Training Camp Battle Preview: Strong Safety

Strong safety is the most winnable spot on the roster. Clinton Hart holds the top perch on the depth chart, but the smart money says he won't be there when training camp breaks. Instead, second-round pick Eric Weddle and seven-year veteran Bhawoh Jue will likely compete for a spot that won't be decided before the preseason finale.

The draft-day trade for Eric Weddle instantly made him the favorite to win the starting post. General Manager A.J. Smith traded away second-, third- and fifth-round picks in this year's draft -- as well as a third-rounder in 2008 -- to move up 25 spots in the second round for the multitalented rookie.

Weddle personifies the terms versatile and playmaker. He played nine different positions while at Utah and finished his collegiate career with 18 interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five sacks and 13 pass break-ups.

"(The Chargers) want to do a lot of stuff with their safeties, whether it's playing in the slot, blitzing or playing zone," Weddle said.

Bhawoh Jue will give Weddle a run for his money. Jue started 14 games at free safety in 2005, racking up 47 tackles and leading the secondary with three interceptions. He played primarily as a reserve in 2006, as he was hindered by the lingering effects of offseason microfracture surgery. He is healthy now and ready to challenge for a starting position.

Although Jue has not spent much time at strong safety, that shouldn't limit his chances to win the gig. Firstly, both safety spots are very much interchangeable in Ted Cottrell's scheme. Secondly, Jue is very comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage. As a former cornerback, he prefers playing tight on opposing receivers so that he can jam them on the line.

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

Clinton Hart has an outside chance at maintaining his spot atop the depth chart. However, if Hart is better than Terrence Kiel, then why was Hart unable to win the job last season? The truth is that Hart is a great special teams player who can contribute in nickel and dime situations, but he lacks the consistency to merit extended playing time.

So who gets the starting nod? The Chargers will likely go with Weddle, as he will improve every week and be a key contributor in time for the playoff run. However, expect Jue to see plenty of playing time, especially early in the season. No matter how impressive Weddle was in college, there is no way he is a better pro than Jue by opening day.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories