By Grant Waller @Grant_J_Waller on April 22, 2014
The San Diego Chargers exceeded expectations last season, with a 9-7 finish and a playoff berth for the first time since 2010. With a young roster, there's a lot of breakout potential on this team. Last year, it was rookie Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead who stepped up after season-ending injuries to receivers Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd. I will look at five players who are 25 years old or younger who could have a huge impact next season.
Vincent Brown has a great opportunity to take the next step in his development. San Diego will need another receiver to step up to take pressure off of Allen. After recording 41 receptions, 472 yards and one touchdown last season, Brown could be that guy. Brown showed improvement at the end of last year with big catches against Denver and Oakland, and has become a reliable blocker. Another year in McCoy's system should bode well for Brown.
Jahleel Addae could be the guy who wins the job alongside Weddle next year. Addae, an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, worked his way up from the practice squad to become a big contributor. He finished with eight tackles and a forced fumble in San Diego's AFC Divisional Playoff loss to Denver. Over the last five games, Addae played starter's snaps (51 a game). He could provide San Diego's secondary with much-needed physicality.
Manti Te'o missed all four exhibition games and the first three games of the regular season with an ankle injury. He was rusty when he got back on the field, to say the least. Te'o consistently took bad angles and over ran plays. Now, with a full offseason and training camp to work with defensive coordinator John Pagano and co-middle linebacker Donald Butler, Te'o should absorb the playbook better and provide more impact plays for the defense.
With Ladarius Gates entering his 12th season, the Chargers have a young star waiting in his shadow. The 2012 4th round pick, stands at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, and ran an impressive 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine. He showed his explosiveness on a 60-yard touchdown reception against Kansas City last year. Learning behind Gates will only help Green's development going forward. His size and quickness will be a matchup problem for opposing defenses.
Melvin Ingram has the athleticism and physicality to become a force on the Chargers' defense. It will help Ingram to learn from veteran and future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney. With them both back on the field, the Chargers' pass rush should drastically improve. While Ingram only has two sacks in 20 career NFL games, he showed his potential in San Diego's playoff win over Cincinnati. Look for Ingram be a difference-maker for San Diego's defense.
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