Depth could lead to a surprise cut, Part III

Depth is a valued commodity for coaches and general managers, but is the worst enemy of players fighting for a spot on the backend of the roster. In 2004, the Chargers released Kevin Dyson and Kwamie Lassiter. In 2006, Hanik Milligan was released on the heels of a Pro Bowl season. This year, one of the team's defensive linemen could be in trouble.

Ryon Bingham (6-foot-3, 303 lbs.) is coming off the most successful season of his career. He played in all 16 games and set career highs with 15 tackles and 1½ sacks while splitting time between nose tackle and defensive end. Prior to the season, he was named the team's most improved player by then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

His inability to excel at any one position is what could do Bingham in. At nose tackle, he is undersized and lacks the strength to occupy two blockers in the running game or collapse the pocket in passing situations. At defensive end, he lacks the speed to be a factor off the edge.

"I'm playing all over right now," said Bingham in a recent interview with SDBoltReport.com. "Actually, so far this offseason I'm playing defensive end more than anything else."

Last season, injuries forced Bingham into the defensive end rotation, as starters Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky combined to miss nine games. With a full allotment of healthy bodies, the Chargers may be content with veteran Jacques Cesaire and promising third-year man Derreck Robinson holding down the reserve spots at end.

Releasing Bingham would make room for a more traditional, space eating nose tackle. Candidates for that assignment include Brandon McKinney (6-foot-2, 324 lbs.), who played in six games last season, and Louis Leonard (6-foot-4, 328 lbs.), an undrafted rookie from Fresno State. Either player could more closely approximate the style of play of Jamal Williams, the man they are asked to spell.

"(Jamal and I) are two different body types and two different people," Bingham said. "I'm just a different kind of nose tackle than Jamal."

Although he is clearly on the bubble, Bingham is the type of player coaches hate to release. He is intelligent, hardworking and well respected by his peers. His versatility is also a plus, as his presence on the roster improves depth across the entire line.

"I'll wind up all over the line," Bingham said. "I'm definitely going to be a swing guy."

Assuming the Turk decides not to swing his ax first.

Lightning Quicks: Click here to read about a kick returner on the brink or here to read about one of this year's draft picks in the same situation.


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