A serious philosophical change took place within the San Diego Chargers organization this offseason with a revamped coaching staff, front office, and depth chart in many cases. Part of the purge consisted of some stalwart veterans who have been productive for years in the league, and nowhere is that any more apparent than at the inside linebacker position.
Adding D.J. Smith after he was released by the Green Bay Packers was a savvy move by new Bolts general manager Tom Telesco. Green Bay let go of the linebacker the day before the 2013 NFL Draft and San Diego wasted no time snatching up the talented 24 year-old. Even though he suffered season-ending ACL and MCL tears in Week 6 against the Houston Texans and was unable to begin doing football activities back in April, the Bolts thought enough of the youngster to claim him.
Smith started every game in 2012 prior to his season-ending injury for a reason. The young man has plenty of talent, and if his knee can recover back to full strength, the former sixth round pick out of Appalachian State could fit perfectly in the younger San Diego locker room. Takeo Spikes was released early in the offseason signaling a changing of the guard at inside linebacker. Demorrio Williams was not re-signed by the club which leaves Donald Butler as the only experienced body at inside backer in the 3-4 defense.
Training camp will see some serious competition at the inside linebacker spot after the former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o joined the mix during the draft. Andrew Gachkar and Jonas Mouton remain on the depth chart as well, but they have factored in mainly on special teams during their time with the Bolts. If Smith can get back to full health by the time camp opens up he could be part of a fierce competition with the rookie Te’o. If the Packers releasing him was an indication that his rehab isn’t going as well as planned, however, it’s likely he will be a depth component in 2013.
As just 24 years of age, regardless of how involved he is in the upcoming season the addition of Smith made a lot of sense as a low risk, high reward situation. Health is the big question mark on the 2013 campaign, and if that gets sorted out between now an Week 1 he could see some serious playing time as a rotational piece on defense.