Excessive Depth Could Lead to Surprise Cut

Following last weekend's draft and the subsequent signing of left tackle L.J. Shelton, the Chargers roster is once again stocked. While that's good news for Bolts Backers, it could spell trouble for players trying to win spots on the backend of the roster. Team expert Michael Lombardo identifies one recent draft pick who's on the bubble.

Tim Dobbins is a ferocious hitter and a force on special teams. He has been compared by general manager A.J. Smith to fellow special-teams standouts Kassim Osgood and Hanik Milligan. Milligan represented the Chargers in the Pro Bowl following the 2005 season and Osgood took his place in Hawaii after the subsequent seasons.

The release of Milligan following his Pro Bowl season tells one thing about Smith: he believes special-teams players can be replaced. That is especially true now that the coverage units are loaded, with Osgood being flanked by two-time Special Teams Player of the Year Carlos Polk and second-year man Brandon Siler, who led the coverage teams in tackles as a rookie with 21.

That is not to imply Dobbins is expendable. He tallied 15 tackles on special teams last season and filled in for Matt Wilhelm when he went down with a leg injury early in the season. Unfortunately for Dobbins, his two games as a fill-in came against Tom Brady and Brett Favre, both of whom exposed him in pass coverage.


Will Dobbins follow Marty Schottenheimer out the door?
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Dobbins' inability to work into the defensive rotation could ultimately cost him his job. San Diego's inside linebacker corps is as deep as any in the league, a problem only exasperated by the signing of 12-year veteran Derek Smith and the return to health of 2007 third-round pick Anthony Waters.

Dobbins was given a puncher's chance when starting inside linebacker Stephen Cooper was suspended for the first four games of the season due to a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Nonetheless, the Chargers are perfectly comfortable starting Wilhelm and Smith while Waters and Siler come off the bench until Cooper is reinstated.

It's possible the Chargers will move Dobbins in a trade prior to the start of the season. A.J. Smith learned from his mentor, the late John Butler, how to move expendable pieces and turn something into nothing. That's what Butler did as general manager of the Chargers in 2002, trading WR Trevor Gaylor and TE Steve Heiden for a pair of seventh-round picks.

Smith used the pick acquired in the Gaylor trade to land Shane Olivea, who started 57 games for the Chargers between 2004-07. He used to pick from the Heiden trade to acquire G Kelvin Garmon in a mid-season trade from the Dallas Cowboys. Garmon started five games for the Bolts in 2002 and all 16 the following season.

If you're counting, that's 71 starts along the offensive line that Smith received in exchange for players who would have been training camp casualties, anyway.

It appears Dobbins is set to join the like of Gaylor and Heiden. If Smith can get something in return for Dobbins' services, expect the Chargers to pull the trigger. If not, anticipate the Bolts cutting the cord sometime between the first round of cuts and the return of Cooper in Week 5.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.


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