SAN DIEGO -- The first day of organized team activities (OTAs) for the San Diego Chargers begins on Monday, as the team enters Phase 3 of the NFL’s offseason program.
During this phase, the Chargers are permitted to conduct a total of 10 days of OTAs over the next four weeks. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
So we’ll get our first look on Monday at rookies like Joey Bosa and tight end Hunter Henry, along with new additions Matt Slauson, Brandon Mebane and Travis Benjamin competing on the field against their teammates.
Let’s get to your questions:
What will Branden Oliver's role be for Chargers? (Weekly mailbag. Thanks again for the questions): https://t.co/6qfN561DQN— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) May 22, 2016
@eric_d_williams: Oliver finished 2015 on the injured reserve due to a toe injury, but is healthy and participating in offseason workouts at Chargers Park.
Although he’s 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds, Oliver is a tough, inside runner who also excels as a receiver out of the backfield. Oliver knows San Diego’s offensive scheme well, and has the trust of Philip Rivers and the rest of the Chargers’ coaching staff.
In two seasons with San Diego, Oliver has averaged 3.6 yards per carry, has 49 career receptions and hasn’t fumbled in 191 carries.
Oliver’s presence on the roster is one of the reasons there’s not too much concern with hurrying Melvin Gordon's recovery from knee surgery. There’s an understanding that Oliver can be productive if Gordon isn’t fully ready once training camp begins.
But whether Gordon is healthy or not, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will find a way to get Oliver involved in the offense. Oliver also should get another chance to return kicks.
But you’re right. Like Michael Turner, Oliver’s best years in the NFL could be spent elsewhere. Oliver’s a restricted free agent at the end of the 2016 season, so the Chargers have some control over whether or not he will hit the free-agent market. And San Diego’s pass-catching back Danny Woodhead is 31 years old and in a contract year.
Oliver could get opportunities from other teams on the market that are willing to offer more money and more playing time. I compare Oliver to Justin Forsett, another compact runner who bounced around the league before finally rushing for over 1,000 yards at 29 years old with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014.
@eric_d_williams: Although he is not in line to start for the Chargers in 2016, the arrow is pointing up for Mager.
As you mention, Mager was a third-round selection in the 2015 draft. At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, one of the things that the Chargers liked about Mager was his size and athleticism for the cornerback position.
They also like his competitiveness. Mager’s development was curbed by a hamstring injury that cost him five games midway through the year. But Mager averaged 46 plays a contest the last four games of the 2015 season, including two starts against the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos. He had a couple pass breakups and the moment did not seem too big for him.
The guaranteed portion of Brandon Flower's contract is up at the end of the year, so Mager could be an eventual replacement at slot corner or on the perimeter in 2017 if he continues to develop.
Third-round selections are generally players that have some physical traits and project as potential starters if developed over time. Mager fits that mold, but he still has to continue to learn, contribute on special teams and work his way toward an impactful role for the Chargers.
In the couple of offseason workouts that I’ve seen, Mager has looked solid in defensive-back drills and appears to be moving well. Again, I think development-wise Mager is where he needs to be, and we’ll see how he performs during organized team activities and in training camp.