Scouting Chargers CB/KR Cletis Gordon

Each week this season, SDBoltReport.com will identify a single player and analyze his play during the team's next game. The player pre-selected for analysis during the Chargers - Bears game was Cletis Gordon.

Gordon is rookie free agent from Jackson State, where he saw action as a cornerback, wide receiver and kick returner. He finished his collegiate career with four kick-return touchdowns, a skill that has given him a shot to make the active roster in San Diego.

During the game – the team's first since losing Darren Sproles to a season-ending leg injury – Gordon served as the primary return specialist on both kick and punt returns. He finished the night with 124 total yards on eight returns.

Things started off well, as Gordon took the opening kickoff back 52 yards. His results were more mediocre from then out, as he looked indecisive at times and made a bad habit of going backwards with his first step on punt returns.

Still, he did flash the ability to handle return responsibilities full-time during the season. The 6-foot-1 Gordon is a long-strider who has deceptive speed and protects the football well. He also has terrific vision, regularly finding open return lanes amidst the chaos. If he can become more aggressive and learn to trust his instincts, he could be special.

"He is probably the leading candidate," head coach Marty Schottenheimer admitted of his potential to return kicks. "I thought he did a nice job, particularly on the punt return."

Gordon is also competing for time on defense, but it may take another injury to boost him into that rotation. He and second-year man Markus Curry are competing for the fourth cornerback position, but Curry has a comfortable lead in that race.

Gordon received only scant time on defense during the game, which is still no excuse not to make an appearance in the defensive boxscore. Curry played approximately half the defensive snaps and was consistently solid in coverage. However, Gordon has looked impressive throughout training camp and will have every opportunity to earn more time on defense as the preseason progresses.

"I believe I am a player with a lot of upside at the cornerback position," said Gordon. "I really have only played the position for two years in college."

The Chargers have an interesting decision to make when it comes to Gordon's roster spot. He is currently the fifth corner on the depth chart; given the team's talent glut at safety, they may not be able to justify keeping more than four cornerbacks. They may have to choose between Curry's defensive prowess and Gordon's return ability – although the loss of Sproles to injured reserve may give him the mulligan he needs.

If Gordon does not make the squad, a practice squad spot awaits. Given Gordon's performance in Chicago and the coach's open admittance after the game, he may very well be on the roster when September 11 hits.

Next week the Chargers return home to take on the Seattle Seahawks. The player whose performance will be analyzed during that game is linebacker Matt Wilhelm.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net


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