While they haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 2013, the Los Angeles Chargers are widely known as a capable and worthy opponent around the league and the NFL community. From missed kicks to poor defense, there are a couple reasons for this playoff drought but it seems Philip Rivers and the boys almost make it every year.
In 2017, the Chargers had a fantastic offense, ranking fourth in overall offense and first in passing yards per game. The passing defense contributed as well finishing with the third-best mark in the league. Unfortunately, it was the plague of the kicker for the guys in baby powder blue, with several losses on the season coming from missed kicks.
Now, the team is coming off a worthwhile draft. While some have been disappointed with the lack of “flash” in L.A.’s picks, there is no arguing they filled many necessary needs. Their first four picks were on defense, sending help to the front seven with nose tackle Justin Jones while also drafting the highly talented safety Derwin James.
The team did get some offense in the later rounds, including running back Justin Jackson of Northwestern. Rushing is not a category most Chargers fans are worried about with Melvin Gordon leading the way for a unit that is usually quite productive. However, they didn’t even manage 100 rushing yards per game in 2017, so adding some firepower isn’t a bad idea.
After the draft, in their 21 signed undrafted free agents, the team continued to add depth at tailback by signing all-purpose back Detrez Newsome of Western Carolina University. While you may not even consider his talents, believe me when I say, he will be on the roster come September.
Detrez Newsome hails from a small town school in Cullowhee, North Carolina settled into the Southern Conference. He played all four years with the Catamounts, ranking second in school history with 3,728 rushing yards and 37 scores, which were part of his school record 46 total touchdowns. He compiled seven receiving TDs and two kickoff returns for scores as well. He had 16, 100-yard rushing performances during his career which is second all-time at WCU.
Despite missing three games due to injury his senior season, he still became the first Catamount running back in program history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for a third-straight season. Newsome’s seasonal rushing average of 122.2 yards per game led the SoCon. As an all-purpose back, Newsome paced the NCAA FCS for a second-straight season, averaging 170.67 all-purpose yards per game. He was named first-team All-Southern Conference by both the coaches and the media and was selected to six All-America post-season teams including first-team as an all-purpose back by STATS FCS, the AFCA, and HERO Sports. To cap it all off he was invited to participate in the 2018 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Newsome’s biggest value is seen in his yards per attempt. In both his junior and senior season he averaged over six rushing yards per attempt, while he finished his career with exactly six yards per rushing attempt. He averaged 11 yards per reception his junior season while he averaged 8.8 yards per reception for his career. There was hardly ever a moment that Newsome would go down after the first hit. That doesn’t sound shabby considering the Chargers only averaged 3.8 yards per attempt last season.
Newsome may be undersized at 5’10 but you can feel all 210 pounds of him when he puts his head down and barrels through the gaps. While his competition in the SoCon was subpar in many folks’ opinions, he faced plenty of primetime competition in his starting days.
From his sophomore to senior season he played against six FBS teams, consisting of Hawaii, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, East Carolina, and South Carolina. He averaged five yards per rushing attempt, seven receiving yards per reception, and 24 yards per kickoff return in these games, scoring five total touchdowns. He rushed for 100+ yards in four games against FBS opponents.
Just to make things even more convincing, in 2016 he finished as the NCAA FCS Football individual season champion for all-purpose yards, amassing a Southern Conference record 2,343 all-purpose yards to lead three of the four NCAA football divisions, beating out then Stanford Cardinal Christian McCaffrey. In a game in 2016, Newsome set the SoCon kick return yardage single-game record, with 240 return yards and a returned touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Catamounts scored the second-most points on USC’s defense that season.
As a student of Western, seeing Detrez play live makes you forget his height. He is the biggest guy on the field and defenders are scared to square up with him. He is as poised as any leader and keeps a very focused mindset at all times. He has the natural talent to contribute on any NFL team, whether it be on special teams or offense, and I think he will impress the coaches come workout season.
Newsome will face an uphill battle to earn a starting spot and Catamount nation will keep a close eye on his progress over the summer. I hope to see him in action in the preseason.
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