Training Camp Battle Preview: Jue vs. Weddle

With training camp just a couple of months away, it is time to preview some of the prominent battles that lie ahead. No competition will be more intense than that at strong safety, where Bhawoh Jue will contend with rookie second-round pick Eric Weddle for the starting spot. Both players are similarly gifted in coverage, leaving the team to choose between Jue's experience and Weddle's upside.

The Competitors

Bhawoh Jue is entering his seventh year in the league and his third in San Diego. He started for the Chargers at free safety in 2005, leading the team with three interceptions and chipping in 47 tackles and four pass break-ups. He was limited in 2006 after undergoing knee surgery the prior offseason, but is healthy now and ready to reclaim a starting position.

A former cornerback, Jue excels in man-to-man coverage. That is why it makes sense to start him at strong safety, where he is close enough to the line to press opposing receivers. Although he is currently listed as the back-up at free safety, he would have no problem playing strong given the interchangeable nature of the Chargers' safeties.

"I know the defense like the back of my hand, so it's just a matter of staying focused and repetition," Jue said.

Eric Weddle still has plenty to learn, but because of his high football IQ he has a chance to get up to speed by opening day. He was a turnover machine at Utah, finishing his four-year career with 18 interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. More astonishing than his playmaking is his versatility, as he played nine different positions during his time as a Ute.

In San Diego, Weddle will be asked to play but two positions. On running downs, he will be an in-the-box safety; in obvious passing situations, he will slide outside and serve as a cornerback, matching up against the slot receiver. If he can handle both roles proficiently, he has a chance to start from day one.

"The Chargers stole him," said David Canter, Weddle's agent. "Eric is the most versatile player in the draft and can help them at safety and cornerback, and on special teams, too."

Who Should Win

Jue deserves the first crack at this position. He has proven that he has what it takes to thrive in the NFL, while Weddle remains a question mark, albeit an intriguing one. Also, San Diego always seems to struggle with communication breakdowns in the secondary. Inserting a rookie into the starting line-up is no way to improve matters.

Who Will Win

Rest assured the starting strong safety will be either Jue or Weddle, even though Clinton Hart currently holds the top perch on the depth chart. Hart is a nice reserve, nothing more. Expect Jue to begin the season as the starter, with Weddle playing in the nickel defense and on special teams.

However, Weddle is sure to see plenty of time on the field, especially as the year wears on. The team traded four draft picks to move up and select Weddle and Jue is in the final year of his contract. The Chargers need to know what they have in Weddle before the season is over.


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