Blasts from the Past?

Tom Telesco has signed six outside free agents this offseason, leaving Bolts backers to ponder what these new faces will bring to the Chargers. To help paint that picture more clearly, we draw comparisons between each of these additions and the former Chargers players they most resemble.

KR Jacoby Jones = Andre Coleman

Jones and Coleman are both explosive return specialists with the ability to contribute on offense, as well. Coleman focused almost exclusively on special teams during his first two seasons in San Diego, returning five kicks for touchdowns (four kickoffs, one punt). He even started to make an impact on offense, catching 36 passes during his third and final season with the Chargers (1996). The Chargers have employed few explosive return men since Coleman left town (Tim Dwight and Darren Sproles are on the short list), although Jones (nine careers returns for scores) certainly qualifies.

LG Orlando Franklin = Kelvin Garmon

From a stature standpoint, Franklin (6’7, 320 lbs.) is more similar to former Chargers RG Raleigh Roundtree (6’5, 330 lbs.). But because of his strength at the point of attack and his ability to create movement in the running game, I think the better comparison is Garmon. Initially a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys, the Chargers acquired Garmon in a midseason trade in 2002 and he started 21 games for the Bolts over the next season and a half. Both he and Franklin are maulers who are at their best in tight quarters.

CB/S Jimmy Wilson = Marcus Gilchrist

The comparisons are easy when one player essentially passes the torch to another. Gilchrist played a unique role on San Diego’s defense over the last two years, starting at strong safety while also serving as the nickel back and covering slot receivers. It’s a hybrid role that will be handed as-is to Wilson, who played both cornerback and safety for the Dolphins before joining the Chargers as a free agent. Both have similar career numbers (nine forced turnovers for Gilchrist compared to eight for Wilson) despite the fact Wilson just broke into the starting lineup last season.

WR Stevie Johnson = Jeff Graham

The comparisons here are numerous. Johnson and Graham are both physical receivers who don’t create a lot of separation, yet fight for the ball and win their one-on-one battles. They also both came to the Chargers later in their careers, coming off unsuccessful one-year stints the year prior (Johnson in San Francisco, Graham in Philadelphia). Graham spent three years in San Diego before hanging up his cleats, averaging 55 catches, 895 yards and 3.66 TDs during that time; the Chargers would happily accept similar numbers from Johnson.

DE Mitch Unrein = Jacques Cesaire

This is my favorite comparison on the list, one that came to mind after seeing how upset Broncos fans were about losing Unrein to their division rivals. Unrein and Cesaire are both former undrafted free agents who won over their respective fan bases with hard work and tenacity. They have some positional versatility, and although they won’t blow anyone away with their raw skills, they have a knack for making the most of their opportunities. If Unrein ends up maintaining this comparison during his time in San Diego, Chargers fans will be ecstatic.

CB Patrick Robinson = Drayton Florence

Both players are outstanding athletes with good ball skills. They are also both maddeningly inconsistent, which is what makes this comparison so spot-on. Florence finished his career with 20 interceptions, half of which came during his five seasons with the Chargers. However, his tendency to gamble and play loose while trying to bait quarterbacks caused him to bounce around between five different teams over his final seven seasons. Robinson has forced 10 turnovers over the last five seasons (nine INTs and a forced fumble), but he if does not became a more consistent player, he will find himself following Florence’s journeyman path.

Do you agree or disagree with these comparisons? Sound off in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the team. 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 '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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