Are the Chargers Missing Eric Weddle?

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Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports
Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports

Since he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2007 out of Utah, Eric Weddle had been the anchor of the Chargers’ defense.

He has decent speed, but ultimately what makes him solid is his toughness, football smarts, and determination to make a play on the football field. Plain and simple, he is a leader.

The Chargers knew he was their guy, so they had no problem trading their second, third, and fifth round picks in 2017 and a 2008 third round pick to the Bears for the rights to take Eric Weddle with the 37th pick overall in the draft.

In 48 games at Utah, Weddle started 45 times (nine at right cornerback, 12 at left cornerback, six at nickelback, 18 at strong safety). He recorded 277 tackles, and his 165 solo tackles currently ranks sixth in school history. He produced ten sacks in college for minus-69 yards and 22.5 tackles for loss producing minus-108 yards.

He also set the school career record with nine forced fumbles and ranks sixth with six fumble recoveries, returning two for a total of 66 yards while scoring a touchdown. On offense, Weddle rushed 52 times for 259 yards (5.0 avg) and six touchdowns. He completed 2 of 6 passes for 43 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He is very versatile as he also recovered an onside kick and punted twice for the Utes, totaling 46 yards.

Weddle was a special player coming out of Utah. He was able to play all over the defensive secondary, and that’s why the Chargers drafted him. He left Utah with several honors. An award that stands out is that he was named the Mountain West Conference Defense Player Of The Year twice, in 2005 and 2006. With all these numbers, and being the best defense player in the conference, Mel Kiper Jr., NFL draft expert, thought otherwise. He said, “That’s an awful lot to give up. … They’re telling us they don’t need all those other draft picks (because of the talent already on the roster).” But Buddy Nix, Chargers’ Director Of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager (at the time) said, “We’re not worried about what we gave up; we’re worried about what we got.”

His best year for the Chargers was 2011, when he had a career-high seven interceptions and 70 tackles. He hardly missed time and was considered an “Iron Man”, because he hardly ever missed a game. On December 20, 2015, Weddle stayed out to watch his daughter perform in the halftime show against the Miami Dolphins. Eric Weddle did not ask permission from management to remain on the sideline to watch his daughter, and was not present in the locker room. Team spokesman Bill Johnston said that it is mandatory for all players to be in the locker room during halftime. As a result, Weddle was fined $10,000. Weddle’s agent, David Carter, said he planned to file a grievance with the NFL Players Association and said that he felt disrespected by the way things were handled.

Credit: USA Today Sports
Credit: Getty Images

Weddle had previously skipped voluntary workouts last off-season to show his displeasure with the Chargers’ refusal to give him a contract extension. Furthermore, Weddle was placed on injured reserve with a groin issue on December 28, 2015. This occurred against his wishes. Bottom line, Weddle was treated unfairly during his last year as a Charger and felt disrespected; as a result, he signed with the Baltimore Ravens on March 14, 2016, He signed a four-year, $26 million deal to head east.

So far this year with the Ravens, Weddle has been productive, reaching 54 tackles and two interceptions thus far in Baltimore. He is projected to finish the 2016 Season with 84 tackles and three interceptions. Not career highs by any means, but respectable numbers from the veteran defensive back.

Now let’s take a look at a couple of safeties that are currently playing for the San Diego Chargers and how they have fared as Weddle’s replacement.

Jahleel Addae was undrafted and picked up by the Chargers in 2013, He came from the University of Central Michigan. At Central Michigan, Addae was named 3rd team All-MAC in 2010, 1st team in 2011, and 2nd team in 2012. He finished his career at CMU with 302 tackles, eight interceptions, and three forced fumbles. So far this year, he has only played three games with 19 tackles. He was injured in week two against the Jaguars, when he went out with a shoulder issue. The hard hitting safety provides aggressive tackling, but he can get out of position from time to time.

Dwight Lowery was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He played college football at San Jose State. Lowery has bounced around quite a few teams during his career. He was drafted by the Jets, then traded to the Jaguars, signed by the Falcons, signed by the Colts, then finally the Chargers signed him this past year on a three-year deal. The Chargers signed him to not only to fill the void of Eric Weddle, but because he has great versatility and ball skills.

Still you have to wonder if the Chargers are missing their long time safety and captain. Through week nine of the season, Weddle was leading all of the NFL safeties in PFF (Pro Football Focus) rankings with a 92.4 grade. Lowery has been nothing but average at the position. It was a tough call for Chargers’ management, although they usually take the high road when the team has a disagreement with a player. In a season that his been painful to watch, the loss of Weddle at safety, and the success he has had with his new club, is a hard pill to swallow for Chargers fans.

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