Photo Credit: Jake Roth USA Today
One of the biggest questions Chargers fans may have as the team heads into the 2017 season is who will be the team’s No. 1 tight end.
Will it be future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates or second-year phenom Hunter Henry?
The reality is that this isn’t truly a question.
The team which formerly called San Diego home (and trust me, I know how much that still upsets the fanbase) has two stellar men at that position.
Do they switch roles this year? Many anticipate that Henry will become quarterback Philip Rivers’ primary tight end entering the 2017 season.
Antonio Gates has been the stalwart, quintessential and reliable man at tight end who Rivers has been tossing the pigskin to for the last 13 years. Gates signed a two-year contract extension in the 2015 offseason and this year, 2017, may just be the final one in which we will be able to enjoy watching those No. 17-to-No. 85 lobs downfield.
After all, Gates turned 37 years old in June. At age 22, Henry is 15 years his junior and considerably more limber than Gatesy. Both give Rivers big targets in the open field, as Gates is 6’4″ and 255 pounds while Henry is a bit taller at 6’6″ though not as heavy at 248 pounds.
Gates was two years older than Henry when he began his rookie campaign in 2003. Henry started at age 21 and didn’t turn 22 until this past December.
Gates’ rookie stats per NFL.com: 15 games with 24 receptions for 389 yards — 19 of those catches went for first downs while two were touchdowns. He averaged 25.9 yards per game.
Here are Henry’s rookie stats, also per NFL.com: throughout the same number of games, there were 36 grabs totaling 478 yards with the majority of those (30) going for first downs. He tallied eight touchdowns and his average yards per game was 31.9.
Despite a solid rookie campaign filled with the flashes of greatness Henry displayed while at Arkansas, the youngster did have one negative play that we’re all sure he will use to help avoid it happening again: the fumble.
That fumble came late in the Bolts’ final 1:02 against the Indianapolis Colts last September, as Rivers and the offense were battling back from a four-point deficit. At 2nd-and-11 from the Chargers’ own 24-yard line, No.17 throws to No.86. As Henry approaches the 40-yard line the ball is popped out of his grasp by Colts safety Clayton Geathers and fellow safety Mike Adams recovers, ultimately sealing the loss for the Chargers.
As mentor to Henry, the wily veteran Gates shared these words with the then-rookie as spoken to Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he told Henry. “You were making a play and trying to make a bigger play. You were trying. If you weren’t trying, I’d have a problem with that. You played a hell of a game. Don’t let that take anything away from the game that you had. You played a hell of a game.”
Personally, I don’t see that the continued presence of Antonio Gates hampers Hunter Henry in any way. So long as Gates is wearing lightning bolts on his shoulders, the wisdom he can impart to Henry (and the other tight ends on the roster) can only be seen as a positive for all involved.
After all, who wouldn’t want to learn from a future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame player, a teammate on the cusp of breaking the all-time record for touchdowns by a tight end? Absorb all that knowledge, put those tricks to practice. Because before you know it, the season will be over and that source could possibly be hanging up his cleats.
Looking forward to your thoughts!
EDITOR’S NOTE: The answer to the question in the title is no.
The 2017 NFL Draft started with a bang on Thursday evening, as the team that called San Diego home for 56 years chose a wide receiver, Mike Williams of Clemson, straight out the gate with the seventh selection of the first round.
But what really made fans stand and take notice was the same team taking not one, but two guards on Day 2: Forrest Lamp from Western Kentucky and Dan Feeney from Indiana. The two form a pair of hulking individuals whose presence should go a long way towards giving Bolts’ signal-caller Philip Rivers something that has been increasingly absent the last couple of seasons: a “little” thing known as time.
It took the Chargers two years to fill the glaring gap facing them when former center Nick Hardwick announced his retirement in February of 2015. The lack of the presence of Hardwick’s recognition of which protections to call at the line of scrimmage became exacerbated as Rivers took that responsibility upon himself the last two seasons due to countless injuries along the offensive line.
Last spring, in an effort to take some of that weight off his quarterback’s shoulders, general manager Tom Telesco added free-agent Matt Slauson (Chicago Bears) to the offensive line. Slauson is a guy who is well-known for his toughness. His skillset and experience were badly needed and highly rated.
Below we’ll take a quick look at the newest pieces to be tasked with keeping Rivers on his feet and off of his back.
Forrest Lamp was Telesco’s second-round choice (No. 38 overall). The former Hilltopper stands 6-foot-4, weighing 309 pounds. He started 51 games at left tackle while at Western Kentucky.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock on Lamp: “I thought his Alabama tape was the single most dominant offensive line performance I’ve seen against that front in 5 years…He’s gonna be a center or a guard at the next level.”
Third-round selection (No. 71) Dan Feeney tips that scale at 305 pounds, while matching Lamp’s height at 6-foot-4. He was a large reason why former Hoosier running backs Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons, 2015 draft) and Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears, 2016 draft) performed as well as they did at Indiana.
Feeney is a tenacious blocker who is tough, smart and carries one quality the Chargers desperately need on offense: nastiness.
Mayock on Feeney: “A really solid interior offensive lineman. I think he’s a natural right guard…this is a good pick for the Chargers. You can tell there’s a concentrated effort to get Philip Rivers hit less.”
The rookie is from the same school as Kris Dielman, the former left guard and four-time Pro Bowler for the Bolts who retired in 2012 after nine years in the trenches.
Speaking with Hayley Elwood of the team’s official website, Feeney reminisced that as a sophomore, Dielman returned to the Indiana campus to talk to the players. “He was an amazing player…Going to the Chargers just like Dielman is a huge honor for Indiana and especially myself,” added the rook.
Will Lamp and Feeney be starters heading in to the regular season? Only time will tell. Adding these two guys into the mix alongside Slauson and free-agent signing Russell Okung certainly should give Rivers time in the pocket, while also creating holes for third-year back Melvin Gordon.
Anticipation is building for a season of the unexpected; from playing in the mini-stadium that is the StubHub Center, to the hope that first-year head coach Anthony Lynn may lead this team back to the playoffs.
The 2017 NFL season for the Chargers is setting up to be one helluva year.
Thanks for reading!
Korey Toomer has only been wearing lightning bolts since September, but it surely seems longer.
The former Oakland Raider is as happy to be with the Chargers as they are to have him. He is finally getting an opportunity to put his talents on display, especially that 4.53-second 40-yard dash.
After being drafted by Seattle in 2012 (round 5, selection No. 154). He was on the roster for 20 (including preseason) games during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory in 2013. Between being on injured-reserve for two straight years and having guys like Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner ahead of him, it was difficult for Toomer to get on the field in Seattle. He was released from the Seahawks in 2014. Subsequent stops in Dallas and St. Louis with minimal playing time (special teams only) garnered three tackles in seven games. More of the same followed in Oakland, so much so that he terminated his contract with the Raiders to sign in San Diego.
The signing of the ultra athletic Toomer has gone a long way towards solidifying the linebacking corps. Season-ending injuries to Manti Te’o and Nick Dzubnar left a void that demanded filling. Recent injuries to both Jatavis Brown (knee) and Denzel Perryman (hamstring) only increased the necessity of his presence.
Ahead of the match-up against the Houston Texans on Sunday, Toomer had started in four out of seven games. One of his best plays to date came in the Thursday Night Football game when he tackled Broncos wide receiver Jordan Taylor and the Broncos’ player coughed up the ball. The fumble recovery led to a San Diego field goal and put the Chargers up 13 points on their division foes. San Diego went on to win that game, their first victory in the AFC West since 2014.
Since mid-October, Toomer has amassed 51 tackles, the majority of which are solo (37), defended against two passes, forced three fumbles and notched one fumble recovery. There were impressive stats against both the Tennessee Titans (nine tackles/eight solo) and the Miami Dolphins (11/10), including three-and-a-half tackles for lost yardage. In the Houston game, the veteran linebacker recorded 13 more tackles (four solo) and a quarterback hit.
Having Toomer back there to get receivers off routes has been fun to watch, as well. His ability to reroute crossers and drags which run through the linebacking corps’ area can significantly alter the short passing games of opposing offenses. He has helped solidify that inside linebacking group.
Speaking to Ricky Henne of chargers.com in October, Toomer stated:
“Pags’ system is benefitting me because he is letting me play fast. He is putting me in positions not to fail. That is why it is working for the both of us. I feel like these coaches are giving me a chance. Granted, I made good on the situation. These coaches have put me in position to make plays and are not putting too much on my plate. They are letting me fly around. I am grateful for these coaches giving me a call and giving me a chance to play this game. I want to show people I can bring more to the table than just special teams. I love special teams, that’s where I want to play for the rest of my career as well, but I want to play defense, too.”
Whether he plays defense or special teams, the fact that Toomer left a division rival in order to grasp an opportunity with both hands shows he has gained confidence in himself and his ability.
Bring on the Bucs and Mike Evans!
*Featured image credit: AP – Denis Poroy
Man, oh man! What a day to be a Chargers fan!!
That was my reaction to the Chargers vs. Falcons game a few weeks back. And if you had Tyrell Williams in your fantasy football lineup that week – he reaped HUGE dividends! I have him on my team in two leagues and he was well over his projections: 15 points against an 8.64 in my Yahoo league while in my NFL League it was 14 versus an estimated 5.70 low.
Crazy to recall that this huge, raw talent was not invited to the NFL Combine. Guess he was considered too raw as he went undrafted.
That’s okay, because the Chargers picked him up. And while he didn’t see much on-field time until late last year, it’s all good.
Fast forward to 2016.
The 6’4″, 205 pounder made his way up the depth chart after an injury in training camp landed Stevie Johnson on IR. Shortly after that, the Bolts’ number one wide-out Keenan Allen was lost for the season. Where did that put Williams? Squarely in the starting line-up along with slot receiver and off-season signing Travis Benjamin.
During training camp last year, Chargers’ signal caller Philip Rivers made mention of how much Williams reminded him of Malcom Floyd; the way he moved, almost as if gliding his way down the field.
He is becoming adept at using that big body and 4.38 second speed to fly across the middle or along the sidelines. Through 10 games, Williams career stats are 43 catches for 720 yards and four TD scores. The Falcons game saw him mark career-highs in both targets (7 of 10) and receiving yards (140). To date, he is ninth in yards after the catch (YAC) with 317. That breaks down to an average of 7.4 YAC.
Those are all great. There are, however, a couple of things that Williams needs to tweak. One is his sideline awareness.
Early in the second quarter, first and 10 from Atlanta’s 49-yard line, Benjamin threw the ball towards Williams, who caught it and ran. A 22 yard bomb. While the toss took many by surprise, it was an awesome catch…except that it was called back incomplete. A simple nuance – dragging his right toe as he was going out of bounds would have been the difference of another set of downs rather than the challenge that followed. Second and 10 at Atlanta’s 49 yard line rather than first and 10. Sigh. The Bolts kick a field goal to cap that drive.
Williams was kind of quiet in the second half (3/4, 27 yds) as San Diego continued to run the ball with Gordon and began mixing Inman into the offense more. Williams’ last catch of the day converted a 3rd and 10 at the Falcons’ 15 yard line into a Chargers’ 1st and goal at Atlanta’s 5-yard line early in the fourth and Josh Lambo kicked a chip-shot to pull the Bolts’ within three.
The thing with Williams is that he is extremely adept at picking up those yards after the catch, much like Malcom Floyd was prone to do when Rivers was putting the ball up for him to nab. In just his second year, Williams and Rivers have quickly developed a rapport in which when No. 17 fires a bullet in his direction, he is confident that No. 16 is getting his hands on it. The game is not too big for him as he has continued to build on what began last December – opportunity knocking due to Floyd having to leave the Denver game. He hauled in his first NFL touchdown that day in front of Broncos’ corner Aquib Talib.
He hasn’t looked back since.
So what does Williams need to do at this stage of his development? One thing he MUST do is work on his route running. For example, we have all seen how at least a couple of times throughout a game he misses the option route. Those miscues just give Rivers fits. So far there have been 11 times where the chance for better field position has resulted in the ball not being in his hands. Overall better recognition of where the defender is in conjunction to when/where Williams should break or how deep into the route before he does will come with repetition. He needs to get a quicker break off the line of scrimmage also.
When Keenan Allen went down week one, it was Williams’ turn to step up. At that time, Rivers stated to Michael Gehlken (SD-UT) “We need him to catch a bunch of balls this year — a bunch of balls and have some huge days and big gains.”
From the apex of Atlanta to the debacle in Denver, Williams appeared to be hampered a bit in Mile High Stadium. Battling a knee injury had his status questionable all week, so perhaps limited practice time may have affected him in his running and timing ability. A tipped ball off his hands led to a 49-yard interception-TD by Bradley Roby and gave the Broncos the lead late in the second quarter. On the Bolts’ next series, Williams tweaked his knee again going after a pass and was done for the day. Targeted six times, he hauled in a lone catch for four yards.
Though still having a sore knee with minimal practice reps, Williams hauled in six Rivers’ passes for 65 yards and a score this past Sunday against the Titans. This week versus Miami, with fellow wide-out Travis Benjamin inactive with his own knee injury, Williams’ stat line was 5/125 and a TD. It could have been more if not for at least twice where he didn’t even look back to Rivers to recognize that the ball was headed in his direction. Or because he let the defender beat him to the ball and didn’t fight for it, thus causing an interception.
The chemistry between Williams and his signal caller continues to evolve with each rep in practice and on the field. After the Thursday Night game against Denver two weeks ago, Rivers told Tom Krasovic (SD-UT) “Tyrell, as you saw, has the potential to make every play. There’s not a play physically that he can’t make. It’s just a matter of continuing to grow as a receiver – running (optimal) routes.”
They say knowledge is power. Stepping in to fill the shoes of your team’s number one receiver at a moment’s notice shows one’s mettle to teammates and coaches alike.
So far, Tyrell Williams has proven he is up to the challenge. He MUST continue to do so for team to have any kind of chance at winning games.
Hopefully all those people – those would be the voices of last season which were scathing at times – are eating their words this season with regard to Melvin Gordon. Bust, you say? Maybe that was a bit premature.
Why? First a little bit of Gordon’s background.
There was speculation aplenty when Chargers’ GM Tom Telesco and the San Francisco 49ers swapped spots in the 2015 NFL Draft. Telesco moved from 17th position to 15th and took Gordon. Many fans were disconcerted, some even loudly outraged, that the running back pick was Gordon and not Todd Gurley. Personally, I felt that with the Bolts needing a better running back than Ryan Mathews had been, plus the fact that Gurley was still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, it was a good choice.
What wasn’t there to like? Gordon finished his career at University of Wisconsin-Madison having played in 45 games where he had 631 carries for 4,915 yards and 45 TDs. As a receiver out of the backfield there were 22 catches for 228 yards and four TDs. In his senior year, the former Badger hauled in 19 receptions for 153 yards and three TDs while also accumulating 343 carries and 29 TDs for 2,587 yards (second most in the FBS). He also had six games of 200+ yards, a school record.
Being chosen as a first rounder is a huge responsibility coupled with as much, if not more, expectation. Not just the expectation of teammates and coaches, but also what the individual places on themselves. As a rookie the playbook is just one part of the whole; the speed of the game is vastly quicker and the majority of guys you suit up with are playing at a level considerably higher than your own.
Contributing factors to Gordon’s lower-than-anticipated numbers were the woes of the offensive line play of the Chargers. The team went through 24 O-line combinations. Play-calling was WAY too predictable. The line could not create holes on a consistent basis for the rookie to run through. Perhaps the biggest disservice to Gordon was the fact that his entire career at Wisconsin he had a fullback in front of him, yet there was no such position on his new team.
It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
This year saw a change at offensive coordinator as Frank Reich exited San Diego for Philadelphia. Ken Whisenhunt returned and brought with him the hope for a more productive running game. At the end of his 2013-14 stint as OC, San Diego had the No. 5 offense overall and was 13th in rushing. In 2015, the team was ranked ninth in total offense and they were 31st in rushing. Gordon was ranked 37th amongst all running backs.
With Whisenhunt, Gordon seems to have flourished. Through eight games (no update to include week nine yet), NFL.com has him ranked twelfth amongst running backs with 572 rushing yards (161 carries) and 219 receiving yards (24 catches). Including week nine stats, Footballdb.com has Gordon listed in the No. 3 slot behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (891 yds) and Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray (807 yds). Gordon has logged four games with over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards: Jacksonville 120 yards, Atlanta 121 yards, Denver 155 yards and last week at home against Tennessee he racked up a whopping 261 yards.
Even better is the fact that after nine games, Gordon is leading the league with 11 touchdowns. After not crossing the goal line once last year, the guy that many called a “bust” is number one in touchdowns scored!
The early season loss of Danny Woodhead, one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield, is part of the reason for the uptick in Gordon’s numbers. When Woodhead went down, and Branden Oliver out for the year since pre-season, it meant that Gordon had to step up his own game. It had been stated several times from OTA’s through training camp that he appeared more confident and sure of himself. Now, HE is the one taking the hand-off from Rivers in those 3rd down conversion scenarios when the call is for a run. HE catches some of those 3rd and long passes, and HE is the guy scampering in when they are in the red zone. Except of course for the Broncos game when he should have been given at least ONE shot from the 2-yard line to tie the game and Whisenhunt called for four straight pass plays.
Gordon has the vision this year that he was lacking throughout his rookie campaign. Having Derek Watt, his fullback from Wisconsin, blocking in front of him in games has helped. Less turnover along the offensive line has also made it easier to get off the line of scrimmage. He has fumbled twice this year versus the six from a year ago. The frenzy of 2015 has slowed a bit in his second year.
Gordon has been running so well that after last week’s Titans game in which he accumulated 196 rushing yards, 65 receiving yards and darted in for another rushing TD, the second-year back was nominated for, and won, both the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and the Castrol Clutch Performer of the Week!! Take that, all those Melvin Gordon haters of 2015! Not so much of a bust, after all, is he?!
My prediction is that Gordon will be the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Chargers since LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 1,110 in 2008; LT had 11 TDs that year and 154 receiving yards. Gordon needs only 232 yards to hit the 1,000 mark in rushing. If he continues at the pace he is on now, he will exceed that number. As of this writing he has already reached 1,032 yards combined. I anticipate he will score a total of 18 touchdowns and amass 1,300 rushing yards by season’s end. Bold? Perhaps. But I think he is up to the task.
Now if only he can continue to get the ball put in his hands in those short red zone TD situations!
News out of Chargers Park is that ANOTHER player is lost for the year due to injury.
Monday we learned it is defensive end Caraun Reid. And as has been the sickening norm for this team, it was an ACL tear to the big end’s left knee.
Reid sustained his injury in the first quarter of the Atlanta game after being hit in his lower leg as he planted his foot. Linebacker Denzel Perryman was heading for the pile and just caught Reid’s knee.
Claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions roster, the 6’2, 302-pounder (Princeton, round five of 2014 draft) has been with the Chargers for about six weeks. Filling in while Joey Bosa (2016 draft first round #3) nursed his sore hamstring, Reid has been a contributor on the defense. In 103 snaps he collected five combined tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
That notable highlight occurred in the week three game at Indianapolis. Rookie linebacker Jatavis Brown strip-sacked Andrew Luck and Reid scooped up the ball, taking it to the house 61 yards and tying the game at 13 all.
While announcing Reid’s situation, McCoy said “Caraun came in on the very first day and did an outstanding job. He’s a smart player that picked our system up in a hurry and made some big plays for us.”
If anyone is counting, including Reid, that makes TEN – yes, I said TEN – players lost to season-ending injuries. Five of those ten are to the knee and have occurred in the last seven weeks. Here’s the long and incomprehensible list:
Keenan Allen – torn right ACL, week one vs the Chiefs
Danny Woodhead – torn right ACL, week two vs the Jaguars
Jason Verrett – torn left ACL possibly sustained in the Jaguars game
Nick Dzubnar – torn right ACL, week four vs the Saints
And of course, Caraun Reid from yesterday.
Though it was not his ACL, the Bolts lost Manti Te’o to a torn left Achilles’ tendon early in the Colts game.
On top of those, what about the non-contact injuries that besieged the team before the 2016 campaign even began:
wide-out Stevie Johnson tore his meniscus in training camp
tight end Jeff Cumberland was lost to a torn Achilles’ during the pre-season game against Arizona
rookie guard Donavon Clark tore his right ACL in the Arizona contest
change of pace back Branden Oliver had his right Achilles’ snap during the Minnesota game
It is ONLY Week 7 and that list is scary!! I don’t know if there is any other NFL team playing right now that has had the upheaval to their roster that San Diego has endured. There are still nine weeks to go to the end of the season.
I shudder to think what the “football gods” have in store for this group of men and the accursed injury phenomena as time rolls by. Every time a man goes down, I cringe and pray it is just a minor hiccup and they’ll be back quickly.
Time for the CBA to be re-evaluated. Some teams don’t lose any players, some one or two. But to have TEN is like looking at an emergency room full of wheelchairs!
Sorry to see your name added to that list, Caraun Reid. Your presence on defense will be sorely missed.
Everyone knew that the time to choose a “replacement” for the Chargers’ stellar tight end Antonio Gates was fast approaching. The 36-year-old Gates has been the go-to guy for the Bolts’ signal caller Philip Rivers for the last 10 years. The pair have set many franchise records and “Gatesy” has numerous individual statistics which have come via the arm of Rivers. The veteran TE has slowed just a bit, however, so finding a viable replacement — not in terms of production but in terms of playing time — was a focal point during the 2016 offseason.
Enter dynamic tight end Hunter Henry. As in the best tight end of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Yes, the BEST tight end of his class. The only one ranked by CBSSports.com above 70.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Check out any of his draft profiles. Many football analysts and draftniks dubbed Henry as such, the consensus stating that he had good hands, ran routes well and was a good blocker. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 235 pounds. His 40-yard dash time was 4.66 seconds. Sounds like just what the Chargers need at that position, right?
Henry declared his eligibility on January 4, 2016, after his junior season at Arkansas. And, why not? Just look at the former Razorback’s career stats: 1,661 receiving yards on 116 catches with nine touchdowns. Did you know that 93 of those 116 receptions went for first downs or touchdowns? Or that he had four 100-yard receiving games? His 2015 numbers of 51 grabs for 739 yards and three touchdowns plus NO DROPS culminated in Henry receiving the John Mackey Award, an honor annually bestowed upon the most outstanding collegiate tight end in the nation.
Though he has been active in all six games thus far, Henry’s debut versus the Kansas City Chiefs was quiet, as he had a lone catch for 20 yards. He came up empty in the boxscore for the Jacksonville game. The rookie finally busted out in Indianapolis to the tune of 72 receiving yards, as he caught each of the five passes tossed to him by Rivers. The only slight was that in the final minute of that game, he was stripped of the ball in what would most likely have led San Diego to a come-from-behind win.
Henry caught his first touchdown in the home game against New Orleans. It was a sweet pass caught in the middle of the field that he took to the house after 20 yards, just one of his four-catch, 61-yard day. No. 86 has scored a TD in each of the last three games. Six games into the season and he has already amassed 310 yards on 19 receptions (16.3 avg) with three scores and 16 first-down grabs.
Thursday’s game at Qualcomm had division rival Denver in town. How did Henry respond? He responded by scoring a 5-yard TD in front of Broncos’ corner Chris Harris, Jr. while the Bolts were at 2nd-and-goal in the first quarter. He finished the night with 83 yards on six catches in addition to his touchdown reception.
Having future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates as your mentor has to be right up there with being able to play in the NFL.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Gates told Ricky Henne of chargers.com: “From the time I met him, I could see he had all the intangibles.
I see him still growing. I jokingly told him, ‘If I met you before the Combine, you would have went first round! I would have showed you how to have some personality in your routes!’ Now you are seeing that personality in his routes. He already had it all, and now he is just building on it. He is a phenomenal blocker, which is rare to see coming into the league. He’s special. He really is.”
Those are TWO special tight ends that San Diego has on its roster; the master and the apprentice. Keep absorbing all the knowledge you can from No. 85, Henry. He will mold you in to a Hall of Famer, too.
“The sky’s the limit” might be a trite phrase. But in Henry’s case, there are no truer words. Whenever Gates hangs up his cleats, we all know that the team will be in good — make that great — hands!
Melvin Ingram stated that he had things to show this year.
All the time he has spent studying film, all the hard work and sweat have coalesced into an opportunity he might have briefly thought about: defensive captain. On Wednesday, the Chargers named Ingram as the player who would wear the big “C” on his jersey in place of Manti Te’o, who was recently placed on IR (Achilles’ tear). The other defensive captain is nose tackle Brandon Mebane.
“I ain’t showed nothing,” Ingram told U-T San Diego back in June. “I have so much to show…It ain’t even started. You ain’t even seen what I got going on…When the season starts, everyone is going to see. It’s fixing to get real.”
The fifth-year pro appears to still carry a chip on his shoulder as a result of having missed 25 games in a little more than a year due to injuries. The 2015 campaign was his first full 16-game season since his 2012 rookie year. First there was the torn ACL which occurred May 14, 2013, during OTAs. He did not return to action until early December. Next came the hip injury sustained in a 2014 game against the Seahawks that caused him to miss seven weeks of playing time.
I think after all that adversity I’d be frustrated too!
Through the first three games of 2016, the former South Carolina Gamecock has pretty much matched the statistics of his initial year. Already, No. 54 has collected a combined eight tackles with seven of those being individual efforts. Additionally, Ingram has totaled two sacks, a forced fumble (FF) and a lone defended pass. In his first four career games, he was well on is way to being a force with seven solo tackles and an assist, three PDs and one FF.
In April of 2015, Tom Telesco and the Chargers chose to exercise the fifth-year option of Ingram’s rookie contract. It is worth $7.751 million, per Spotrac.com. It includes a guarantee for injury and becomes fully guaranteed should the stud linebacker be on the roster come Day 1 of the 2017 League Year.
The 2016 season is indeed a year in which “SupaMelvin” will be showcasing his worth from now until December. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017, so he is also playing for the future. Whether that career remains in San Diego or continues elsewhere is unknown.
Fellow teammate Jeremiah Attaochu said it best to Ricky Henne of Chargers.com: “He is a leader first and foremost. And he does it all by example with the way he comes out there each day and plays. He is motivating to all of us with the way he does that. We need that right now as a defense with Manti going down. When Melvin speaks, everyone listens.”
The future is now for Ingram, and if he can get back to the level of play he was on the last nine games of 2015, he’ll receive a large contract and, most likely, remain with the Chargers for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading!
Well, this time it wasn’t an offensive player that left a Chargers’ game with an injury.
It was their defensive signal-caller and captain, Manti Te’o.
In what is appearing to be an extremely freakish beginning to their 2016 campaign, the Bolts have suffered significant season-ending injuries to three of their starters in each of the first three games.
Keenan Allen – ACL tear to his right knee.
Danny Woodhead – ACL tear to his right knee.
Add Manti Te’o to the list, though it was his Achilles’ that gave out, not his ACL.
Even more disconcerting is that each man sustained his injury in a non-contact scenario. We’ll discuss that in another article soon.
Te’o left the game early in the first quarter of the game in Indianapolis with an immediate announcement that he was done for the day. Who was going to be “next man up” this time?
Enter rookie Jatavis Brown, a product from the University of Akron and a fifth-round pick by the Bolts in this year’s NFL draft.
While the former Zips’ linebacker was chosen for a number of reasons, his 4.47-second 40-yard dash was a primary one. His versatility and athleticism only add to his ability. Additionally, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), he was only called twice for penalties (1,629 snaps) over the last two years. PFF also stated that in 2015 when utilized as a blitzer, Brown had 15 sacks, 12 hits, and 22 hurries in 144 pass-rushing snaps. I have to say – just WOW! This from a guy who some considered to be on the small side at 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds. Looks to me like he can hold his own for sure!
Prior to his entering the game on Sunday, the only sighting of Brown was in the preseason game versus San Francisco. He started that game and made five tackles — three of which were solo stops. Since then, he has participated in all three regular season games, racking up 15 tackles (10 solo), four PDs (passes defensed) and collecting a sack and a forced fumble.
His Sunday stats were six tackles with two tackles for loss, defending two passes and adding a sack. His strip-sack of Andrew Luck should be part of a highlight reel, as it was scooped up by the recently signed Caraun Reid and run in for the score.
One of the bright spots of the afternoon in Indianapolis.
So, just who is this guy Jatavis Brown? The answer: he is a player that many scouts, teams and the like knocked due to his size, though his playmaking ability spoke for itself. It was thought that if he couldn’t perform at this level as a linebacker that he could be a hybrid-safety type defender.
In his four years at Akron, he amassed 340 tackles (193 solo), three forced fumbles, two passes defensed and an interception. The 40.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks were not only team-bests but also led the MAC while his total tackles gave him 7th best.
NFL Draft Scout had him ranked #13 out of 203 OLBs. Brown was not only chosen the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, he was also named to the All-MAC Conference 1st-team three consecutive years.
This is the rookie that after the draft Telesco told Chargers.com writer Ricky Henne, “This is the one guy in our draft room that if we didn’t draft, I think there would have been a revolt amongst everyone else in the room…There are certain guys sometimes that have a trigger for everybody. (Brown) was a guy who everybody wanted on our football team. He’s actually the one guy that (we got) so many different texts from across the league (about) saying ‘Great pick!’ ‘Good pick!’ Those are kind of fun text messages to get during the draft.”
Brown told Henne shortly after the draft, “I do think I’m flying under the radar, but I’ve been flying under the radar my whole life,” he said. “I guess that’s just me. I like to prove people wrong, and that’s how I (operate). I don’t like the spotlight. I’m a laid back, chill guy. So this fits me just fine. I like to do all the dirty work, do what I’m supposed to do and I don’t worry about getting the publicity.”
Well, Jatavis Brown…publicity or no, here is your opportunity to take the bull by the horns and show those detractors just who you are. You had a great start in an unfortunate situation, but it’s always “next man up” in the pros.
Yeah, my money is on this young man to get the job done. I’m looking forward to seeing him blitz Brees and blow up a few plays this Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm.
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Andre Williams wasn’t left out in the cold too long, thankfully. Even better, no one tried to pick him up!
Williams re-joined the Bolts Tuesday. He was waived this past Saturday when the team had to promote tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad. The roster moves were necessary because Antonio Gates was not going to see the field against the Colts and there had to be another body out there in addition to Hunter Henry and Sean McGrath.
The third-year back was initially claimed off waivers by the Chargers earlier this month after being released by the New York Giants. That signing occurred after change-of-pace back Branden Oliver was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the preseason game in Minnesota.
Williams (6-foot, 220 lbs) was a fourth-round pick of the Giants in the 2014 draft. With the Giants having the likes of Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Bobby Rainey and a couple other guys on hand, Williams just didn’t make the final roster cut. This preseason he managed to gain only 91 yards on 25 carries in three games. He was one of 11 running backs on the depth chart in 2015, managing only 257 yards on 88 carries with a lone TD.
Since entering the league, Williams has played in 32 games. He has rushed for 978 yards on 305 carries and scored eight touchdowns — 41 of those carries went for first downs while five were over 20 yards and two were over 40. He also hauled in 19 passes for 137 yards.
Williams is a former Boston College standout. He set a BC school record in 2010 when he made 42 rushing attempts in a single game when the Eagles played Syracuse in that season’s final game. Williams was one of six finalists for the Heisman Trophy in 2013, finishing fourth. That same year he was named the recipient of the Doak Walker Award, an honor given to the nation’s best running back.
Since being in San Diego, Williams hasn’t been in the mix. Things may change this week.
We’ll all just have to play the wait-and-see game.
Thanks for reading!