Five Chargers to Watch: Ascending Youngsters

The Chargers were slammed with injuries in 2010, forcing several young players to take on large roles before they were ready. The upside is those players are now prepared for bigger and better things in 2011. Here is a look at five such players primed to guide the Bolts back to the postseason.

1. WR Seyi Ajirotutu

No position was hit harder by the injury bug than receiver. That opened the door for Ajirotutu, who made the jump from the practice squad to play in the final 10 games and finish with 13 catches for 262 yards and a pair of scores. He is still a project and needs work on reading defenses and selling his routes, but his size and speed will allow him to be an even bigger factor in 2011. The game is not too big for him.

2. OL Tyronne Green

The key for Green is versatility. After getting snaps at left tackle in training camp during Marcus McNeill's holdout, he slid back to his natural position at guard. He recorded seven starts -- six at right guard and one at left -- and the team didn't miss a beat, going 5-2 in games he started. He may get a chance to showcase his versatility even more this year if backup center Scott Mruczkowski leaves as a free agent.

DE Vaughn Martin
Stephen Dunn/Getty
3. DE Vaughn Martin

After spending the first six weeks on the inactive list, Martin cracked the rotation and never looked back. His strong play allowed San Diego to release Alfonso Boone and keep Travis Johnson on the inactive list after he injured his shoulder before the bye week. Martin is still a raw talent after playing his college ball north of the border, but he has gotten much better at disengaging from blocks and diagnosing plays. His development, while nowhere near complete, may actually be ahead of schedule.

4. NT Cam Thomas

Another up-and-comer on the defensive line is Thomas, who platoons with Antonio Garay at nose tackle in a rotation that has the Chargers feeling much better about the post-Jamal Williams era. Thomas still needs to play with better discipline and leverage but has size and athletic ability that can't be taught. He played in six games last season, including three of the final four, and added two sacks amongst his seven tackles.

5. LB Larry English

English did not have the breakthrough season fans were anticipating. He missed eight games and was limited in several others because of a foot fracture suffered in Week 2. However, he gained valuable experience while playing six of the final eight games. He learned on the field while playing at 70 percent and should be much more prepared to make an impact this year while running at full speed. Also, the absence of Shawne Merriman will have English working with the first team all offseason.

Which young players will break out in 2011? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His work has been published by NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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