Monday, May 18, 2009

Chargers Spring Report -- Wide Receivers


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.
May 6th:
May 7th:Safeties
May 8th:Outside Linebackers
Monday:Inside Linebackers
Tuesday:Defensive Ends
Wednesday: Defensive Tackles
Thursday: Offensive Line
Friday: Tight Ends
Today: Wide Receivers
Tomorrow: Running Backs


Vincent Jackson, 5th yr., Northern Colorado: So let's just state it up front: I'm not the world's biggest Vincent Jackson fan. I've interviewed him several times and have enjoyed our conversations. But as a player, not my kind of guy.
Apparently, though, he is the Chargers kind of guy -- although I'm a bit surprised he's still around after his second brush with a DUI charge back in January. The off-field stuff speaks to Jackson's immaturity...and -- at least to me -- his immaturity also shows on the field.
Statistically, of course, Jackson had his finest season in '08, with a career-best 1,098 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. But there were also dropped passes and stretches where he disappeared.
One such stretch lasted three games, a mid-season run against Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Atlanta (all losses) where Jackson caught a total of only four passes (none against the Falcons).
Jackson sometimes acts as if he wants to be the next T.O. or Chad Johnson -- a lot of wild celebration, look-at-me kind of stuff. But he's not consistent enough yet to be put in that category.
If he can grow up some -- and show up each Sunday -- maybe one day I'll like him better.

Chris Chambers, 9th yr., Wisconsin: Now, here's a guy I do like. Solid. Fast. Big-play guy. Goes up in a crowd and makes a play for you. Quiet. Just does his job without needing any extra attention. A former Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins.
But where in the world did he go last season?
Chambers caught five touchdowns in the first five games of the year...then missed a couple of games with an ankle injury...then returned for the final nine games of the year...only he really wasn't there.
Chambers stats over the last nine games in '08: only 22 catches (including bagels in games against Kansas City and Oakland) and not a single TD. He caught 8 for 129 yards in the two postseason games combined, but really wasn't the force he's capable of being.
Maybe it was the injury. But whatever it was, the Bolts need the real Chambers to re-emerge this season. Otherwise that trade of a second-round pick to Miami for him a season-and-a-half ago no longer looks like the steal it once did.


Malcolm Floyd, 4th yr., Wyoming: With Chambers hobbled, Floyd finally got his big chance last season. And although he didn't necessarily put up startling numbers, he did prove to be a dependable man on the outside, with 27 receptions for 465 yards and 4 TD's.
More importantly he showed a great desire to go up along with defenders and come down with the ball (a trait I'm pretty sure the Chargers would like to see more of in Jackson).
His heart was never more on display than in the Week 15 save-the-season win at Kansas City, when he caught five passes late in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown that eventually helped lead to a 22-21 victory.
Unfortunately, Floyd suffered a collapsed lung in the game and missed the rest of the season. The heart, however, is still there -- and Floyd, if given the opportunity, could be a breakout player in '09.

Legedu Naanee, 3rd yr. Boise State: Be honest. You love to say his name. Legedu Naanee. Legedu Naanee. Lay-geh-due. Nah-nay. See? Fun, isn't it?
Some would like to see the Chargers call his name more often. Naanee caught only 8 passes last season, the same number he grabbed in his rookie season of '07. Of course, with all of the offensive talent on the field around him -- when he does get in there -- it has been hard for Naanee to really shine.
But one gets the sense that if he ever made it as a full-timer -- or at least as a third receiver in the slot -- he would be capable of doing some damage. Perhaps, even though it's great to have as much depth as possible, there are other teams who see the same possibilities in Naanee as we do.
Not that I'd like to see him go, but is it possible Naanee could be dangled as part of a trade package to help acquire another player at a position where the Bolts could use more help?
Just asking.

Buster Davis, 3rd yr., L.S.U.: Under the category of "nobody's perfect," you can put General Manager A.J. Smith's selection of Davis near the end of the 1st-round of the '07 draft.
At least for now. We'll all find out this season if Buster turns out to just be a longer form of the word "Bust."
After a decent rookie campaign (20 catches, 1TD), the injury bug that bothered Davis throughout his college career at LSU struck him down after Week 5 last season, and a groin problem landed him on injured reserve for the remainder of the year.
Davis will probably get one last chance to prove he belongs in '09. Few think he'll ever be an important contributor, based on his lack of production when he's been healthy.
But you never know. Every now and again, a forgotten high draft choice finally finds his stride and solidifies the faith the was originally showed in him.


Demetrius Byrd, Rookie, L.S.U.: It's not often you can get the 13th-rated wide receiver in the draft with a 7th-round pick. But after suffering severe head injuries in an automobile crash just days before the '09 selections, Byrd was lucky to be drafted at all -- if not just lucky to be alive.
Byrd, who had a fine senior season at LSU (513 yards receiving and 4 TD's), and helped lead the Tigers to the National Championship as a junior, crashed on April 19th when he lost control of his car and smashed into a utility pole after a tire blew out.
His agent, David Dunn, said Byrd would make a full recovery and that his injuries would not affect his future in football. Nevertheless, teams stayed away from him and he fell from being a probable second- or third-round pick all the way to the Bolts at the 224th selection.
It's possible the Chargers' gamble will pay off, and Smith will have himself another late-round gem. More than anything else, though, those in the organization simply hope Byrd will regain full health and perhaps help the team down the road.

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