Who is the most irreplaceable player on the San Diego Chargers?
For a team that saw a tremendous amount of roster turnover this offseason, that question gets somewhat difficult to answer. Quarterback Philip Rivers would be the easy answer, but his 55 turnovers compared to just 53 touchdowns kind of detracts from that argument. The Bolts would be in a pickle if they had to trot the Jesus beard of Charlie Whitehurst out into the huddle, but he could probably hold his own for a game or two.
No, the player that earns this distinction actually resides on the defensive side of the football in now veteran safety Eric Weddle. Believe it or not, once upon a time fans were actually upset with what former general manager A.J. Smith gave up to move up in the draft to land the playmaking safety. He has more than made up for those grumblings since as Weddle is the commander of the San Diego defense and now the eldest member of the secondary as well.
That may be the biggest reason why Weddle deserves this honor. Now that Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both gone on the corners and Marcus Gilchrist prepares to make the switch to safety, the Chargers must have some sense of stability on the back end of their defense. Weddle provides that in spades with his ability to line up all over the formation and read and diagnose plays with the best of them.
Of course the lack of depth behind him doesn’t hurt his cause, either. Darrell Stuckey doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he could adequately replace the skill set that Weddle brings to the table on any given play. His presence to the defense as a whole is simply irreplaceable.
Entering the 2013 season, just four safeties are scheduled to make more money than Weddle and one of those is under the franchise tag (Jairus Byrd). Of the other three (Troy Polamalu, Eric Berry, Antrel Rolle) it’s easy to argue that only Berry warrants that type of cash flow given the stages of both Polamalu and Rolle’s careers at present. Both are on the downside of their respective career arcs, and it’s easy to say that the Bolts are actually getting a bargain with Weddle at $6 million in the upcoming season.
There’s no doubt Weddle will have to earn his money in 2013 given the fact that he is the lone returning starter to a secondary that wasn’t all that consistent to begin with. He will likely be asked to help out new corners Derek Cox and Shareece Wright on the regular along with projected starting nickel corner in rookie Steve Williams.
Eric Weddle’s job description in 2013 is going to be quite lengthy. Trying to replace that would be a monumental task for even the best GM in the NFL. San Diego has to have their fingers crossed that the man in the middle of their secondary can stay healthy for the duration of the upcoming season.