The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.
The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.
Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.
“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.
“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.
More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.
“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.
This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.
Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…
Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.
Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.
San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.
RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!
QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.
CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.
Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.
ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.
Why would the Chargers let him go now?
Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.
A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
The countdown to San Diego Chargers training camp 2016 now stands at four days. The eyes will be trained to look for the faces we know. There will be many more faces we don’t know which will require a look into the program to see who’s making head-turning plays on the field. In an effort to provide as many advance primers as possible, today, I turn my player spotlight on Carlos Wray.
Wray signed with San Diego as an undrafted free agent immediately after the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6’1″, 287-pounder was the anchor of the Duke Blue Devils’ defense as their defensive tackle. Versatile, Wray was moved all over the field starting out as a defensive lineman, then to guard in his second year on the team. He had the most success his final two seasons in Blue Devils’ blue when he was moved to defensive tackle. In those two seasons he logged 86 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes defensed.
At the Duke Pro Day, Wray ran the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds; impressive for a man his size. He posted 26 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press, broad jumped nine feet and showed a 28.5-inch vertical leap. NFL scouts love his wide body, high motor and fundamentally sound skill set, even though he’s only been playing defensive tackle for two seasons. After watching the video below, it’s obvious he was born to play defensive tackle.
Wray was the unquestioned leader of the Blue Devils’ locker room and those leadership attributes will translate well in the NFL. The line forms behind Brandon Mebane when it comes to nose tackles for the San Diego Chargers. The mix at DT currently consists of Corey Liuget, Sean Lissemore, Ryan Carrethers, Damion Square, Tenny Palepoi and Wray.
There is opportunity to take a slot on the depth chart for Wray. If he can bring the same intensity and passion he played with at Duke to Chargers Park, he has a great chance of staying on the roster. As a native North Carolinian and ACC homer, I will definitely be pulling for Wray to make the team.
What do you think? Do you like what you see? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
Follow Carlos on Twitter: @The1st_Montana
Good luck, Mr. Wray.
The Greg One
The countdown to training camp continues, as only 10 days remain until we get our first glimpse of the San Diego Chargers’ full 90-man roster. Of course, I’m optimistically saying 90 because we know 89 of them will be there for sure.
In an ongoing effort to introduce Chargers Nation to players in the program we haven’t heard of, I shine my player spotlight on Tyler Marcordes.
Marcordes signed with the Chargers immediately after the 2016 NFL Draft as an undrafted free agent. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound outside linebacker played in the ACC for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. After redshirting his first year in 2011, Marcordes did not miss a single game the following four seasons at Georgia Tech.
He finally became a full-time starter in his senior season in 2015, posting an impressive 51 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. In his four seasons on the field, he compiled 102 tackles (67 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery. More impressively, of his 53 games only 21 were starts with 19 of those starts in his redshirt junior and senior seasons.
Marcordes greatest moment of glory on the field came during his junior year versus Elon. The play is held in high esteem as an ACC Must See Moment. Check out the footage below.
Marcordes had a great showing at the Georgia Tech Pro Day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. That time would have placed eighth among linebackers at the NFL Combine. Marcordes posted a 35-inch vertical jump and broad jumped nine feet, ten inches. He comes from a football bloodline as his father, Bill Marcordes Jr., played linebacker for Illinois Wesleyan. His grandfather, Bill Marcordes Sr., played defensive end at Bradley University on the way to being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 18th round of the 1965 NFL Draft.
Marcordes will have ample opportunity to make a name for himself in training camp, working to crack a very crowded field of linebackers. He showed he can make plays when he’s on the field in college. Here’s hoping he can do the same on the field at Chargers Park and in the preseason. San Diego nailed it with an ACC linebacker last year (University of Miami product Denzel Perryman).
Will Marcordes prove them right again?
He will be #44 in your program. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@TylerMarcordes).
Good luck, Mr. Marcordes.
The Greg One
Today, we take a look at one of the gems of the San Diego Chargers 2016 undrafted free agent class, wide receiver Dominique Williams. Williams is one of the most prolific receivers in PAC-12 history, finishing seventh in league history with 30 touchdown catches over his four-year career at Washington State University.
The 6’2″, 198-pound Williams enters the NFL on the heels of a stellar 2015 season at WSU as he caught 75 passes for 1,040 yards and 11 touchdowns. Every single season from his freshman year through his remarkable 2015 senior season, Williams increased his receptions, yards and touchdowns.
The native of Pomona, CA ranks third in Washington State history in receptions (190), and second in career yards (2,889) and touchdowns (30). At WSU’s Pro Day, Williams ran the 40-yard dash in a sizzling 4.39 and 4.41 seconds, posted a 40.5-inch vertical jump and broad jumped 10 feet, 5-inches. His 40-time and vertical jump scores would both have been the second-best scores at the NFL Combine among wide receivers.
Check out the video below highlighting Williams’ phenomenal 2015 season.
So why wasn’t this man drafted?
For as much success as he had on the field, the system he played in was also a knock on him. In Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, Williams didn’t run a great array of routes. One scouting site said he’s prone to lapses in concentration. That claim gains further credibility when you consider the fact that over his four seasons, he dropped 20 passes and had an 11.8% drop rate according to NFL.com.
System. Drops. Questions about the route tree. These are all issues that can be corrected with proper coaching. To be issues that get you excluded from the draft altogether borders on lunacy in my opinion.
It certainly seems that the positives far outweigh the negatives. The Chargers may have again struck gold in the undrafted free agent talent pool with the signing of Williams. We’ll know more very soon as the start of training camp closes in.
The Bolts needed more speed at the wide receiver position. The signing of free agent wide receiver Travis Benjamin was a major boost to the offense in that respect. If Williams can translate his college success onto the field at Chargers Park, they then will have not one but two speed burners who can take the top off the defense and open the field for Philip Rivers.
After that, the possibilities are endless.
So there you have it Chargers fans, one more player to watch and root for in hopes he can aid in the revival of the vertical passing attack. From one Williams to another, I’m definitely pulling for the rookie in scarlet and gray to translate into Charger blue and gold. If he shows up with lightning in his legs and a chip on his shoulder, I have a good feeling we’ll be hearing his name on gameday Sunday for many years to come.
Follow Dominique on Twitter: @Domwill80
Best of luck, Mr. Williams.
The Greg One
The news of the week for the San Diego Chargers was the acquisition of former Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The Bolts claimed him off waivers Tuesday and released quarterback Bryn Renner to make space on the roster.
With Mettenberger in the fold that makes three quarterbacks at camp vying for the back-up quarterback position behind Philip Rivers. Kellen Clemens and undrafted free agent Mike Bercovici are the other quarterbacks filling out what will be a very interesting camp battle.
Mettenberger, 24, was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Titans. Standing 6’5″, 224 pounds, Mettenberger was a standout quarterback at LSU. Moving into the starting lineup in his junior season, Mettenberger excelled right away. In leading the Tigers to a 10-3 (6-2 in the SEC) season, Mettenberger went 207-352 for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. They lost by one point in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to Clemson 25-24. LSU finished 12th in the Coaches Poll and 14th in the Associated Press Poll that year.
In his senior season, Mettenberger made another quantum leap forward. Although they duplicated their record from the previous season at 10-3 (5-3 vs. the SEC), Mettenberger went 192-296 for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Tigers finished 14th in the AP and Coaches Poll as a result.
According to his 2014 draft profile on numerous NFL sites including NFL.com and WalterFootball.com, Mettenberger’s strengths are his outstanding arm strength, size, field vision and working from a pro-style offense in college. In his senior season he had a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron calling his plays. Cameron had just left the same position for the San Diego Chargers that offseason. Cameron’s arrival was key in Mettenberger’s senior year explosion.
Mettenberger’s perceived weaknesses were his footwork, work-ethic, long delivery and needing to improve his accuracy. For all intents and purposes Mettenberger had second-round talent. The main catalyst in his plunge into the late rounds was an ACL injury he suffered in the final game of the 2013 regular season. The injury prevented Mettenberger from participating in the NFL Combine. He did shine at LSU’s Pro Day where he completed 90% of his 125 passes.
The discussion of who the heir apparent to Philip Rivers should be has raged on for multiple seasons. We all know Scott Tolzien, Brad Sorensen, Kellen Clemens and Charlie Whitehurst were never going to be the answer to that question.
Mettenberger already has the advantage of knowing the system of new Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was the head coach for the Titans for both of Mettenbergers’ years in Nashville. The last time the Chargers made the playoffs was the one year Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator. The Chargers leaped from 31st to 5th in total offense in that season. Tennessee offered him their head coach position immediately after the season. He was fired halfway through his second season as head coach.
Whisenhunt brought John McNulty with him from Tennessee to be the Bolts new tight ends coach. McNulty was Mettenbergers’ quarterbacks coach in Tennessee. In a new interview with Ricky Henne of Chargers.com his had this to say about reuniting with his old coaches:
“I was definitely relieved to come to a situation where the future looks good for me. That was a long 24 hours to be waiting so it was great to hear his voice.” Mettenberger was speaking of Ken Whisenhunt, who called Mettenberger immediately after the waiver claim was official. Mettenberger continued. “The first thing he asked me was if I still remember the playbook. Fortunately, I know it really well. He was really excited to get back to work with me. He was the one who drafted me, so it’s worked out really well. It’s awesome to be back with Coach Whiz and Coach McNulty.”
Did the Chargers just stumble onto their quarterback of the future?
Pessimists will point to the fact that Mettenberger is 0-10 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. That is true. What also can’t be disputed is how awful the Tennessee Titans have been over the past two seasons. The Titans were 2-14 the season Mettenberger was drafted and 3-13 in 2015. The Titans ranked 25th or lower in the NFL in rushing yards, passing yards, points for and points against.
Mettenberger had a better offense at LSU than he had in Tennessee. At least at LSU he had Pro Bowlers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to catch the ball. Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill were chewing up yards running the football.
Mettenberger is in an ideal situation in San Diego. With his knowledge of the offense and coaches he already has a leg up on Clemens and Bercovici. He now has a better team and an elite, veteran NFL quarterback as a mentor. Rivers’ contract ends at the conclusion of the 2019 season. In three seasons Mettenberger will be 27 and ready to step into the starting spot. There is no pressure to produce right away as there was in Tennessee.
We’ve seen this situation play out with great success when you consider stars like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Rivers himself. All of them watched from the bench for a season or more before their number was called. All of them will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio one day.
The reset button has been pushed on Zach Mettenberger’s career. For the first time since the departure of Drew Brees there appears to be a capable second-in-command waiting in the wings. Is Mettenberger that man? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
On Thursday, April 28 the NFL Draft will officially be underway from Draft Town in Chicago. I will be there in person, ready to document the twists and turns as I have every season since the Telesco/McCoy era began for the San Diego Chargers in 2013.
There are always great stories to tell for the most casual fan who attends the Draft. The NFL goes out of it’s way to make this three-day weekend a spectacle. They make the stars and legends of the game up front and center and you don’t need a front row seat to meet them.
Personally, I remember the deafening roar of the crowd when the Chargers drafted Manti Te’o. Hot on the heels of the catfish scandal, the roar was half-mocking and half-surprised but it was undoubtedly the loudest roar of draft weekend.
I was fortunate enough to be at the bottom of the stage (with Boltblitz owner and fearless leader Dave ‘BoogaP’ Peters) when the Chargers announced the selection of Jason Verrett in 2014. Verrett, smiling from ear to ear, walked down the steps at the side of the stage. As he reached the bottom of the steps where myself and a handful of other Chargers fans waited he saw me in my powder blue Rivers jersey cheering for him. Verrett walked over and hugged me. I can always say I was the first person aside from the Commissioner to give Jason Verrett his first post-draft hug.
Speaking of the Commissioner, i’ve been able to meet and take photos with Roger Goodell every year. The Commish makes the rounds walking amongst the fans shaking every hand and signing every autograph he can in the time he is allowed. For all the heat he gets (especially when he takes the stage to announce the beginning of the draft festivities and every draft pick for the rest of the first round) he is unflappable, undaunted.
Upon meeting the Commish at the draft last year I told him, “On behalf of Chargers fans everywhere, we want the team to stay in San Diego. Don’t let them move.”
“I’ll do what I can.” was his response to me. Looks like he’s held up his end of the deal so far. The rest is up to the voting public in San Diego County.
As you’ve seen on TV, the Draft is the center of the football universe. You can’t walk down the street without running into a taping of Sportscenter, NFL Network or related program. Running into current NFL stars is easy, the hard part will be recognizing them out of uniform. Vendors troll the streets with free merchandise in tow.
Last season, I ended up in an elevator with the very relieved father of Randy Gregory. Gregory had just been drafted just hours earlier. At the hotel hosting the players I ran into Melvin Gordon three times. He was still showing the same thousand-watt smile he sported on the draft stage and was still sporting the same Chargers lid at 11 p.m. at night.
It was very easy to walk around and get the full draft experience. Everything is centrally located in Chicago in the Draft Town area in downtown Chicago. Almost all the players, coaches and talking heads you see on TV are there for the party as well and we’re all invited to partake.
I sat at a table in a hotel where Chargers great Courtney Hall told tales of his time with the team. I had an interesting chat with former Eagles and Chargers All-Pro Jon Runyan about the potential move to L.A. and how he was enjoying being a politician. Runyan was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (NJ) from January 2011 to January 2015.
Those are just a handful of the many experiences I’ve already enjoyed after three consecutive years of attending the NFL Draft. This will be my fourth year in attendance and I’m excited to see what this year brings. It will never be easier for a sports fan of any major American sports league to rub elbows and talk shop with the guys you see wearing your team’s colors, calling your team’s games or braking down your team’s play than it will be at the NFL Draft.
And did I mention that it costs you nothing to attend? The NFL is selling tickets to the combine now! Take advantage of a rare free opportunity before that changes too!
If you’re a diehard NFL fan, this should be a bucket list item. You won’t regret it!
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers find themselves poised to take the most talented player in the draft from where they sit in the number three slot. The top two slots, held by the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns respectively, will be used on quarterbacks. While Carson Wentz and Jared Goff both grade out to be the top two quarterback prospects in the draft, neither are viewed as a plug-and-play franchise quarterbacks but from where they will be selected in the draft that will be the expectation.
While the jury will be out on the top two picks for the next four years, it put the Chargers in control of their own destiny. The top choice on their big board will be available when their number is called. The right pick can result in a stalwart player who is a day one starter, perennial All-Pro and Hall Of Fame worthy. The wrong pick can set your team back years.
Should the Chargers consider trading down?
It depends on how far down and what the Bolts receive in return. The short answer is no. There is an embarrassment of riches at the top of the draft then it devolves into a guessing game with each passing selection.
Which player is the Chargers golden ticket?
There are only three names that need to be considered with the number three selection. That’s it, three. Any other selection is an out-an-out fail. Those three players are (in my order of preference):
1. Jalen Ramsey CB/FS Florida State:
Standing at 6″1′ and 209 pounds, Ramsey ran an impressive 4.41 in the forty-yard dash and recorded the best vertical (41.5 inches) and broad jump (135-inches) at his position at the NFL Combine last month. The first freshman to start at cornerback at Florida State since Deion Sanders, Ramsey is an exceptional athlete. In 2015 he won the ACC indoor and outdoor long jump titles.
Ramsey split time between cornerback and free safety in his three seasons at FSU. Over his career he compiled 181 tackles, 22 passes defensed, 15.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
Adding Ramsey to the Chargers secondary fills the void left by the departure of Eric Weddle. The Bolts added Dwight Lowery through free agency to fill that position so using Ramsey as a press corner makes a lot more sense. With Jason Verrett and Ramsey covering the top two receivers, Flowers and free agent addition Casey Heyward can come in as slot and nickel corners. The Chargers would instantly have one of the top secondaries in the league.
2. Deforest Buckner, DL, Oregon
Standing an imposing 6″7′, 291 pounds, with 34 3/8-inch arms and the largest hands of anyone at the draft (11 3/4-inch), Buckner is the definition of a freak athlete. He was able to parlay his brute strength and raw athleticism into a successful four-year career at Oregon. As an interior defensive lineman he was able to consistently push the pocket, often able to beat double teams. When he lined up as a defensive end he showed a great nose for the ball as he racked up sacks, pressures and tackles for loss.
At the NFL Combine, Buckner registered a 116-inch broad jump, 32-inch vertical jump and ran the 40 in 5.05 seconds. Those are remarkable numbers when you consider his position and his size. Placing Buckner on the interior defensive line in San Diego alongside Corey Liuget and free agent addition Brandon Mebane would be a huge upgrade and solidify a defensive line that finished 18th against the pass and 6th against the run. Pass rushing has long been a weakness for the Chargers. Adding Buckner to the existing unit greatly improves the pass rush which allows the secondary more time to make plays.
Coming out of Oregon, you know Buckner has a high motor and it shows in his game tape. Over his career he logged 232 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 10 passes defensed and 2 forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Last season, Buckner had 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss on the way to being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
3. Laremy Tunsil, LT, Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil tips the scales at 6’5″, 310 pounds, 34 1/4-inch arms and 10″ hands. Largely considered to be the best tackle prospect in years, Tunsil has not seen his stock drop despite a tumultuous senior season. Tunsil missed time after suffering a broken leg and dislocated ankle in the 2014 Peach Bowl and ran into off-the-field trouble which caused the NCAA to suspend him for the first seven games of the season.
At the combine, Tunsil did not run or jump and stuck to doing positional drills. There, he wowed those in attendance with his size, fluidity and excellent footwork. At the Ole Miss Pro Day he improved his stock as he did 34 reps of 225-pounds, vertical jumped 28 1/2-inches and broad jumped 9’3″.
This isn’t a fast-forward effect.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 28, 2016
Tunsil is undoubtedly a franchise left tackle but it may raise more questions than it answers for San Diego. King Dunlap took less money to stay at left tackle, which includes playing time incentives due to his recent injury history. Joe Barksdale was re-signed to a four-year deal to stay at right tackle. They make too much money to come off the bench and fans will not be happy to see the Chargers number one selection sitting and waiting for his name to be called.
All three of these players have the potential to be Pro Bowl regulars and Hall Of Fame nominees if they can stay healthy. These are the three best at their position and arguably the three most gifted athletes on the board, period. These are the only three players the Chargers war room needs to be discussing and if any of these three are not the pick, personally, the draft itself was a failure.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Agree or disagree? What name would you add to this list? Remember, we’re talking about someone worthy of the third overall selection in the draft! Post your thoughts below.
The Greg One
Chargers fans and NFL fans in general have their eyes focused on March 10, the day when free agency begins. For once, the Chargers have an abundance of spending cash and gaping holes that need to be filled on offense and defense. We’ve become used to and applauded GM Tom Telesco for doing a lot with very little financially. It is going to be very interesting to see what he does with a pocket full of Benjamins instead of a pocket full of pennies.
Still, with all the needs to be addressed, the need to save money while still getting great value will always be a priority. In this column I’m going to give you three intriguing options that may achieve those very goals. One has been discussed increasingly as days go by and two have been off the radar this past season. All three have one thing in common, troubled pasts.
1. Justin Blackmon WR, Jacksonville.
If you saw my mock draft last year, you noticed I had the Chargers trading a 4th round draft pick for Blackmon’s rights. For those of you who’ve forgotten, Blackmon is a 6’1, 210 pound freak of nature out of Oklahoma State. A back-to-back winner in 2010 and 2011 of the Biletnikoff Award heralding college football’s best wideout, Blackmon was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Blackmon ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 at the 2012 combine and his speed is only enhanced by exceptional leaping ability and physical, aggressive nature when going up for the ball. All those things made Blackmon a bigger target than he is stature-wise.
In his rookie season, he burst on the scene catching 64 balls for 865 yards and 5 touchdowns. Blackmon’s downfall has come off the field in the form of substance abuse. His second season was marred by suspensions from arrests for DUI and driving under the influence of marijuana. Blackmon only played four games in the 2013 season and has not played a game since.
Jacksonville is hoping to know Blackmon’s status before the draft. He has to apply for reinstatement after his year-long suspension in the 2014-15 season and it looks like he has worn out his welcome. A change of scenery in a locker room filled with veteran leaders could be just what the doctor ordered. Blackmon turned 25 at the beginning of January. A season away has hopefully rekindled his desire to play and given him time to get his personal life in order.
Focused and reinvigorated, he would step in as a legitimate number one or two wide receiver. An incentive-laden two-year contract would give the Chargers a low-risk, high reward potential player at a thinning position. A mid to late round draft pick would still be sufficient to get him out of the Sunshine State.
2. Daryl Washington, ILB Arizona.
Living in Phoenix, I have seen a lot of Washington and listened to his coaches and teammates sing his praises since he was drafted in 2010. Like Blackmon, the 28-year old Washington seems to have run out of lives in Arizona.
Let’s count the offenses…
Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, his second such offense. The first caused a four game suspension in 2013. In addition, he violated the league’s personal conduct policy stemming from an aggravated assault conviction of his ex-girlfriend. After pleading guilty, he received one year supervised probation.
On the field, Washington was an exceptional and a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball. He was one of the team captains, tasked with making sure the rest of the defense was in the right place and calling plays on defense. Despite missing four games in 2013 he was still third on the team with 81 tackles (59 solo), 3 sacks and 2 interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012 after amassing 134 tackles (107 solo), 9 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and one interception.
Another big indicator he’s played his last game in a Cardinals uniform, during the 2013 offseason Cardinals GM Steve Keim said: “It’s completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position.” A player like Washington who is on the right side of 30, loaded with potential and spared a year of wear and tear on his body will come with a higher price tag but to get that kind of production from an inside linebacker helps everywhere else on defense. In four seasons he only missed one game aside from the games he missed due to suspension and durability is definitely a trait that has been seriously lacking in San Diego.
3. Adrian Peterson RB, Minnesota.
This has been a name that has been popping up recently in connection with the Chargers. We all watched as the child abuse scandal unfolded before us last season. Peterson missed all but the first game of the season and after being removed from the Commissioner’s exempt list was suspended the final six games of the season without pay. He was brought to trial for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch, leaving behind lashes that were used for evidence.
There hasn’t exactly been a groundswell of support for Peterson among the front office in Minnesota. The team seems to be looking to rebuild without him, leaning on the talents of 2014 first round draft pick, QB Teddy Bridgewater. After compiling a respectable 7-9 2014 campaign without AP, Minnesota seems to be headed in the right direction.
As the league’s highest paid running back, Peterson is scheduled to make $12.75 million this season and is still under contract for the next three years. He will also count 15.4 million against the Vikings salary cap, which is another reason they look to be ready to cut ties with their star player.
After entering a no contest plea to misdemeanor reckless assault, Peterson received two years probation, $4,000.00 in fines and 80 hours community service. He will be able to apply for reinstatement on April 15.
By adding Peterson, the Chargers would instantly become a Super Bowl favorite in the AFC. His signing would be akin to Peyton Manning coming to Denver. With a franchise quarterback leading what was the 10th ranked passing attack in the league last season already in place, a dominant feature back would put the Chargers over the top.
The last of the dominant every down running backs, Peterson is the anti-Mathews. In seven full seasons he only missed 8 games, half of those came from missing the final four games of the season after tearing his ACL in 2011. He then returned and ran for an astonishing 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to winning the NFL MVP award in 2012. A punishing runner, he has the ability to catch out of the backfield, elude and break tackles and possesses phenomenal breakaway speed.
Peterson will be 30 by the time the season starts, but he has essentially had a full season off to heal his body. We’ve seen what he can do coming back from a devastating injury in record time, what will he be able to do returning completely fresh and determined to reestablish himself as the top back in the league? Defenses will have to jam the box with an extra defender (which still has minimal effect against AP) to contain him and that will leave the Chargers receivers and tight ends in favorable one-on-one matchups. A three-year contract for Peterson will give Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Eric Weddle and the longtime Chargers their greatest shot at a deserved Super Bowl championship.
Chemistry is very important in a locker room. The question now is will Telesco give these three players serious consideration if and when they become available? We know the GM is big on high character, team-oriented players and he leans toward younger, high potential, multi-dimensional players. Was that because that’s truly his philosophy or because of the pennies in his pocket, that was the road he was forced to travel?
Keep in mind Telesco did offer a contract last offseason to veteran wide receiver Steve Smith (who’s had his fair share of on and off the field incidents) last year and would have signed him if Baltimore didn’t have the team that exiled him, Carolina, on their schedule. The revenge factor was too great for Smith to pass up and he went on to have a great season in Baltimore.
These players have endangered themselves and people around them through drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence. That should not be taken lightly. Their past transgressions should serve as a cautionary tale to the rest of us. They have had a year or longer to get their lives back in order and (hopefully) come back to the game ready to perform and endear themselves to their new teammates, coaches and fan base. A change of scenery, a chance to play on a playoff-caliber team in a low media intensity city like San Diego and an opportunity to start rebuilding their image will provide plenty of motivation and that will only benefit the Chargers. These players are game changers and that is what the Bolts sorely need.
Morality is a slippery slope. These players have (or are soon to be) cast-off from their teams because their behavior has become too big a distraction to keep them around. Who hasn’t made mistakes and been motivated to come through it better than you were before? We’re known as the land of opportunity. People come here from around the globe searching for a new start. In the end, we’re not considering these players to be the heads of our household, we’re considering these players to be standout components that will get us what we crave as Chargers fans: A Super Bowl championship.
My name is The Greg One, and I approve these players.
Everyone and their dog has a mock draft out these days. The Greg One is not one to be left out of the fun, so here it is, people. I’ll be adding one more to the ever growing list of seven-round educated (and not-so educated) guesses called a mock draft. I have been keeping an eye on prospects and listening to the talking heads on tv and radio for some perspective. Mind you, these are the same pundits who predicted the Chargers would finish at the bottom of the AFC West last season while your friend The Greg One correctly predicted the Chargers record within one game (my guess was 10-6) and the Chargers making the playoffs when none of the ‘experts’ would. Sometimes the best information comes from someone close, passionate about their team but also sees their team realistically. Suck on that ESPN!
Also keep in mind that in my 2013 Chargers mock draft I was one pick away from being dead on. I had the Chargers choosing Alabama guard Chance Warmack as the Chargers selection and he was chosen one pick before the Chargers selected, going to Tennessee with the 10th pick right before the Chargers picked at 11. The Chargers took Alabama right tackle DJ Fluker and had a great season. Still, I had the position (offensive line) and even the school (Alabama) correct, which is more than Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay did. Now that I’ve built my pundit resume to impossible, only a dead on pick will do kind of level, here is my Chargers seven round mock draft!
Round One: Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame. The Chargers have a gaping hole at defensive tackle after the departure of Cam Thomas this offseason. The Chargers are left with Sean Lissemore and the injured Kwame Geathers as the only nose tackles on the roster. There is no one of note left on the free agent market which makes this the biggest priority to fill through the draft, slightly ahead of the secondary. CB’s Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard and Bradley Roby will be long gone as will safeties Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Calvin Pryor. Nix is the best pure nose tackle in the draft and will be reunited with teammate Manti Te’o, easing his transition to the team. Renewing the chemistry they had in college will be an added benefit on the field.
Round Two: Kyle Van Noy DE/OLB BYU. The Chargers are keeping a close eye on Van Noy, who has had a visit with the team and has said he would love to play for the Chargers. Van Noy is a high motor, disruptive force blitzing from the edge. His specialty is rushing the passer but drops into coverage very well and is solid against the run. Van Noy will be a great addition from a depth standpoint and has outstanding veterans around him to learn from. Even with offenses designing plays to go away from him, Van Noy logged 68 tackles with 17.5 for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and seven batted balls.
Round Three: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama. Kouandjio stock is dropping after a sub-par showing at the combine including a failed physical. His surgically repaired knee has received a clean bill of health from the esteemed Dr. James Andrews. The Chargers will most likely trade up, sacrificing a late round pick (6 or 7) to get high enough in the order to make the selection, but taking advantage of another first round grade talent will be too impossible to ignore. The Chargers again reunite teammates as Kouandjio becomes the bookend on the left side to D.J. Fluker on the right side of the offensive line.
Round Four: The Chargers trade their pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the rights to wide receiver Justin Blackmon. The troubled wide receiver was the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft after two seasons as an All-American receiver for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Blackmon is currently suspended following his second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy and was recently cited for a one-car incident when he ran his SUV into a guard rail and landed in a ditch last month. Fortunately, there was no alcohol involved which would’ve lengthened his suspension. Blackmon can apply to be reinstated before the start of the 2014 season but chances are the Jaguars may be looking to rid the locker room of his presence.
A change of scenery and a fresh start with a new, contending team can be the perfect scenario for the 24-year old Blackmon. A bona fide deep threat, he will provide the perfect complement to Keenan Allen. Blackmon was only making 1.2 million so a new contract will be easy for GM Tom Telesco to negotiate. If the opportunity is there, Telesco should make the deal.
Round Five: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon. Telesco wants to improve team speed and you won’t find many in this draft faster than De’Anthony Thomas. At Oregon’s pro day Thomas posted a 4.34 and 4.35 40 yard dash times. Thomas is electric in the return game as he had four return touchdowns for Oregon in his three-year career. Thomas was a standout member of Oregon’s track and field team anchoring the 4×100 relay for the team that made it to the 2012 NCAA Championships. Thomas is a great 10-15 carries per game running back but does not have the body to be an every down back. He can be a specialty back in the vein of Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead as he is a great receiver out of the backfield and operates best in space. Speaking of whom, Woodhead is on the second year of his two-year contract with the Chargers. Thomas would be a great insurance policy/heir apparent if Woodhead gets injured or leaves in free agency next season.
Round Six: Terrance Mitchell, DB Oregon. Mitchell’s stock dropped at the draft combine when he ran a 4.69 40-yard dash time. Mitchell is a little undersized at 5’11 but makes up for it with impressive ball skills and instincts. Mitchell stared 38 games for the Ducks and played in high-profile games against the best receivers the Pac-12 had to offer. Mitchell had five interceptions last season as a season-long starter. Mitchell’s excels in press coverage and knows how to use his hands and body in coverage. Mitchell is a playmaker who will also be a valuable contributor on special teams.
Round Seven: Michael Sam, DE Missouri. Sam was the story of the day for about a week when he came out, making him the first openly gay player to take the field in the NFL. However, the story didn’t do anything to his draft stock and he has been forgotten amidst all the draft hoopla. Sam would be a fantastic bargain here as the Chargers are woefully thin all across the defensive line. Like Te’o the year before him, San Diego will provide shelter from the harsh media scrutiny of other NFL cities and allow Sam to thrive.
The Chargers most likely won’t have a seventh round pick. I expect the seventh round pick to be used in a trade up scenario or in the Blackmon trade. Similarly, a team like the Ravens or Steelers will take Sam in an earlier round. However, he will be a late day three pick if he gets chosen at all. If he’s there the Chargers will take him but if he’s gone and the pick is not traded the Chargers will more than likely stash a quarterback like they did last season with Brad Sorensen.
I only took one defensive back because the Chargers will also gain the services of defensive back Stevie Williams, who was chosen with a fifth round pick in last season’s draft. Williams missed all season with a torn pectoral muscle.
The (mostly) unintentional coupling of past teammates will only serve to improve team chemistry and provide a mentor-like relationship in the cases of Fluker and Kouandjio; Te’o and Nix. The team adds valued speed with Blackmon and Thomas and the defense gets much-needed depth with a handful of blue chip prospects.
What do you think Boltfam?
The Greg One
Anyone who has read my columns knows I am not a Ryan Mathews supporter. My columns on him have been critical to say the least and I still say he has deserved every bit of that criticism. I write on the behalf of many Chargers faithful who shudder every time we see him on the field, ailing from whatever phantom injury he always seems to be playing through or coming back from this time.
Then this season happened.
In my own defense, after seeing what the Chargers were doing after bringing in new GM Tom Telesco and new head coach Mike McCoy, I gave Mathews the benefit of the doubt. In my season predictions I wrote Mathews would have 1100 yards rushing, provided he could stay healthy. McCoy was implementing a ball-control, rhythm passing game utilizing Philip Rivers abilities with short passes and short drops to minimize the beating our franchise quarterback has suffered over the last few seasons.
Telesco brought in Danny Woodhead to play the quintessential safety valve for Rivers, something he hasn’t had since the departure of Darren Sproles. As a result, all Mathews had to do was take the ball and plow forward and hopefully gain positive yardage.
This season, Mathews exceeded all expectations. Mathews played all sixteen games for the first time in his career. His power running spearheaded the Chargers offensive attack the last quarter of the season. In addition to that, Mathews finished fifth in the NFL in rushing last season with a career-high 1255 yards rushing. Even the anti-Mathews contingent such as myself had to admit the man earned his money this season.
Until this past season, Mathews career in San Diego has been marred by a litany of injuries, turnovers and ineffectiveness on the field. For the man who was chosen to be the heir apparent to Ladainian Tomlinson, Mathews has given Chargers fans little reason to support him until this season.
This upcoming season is the last season on Mathews contract. The decision looms. Do the Chargers resign Mathews to a long term deal or let him loose in free agency? If Mathews can reproduce this season’s numbers the team would be moved to give Mathews a few more years in lightning bolts. Knowing Mathews history, it’s hard to put faith in the assumption Mathews can be as durable season in and season out as he was last season.
Marring Mathews banner season is his performance in the playoffs. Mathews timely running yielded an average of 4 yards per carry (13 carries for 52 yards, 2 receptions for 12 yards) in the Chargers wild card round win over the Bengals. In the divisional playoffs against Denver, Mathews was injured (again) and lost for the game after only five carries. In the biggest moment of Mathews career, against a juggernaut of a team like Denver who ended up representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, Mathews and the injury bug reunited and the Chargers fell in the end.
So what do the Chargers do?
What the Chargers do is play Mathews the same as they did last season. It took a quarter of the season for the coaching staff to decide how to use Mathews but after Mathews showed he could be trusted to carry the ball effectively he carried the ball a lot more and the Chargers went 4-1 in the last month of the season, entering the playoffs on a four game winning streak. Mathews entire body of work needs to be evaluated and a decision made based on that information.
The Chargers also need to draft a running back to be Mathews understudy this season. As a 2nd through 7th round pick, there will be no pressure to throw that player into the fire right away. He can learn the offense and get acclimated to the pro game from the sidelines. Knowing Mathews’ injury history, that player will most likely see field time in meaningful games before the season is out but it is a good situation for an incoming blue chip running back to be in.
Two names that jump to the forefront are Trey Mason from Auburn and James Wilder Jr. from Florida State. Their teams faced off for the 2013 NCAA National Championship. Wilder is declaring for the draft after his sophomore season. Wilder is slightly over 6’2 and 232 pounds at the NFL Combine. The fact that Wilder ran a poor 40 time (4.86) means his draft stock dropped into the middle rounds, perfect place to groom a future feature back. Wilder is a dynamic runner with little wear on the tires.
It is unlikely a running back will be taken in the first round but Tre Mason is at the top of the running back class this season. He may be viewed as undersized at 5’9 but many backs his size have succeeded. Mason posted a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine but looks faster on the field. Mason is explosive as they come and he ran for over 1800 yards this season against the best conference in college football, the SEC. Seeing as how the Chargers draft at the bottom of every round, if Mason is still on board in the second round, picking him should be a lock. New GM Tom Telesco wants to increase team speed, and they don’t get much faster than Mason.
Other running backs are there for the taking in the middle rounds like Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde or De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon. The Chargers have room and time to groom the next full-time ball carrier instead of rushing him into the fray and potentially stumping his development. In the meantime, Mathews will have to put up or face free agency next offseason. The Chargers should find a stud back and cut ties with Mathews after next season. They need a back who is dependable and can be counted on in the payoffs. Mathews has not shown he is that guy.
The Chargers have made another step to solving this quandary when they signed Donald Brown on the first day of free agency. Brown was with Telesco in Indianapolis and despite only having five starts last season, led the Colts in rushing with 537 yards on 102 carries for a 5.3 yards per carry average and six touchdowns. Brown is also excellent catching the ball out of the backfield and unlike Mathews, understands pass protection and is proficient with it, unlike Mathews.
The Chargers signed Brown to a three-year deal so Telesco believes Brown has the skills to get the job done. Brown has had his own battles with nagging injuries but the Colts have always utilized him as a utility man, never in the feature back role until the failure of the Trent Richardson experiment last season. The Colts traded a first round pick for Richardson who then forgot how to run like he did in his rookie year when he amassed over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brown stepped into the feature role the last quarter of the season and Richardson was sent to the bench.
Mathews also addresses Telesco’s desire to improve team speed. Brown was a first round draft pick in 2009. At the 2009 Combine Brown posted a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and has shown that speed on the field. The 5’10 back amassed 367 carries in his junior year at Connecticut, rushing for 2083 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those 367 carries are more than he has totaled in his last three seasons in the NFL, 344. The Chargers are already bringing in insurance for the likely scenario Mathews gets injured. Brown’s presence also allows the Chargers to trade Mathews instead of letting him walk as a free agent.
With Brown, do the Chargers still need to add a back in the draft? I say yes, especially if Mason is on the board in the second round. What say you Bolt Nation?
The Greg One