Player Spotlights

The Curious Case of Chris Watt


You think this has been a whirlwind offseason for Chargers fans? Try looking at things through the eyes of 2014 third-round pick Chris Watt.

In March, GM Tom Telesco insisted Watt was still his starting center.

“I don’t look at him any different than I did last year, except that I’m really hoping that he can stay healthy because he’s a really good football player,” Telesco said.

A month later, in April’s NFL Draft, the Chargers spent a third-round pick on USC center Max Tuerk, who will push Watt and provide depth across the interior offensive line. Tuerk, a terrific athlete with rare quickness and mobility, was just the second center off the board.

In May, Telesco added veteran center Matt Slauson, who has started all 16 games in five of the last six seasons. Slauson was the league’s fifth-best center last season, according to Pro Football Focus, while Watt earned negative grades in each of his five appearances.

Suddenly, Watt has gone from the frontrunner for the hub position to a bubble player in need of a strong training camp just to maintain his spot on the roster.
It is a stunning fall, one facilitated mostly by injuries.

In 2015, Watt missed 11 games due to ankle, shoulder and head injuries. The year prior, he missed four games with ankle and groin injuries.

“One goal [of mine] is to stay healthy,” Watt told earlier this offseason. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that last year. That’s just kind of the nature of the business, but staying healthy is a big goal of mine.”

It may be too late for Watt.

The starting interior line figures to feature Orlando Franklin at left guard, Slauson at center and D.J. Fluker at right guard. Tuerk is guaranteed one of the reserve positions, which leaves Watt to battle with backup center Trevor Robinson, seventh-round pick Donavon Clark and third-year guard Kenny Wiggins.

Watt certainly has the talent to emerge at the head of that pack. He is strong enough to generate movement in the running game and has the bend and balance necessary to be a high-level pass protector. The key is to stay healthy and earn enough consistent reps to start improving his craft.

If Watt can do that, it will only be a matter of time before somebody goes down in front of him and he gets another opportunity in the starting lineup. If not, he will become the first player drafted by Telesco within the first five rounds to part ways with the team.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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