So Mini Camp is over and now the players get to relax for a few weeks until they gather again for training camp, and then the pre-season. For some, the work cannot stop as they’re fighting for a job, fighting for their livelihoods and for a spot on the team’s final roster.
As the season gets closer everyone knows that cuts are coming but everyone is doing their best to keep their head above water.
Throughout the pre-season everyone is doing their utmost to impress their position coaches, the co-ordinator and the Head Coach.
As we have seen on shows such as Hard Knocks, every player is trying to avoid that dreaded summons into the office for a talk with the Coach and/or GM. It’s never nice when a player is released, but some are more expected that others. In this article I’m going to look at a few players who are on the so-called roster bubble for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Travis Benjamin carries a cap number of $7m for the 2018 season, which is the third year of the 4-year deal he signed with the Chargers in 2016. The team could save themselves $4.5m ($2.5m dead money) if they cut him loose.
The Chargers haven’t got good value for money for Benjamin, in my opinion. In his final season in Cleveland, in 2015, Benjamin almost had a 1,000 season with 977 yards on 68 catches. 18 of those catches were over 20 yards and 6 were over 40! But that year has been his peak thus far in his career.
For the Chargers, Benjamin hasn’t topped 700 yards in either of his two seasons with the franchise. Even in his debut year, when Keenan Allen was out for 15 and a half games and therefore wasn’t catching 100+ footballs, the receiver couldn’t hit the heights.
Couple the sub par production with the soft play, returns gaffes and fumbles, which have littered his time in a lightning bolt and you begin to see why Travis Benjamin is on the roster bubble.
Whilst they’re not the same kind of receiver, Dylan Cantrell and Mike Williams will be looking to make an impact in 2018, which could lead to less snaps and less production for Benjamin and therefore makes that cap number look even bigger.
If one or both of, Artavis Scott or Geremy Davis make a leap, the 7th year veteran could be looking for work.
The Chargers’ kicker battle is in session folks! In an attempt to avoid any more kicker based embarrassment in 2018, Tom Telesco brought in both Caleb Sturgis and Roberto Aguayo – now we have our self a competition.
Anthony Lynn is looking at exactly that and wants the best man to win, be a “consistent kicker” and “stick around long term”. Tom Telesco knows he put his HC in a tough spot last year with the special teams personnel choices he made. None infuriating fans more than seeing Josh Lambo hit the game winner in the game versus the Jags.
Looking forward, Sturgis is on a 2 year deal in Los Angeles, whereas Aguayo is on a futures/reserves contract with zero guaranteed dollars, so looking at the numbers it would seem like Aguayo is more likely to be on the roster bubble. However, if you listen to everything coming out of camp with regards to the kicking competition and it’s Aguayo who is nailing everything.
It remains one to watch throughout training camp and the pre-season…
It’s another genuine camp battle and another veteran with a roster spot to win or lose.
Tom Telesco has done a nice job of creating competition in different areas this offseason and the Quarterback position is one of those areas.
We all know that Philip Rivers is starting week 1 and we all know that if all goes to play he’s going to start every game the Chargers play in 2018. We also know Rivers can’t go on forever so the franchise has to have at least half an eye on the future.
The Bolts don’t usually carry three QB’s on their 53 so it cones down to Geno Smith vs. Cardale Jones for the QB2 spot behind number 17.
Smith has more experience in the league, but Jones has been in the Chargers’ system for the past year. Who will beat the other out in training camp and the warm up games? Both have a history with Coach Lynn from previous teams, the Jets and Bills too, so this one is a close call. Expect whoever wins this job to have to defend it each year until the next franchise QB is found, too. It’s most likely not going to to Smith or Jones but they’ll hope to become premium backup options at pro sport’s most important position.
Hayes Pullard could be the most likely player to be cut from the Chargers roster. Denzel Perryman is going to be back from injury for the coming season and looks ready to assume his role as the leader of the linebacking corp.
When he was in the starting line-up last year, Pullard didn’t impress anyone. He missed tackles, he blew assignments and he looked sluggish, and whilst Perryman isn’t perfect, he’s a heck of a lot more effective than Pullard.
The Bolts invested two of their seven draft picks in Linebackers in Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White (who will be moving from Safety to Will Linebacker) and whilst these guys aren’t in direct competition with Pullard, it shows that the front office are looking to upgrade that area of the team. They also have an undrafted free agent by the name of D’Juan Hines who is impressing the coaching staff and could push Pullard really, really hard for that spot on the team, especially given that the Chargers usually get at least one UDFA on to the final 53. Definitely doesn’t help his case when PFF rated him not only the worst Linebacker, but the worst defender… in the entire league.
Saved from the bubble: Corey Liuget
Corey Liuget probably would have been on the bubble had he not agreed to restructure his contract back in April, which meant his pay was cut significantly.
Liuget has been hit with a 4-game suspension to start the season and the Chargers also spent a third-round pick on another 3-tech, Defensive Tackle in Justin Jones.
Is Jones here to replace Liuget? Maybe. Liuget’s snaps were cut in favor of Darius Philon towards the end of last season and the Bolts troublesome run defense actually improved.
Liuget won’t get cut this year but if Giff Smith (Chargers Defensive Line Coach) develops Jones over the next 12 months, Liuget’s roster spot could be under threat.
Check back a year from now for that one.
– Lee Wakefield is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @Wakefield90