Chargers fill need with Sproles

After spending the first two draft picks on the defensive side of the ball on day one, the Chargers ran off five consecutive offensive players. Day two saw San Diego add diminutive Darren Sproles, a dynamic player from Kansas State.

The Bolts entered the offseason with a pressing need. They were adamant about bringing in a return specialist for special teams. They tried to lure Allen Rossum but he ended up re-signing with Atlanta.

They had no other targets on the free agent market that would fit the bill. Tim Dwight, who was released by the team, wasn't getting any calls from the team asking him back and signed with New England.

"We tried to shore up the return game," General Manager A.J. Smith said. "We talked about that in unrestricted (free agency). We only had one targeted guy and that didn't work out."

A week ago, the Chargers called up Kansas State to get thoughts on him from the coaching staff and how they viewed him off the field. The reports were glowing.

They ended up selecting Darren Sproles in the fourth round to fill the return duties role and add a new dimension to an already potent offense.

"He's a terrific return man – kickoff returns and punt returns," Smith said. "We'll put him in the mix at running back too."

Sproles 6,812 all-purpose yards are the most in Big 12 history and sixth in the NCAA annals. He is expected to take over for the released Tim Dwight on kickoffs and supplant Eric Parker, who averaged 8.8 yards per return, on punt returns.

A third of the game is special teams and it is often an area of the game that is neglected. A fifth round punter is welcomed. A third round placekicker is fantastic. A fourth round returner is now icing on the cake.

"Our expressed intention was to get involved in developing our return game," head coach Schottenheimer said. "One of the problems they'll have defending him as runner and as a returner is they can't find him. He has exciting acceleration. He's a young man we're excited to get in here because we see a rather significant role for him."

In successive years, the Chargers have gone the way of the NFL Draft in selecting their punter, Mike Scifres, their kicker, Nate Kaeding, and now have their return man, Darren Sproles.

What will they do next year? Draft a gunner? Long snapper would be logical if Darren Binn wasn't in town.


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