Breaking Down the Bolts: Special Teams

The Chargers are all set at the kicking positions, as Nate Kaeding and Mike Scifres boast two of the best young legs in the league. The team is solid in kick coverage, as well, although there could be a shakeup on those units. Kassim Osgood is holding out in hopes of a trade while rookies Antoine Cason and DeJuan Tribble will work into the rotation.

Back to Basics

The Bolts have their long snapper position covered by the best. David Binn enters his 16th NFL season and recently signed a new four-year contract. Binn, 36, has 223 games under his belt and looks to add to that franchise record. Binn's steady accuracy directly correlates to the success of both kicker Nate Kaeding and punter Mike Scifres.

Kaeding enters 2008 after displaying steadfast season in 2007. After a 24-of-27 success rate on field goals, he was ranked the fifth-best in the NFL. Making matters more impressive is that Kaeding played the Chargers last five regular season games with a fractured fibula in his left (non-kicking) leg.

Even though Kaeding kept the extent of his injury hush-hush until the off-season, the Bolts brought Dave Rayner to the roster to handle kickoffs in the postseason. Rayner was not brought back this year.

While Kaeding anticipates a healthy return for the upcoming season, he did recognize the necessity of keeping his injury under wraps.

"If an opposing team knows that you've got a kicker with a broken leg, obviously it doesn't allow you to do many fakes and those sort of things" he said.

Mike Scrifres demonstrated a solid knack for placing kicks in the red zone last season, playing in all 16 games. Marking an average of 46.1 yards per punt, he was named a first-alternate to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season.

Scrifres landed 36 of his punts inside the 20, the second most in the NFL. Due to Kaeding's injury, Scifres also handled some kickoffs.

WR Kassim Osgood
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

WR Kassim Osgood plays a fierce force in the Bolts special teams game. Covering kickoffs and punts, he persistently flies down the field, sparring off double-teams and distributing harsh hits.

Recording 14 special team tackles last season, Osgood was rightfully named All-NFL as special teams player by Pro Football Weekly and Professional Football Writers of America. He was also selected to AFC Pro Bowl squad as special teamer for his second consecutive year.

Osgood is skipping off-season workouts as he protests his limited role on offense. Don't expect him to see more time on offense, however, as the Chargers are overloaded at receiver.

Darren Sproles' 5'6", 181-pound body packs a fierce spirit. As the Chargers top return man, he was named as a second-alternate to the AFC Pro Bowl. His 27.2-yard return average on kickoffs ranked him fifth in the NFL.

Hot Competition

Antoine Cason, the Bolts' first draft pick, comes from Arizona with experience as a punt returner. With 27 punt returns for 271 yards last season, Cason returned two of those for touchdowns. While Darren Sproles has a proven track record, Cason's skill and speed will definitely give Sproles fierce competition as the ‘it' man on returns.

While Carlos Polk is a two-time winner of the team's Special Teams Player of the Year award, he struggles with durability. Having missed 37 games in the past four seasons, it's hard to believe he'll stay healthy in 2008. When Polk is on the field, he is a fierce competitor and team leader.

However, Brandon Siler marked a solid rookie year in Polk's absence, recording 21 tackles on special teams. Siler's tackle total tied with Darrell Reid of the Indianapolis Colts for the second most in the league.

Fresh Faces

The Chargers chose DeJuan Tribble of Boston College in the sixth round, and he figures to play more on kick coverage than defense. He posted five special-teams tackles last year for the Golden Eagles. Tribble can also return punts in a pinch; he ended his college career with 55 punts returns for 521 yards and a 9.7-yard average.

Punter/kicker Billy Vinnedge of Wyoming joined the Bolts' roster as an undrafted rookie free agent. Vinnedge earned Honorable Mention honors in the Mountain West Conference last season.

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