Bubble Boys: Defense

With training camps opening around the league, it is time to look at some of San Diego's players who will be under the spotlight at Chargers Park. We start with a look at three defenders who will need to shine to secure their places on the active roster.

OLB Tourek Williams

The competition at outside linebacker is far more daunting than it was in Williams' rookie season. The addition of second-rounder Jeremiah Attaochu -- plus the good health of Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney -- makes this one of the deepest spots on the roster.

Williams had a mostly quiet rookie season, appearing in 13 games (six starts) and recording 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. But he was pressed into action before he was ready thanks to a rash of injuries. Now, with an extra year of development, he'll have to earn his place.

Blessed with good speed around the edge and the ability to close on ball carriers in a hurry, Williams has the potential to be a strong piece of the pass-rushing rotation. He can also be a force on special teams.

CB Brandon Ghee

A 2010 third-round pick by Cincinnati, Ghee's career has been undermined by injuries. But when he has been on the field, he has been extremely productive. And the good news is his injuries have been of the fluke variety, including a pair of wrist injuries and a couple concussions. Serious injuries, to be sure, but better than severe knee or foot injuries, which often prove to be career-enders at the cornerback position.

Ghee appeared in 10 games last season and finished with seven tackles and five pass breakups. He has made a strong impression since arriving in San Diego, standing out during OTAs. He is excited to play for defensive coordinator John Pagano, who will let him play more man coverage, which is where Ghee is most comfortable.

Ghee will battle Richard Marshall and Steve Williams for a place in San Diego's cornerback rotation (behind the top three of Brandon Flowers, Shareece Wright and Jason Verrett). If he can stay healthy, he will be tough to keep off the roster.

DT Tenny Palepoi

In each of the last 17 seasons, at least one undrafted rookie has made San Diego's opening-day roster. Odds are, that streak will not end in 2014. There are several candidates from this year's undrafted crop, but one that stands out is former Utah DT Tenny Palepoi.

For one thing, there are spots to be won on the defensive line. The only sure things on the front-three are Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and Sean Lissemore. Lawrence Guy and fifth-round pick Ryan Carrethers are early favorite to win roster spots, as well, but the team will likely keep at least one more defensive lineman.

Palepoi has a real shot at winning the final spot in the rotation. He fits a different mold than a traditional 3-4 lineman, as he is more of a penetrator with strong quickness and closing speed. But Pagano runs a versatile scheme that uses a lot of different fronts, so he could find a way to use Palepoi, especially in passing situations.

Palepoi can also help on special teams, as he's an experienced personal punt protector.

Which of these players will make the 53-man roster? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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