CHARGERS SPRING REPORT -- DEFENSIVE ENDS
With the Chargers 2009 mini-camp just concluded, Chris Ello takes an inside look at how the Bolts stack up position-by-position during football's version of Spring Training.
Monday: Outside Linebackers
Yesterday: Inside Linebackers
Today: Defensive Ends
Tomorrow: Defensive Tackles
Luis Castillo, 5th yr., Northwestern: It's seems almost too simple to say that Castillo performed like a "fat-cat" last season. Sure we've seen the drill before -- young player proves himself, gets huge contract, gets too comfortable, and his play tails off. Nevertheless it's hard for me to believe that this really happened with a guy like Castillo.
The day he signed his big ($14-million) extension prior to last season, I interviewed Castillo and asked him if he might be able to start taking things easy. "There's no way (Maria) would let me do that," he said.
Maria is his mother. And his number one inspiration.
My guess is that it was just one of those seasons for Castillo. A season where his numbers were down across the board and his impact was felt far less than usual.
The good news is the Castillo has something to prove this season. Gotta find a way to quiet the "fat-cat" critics. And keep Maria in his good graces.
Jacques Cesaire, 7th yr., Southern Connecticut State: With Igor Olshansky gone, Cesaire is the logical choice to step up and replace him (easy joke here: it shouldn't be too hard for anyone to replace Olshansky).
The Haitian-born veteran should be up to the task. Originally signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Bolts in '03, and then re-signed by San Diego in '05, this is a guy who has had to work his up from the bottom. These kinds of guys usually sparkle when their full-time opportunity finally comes.
Cesaire started two games last year and got plenty of playing time while Olshansky played his way out of town. Cesaire will play a lot more this year if he can take advantage of his big chance.
If he can't, look for No. 1-draft pick Larry English to spend a lot more time at defensive end than he does at rush linebacker.
Ryon Bingham, 5th yr., Nebraska: There isn't a team in the league that doesn't need a player like Bingham, who fills in nicely for the Chargers at both defensive end and defensive tackle. The guess is, this year, he'll play more end while the Bolts try to develop 4th-round pick Vaughn Martin to play behind Jamal Williams.
At either spot, Bingham isn't going to grab many headlines...but he's never going to hurt you either. Don't forget that Bingham had a big year in '07 when given the chance -- a career-high 58 tackles which earned him a pair of starts.
Don't forget, also, that Bingham qualifies as another gem discovered by A.J. Smith -- picked in the 7th-round of the '04 draft....and still contributing five years later.
Keith Grennan, 2nd yr., Eastern Washington...Andre Coleman, Rookie, Albany State...Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Rookie, Michigan State: Three young guys who have one game of NFL experience among them (Grennan played in the regular-season game last year against Indianapolis).
Also three guys to keep an eye on. Both Grennan and Coleman opened some eyes during the '08 preseason and could get a longer look this year. Nwagbuo is a 6-foot 4-inch 290-pounder who played in the Big 10. He's also a local favorite, having played his high school football at Mount Miguel in Spring Valley.
At a position that is rather thin, don't be surprised if one (or more) of the three sticks.
And Now, A Note From Brian Powell
2 years ago