One thing the Chargers seemed to lack last season was strong veteran presence throughout the locker room.
Gone were Jarret Johnson, Takeo Spikes, Dwight Freeney, Nick Hardwick, all casualties of injuries or roster moves throughout the years. While Chargers general manager Tom Telesco maintained that in order for young players to lead, they needed to be given the opportunity to do so, the lack of veteran leadership was evident.
Make no mistake -- Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle anchor this team year after year, and Rivers and Gates will continue to do so. But the Chargers also need guys in each position group who hold other players accountable, who have success on the field (a key ingredient in effective leadership) and who also have been through enough injuries and adversity to have learned a thing or two along the way.
This season, Telesco is bringing in a few of those players.
Take defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, a Super Bowl winner and a nine-year vet. Or safety Dwight Lowery, who's scratched and clawed his way onto teams for eight seasons.
"I’ve been though a lot of up and downs in my career," Lowery said when signed to the Chargers. "I’ve been traded, I've been cut, I’ve had to try out for a team. I’ve been a part of a lot of firings, hirings, owner changes, one year contracts. I’ve been through a lot. I believe it's made me the man I am today. It keeps me going. I really want to leave some sort of imprint. I think I went through all of those things for a reason. I feel like I’m here for a reason.
"I think that I can help these young players and help them reach their potential, and try to accelerate their growth as quickly as possible," Lowery added. "They’re really the nucleus of the team. For myself, I’m here to help give them a push and allow them to reach their potential. That’s something that really attracted me to this place ... I think the best way to lead is by example. Showing how to be a pro, what it takes to be a pro, what to look at. How teams may try to attack you, how to counter what a team is doing to you. Preparation in the week leading up to the game. I’m excited about the opportunity."
With safety Eric Weddle gone, Lowery will be a veteran addition to a defensive backs group that includes Jason Verrett -- primed to step into his own this season -- and Brandon Flowers, among others.
It can sometimes be difficult for newly signed players to be leaders, as it can take a full season to get acclimated with a new team and feel comfortable enough to speak up, especially when a player has spent his entire career with another organization. And, leadership is dependent on success on the field. If these new players can find that success while sharing advice that's helped them find longevity in the NFL, they may just be the kind of presence that young players can lean on to boost their longevity as well.