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Position Battles To Look For Ahead Of The First Preseason Game For The Chargers

position battles Andy Terhaar via Flickr

NFL

Chargers Position Battles

Position battles are arguably the most entertaining and important part of preseason. Every year, each NFL team has at least one position battle that rages throughout the preseason. While these are often for depth positions and not starting roles, they do have ramifications throughout the regular season and into the post season. What if Kurt Warner had not won the battle for the 3rd starting position on the 1998 Rams? Then this moment wouldn’t have happened. Let’s get into it.

Running Back

While Melvin Gordon has a solid hold on the starting position and will see the lions-share of carries and receptions, there is an important position battle for the second spot. The players involved: fourth-year Chargers Branden Oliver, now wearing 32, and former New York Giant Andre Williams.

Branden Oliver, often compared to Darren Sproles, is kind of like a mini-Gordon. He’s tough, strong, and very quick, but his size puts a significant limit on his game. He’s been fairly injury prone as well, having missed the entire 2016 season. I think his game compliments Gordon’s better than Williams, considering I think the Chargers will use Oliver on some screens and draws to build on Gordon’s power running game. This was reflected when the Chargers released an unofficial depth chart that placed Oliver ahead of Williams.

Andre Williams brings great size and a bit of nastiness to the Chargers squad at 227-pounds spread over a 6-foot frame. The Boston College standout did fairly well for the New York Giants in his rookie year, managing 7 touchdowns and 721 yards but only 3.3 yards-per-carry. Last season, he played one game for the Chargers and managed 87 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s a bit slower than Branden Oliver and probably not as good of a receiver.

Edge: Oliver

Behind them, Kenneth Farrow, an undrafted rookie in 2016, battles former Eagle Kenjon Barner. These guys are probably fighting just for a spot on the roster. Although, Barner is listed as the starting kick returner right now so that could keep him on the team. This could go either way. Farrow got some touches late last season but failed to do much with it. Kenjon has a chance to nab the fourth spot from Farrow, but right now Farrow has the edge as the incumbent, according to the unofficial depth chart.

Interior Offensive Line

Of all the position battles, I think this one is the most important. Prior to second-round draft pick Forrest Lamp’s injury, the projection of the line was much more set in stone. Now it appears that Spencer Pulley and Kenny Wiggins have tentative grasps on the starting center and right guard roles respectively, with 2016 third-round pick Max Tuerk and 2017 third-round pick Dan Feeney waiting in the wings.

Both linemen showed promise but suffered injuries in college and that hurt their draft stock. Keep an eye on this one because it’s definitely subject to change. Personally, I think Dan Feeney will force Wiggins out sooner rather than later. Despite Wiggins having some experience playing in the NFL, Feeney is the superior talent.

The unofficial depth chart also lists Tuerk as the backup left guard and Feeney as the backup for both center and right guard. This is a little strange considering Tuerk was drafted as a center. The coaching staff appears to feel he will be at left guard.

The rest of the line appears set in stone with Joe Barksdale at right tackle, Matt Slauson at left guard, and Russell Okung at left tackle.

Edge: Pulley/Feeney

Free Safety

This position appears fairly wide open to me. Dwight Lowery, who manned the position with basically average results in 2016, is definitely the starter as of now. However, that could certainly change. If Desmond King, Rayshawn Jenkins, or Tre Boston outplay Lowery in practice and preseason, the coaching staff could fall in love and hand one of them the starting gig. Personally, I don’t think this will happen until later this season or even next season. However, I think Tre Boston will see significant playing time this season. Desmond King could transition to safety and be the long-term solution at the position.

Edge: Lowery (Keep An Eye On Boston And King Though)

Position Battles Summary

So that’s it. I think Oliver, Pulley, and Lowery keep their jobs for now, and Wiggins loses out to Feeney. The Chargers have several important position battles that are worth keeping an eye on, but these are probably the most important. The offensive line, in particular, will have massive ramifications on how they play this season. Whether I’m right or wrong, football season is back!

 

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