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Los Angeles Chargers:  Top Position Battles, X-Factors and Roster Decisions

Training camp is slowly but surely on the way and the 2017-18 season is on the horizon. The Los Angeles Chargers are one of those teams that should be much better than they actually are. But time and time again they are consistent at being inconsistent. Whether it’s injuries, turnovers or just bad luck, this team has struggled as of late. However, things are looking good for the Bolts ahead of this season. If they stay healthy and play inspired football with a new coach and new city, 2017 should be a great year for them.

With a revamped offensive line, an improved defense and a versatile offense, the Chargers will try to get back to the playoffs. The Chargers added more depth to both sides of the ball because of free agent acquisitions and the draft. Here is some more insight on the Chargers roster as training camp starts.

Top Position Battle: Tight End

The Chargers have a unique battle which should be called the “teacher vs. student”.

In this case, the teacher is Antonio Gates. He has been a key member of this franchise for 15 Hall of Fame worthy years. Gates has accumulated 897 receptions, 11,192 and 111 touchdowns. From the looks of it, Gates still seems to have some left in him. When he retires he might have every tight end record there is. Gates may still be the No.1 tight end and go to player on the team but there is a young, talented player who is creeping slowly but surely to that position.

Hunter Henry is Gates’s student and he is excelling when it comes to playing tight end. With a solid rookie season under his belt, Henry is eyeing for the No.1 tight end spot. He is athletic, fast for his size and a crisp route runner. He was a valuable target for Philip Rivers as he posted 36 receptions, 478 yards and eight touchdowns. Gates may be the better red zone situational player but could Henry become that first and second down target the team needs?

When you watch the Chargers this year, keep an eye on their tight end rotation. These two complement each other well but I guarantee both will be playing to earn the title of the top tight end on the depth chart. This may seem like an issue but for Philip Rivers should love it. He has two solid tight ends to go to, making his job so much easier.

Biggest X-Factor: Jason Verrett

Jason Verrett aka “Mighty Mouse” is coming off a torn ACL which ended his 2016 season abruptly. But when he is healthy, Verrett is one of the most productive and reliable corners in the NFL.

In his second season, Jason Verrett made the Pro-Bowl with 47 tackles, three interceptions and two tackles for loss. But what makes Verrett stand out the most is his ability to cover in man to man situations.

In 2014 and 2015 alone, no outside corner has been more effective. In 510 snaps, he has the highest percentage of coverage stats with a positive grade than any cornerback. Better than Richard Sherman, Marcus Peters, Josh Norman and all the corners you know and respect.

The Los Angeles Chargers have improved their secondary tremendously this offseason, which will allow Verrett to excel in Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s new scheme. If Verrett can stay healthy for a full season, look for him to be a huge X-Factor for the Chargers this season.

Veteran on Notice: Keenan Allen

Keenan Allen is another important player that has suffered a torn ACL for the Chargers. Over the last two seasons Allen has missed crucial time, which is the reason why the Chargers drafted a wide receiver in the first round of the draft this year.

Allen has the talent to be one of the best receivers in the game and a perennial Pro-Bowl caliber player. Nobody is denying his ability to play at a high level. But what could be questioned is his availability. This upcoming season could potentially be the most important year in Allen’s career. It is time for him to produce a full season and help this Chargers offense go to another level. Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin are all solid but we all know Rivers’ No.1 target is Keenan Allen.

Will it be Comeback Player of the Year type of season for the former California Bear or another disappointing season on the sidelines? 

Potential Surprise Roster Casualty: Corey Liuget

Corey Liuget is a player who really under performed in the 2016 season.  Many assumed that the rookie Phenom Joey Bosa would actually help and take pressure Liuget to benefit his performance. But that hasn’t been the case.

The lack of depth on the defensive line should keep Corey Liuget from getting cut. But maybe reconstructing his deal is called to action. He is not living up to his five-year, $51 million dollar deal. In 495 pass rushes, Liuget failed to get a sack. That number should speak for itself.

Liuget has age on his side because he is a young 26-year-old defensive lineman. He has time to redeem himself. Maybe under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s new 4-3 scheme, we will see a new and an improved Liuget. But if he still continues his struggle, look for the Chargers to make a change.

Most Crucial Rookie: Mike Williams

Teams do not use their No.7 overall draft pick on a receiver unless the organization knows for a fact he is the real deal. But we won’t know if Mike Williams is the real deal until he is available to play.

Once again, the Chargers were hit with injury bug when they found out that Williams had suffered a lower-back disk herniation. This could possibly limit him in training camp and he would start the year on the physically unable to perform list. The Chargers are hopeful surgery can be avoided.

Hopefully, Williams will just need temporary rehab and strengthening to get back to 100 percent. Williams has the talent to be a game breaking wide receiver in this league. Let’s just hope this setback sets him up for a major comeback.

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