Depth Perceptions

When John Butler took over the San Diego Chargers after a disastrous 1-15 season, he began immediately on building a championship team from the ground up. The first step in building a championship caliber team was to bring in some primetime players. The second step was filling out the starting line-up with quality starters. The third and final step...

…was to establish impressive depth at as many positions as possible, as to provide stability when injuries inevitably occur throughout the course of the season.

With the first two steps of the building process seemingly complete, its time to see how the Chargers are fairing with the third. Here is a look at the top ten most important Chargers who will not be in the starting line-up on opening day.

1) Doug Flutie - His improvisational skills and knowledge of the game make him the ideal back-up. His amazing work ethic is contagious and he is always capable of sparking the offense coming off the bench.

2) Tim Dwight - His removal from the starting line-up may actually help him earn his big contract all the more. He has proven to be explosive out of the slot and an excellent third down target. Also, being the third receiver will allow him to resume his punt return duties, where he is one of the game's elite.

3) Carlos Polk - This guy is ready to start. He has dominated on special teams, and has the kind of attitude the defense was lacking last year. Classic middle linebacker who is capable of stuffing the run, and who possesses the speed to make plays sideline to sideline as well as in the backfield.

4) Toniu Fonoti - He has the size and strength Marty would love to have lining up in front on LT. If he only had the consistency Marty wanted to see in front of Drew Brees he would be a star. Fortunately, he is young and only embarking on his second season. He's loaded with potential, and now has starting experience to boot. No drop off at all with him in the line-up.

5) Terrance Kiel - Exactly what the Chargers want at strong safety. Recruited out of high school because of his cornerback-like cover skills, he is also a big hitter and a sound tackler. The Chargers wanted him to start, and it's only a matter of time before he does.

6) Adrian Dingle - Sees a lot of action in spelling Marcellus Wiley and Ray Lee Johnson, he is also capable of starting. Technically sound and strong against the run, his pass rush skills are improving as shown by his four sacks in limited duty last year. Likely takes over as the starter at right defensive end in 2004 after Raylee is released due to age and salary cap concerns.

7) Cory Raymer - A hard-nosed player who has started all sixteen games three of the last five seasons, and who has proven capable of coming back from injuries to play at a high level. A smart and game-savvy player, provides insurance and guidance behind young Jason Ball.

8) Drayton Florence - The Chargers want his physical presence and big play abilities on the field as much as possible. For now he will settle for nickel back and kick return duties, along with roles on the coverage units. Will start at corner if one of the Chargers first-round talents don't play up to their draft status, otherwise may be the future at free safety. He will find is way into the starting line-up somewhere no later than next year.

9) Leonardo Carson - Has proven capable of starting in case of injury, although there is noticeable drop off when forced to replace big Jamal Williams for extended periods of time. However, when kept fresh as a reserve he is the Bolts best inside pass rushing presence, and can hold his own well enough to give Williams and Fisk enough rest to keep them fresh late into the fourth quarter.

10) Andrew Pinnock - Two woes that have haunted the Chargers the last two years have been their pass defense and their short yardage execution on offense. While the secondary was tore apart and rebuilt to solve the former problem, just the seventh round selection of Pinnock will solve the latter. Has been a great blocker so far in camp, and has the running skills of a halfback to go with his impressive size. His selection was the definition of a steal.

-Mike Lombardo can be reached at

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