The First Ax Falls

The Chargers released 10 players on Monday and placed running back Tyronne Gross on the injured-reserve list. The team must waive one more player to trim the roster to 75 by Tuesday afternoon. Some of the released players may be re-signed to the practice squad, although most have played their final snap in the National Football League.

On offense, the Chargers cut linemen Mike Jones and Jeremy Sheffey; wide receivers Rhema McKnight, Sonny Shackelford and Rich Musinski; quarterback Brett Elliot and tight end T.J. Cottrell. On defense, cornerback Quinton Jones, safety Miguel Merrick and linebacker Zach Latimer were let go.

The most disappointing move was also the most inevitable. Tyronne Gross, a talented runner and candidate for a spot on the active roster, suffered a displaced knee cap during the preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. His placement on the injured-reserve list officially ends his season and likely his tenure with the Chargers.

Most of the other moves were very predictable. Jones and Sheffey were caught in a numbers game. Releasing them now allows Jeromey Clary and Cory Lekkerkerker to see increased time as they battle for the final back-up spot on the offensive line.

The trio of released receivers faced the same problem. Shackelford and Musinski were nothing more than training camp fodder, while McKnight could not crack the preseason rotation after joining the team late. There is a chance he could be re-signed to the practice squad.

Another practice-squad possibility is T.J. Cottrell. Although he is limited as a receiver, he is a fierce blocker and a force on special teams. Also, it can't hurt that his father, Ted Cottrell, is the defensive coordinator.

Elliot spent training camp dishing out handoffs during running drills. His two-year run with the team is now over.

The surprise on defense was not the players cut, rather the player kept. The Chargers have 11 defensive linemen on the roster and will carry no more than seven into the regular season. The battle for the final few spots is intense, as undrafted rookies Andre Coleman and Louis Leonard push Ryon Bingham and Derreck Robinson for their jobs. The recently acquired Titus Adams is also in the mix.

None of the defensive players released ever had any chance of making the team. Jones' primary asset is his return ability, but he was buried behind Darren Sproles, Michael Turner, Antonio Cromartie, Craig Davis and Cletis Gordon in that department.

Merrick was stuck behind a trio of veterans with a at least five years experience, not to mention highly regarded second-round pick Eric Weddle. Latimer was outshined at the linebacker spot by fellow undrafted rookies Nick Roach and Jyles Tucker.

The roster must be down to 53 players by Saturday, Sept. 1. The Chargers can form an eight-player practice squad the following day.


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