The three injuries the Bolts can least afford

Much has been made of the San Diego Chargers' impressive depth. However, there are a few positions on the team that could be completely wrecked by a single injury. It is said that a team is like a chain, only as strong as its weakest link. Well, there are three links on the Chargers' chain that are a sprained ankle or torn ACL away from becoming easily breakable.

Tight End

Brandon Manumaleuna is a stellar complementary tight end. But if Antonio Gates gets injured, Manumaleuna is in way over his head as the top target on the depth chart. That problem would only be magnified by the team's thin receiving corps, which forces the team to rely heavily on the tight end in the passing game.

Gates is a transcendent talent, with LaDainian Tomlinson being the only other Charger who can match his positional dominance. But if Tomlinson goes down, Michael Turner is ready to carry the load. If Gates gets hurt, the wheels will fall off the entire offense.

Nose Tackle

Although Jamal Williams has been healthy in recent seasons, he missed 18 games due to injury between 2001 and 2003. At 6-foot-3, 348 lbs., he is the only player on the roster with the size and power to anchor the middle of the defense. Additionally, he has the uncanny ability to demand double teams and collapse the pocket.

If he goes down, the 303-lb. Ryon Bingham would be forced into the starting line-up. Although he has solid technique and gives great effort, Bingham gets overwhelmed at the point of attack. If Williams gets hurt, the defense will lose a lot by turning to Bingham.

Cornerback

The Chargers have a pair of injury prone players at this position. Drayton Florence missed three games in both 2004 and 2005, while Antonio Cromartie missed all of the 2005 season with a torn ACL. Both players have the great size and a playmaker's mentality, but neither has a suitable replacement on the roster.

If either player gets hurt, Steve Gregory steps into the nickel back role. In today's pass-happy NFL, nickel backs are on the field for about 65 percent of the defensive snaps. Giving that much playing time to the undersized Gregory would cripple the Chargers' hopes for improvement in the secondary.


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