There's a cliché in NFL coaching circles -- one often used by Marty Schottenheimer -- that goes like this: "The more you can do, the longer you'll stick around."
That statement has Kris Wilson feeling pretty secure about his place on the roster.
Wilson (6-foot-2, 251 pounds) can contribute in many ways. He is a dependable in-line blocker and a solid pass-catcher (24 receptions in 2007). He can also line up in the backfield; he started the final 11 games of the '06 season at fullback for the Kansas City Chiefs and helped Larry Johnson run for 1,432 yards in those contests.
TE Kory Sperry
Perhaps most importantly, Wilson is a core contributor on special teams. Whether it's throwing a block for Darren Sproles or chasing down an opposing kick returner, Wilson's ability to contribute on special teams is what will keep him active on game days.
Wilson wasn't very active last season. After joining the Chargers shortly before the regular season, he spent most of his first year in lightning bolts learning the offense and earning the trust of the coaches. He didn't escape the inactive list until a Week 15 game against his former team, the Chiefs.
After that contest in Kansas City, Wilson talked to SDBoltReport.com about looking forward to having a full offseason to establish himself with the team.
"I think this offseason will be key in establishing a role on the team," he said. "I am working to get a bigger role on the offense or special teams."
Sperry (6-foot-5, 238 pounds) has a long ways to go as a blocker. He has yet to cut his teeth on special teams, and he's green even for a rookie after missing the 2007 season with an ACL injury. Nonetheless, he is dripping with talent; and sometimes, that's enough.
"Kory Sperry can be as good as he wants to be," said Greg Peterson, the recruiting coordinator at Colorado State. "He is a big, athletic tight end that can run and catch. I can recall maybe a half-dozen catches from his senior year where he ran down the field like a big wide receiver and made some tremendous, athletic catches."
In many ways, Sperry faces an uphill climb similar to the one faced by Antonio Gates when he was an undrafted free agent in 2003. Back then, the Chargers already had three tight ends who were locks for roster spots: Stephen Alexander, Justin Peelle and Josh Norman. However, Gates was too impressive to risk exposing on the practice squad, so the Chargers carried four tight ends in what turned out to be one of the best roster decisions in franchise history.
It's far too early to start making comparisons between Sperry and Gates. But if he can flash some Gates-like potential during the preseason, the team may consider making a Gates-like exception when it comes time to make final roster decisions.
Should the Chargers go with Wilson or Sperry? Chat it up in the message boards.
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.