Five Chargers to Watch: Rookie Edition

The San Diego Chargers anticipate playing the starters into the second half of Saturday's game against the Atlanta Falcons. However, the team's youngsters will be under the most scrutiny. Here are five rookies to watch for.

1. LB Larry English

San Diego's first-round pick will make his debut after missing the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury. His presence will be a welcome addition to a pass rush that's bagged only one sack through two preseason games.

English may play a bigger role than expected this season as Shawne Merriman continues to be bothered by soreness in his surgically repaired knee. If that's the case, English must act like a sponge in Atlanta and learn as much as possible with the regular season set to kick off in just over two weeks.

2. OG Louis Vasquez

Vasuez saw his first game action last week against the Arizona Cardinals and produced mixed results. Starting in place of Kynan Forney (neck), Vasquez allowed one sack and was partly to blame on another, yet he settled down as the game wore on and was mostly impressive.

Coach Norv Turner has yet to name a starter at right guard, leaving the door open for Vasquez to become the only rookie in the starting lineup. He'll have to fend off Forney, a former Falcon who is expected to come off the bench in his return to Atlanta.

OG Louis Vasquez
Shana Siler/
3. SS Kevin Ellison

The good news for Ellison is that he has opened eyes so far this preseason with his secure tackling and aggression. The bad news is that he plays a position featuring a logjam of talented young prospects.

Ellison is competing with Steve Gregory, Paul Oliver and fellow rookie C.J. Spillman for playing time behind starters Clinton Hart and Eric Weddle. Ellison must clamp down in zone coverage and make some plays on the ball to prove he is ready for a spot in the rotation.

4. WR Charly Martin

Martin has been the star of the preseason thus far, leading the team with six catches for 83 yards. He has shown the ability to find soft spots in the defense and make tough catches, drawing some comparisons to his mentor, Eric Parker.

Martin is viewed as a long-shot to make the active roster, although he's giving the Bolts brass a lot to think about. The team may be hesitant to lose another undrafted gem at the wide receiver position after seeing Wes Welker (New England Patriots) and Greg Camarillo (Miami Dolphins) go on to great success with other teams.

5. LB James Holt

Holt has been arguably the most impressive member of this year's crop of undrafted rookies. He has made a seamless transition from outside linebacker at Kansas to an inside linebacker in Ron Rivera's 3-4 system.

Holt has lived up to his reputation as a sideline-to-sideline defender and has been surprisingly apt at dropping into coverage. With a strong performance over the final two weeks of the preseason, Holt can put himself in the running for the final 'backer position on the 53-man roster.

Which rookies are you watching for Saturday? 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 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.

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