December 31, 2014
by Marty Caswell
A few things stood out from Chargers GM Tom Telesco’s season-ending press conference with the San Diego media on Wednesday. First and foremost, he’s not going to get into specifics about which players are coming back and which ones aren’t, nor will he list the team’s top priorities heading into free agency and the NFL draft (the Chargers have an extensive list of unrestricted few agents including Ryan Mathews, Eddie Royal, King Dunlap, Dwight Freeney, Seyi Ajirotutu, Brandon Flowers, Shareece Wright and Marcus Gilchrist).
Last year, it was beyond obvious that the Chargers needed to shore up their secondary and they did just that, drafting cornerback Jason Verrett in the first round and signing Brandon Flowers to a one-year contract. This year, the list is extensive, starting with protecting Philip Rivers up front and getting the running game going.
Telesco has said from day one that they know what Ryan Mathews can do when he’s healthy, but as Chargers fans know all too well, he’s never healthy. Mathews missed 10 games this season after starting all 16 in 2014 for the first and only time in his career.
Asked about whether Mathews fits into their future, Telesco said, “Those are the discussions we’re going to have and I think, I like having time, I don’t like making decisions right after a season. There’s too many emotions involved, we have to sit back, look at the whole year, really discuss things. We have a lot of questions that have to be answered in the off-season with Ryan and a number of free agents, so we know what Ryan brings to us. He’s a great kid, and we’ll take our time and decide what we’re going to do with all our guys and what’s the best team to put out there next year, so we have some work to do.”
On if they would need a running back with the same complementary skill set should they retain Mathews “I like the backs we have right now, I really do, so not necessarily. No.”
Chris Watt was a career guard at Notre Dame but became the Chargers fourth different starting center. Telesco was asked about the job he did filling in and if he envisions his future at guard or center.
“We’re going to talk about that. You try and take positives of when players get hurt so the one positive is we got a chance to see Chris play center in live action and I thought he did a really good job. So he can play either guard or center, it’s up to us decide where his best spot is for our team. Those are things we’ll talk about this off-season.”
“Some may depend who’s on the offensive line and where, but number one, we know he can play. Number two, the center position is so important. It’s essentially a quarterback of the offensive line. Chris has those intangible skills and he has those smarts. No one’s ever going to be Nick Hardwick but Chris has a bright future. We’ll see where he ends up playing but we know he can play.”
Watch Excerpt from Tom Telesco’s Press Conference
It’s very obvious how high the Chargers are on Watt, and Telesco was quite complimentary of left tackle King Dunlap as well.
“He was really big for us this year. I mean he played well last year too, but he really stepped up this year, not only as a player but as a leader for us. He just played solid, consistent football week after week after week so like I said, these are all questions we have to answer in the off-season but he did a tremendous job.”
It will be very interesting to see what the Chargers do with D.J. Fluker. In the past, Telesco and the coaching staff were adamant that they envisioned him as a tackle and not a guard. On Wednesday, Telesco seemed open to the possibility that he could slide over to guard. “Does he have some versatility? I think he does. I think he can still play a great tackle in this league, I do.”
On what kind of guard he’d make.
“I think he probably could be a pretty good guard. He’s a talented player. His future is probably right tackle or a guard, probably not so much left tackle although when he stepped in his rookie year and played left tackle, he did ok. I think he’s got some versatility to go where he needs to go. He’s a really good football player and he’s still growing too.”
So you’re saying there’s a chance…
The Chargers finished with the same regular-season 9-7 record that they did in Telesco and Mike McCoy’s first season with the team, but Telesco didn’t see 2014 as a step back.
“I understand how the fans could see how we took a step back. We went 9-7 last year and made the playoffs. We went 9-7 this year and didn’t make the playoffs. But with that said, I feel really good about what we built here. Being here every day, I see these guys work, and I also see what we have here moving forward. Like I said, I think this is a pretty exciting time here. It’s an exciting time in the city because of what the Padres are doing. I know they haven’t played a game yet but it’s exciting what they are doing right now. San Diego State is a power. Their basketball team is fun to watch. I understand that sentiment but I truly believe that we are going in the right direction.”