Chargers' Roster Reeks of Unfinished Business

The Chargers roster is all firmed up as the season opener is less than a week away. However, the team widely assumed to be the deepest in the NFL appears to have some chinks in its armor. The move to put Scott Chandler on IR leaves the team perilously thin at tight end. Also, the release of Carlos Polk will resonate in the locker room.

Tight on Tight Ends

After placing Scott Chandler on the injured-reserve list, Antonio Gates and Brandon Manumaleuna are the only tight ends on the active roster. Wide receiver Legedu Naanee can play that role in a pinch, although his contributions would be limited to pass catching and chip blocking.

If the Chargers are looking to add another tight end, the team could choose to bring a familiar face back into the fold. On Saturday, the Miami Dolphins released Justin Peelle, who spent his first four seasons in San Diego. Peelle is a solid two-way tight end who caught 29 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Another option is former Charger Ryan Krause, who was let go by the Houston Texans. Krause, a sixth-round pick in 2004, doesn't offer much as an in-line blocker but has outstanding hands and can make plays between the hashes.

Locker Room Leaders Let Go

The Chargers have released two of their best locker room leaders over the course of the last two months. On Saturday, the team parted ways with the loquacious Carlos Polk. Often known exclusively for his impact on special teams, Polk played an equally important role in the locker room. His enthusiasm was contagious and he made the season less of a grind for his teammates.

"The one (cut) that was particularly difficult, when you have a veteran player like Carlos Polk whose been here and been a big part for us, those are tough," Head Coach Norv Turner said.

Prior to training camp, the Chargers let go of Eric Parker, a savvy veteran who was often praised by his younger teammates for teaching technique and professionalism. Parker missed the 2007 season with a toe injury, but caught at least 47 passes for 659 yards each of the three previous seasons.

The Chargers have enough talent to replace Polk and Parker on the field. However, their presence in the locker room will be far more difficult to replicate. Championship teams always rely on contributions from self-made role players; Polk and Parker personified that description.

Only One Draft Dropout

It was obvious the Chargers drafted with a purpose in 2008 and the plan nearly unfolded without a hitch. The Chargers had two vacancies in the secondary and filled them with first-round pick Antoine Cason and sixth-round pick DeJuan Tribble. The Chargers also had room for one more offensive lineman, a slot filled by seventh-round pick Corey Clark.

Where things got tricky was in the backfield. The team had room for two running backs after losing Michael Turner and cutting Lorenzo Neal. Third-round pick Jacob Hester predictably picked up one of the spots, while undrafted rookie fullback Mike Tolbert stepped up and stole the other one.

"I knew it was going to be hard at first, but once I got out here and realized I could play with these guys I had it set in my mind that I could play this game and play with this team," Tolbert said. "This is the only place I wanted to be."

Tolbert's emergence left no room for fifth-round pick Marcus Thomas, the only member of San Diego's draft class not to make the active roster. The Chargers had hoped to stash Thomas on the practice squad for a season, knowing full well that Darren Sproles is entering the final year of his contract. Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions quickly snatched Thomas off waivers.

Practice Squad Peeps

The Chargers signed eight players to their practice squad on Sunday: LB Antwan Applewhite, WR Gary Banks, S Tra Battle, RB Eldra Buckley, DE Andre Coleman, G Brandyn Dombrowski, DE Keith Grennan and FB David Kirtman.

Kirtman comes over from the Seattle Seahawks, where he was a fifth-round pick in 2006. Also on the practice squad will be Jason Brisbane, who is part of the NFL's International Practice Squad Player Program.

The only rookies to make the practice squad were Banks and Dombrowski. Everyone else spent time on the practice squad in 2007.

Lightning Quick

The Chargers will have to release one more player after Week 4, when Stephen Cooper completes his suspension and is returned to the active roster.


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