By Dave Thomas
In a season that finds the San Diego Chargers with a 3-3 mark through six contests, one constant has been the play of free safety Eric Weddle.
Coming into the 2013 campaign, the Chargers were looking to form a new identity, an identity that would push them over the hump and into the AFC playoffs after a three-year drought. Through six games, there is no certainty that the Bolts will in fact be going to the post-season come January, but the play of guys such as Weddle certainly improves such odds.
As most experts that follow the NFL know, Weddle is the heart and soul of the Chargers defense; not bad considering that the University of Utah product is far from the biggest guy on the San Diego defensive side of the ball. In fact, he may be one of the smallest. That said, it does not keep him from poking his head in on what seems like just about every defensive play of the ball.
During Monday night’s 19-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Weddle was in on several big tackles, leading ESPN analyst Jon Gruden to sing his praise. Weddle finished the night with six tackles (five solo), as the Chargers climbed back to the .500 mark.
Proving to Be a Born Leader
Along with his exploits on defense, Weddle has also shown he’s not afraid to mix it up on special teams. It is not uncommon to see Weddle back fielding punts at times, something not often seen from a free safety.
Back to his leadership skills when the Bolts are on defense, the 5′ 11, 200-pound Southern California native definitely has the respect of opposing offensives. Although Weddle is oftentimes not covering the opposing team’s top receiving play maker, it is not uncommon for him to be making the tackle to prevent a big gain or even a score.
Drafted in the second round by the Chargers (2007) after the Chicago Bears accepted a trade allowing San Diego to move up, Weddle has lived up to his billing and then some.
After being San Diego’s top defensive player in recent years, he was honored for his efforts by being named the team’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2012, along with getting the invite to Honolulu as an AFC Pro Bowl starter in 2011 (seven interceptions that season).
Through six games this season, Weddle has recorded 32 solo tackles and been in on 42 altogether. Needless to say, San Diego’s defense would be in major trouble were it not to have number 32 roaming the secondary, essentially a stop gap from preventing opponents making big plays.
While there are certainly no guarantees that 2013 is the season the Chargers end their recent playoff drought, it is rather safe to say that one Eric Weddle will play a major part in trying to get San Diego playing past their Dec. 29 regular season finale against Kansas City.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.