and John Abraham. But starting left tackle Jared Gaither (with new contract) finally returned from a mysterious back injury that had him miss all of the preseason and first three regular season games. Gaither played well in week four against the Chiefs and needs to get back into “football shape.” Gaither is a huge impressive mountain of a lineman, and has a knack of playing well when you throw him into the fire, but missing time protecting Quarterback Phillip Rivers is probably the most important job on the team. Gaither is really is a “plug and play” left tackle and is the best offensive lineman on the team.
Running Back seems to be a mystery in San Diego. Ryan Matthews has shown glimpses of greatness and is a 1st round draft pick, but small, nagging injuries seem to cause him to miss playing time in his brief career. Matthews broke his collar bone on the first play of the first preseason game, causing him to miss the first two regular season games. Matthews much anticipated return in week three showed his explosiveness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but also included a goal line fumble (which may have shaken up trust factors within the coaching staff). Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley and Ronnie Brown are all solid back ups, but neither of them are “complete backs” like Matthews should be (can be). Battle was listed at the bottom of the running back corp but has nows shown some moxie in the power game, got the start against his former team the Chiefs in week 4. Battle had two touchdowns (rushing & receiving), so look for Battle to get more playing time, which can take away some Matthews touches. Both Matthews and Battle can be an explosive 1-2 punch, which will take pressure of the passing game.
Corner back, Nickle back, and the New guy:
Second year backup corner back Shareece Wright looked very good in preseason and has a lot up upside. Wright played very well in the preseason and has great speed that can create an instant impact for the Chargers secondary (who really needs his depth at corner back). Wright’s standout special teams play was expected to earn him additional playing time and as starting nickle corner in 2012. But Wright hurt his ankle very early in week one, and he’s yet to play since. San Diego signed veteran corner back Chris Carr to fill in for Wright for the moment. Carr has starting experience (and can return kicks and punts), so he is much more than a “fill-in” type. Carr can really find a home on this team if he plays well. Starting corner backs Antoine Cason and Quinton Jammer have their ups and downs and are both free agents after this year. Neither have been playing as well as hoped, but Jammer is playing with a broken hand and is very tough . Marcus Gilchrist,the other backup corner back and last years nickle corner, has the ability to eventually become a starter too, but he has been banged up this year too.
2012 depth looks very good for the Chargers, and the future is inspiring for San Diego fans…