Bolts backers were delighted when San Diego stole ILB Darry Beckwith from the undrafted free agent market. Beckwith, projected by most to be a middle-round pick, was seen as a long-term keeper for an inside 'backer corps that struggled in '08. However, fellow undrafted rookie James Holt is ready to heat up the competition and create a buzz of his own.
Holt certainly boasts play-making skills worth getting excited about. Last season, he led the Jayhawks with 105 total tackles, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. He also showcased an impressive playing speed that intimidated opponents and caught the Chargers' attention.
"I'm a pretty good lateral player, and I play from sideline to sideline, so that's always been a good asset of mine on the football field," Holt said.
LBs James Holt, Anthony Felder and Larry English.
Holt's biggest challenge, more so than outshining Beckwith, is getting comfortable with his transition from outside linebacker to the inside position. The Chargers will still give him a chance to get after the QB -- an obvious strength of his -- but his frame (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) all but mandates a move to the inside.
"I think playing inside is a benefit for me," Holt said. "I mean, I like rushing the edge and everything, but I think if I ever wanted to become one of those guys I would need to put on a little more weight so that I could be a better edge rusher."
Holt hopes to use camp to answer questions about his ability to transition to the NFL. Most notably, critics have harped on his lack of straight-line speed after he ran a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash.
Poor measurables are what caused Holt to slip through the cracks during the draft, allowing the Chargers to pick up one of the most underrated members of the 2009 rookie class.
"Holt was absolutely underrated," said Kevin Flaherty of PHOG.net. "There wasn't a skill-set he didn't demonstrate in his college career. He produced more than several players who were drafted. Two Big 12 linebackers, Cody Glenn and Brad Jones, were drafted ahead of Holt and neither was nearly the player Holt was."
Holt was considered a long-shot to stick in San Diego from the day he signed his rookie contract. Friday's release of Matt Wilhelm increased Holt's odds substantially, but even still, most observers believe Beckwith is the likely benefactor of that move.
But Holt is eager to use training camp as a platform to make a case for himself.
"I can't wait to get on the field and hopefully make this team," he said.
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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.