When the final cuts were made on Saturday afternoon, the Chargers had five running backs on the roster. Most assumed the final spot would come down to a battle between rookie backs Marion Grice and Branden Oliver, and they were correct. Initially, Tom Telesco and the Chargers kept both backs as waiving either could have resulted in their departure from San Diego. However, when a player Telesco was familiar with — in a position of need for San Diego — became available, the Bolts pulled the trigger.
The Chargers have added defensive tackle, Ricardo Mathews, to the 53-man roster. He was drafted by the Colts in 2010, and signed with the Texans this offseason. Fortunately for the Bolts, he was let go during final cuts by Houston. Mathews has only started six games in his professional career, but this move was based on one thing: versatility within the defensive scheme.
Chargers fans and media had speculated the Bolts may go after former Bronco and defensive tackle, Kevin Vickerson, after he was cut by Denver this weekend. Vickerson is a load, and by all considerations, an above average NFL player. While he may have been the best defensive tackle available, he may not have been the best fit. Vickerson has only ever played in a 4-3 defensive scheme, while Mathews is well versed in the 3-4 — the system John Pagano runs in San Diego.
Telesco is very familiar with this player and obviously thought he could help the team. With Kwame Geathers done for the year, Ryan Carrethers still learning how to play nose tackle, and Sean Lissemore in a walking boot, the Bolts were very thin at defensive tackle. Mathews will provide depth and allow Lissemore to ease his way back into the starting spot coming off his injury.
From the sounds of it, Mathews played great in both camp and preseason for the Texans. It appears as if depth at the position simply left him as the odd man out, and the Chargers may have gotten a bit of a steal. For a 300 pound tackle, Mathews has exceptional speed (sub 5.0 forty-time), but may lack the ideal size to eat up blockers at the zero-technique. He also has experience at defensive end — will provide depth and versatility once Lissemore is back to 100 percent. Additionally, his ability to play all over the defensive line will help the Chargers stay fresh with a flexible rotation.
The move helps the Chargers immediately, and keeps the defense moving in the right direction. But even better news may be on the horizon.
The Chargers can still add Marion Grice to the practice squad if he goes unclaimed by the rest of the NFL. Let’s hope he slips through now that most of the rosters are full. If the Chargers are able to retain him after adding a valuable piece to the defensive line, this is a win-win situation.