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Gray Matter Mailbag: McGahee, WRs & Former Chargers

Posted Jun 14, 2013

This week's Gray Matter fan mailbag covers McGahee's release, the battle for the No. 4 wide receiver and how the former Chargers will fit in.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The offices around Dove Valley are a lot emptier today after the final minicamp of the offseason finished up Thursday afternoon. But fear not, the Gray Matter mailbag goes on. Thanks for all the questions this week -- you can keep them coming all week long via Twitter.

Let's get to it.

Head Coach John Fox called it a conscious decision to get younger at running back. The team has confidence in its high draft picks from the past two seasons, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, as well as Knowshon Moreno, who is working his way back from the knee injury he suffered in the playoffs. Then there's even more depth with Jacob Hester, Lance Ball and Jeremiah Johnson, in addition to college free agent C.J. Anderson. The timing of the move was to give McGahee, who was the team's leading rusher in each of the past two seasons, a better chance to catch on with another team. Fox conceded that it might be a hard pill to swallow for the 11th-year veteran to take a backup role -- as it would be for anyone -- and ultimately the move provides a chance to give the younger backs on the roster a chance to take over.

No, not exactly. Dave Magazu is the club's offensive line coach, as he has been for the past two seasons -- part of 10 seasons in the NFL and 33 years of coaching overall. But the club brought Gibbs back into the fold in a consulting capacity. In his new role, he'll work closely with the younger players on the line to aid in their development. Ring of Famer Tom Nalen called Gibbs "a great football mind," and Zane Beadles said Magazu is "a great coach" who he feels lucky to have around, and adding Gibbs to the mix makes for "a great combination." For those not familiar with Gibbs, he first entered the NFL in 1984 with the Broncos and spent a combined 13 season in Denver, winning two Super Bowl rings with the club.

Our own Andrew Mason singled out Greg Orton as one of three players he believes "answered the call" during OTAs and minicamp to show he might be ready to take the next step. He's made a number of notable plays during practice sessions open to the media, including a handful of touchdowns from Brock Osweiler during team and seven-on-seven drills. Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said earlier this offseason that Orton "gets open a lot," and though he's still technically a first-year player, he was impressive in last season's training camp before getting hurt and ending up on the practice squad. But the fact that he survived the entire season on the practice squad and is still on the roster shows the team is impressed with his potential.

“He’ll make a play or two every day that catches your eye," Gase said. "I really think that he’s making big strides to really push that back end of the receiver group to who’s going to be that last guy to make the team.”

Speaking of guys like Orton, that competition will be one of the more interesting battles to watch in training camp. If I had to pick right now, I'd say Tavarres King. But that's only because he's the only player the team drafted in the group. The fifth-round pick has made some plays of his own throughout OTAs and minicamp, but so have Gerell Robinson -- who was with the club during training camp last season before spending most of the year on Arizona's practice squad -- and Orton. Trindon Holliday's role will still be mainly on special teams, but he could enter himself into the conversation at receiver if he continues to make plays on offense during training camp.

"It’s a deep group," Gase said of the receivers behind Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. "I think each guy has really developed in his own way. The biggest thing for them is learning the play quicker and the mental aspect of it."

As Decker put it, "every guy can play." The competition will come down to who picks up the playbook the fastest and translates it to the field.

In terms of Phillips, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said he's ready to play either outside linebacker or defensive end. In making the switch from 3-4 to 4-3, Phillips has been learning the ins and outs of both positions, and his defensive coordinator said he's done a good job so far. Phillips hasn't been shy about saying he enjoys putting his hand in the dirt and simply rushing the passer as often as possible, but his official position is listed as linebacker -- on the strongside behind Von Miller. Expect to see a little of both positions from him when he gets on the field. When it comes to Jammer, Fox said the team will give him a look at safety, and Del Rio said the defensive back is making progress in that transition. His 11 seasons as a cornerback in San Diego help him bring, as David Bruton put it, "that coverage aspect" to safety. That versatility could help Jammer carve out his role in a deep secondary.

No, he's not. Also, for the record, it's Gray Matter. We'll beat this Gary vs. Gray thing someday!

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