Cletis Gordon enters the '09 season firmly lodged into his role as the No. 4 corner. The three players in front of him are former first-round picks -- Quentin Jammer, Antonio Cromartie and Antoine Cason -- while the player behind him is a rookie still learning the ropes (Brandon Hughes).
Gordon has the ability to shoulder an increased workload. Unfortunately, the one thing he needs in order to earn more playing time is the one thing the Chargers are unwilling to give him: first-team reps.
People inside the Chargers' organization are concerned about Gordon's confidence. Two team scouts who attended the Senior Bowl talked at length about the fact that Gordon needs extended reps to build his confidence; otherwise, he second-guesses himself unnecessarily.
CB Cletis Gordon
That explains why Gordon got the starting nod over Cason in Week 10 last season when the team pulled Cromartie out of the starting lineup. Gordon was able to get in two weeks of first-string reps prior to making the start (the Chargers were on bye the week prior), which allowed him to acclimate fully.
On the flip side, when Jammer sprained his ankle in the playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Gordon was unexpectedly pressed into extended duty, he struggled mightily.
Unfortunately for Gordon, San Diego isn't in position to give him extended run with the first team. The team has invested too much in the three players in front of him to do anything to jeopardize their readiness.
So what do you do with a No. 4 corner who's unable to thrive off second-team reps? If you're the Chargers, you draft some competition. The team tabbed Oregon State CB Brandon Hughes in the fifth round of this year's draft in part to push Gordon to realize his potential. If Gordon doesn't answer the call, the Chargers will let him walk after the season and plug Hughes into the dime-back spot.
The Chargers will consider keeping undrafted rookie CB Wopamo Osaisai on the practice squad this season and grooming him as a possible fill-in for 2010. Osaisai boasts a lot of upside as a backup because of his prowess on special teams.
- To see what else Chargers scouts had to say about Gordon, click here.
- To check out our exclusive interview with CB Brandon Hughes, click here.
- To read an inside scouting report on CB Wopamo Osaisai, click here.
How do you see Gordon's situation unfolding? Talk about it 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.