Bolts Notebook: The Power Within

WR Vincent Brown (USA TODAY Sports)

The Chargers made some small improvements in free agency. And they hope to make some significant improvements in the NFL Draft. But for the team to get where it wants to go, most of the progress will come from players already on the roster. Here is a look at some of the young prospects being counted on to step up.

Most Chargers fans look for Ladarius Green to take the next step in 2014 and become a frontline player. But he's not the only pass catcher who's yet to approach his ceiling.

Vincent Brown had a quiet 2013 season, catching just 41 balls for 472 yards and one score. After Week 5, he never recorded more than three receptions in a game and topped the 40-yard barrier just one time. But Brown can be better than that, and he has to be for San Diego's offense to reach its potential.

Brown's season was not a complete failure. He caught nearly 60 percent of the passes thrown his way (he caught less than 50 percent of his targets as a rookie in 2011) and dropped just one pass. But he needs to recover the dynamic form he flashed last offseason to give Philip Rivers a legitimate outside threat not named Keenan Allen.

Speaking of helping Rivers, more development of OG Johnnie Troutman and OT Mike Harris is pivotal. The Chargers return all five starting offensive linemen from a season ago, but that stability may not last for long. OT King Dunlap and OG Jeromey Clary are both entering contract years, so the opportunity is there for Troutman and Harris to prove they are more than valuable reserves -- they're starters in waiting.

While progress is wanted on offense, it is desperately needed on defense. The position with the most wild-cards is linebacker, as it is impossible to know what to expect from Dwight Freeney, Larry English or Jonas Mouton (although it is unfair to lump the highly accomplished Freeney with the red-flagged English and Mouton).

One 'backer set to make major strides is Tourek Williams. A 2013 sixth-round pick out of Florida International, Williams was supposed to spend his rookie season learning and playing special teams. Instead, a rash of injuries forced him prominently into the defensive rotation. He finished with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Williams is strong off the edge and relentless in pursuit, but he is extremely raw. He has a limited arsenal of pass-rush moves and is still slow in diagnosing offenses. But with another year of seasoning, he could prove to be a strong situational pass rusher.

In the secondary, the player with the most upside is Jahleel Addae. He worked his way into the nickel defense as a rookie and finished with 38 tackles, three pass breakups and a sack. He has outstanding range and instincts and has a chance to supplant Marcus Gilchrist at the revolving door known as strong safety.

And speaking of the competition at strong safety, if Brandon Taylor doesn't force his way into the mix, he will be forced out before Week 1. The team has been extremely patient with Taylor as he worked his way back from major knee surgery, but the time has come for the Chargers to get something out of that investment. When healthy, Taylor is a big hitter with underrated coverage skills. But he was brought aboard by the former regime, so if he fails to develop, Tom Telesco can cut him guilt free.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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