It appears that Mike Goff, 31, will be the player to make way for Mruczkowski. Goff is only under contract through 2008 and, although consistent, he has never been a dominant player.
Antonio Cromartie may not be stuck in apprentice-town nearly as long as Mruczkowski, as he will have a chance to pry a starting job from Drayton Florence in training camp. However, the more likely scenario has Cromartie becoming a starter in 2008, when Florence is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Cromartie had an up-and-down rookie season, during which he was surprisingly consistent but failed to author a single interception. Still, he has incredible speed and athleticism, as well as the confidence required of all great cornerbacks. Given a little more seasoning, he could become the Shawne Merriman of the secondary.
Andrew Pinnock is the third player whose apprenticeship may be coming to a close. Although Lorenzo Neal signed a three-year contract extension this offseason, Neal is 36 and puts his body through a lot of punishment.
Pinnock would provide a unique element to the offense, as he runs like a halfback in a fullback's body. That would allow the team to use him in the I-formation as the lead blocker for LaDainian Tomlinson, or as the featured runner in a one-back set with Tomlinson aligned in the slot.
Even if Neal doesn't retire anytime soon, Pinnock still has a bigger role coming his way. Michael Turner is as good as gone in 2008, and Pinnock should be the one to assume most of his carries.
Mruczkowski, Cromartie and Pinnock have all put in their dues and are deserving of the positions they will soon inherit. If they thrive as starters, then the Chargers' system is reaffirmed. If not, then there is another set of apprentices coming right behind them.