Monthly Archives: August 2013
As NFL teams across the country are busy at work trimming their rosters down to 53 men, it’s time to take a quick look back at what has transpired this preseason. Some questions about the team were answered, while others remain a mystery. We’ve had a chance to see how NFL-ready the team’s rookies are, as well as how the rest of the Free Agent pickups have performed and adapted to the new McCoy/Whisenhunt/Pagano ideology of Chargers football.
Let’s start with what we know. Given the anemic offensive performance by the Chargers in 2012, it was obviously a big concern in the front office to bring in a new strategy of attack.
The Running Game
Much to the pleasure of the Chargers’ faithful, the early glimpses of the 2013 ground attack have been impressive. Coach Mike McCoy, being known for his adaptability in using different strategies based on different personnel strengths, knew coming in that in order to help (or “fix”, according to many national pundits) Philip Rivers, he would have to get opposing teams to once again respect the Chargers’ ground attack.
The addition of D.J. Fluker to the Right Tackle position on the offensive line has already shown dividends in terms of the power and attitude. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing in at 339 lbs, Fluker certainly has the size and power to be an effective run-blocker. Often being described as “nasty” when he is fighting in the trenches, this monolith of a man has shown the ability to blast through defenders, effectively opening running lanes for Ryan Mathews and the rest of the stable of Running Backs on the team.
Ryan Mathews, always a popular subject of conversation in Charger-land, flashed signs of dominance in his preseason appearances. Leading up to the 2012 NFL season, Mathews spent quite a bit of time bulking up. Former Chargers Fullback Jacob Hester had described Ryan as “looking like Arnold did in the old days”. This year, however, the point of emphasis has been on trimming down and becoming more flexible with the hope of making him less susceptible to injury. While Mathews has struggled to stay on the field in his professional career, hopes are that by focusing more on speed and agility as opposed to brute strength, the young back will be able to (finally) live up to some of the team’s lofty expectations for him. Mathews has at times been criticized for his decision-making when following his blocks, though his patience to wait for the correct lane or block seems to have matured somewhat this preseason. This is also a contract year for Mathews, and his performance and ability to stay focused and contribute will be put under great scrutiny.
A fan-favorite among free agent signings this off-season, Running Back Danny Woodhead is expected to be a nice change-of-pace back as well as a viable third down option. However, due to some lingering injuries sustained during training camp, he has not been able to get very involved in the offense as of yet. Fozzy Whittaker, a fan favorite this preseason, has shown he can contribute, though the drop off in talent from Mathews to any of the other backs is still quite significant.
Ronnie Brown is still a valuable asset as a pass-catcher and pass-blocker, though it is presumed he will not be getting many actual carries as a runner. The Fullback position looks to be shored up by veteran Le’Ron McClain. The role of the Fullback in the McCoy/Whisenhunt offense is still somewhat of a mystery that will unfold as the regular season progresses.
The Passing Game
It’s no secret that the Chargers have paid the butcher’s bill this preseason in terms of injuries to its stock of Wide Receivers. What began as one of the deepest position groups on the team has become a hobbled group of hopeful contributors. When healthy, the top three Wide Receivers can be very effective. Unfortunately, the entire group seems to be prone to injury.
Last year’s “golden boy” and incumbent No.1 receiver Danario Alexander suffered a tragic season-ending torn ACL during training camp. Alexander is a bit of lightning in a bottle when healthy, but the young receiver has earned a reputation of having knees made of glass. With Alexander out, long-time Charger Malcom Floyd will be charged with the No.1 receiver duties. The team is still expecting big things from youthful receivers Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen, though once again, these players have been known to be bitten by injuries in the not-so-distant past.
On the positive side, Tight End seems to be a position of strength this preseason. Antonio Gates has looked great, and is fully healthy going into the regular season. John Phillips, a pickup from the Cowboys, has been solid and should also be a factor in the running game due to his size and blocking ability. Ladarius Green has had a great preseason showing and looks ready to become a meaningful contributor to the aerial campaign this year.
Though the true nature of the 2013 Chargers passing game has yet to be revealed, we have seen a couple of new ripples. With the horrible protection Rivers had to deal with in 2012, the popular thought has been to use fewer five and seven-step drops, with receivers running routes that develop more quickly than the deep patterns that Norv Turner was so fond of during his time in San Diego. This should almost certainly help Rivers’ completion percentage and, hopefully, put an end to the epidemic of turnovers that have plagued this offense over the past year.
Of course, the most important piece of the passing game is Quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers’ struggles of late have been well-documented. From what we have seen this preseason, it is still hard to say if the passing game will be able to balance the running game. Aside from Rivers learning a new offense and occasionally wearing a glove on his left hand (Has anyone figured this out yet?), there isn’t a lot that will be different about Rivers’ game; he will still have a strange release, he’ll still be perhaps the most awkward running quarterback in the NFL, but most importantly, he’ll still provide leadership and a great knowledge of the game.
One notable difference with Rivers has been with the integration of a fast-paced, hurry-up type offense. This looks like something to get excited about. Rivers has long been heralded as a great student of the game, growing up the son of a coach and a film room guru. Under Norv Turner, Rivers wasn’t given the freedom to run an offense from the line of scrimmage. This preseason, however, we have on occasion seen Rivers hurry the team to the line, force the defense to set and adapt the plan of attack at the line. It should be interesting to see Philip match his wits against defenses in this manner.
What have we learned?
From the limited playing time we have seen from the Chargers’ starters this preseason, we can start to form an idea of what the overall offensive strategy and personnel will look like. Fixing the running game is of huge importance to the overall potency of the offense, and so far, so good. The newly minted offensive line seems to be better suited to running the ball and getting a push off of the line of scrimmage than it is at providing Rivers with a clean pocket.
While Max Starks has shown us he cannot be depended on at Left Tackle (Update: Max Starks has been cut by Chargers, 8/30/13), King Dunlap has been surprisingly effective. The rest of the line continues to gel as Jeromey Clary gets more comfortable at his new spot at Right Guard. Though we didn’t see much of Danny Woodhead, expect to see him play a key role in screen passes and as an overall safety valve for Rivers. On the downside, if the Wide Receivers fail to get healthy and stay healthy, this could be a difficult year to watch Rivers throw the ball. Ryan Mathews is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the offense we have seen so far, as he is looking explosive, hungry, and healthy.
Perhaps more than anything, this preseason has raised new questions about the direction of the 2013 Chargers offense. Reality should unfold very rapidly as fans eagerly await the team’s first real test: Wade Phillips’ Houston Texans defense.
Some teams are beginning to report their cuts and there will no doubt be a few names the Chargers should be looking to add depth to this team. The key positions are: OL, DL, WR, OLB, anyone who can play Special Teams and perhaps CB if Patricks’ injury is serious. I don’t know if any of the below players will be cut. I’m just going off roster projections, performance and a few guys who may fit in with the team and playing couch GM. I’ll leave it to the real guys to make the decisions.
Dontay Moch – Cincinatti Bengals
He is listed as a DE but could transition to OLB in the 3-4 as he’s listed at 6’3″ and 255 lbs. Mochs’ name has been floated in a potential trade this morning. He’s a former 3rd round pick and perhaps most importantly, his special teams play in the preseason has been in the top 10 according to Pro Football Focus.
Nathan Stupar – San Francisco 49ers
The Chargers saw this guy in person last night and he was all over the field on special teams and on defense. He racked up 7 tackles last night and is in the top 20 on special teams this preseason. He just happens to find himself on a team that’s very very deep. Not sure he’s better than Bird or DJ Smith, but a good player all around.
Ramses Barden – New York Giants
Barden has the size that Rivers loves. He’s listed at 6’6″ and 224lbs, also a 3rd round pick out of Cal Poly. He’s been buried on the Giants depth chart that has had Nicks, Cruz, Manningham and now Randle throughout the years. He has 29 career receptions but for a healthy average of 13.6 yards per reception. Could be a nice fit with his speed and size to be coached up.
Kassim Osgood – San Francisco 49ers
Yes…Reunited. Osgood is still one of the best special teamers in the game. He’s not going to be an offensive threat, but his special teams ability is very good. Another player the Chargers saw up close last night.
Jake Scott – Detroit Lions
Was a starter for the Titans in 2011 and ranked as the 7th best guard in the NFL that year on over 1000 snaps. Last year, was limited to playing only 7 games and signed a 1 year deal with the Lions. Could be on his way out, but in the preseason has played both left and right guard and done really well in the running game. At 32, is a veteran that should have some left in the tank.
Tim Lelito – New Orleans Saints
He’s an undrafted rookie, but he’s had a great preseason. Coaches speak highly of him, but may come down to a numbers game. Could be the 54th guy. Not big on bringing in an unproven rookie, but he’s had a good camp and is one of the top guards in the NFL this preseason.
Daniel Muir – Houston Texans
This one seems like a no brainer. He has a history with Tom Telesco (played for the Colts) and he plays for the Chargers first opponent currently. It was reported he was getting his hand looked at after the 4th preseason game, but seems like he would be a great fit if he’s cut.
Ricardo Mathews or Lawrence Guy – Indianapolis Colts
Both these guys are on the cusp of the 53 man roster and both have ties to Tom Telesco. Mathews has had the better preseason of the two, but both would be a potential upgrade along the DLine.
In the third preseason game, the San Diego Chargers traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to face the Arizona Cardinals. This is the game where the starters get the most exercise as the first team played into the third quarter. The Chargers soundly defeated the Cardinals 24-7, but how did the team that takes the field on Monday Night against Houston look? In a word? Fantastic!
Ryan Mathews has continued his phenomenal job of running the ball this preseason. Mathews rushed 14 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. The lone and biggest slight against him is a fumble he had trying to go over the top of the pile at the goal line. Mathews was hit, fumbled, and in a wacky chain of events the Cardinals gained then lost the ball trying to lateral. The Chargers regained the ball as John Phillips plucked the ball out of midair and scored the touchdown.
Mathews has run with power and speed, swift and decisive in his cuts and hitting the hole. Fumbling, especially in the red zone, has been one of many knocks on Mathews and until that play we were beginning to forget it. Does the pressure get to Mathews in big situations like goal line? The Chargers got lucky in regaining the ball and scoring in spite of Mathews fumble. It won’t go the same way in the regular season. Regardless, Mathews has looked great all preseason and even for me, who is not a Mathews fan after watching him fail year after year, I am encouraged by what I have seen from him so far if he can duplicate his preseason production in the regular season.
Philip Rivers was in rhythm and looked great passing the ball, going 10-18 for 71 yards. Rivers did have an interception but that was the result of Rivers getting hit on the arm and the altered pass landing in the hands of the Cardinals defender. Rivers was not sacked and pressure only leaked through a couple of times, including that play. Rivers led a beautiful 12-play, 92 yard drive in the first quarter that chewed 7 minutes of the clock in the first quarter. The drive was a great mix of runs and short passes as Rivers spread the ball around to Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead, Seyi Ajirotutu and Keenan Allen. The Chargers offensive line blew back the Cardinals front line down the field the entire half and Rivers continually found open receivers amidst the Cardinals highly touted secondary. Very encouraging.
With the Chargers afflicted by injuries at the wide receiver position, the Chargers started Ajirotutu, Allen, Mike Willie and Vincent Brown with Gates at tight end. The unit was solid and just proves that with protection, Rivers can turn whoever is receiving into Pro Bowl worthy studs. The opener will have a different lineup as Willie has gone to IR with a knee injury. Malcolm Floyd will be back in the lineup and Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal still have opportunity to crack the starting lineup with impressive performances in the finale against San Francisco on Thursday.
Rivers drew three pass interference penalties on the same Cardinals defender. Rivers found the weak line (no, it wasn’t Antoine Cason) and exploited the matchup brilliantly, gaining the Chargers easy yardage by identifying the best matchup and getting the ball there accurately enough to draw the penalty. Rivers is a master at this and when he has time to throw, we’ll see more of the same.
D.J. Fluker showed his athleticism by running down Cardinals defensive back Patrick Petersen as he returned the interception after the ball was pitched to him. Petersen has sub 4.4 speed and returned multiple punts for touchdown last season! D.J. Fluker ran from his spot on the right side and caught Petersen as he raced by. For a man who’s 350-plus, no way not to love that! Most linemen would not even try to catch someone that fast and Fluker ran a good 10-15 yards to catch Petersen on the sideline. He will only get better folks…
The Chargers were over 50% on third down (8 for 15). Great play calling and execution by Rivers and Whitehurst. The Chargers also had 14 first downs in the first half, 22 for the game.
Dwight Freeney looked amazing as he turned Cardinals starting left tackle Levi Brown into a turnstile. I counted four times Freeney got to the quarterback, flushing him from the pocket, getting a hand on him or getting a big sack, as he did on the last play of the first half. Freeney drew double teams and when he was left alone, he dominated the Cardinals tackles.
Larry English has an impressive open field tackle of Patrick Petersen, who was in the game on offense. English prevented a short pass that could have turned into a big gain if he secure Petersen with a textbook form tackle.
Shareece Wright was also good in run defense as he had a beautiful open field tackle on Cardinals running back Alphonso Smith who had made it through the first level and gaining speed.
Safety Brandon Taylor made his return to the lineup and had a bone jarring hit which forced a fumble. Linebacker Andrew Gachkar had a batted ball and an interception in the second half.
The Chargers prevented the Cardinals to 25% on third down, 3 for 12.
The special teams looked brilliant! Cornerback Darrell Stuckey blocked a punt. Nose tackle Kwame Geathers blocked a field goal, both in the first half against the Cardinals first team. Keenan Allen caught each kick that came to him flawlessly and showed when he has room to run, he will gain big yardage. Allen showed excellent speed and nice moves as he weaved through defenders for a 20-plus yard return. Richard Goodman secured his head to the chopping block by fumbling another kick. Goodman did recover the fumble but for the second week in a row he fumbled a kick and has yet to show he can gain good return yardage in any game this preseason.
In summary, this game was a curb stomping by the Chargers first team against the Cardinals first team. The offensive line pushed the Cardinals around at will and the defense did the same to the Cardinals offensive line. The Chargers offensive line looked better than it has all preseason and considering this is the game that would tell the most about what we will see in September, you can’t help but feel hopeful. If the Chargers can stay healthy, and that’s an if of monumental proportions, the Chargers will be very dangerous. The Chargers problem is depth and it will remain so until the players of the future come off of injured reserve. This will be a team to watch!
The Greg One
The position battle at Left Tackle appears to be all over but the crying. Unbeknownst to some, not this blogger, the Max Starks experiment is turning out to be the acquisition of a backup linemen. Depth is necessary all over this roster. Please don’t mistake that I find it crucial to have guys that can come in when the team suffers injuries with guys being poor signings. I’ve just never been a fan of Starks.
To put it quite simply, the performance of King Dunlap has been head and shoulders above that of the ex-Steeler Starks. I’m not sure that is saying much and, perhaps, shows that San Diego might not have properly addressed the Left Tackle position during this offseason.
Truth be told, the team did not have sufficient money to sign a big-name free agent to protect the blindside of Philip Rivers. The fact that the top 3 Offensive tackles went in the first 4 picks of the 2013 draft forced the team to forego addressing the spot with a rookie to man it.
Dunlap has performed well throughout training camp and the preseason. He is not going to be confused for being an All-Pro Tackle but as long as the only time you hear his name is during the starting lineup then he is doing his job well.
I should add that Mike McCoy has yet to name a starter at Left Tackle but it has seemed as though it is a foregone conclusion for the past few weeks.
Just for fun, I found a few tweets of mine that I sent out the day that Starks was signed. According to many, the top tweet was breaking news although I was solely checking Starks’ Twitter account due to the release of Kevin Haslam.
This was initially written on August 14th.
A little bird flew by my window the other day and informed me that Byron Jerideau has suffered a torn rotator cuff. It is not a complete tear, but it is a tear nonetheless.
Although the odds of him making the 53-man roster were somewhere between slim and none, it would not have been unreasonable to believe the he would be selected to the practice squad.
Jerideau is a former collegiate teammate of Chargers Outside Linebacker Melvin Ingram. It appears as though their second stint as co-workers could be coming to an abrupt halt. There is always the possibility that the team opts for an injury settlement with the undrafted free agent which would then make him an ex-Charger.
The Bolts have had a serious case of the injury bug in recent years. It seems as though the 2013 season is no different and perhaps might be approaching new heights by the time the regular season rolls around.
UPDATE: Today, Byron Jerdieau was placed on the injured reserve. Nice to know that I have a solid, inside source.
Chargers got their first win in the preseason, let’s look how they answered some of the key questions below.
Coaching and GM
- This should be the week we see a little more game planning as it could be seen as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. I don’t know about you, but I liked the WR screens and Danny Woohead wheel routes that I saw. Definitely looked like they were trying some things out with the first unit. The quick inside handoffs for Mathews were really effective too.
- Depth continues to be a big question mark for this team. Injuries have really emphasized that lack of depth. Will Richard Marshall see the field as the latest addition to replace Steve Williams. Marshall didn’t see the field, but the DBs got another injury when Patrick went down with a concussion (his 2nd in 2 weeks). Chargers will need him healthy moving forward. Overall, depth looked better last night with some decent performances from the 2nd and 3rd string.
- While Mike McCoy has said that they aren’t playing the starters on special teams, the unit has been a nightmare. Well that philosophy changed and we saw guys like Weddle and Stuckey making plays on special teams. Stuckey was a man on a mission. Kwame Geathers is a big man and that was an amazing field goal block.
- The first unit was again very impressive with Liuget on the field. This group needs to prove it can be dominant without him. Cam Thomas and Freeney looked really good. Reyes played a decent game, but there were some holes in the run defense early that need to be shored up. Larry English made an incredible read and tackle on a sweep with Patrick Peterson.
- It looks like Te’o may not be back until the regular season, Bront Bird and DJ Smith appear to be separating themselves from the rest. Bront Bird is active but looks lost at times. DJ Smith had a nice assist on the Gachkar interception.
- Cox has started to make some plays in practice, hoping to see this translate to the field tonight. Fitzgerald will prove to be another challenge for this unit after facing Marshall last week. Not a bad job by Wright and Cox. Fitzgerald had some catches, but Cox was physical without getting penalized. The TD catch by Floyd looked to be on the safety. I’ll have to re-watch but it looked like Gatson had looked back and asked for help over the top.
- Gilchrist was somewhat invisible last week, which was both good and bad. Would love to see him make a couple plays. He looked good in run support, but Taylor was flying around the field making plays. I would imagine Gilchrist doesn’t hold the spot down for long, especially if Patrick is down for any length of time.
- We saw two sacks on the first 3 plays last week, would love to see more consistent pressure throughout the game. Dwight. Freeney. Man was a beast. He was a step away for most of the night and in and around Palmer on a lot of plays. Finaly put Brown through the spin cycle and knocked him backwards before getting the sack.
- No Alexander, Floyd or Royal. We may be looking at Allen and Brown as the starters. Thought the play calling was great, getting Allen involved early. Brown drew a couple of penalties on Powers and looked impressive with the routes.
- The wide receivers didn’t catch a pass until the 2nd quarter last week, need to get them involved earlier in the game. See above. Group was much more active early. Still would like to see more receptions from the group as the starters only combined for 3.
- Where’s Woodhead? We thought we might see him last week, hoping he’s a go this week. What could’ve been on that wheel route to Woodhead. Man this guy is so quick. I can’t wait to see what variation they run off that wheel. Could run a V route or something similar to play off of it.
- Keenan Allen has been a trusted target of Rivers, seems to be getting stronger every week. Can he continue that trend? Had two catches on a similar play. But still was a target Rivers trusted.
- Rivers bailed out Starks on 1090 this week about the sack saying he went too deep in the pocket, Dunlap still seems to be the more consistent option. Does that trend continue? A collective gasp when Dunlap went down. He returned and all was right in the world. Dunlap, appears to be the starter.
- The protection last week wasn’t very good. Needs to be much better and provide Rivers more time. Fluker looked really good in the running game. Excited to see if he can improve week to week in the passing game. Decent pockets at times for Rivers, others forcing him to step up with pressure in his face. But not a bad night for the group.
- Ryan Mathews…so good so far I took him in my fantasy league. He’s running hard and looking very strong. Another great game for Mathews up until that fumble. Has to know that the defense is going to be looking for that after he attempted it a few times.
- How busy is Mike Scifres? Hopefully the offense finds consistency and establishes a nice rhythm early. 4 punts between both guys. Not bad and the offense had a 13 play nearly 7 minute drive on their second possession that ended in a touchdown. Good rhythm.
- Ladarius Green has been a bright spot catching touchdowns from both backups. Does he get some time with Rivers this week? He’s going to force his way onto the field. Another great catch and run.
- Mike Willie had a great week, consistency is key for him to ensure he makes this team. Just one catch tonight and not a lot of production out of the WRs overall.
- Robert Meachem – even with the injuries, he’s still a question mark. Had 1 catch last week late. Pretty sure Meachem will be cut as he is seeing limited playing time. Although, he looked pretty good last night.
- Second string O-Line – Troutman may not make this team. Will be interested to see who takes snaps at center and guard. Troutman was back in with the 2’s and seemed to fair better this time around. Will be interesting to see what decisions are made for backups.
- If this is the dress rehearsal, do we see some of the potential starters play on this unit. Richard Marshall may be one of those guys. We did and they responded. While Marshall didn’t play, quite a few others did and they played well. Good to see coaching come into play here to correct what had been a mistake prone unit.
Look forward to recapping the game on Sunday.
Widely viewed as the dress rehearsal and the game in which the starters play the longest. With a new coach, we don’t really know. How long will the starters play? Can they generate some consistency on offense and create turnovers on defense? More story lines developing this week as we head towards some critical roster decisions. Roster will drop down to 75 players this week. Here’s what to watch for tonight.
Coaching and GM
- This should be the week we see a little more game planning as it could be seen as the dress rehearsal for the regular season
- Depth continues to be a big question mark for this team. Injuries have really emphasized that lack of depth. Will Richard Marshall see the field as the latest addition to replace Steve Williams
- While Mike McCoy has said that they aren’t playing the starters on special teams, the unit has been a nightmare
- The first unit was again very impressive with Liuget on the field. This group needs to prove it can be dominant without him
- It looks like Te’o may not be back until the regular season, Bront Bird and DJ Smith appear to be separating themselves from the rest
- Cox has started to make some plays in practice, hoping to see this translate to the field tonight. Fitzgerald will prove to be another challenge for this unit after facing Marshall last year.
- Gilchrist was somewhat invisible last week, which was both good and bad. Would love to see him make a couple plays.
- We saw two sacks on the first 3 plays last week, would love to see more consistent pressure throughout the game.
- No Alexander, Floyd or Royal. We may be looking at Allen and Brown as the starters.
- The wide receivers didn’t catch a pass until the 2nd quarter last week, need to get them involved earlier in the game.
- Where’s Woodhead? We thought we might see him last week, hoping he’s a go this week.
- Keenan Allen has been a trusted target of Rivers, seems to be getting stronger every week. Can he continue that trend?
- Rivers bailed out Starks on 1090 this week about the sack saying he went too deep in the pocket, Dunlap still seems to be the more consistent option. Does that trend continue?
- The protection last week wasn’t very good. Needs to be much better and provide Rivers more time. Fluker looked really good in the running game. Excited to see if he can improve this week-to-week in the passing game.
- Ryan Mathews…so good so far I took him in my fantasy league. He’s running hard and looking very strong.
- How busy is Mike Scifres? Hopefully the offense finds consistency and establishes a nice rhythm early.
- Ladarius Green has been a bright spot catching touchdowns from both backups. Does he get some time with Rivers this week?
- Mike Willie had a great week, consistency is key for him to ensure he makes this team.
- Robert Meachem – even with the injuries, he’s still a question mark. Had 1 catch last week late.
- Second string O-Line – Troutman may not make this team. Will be interested to see who takes snaps at center and guard.
- If this is the dress rehearsal, do we see some of the potential starters play on this unit.
Look forward to recapping the game on Sunday.
The Chargers head into the third preseason game on Saturday at the Arizona Cardinals. The team has shown good and bad over the first two games but that’s the point of preseason games, separate the bad from the good. Last week against the Bears there was plenty of good and bad. Here’s what I saw:
The most important part of the Chargers equation is the offensive line. Fluker, Starks and Clary all let their man get by them for a sack. Of course, this being the Thursday Night ‘Monday Night Football’ game, there were copious replays of them getting beaten badly by the Bears linemen. However, that was their one hiccup and the line held for the most part. Fluker and Starks maintained their sides admirably and Rivers had time to throw, most of the time.
Ryan Mathews continued to look impressive. In the first two games, Mathews has been decisive when hitting the hole instead of dancing in the backfield and losing yards or being stuffed at the line. Mathews has been running downhill, has shown great burst and has made it two games without getting injured. Excuse me while I look for wood to knock on…hard.
Fozzy Whittaker has looked great on the field. He has shown ability to pass block and catch passes as well as run with speed and power. Whitaker could be a hidden gem, gift wrapped by new Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt who saw Whittaker daily on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Whitaker has not played a down in a live game until now but you would never know by looking at him.
Antonio Gates is running, cutting and getting open as well as he has in years. Very encouraging.
Edwin ‘Rock’ Baker looked good running the ball but against the Bears third unit, its hard to gauge how much stock to put into it.
Mike Willie did a great job of recovering from the vicious, CLEAN hit levied on him by Jon Bostic. Any player could have called it a day after taking a shot like that but Willie dusted himself off, and scored two touchdowns after that hit. Gotta admire the effort and perseverance after knowing he made the wrong end of the Sportscenter highlight.
Charlie Whitehurst played well in leading a touchdown pass and making good passes. He looked bad by throwing interceptions, getting sacked and not being able to separate himself from the third string quarterback. Speaking of whom…
Seventh round draft pick Brad Sorensen has looked very impressive in both games. Sorensen throws a tight, accurate ball. He reads the defense and makes quick decisions and moves fluidly in the pocket. There is ten times more upside in Sorensen than there is with Whitehurst. Considering they’re both on equal footing having to learn a new offense, Sorensen is playing better than Whitehurst in my opinion.
The defense didn’t camp in the backfield like they did last week against Seattle but they did get good push up the middle and Dwight Freeney looks like he hasn’t lost a step.
The first team secondary gave up big plays, partly because of the line not being able to get consistent pressure. The Bears receivers got open repeatedly and Forte got loose on multiple plays. This should be a better than average defense but part of this is going to be being able to stifle top running backs. Forte had a field day against the first unit.
Atrocious. The Bears got free on kick returns, punt returns and they stayed on short fields as a result of it.
Richard Goodman was terrible. When he wasn’t fumbling the kickoff and losing sight of it on the turf, he couldn’t find the hole and gained very little yardage if any at all. You will see his name on the chopping block.
Keenan Allen didn’t fare much better in the return game. Allen also fumbled a ball, trying to run before the catch. The ball actually hit Allen in the helmet but at least it wasn’t a Raiders helmet he was wearing.
THE BRIGHT SIDE:
The most impressive and encouraging part of the game was none of the above things. The roster is undergoing a massive overhaul and the team has gotten considerable younger. The team taking the field will be one of the youngest in the league. This is a boom or bust team but you can’t help but enjoy the infusion of youth and talent from our draft picks like Mantei Te’o and Keenan Allen to unknowns like Willie and Whitaker.
Already the team speed has improved significantly. Starting corner Shareece Wright fell early on a play, got up and caught Matt Forte from behind as Forte had burst through the line, scooted to the left sideline and was running full speed, untouched toward the end zone. Had that been Quentin Jammer or Antoine Cason, there is no doubt in my mind Forte would have scored. Wright didn’t give up on the play and showed blazing speed in catching Forte, who had a ten yard head start.
On another play, undrafted free agent Marcus Cromartie showed his great speed as he caught a Bears kick returner from behind as the returner had made it into the open field and had nothing but grass and the kicker in front of him. Cromartie came from out of view of the camera to run down the returner just yards short of the end zone.
The new guys are funneling renewed energy, unseen speed and more ‘want to’ than previous editions of this team. That should be as encouraging as anything we’ve seen of this team so far. No one is giving up easy scores. Mistakes might be made but they are fundamental mistakes, mistakes that can be fixed. These mistakes are not because the player is too old and can’t hang with the competition, as has been the case with the team the last few seasons. As a lifelong Chargers fan, I am as encouraged to see this team hit the field as I have been to see the team since the LT days. You should be too.
The Greg One
For all of you football fans/Charger fans (or part time Charger fans) that question our man under center, here’s some food for thought. Philip Rivers is the one of the most successful quarterbacks in Charger’s history. How does he compare to other Charger’s quarterbacks? I’m glad you asked.
John Hadl played for the Chargers for 10 seasons (1962-1972) and had 114 starts. Hadle threw for over 33,000 yards and ended his career with only a 67.4 QB rating but from 1966-1969 he threw for over 3000 yards and averaged 23 touchdowns per season. (14 game seasons back then).
Dan Fouts was the most illustrious and longest tenured quarterback in Charger’s history. He played for San Diego for 15 seasons (1973-1987) and had 171 starts. Fouts threw for over 43,000 yards and ended up with an 80.2 QB rating.
Stan Humphries played for the Chargers for 6 seasons and is the only quarterback to lead the Chargers to a Superbowl appearance. Humphries threw for over 17,000 and ended with a QB rating of 75.8.
Drew Brees only played four years for San Diego but being one of the best quarterbacks in the league, I couldn’t leave him off this list. During his four years in San Diego, Brees’ career was quite productive with the 2003 campaign being his worst. That year he lost the starting role to Doug Flutie. The 2005 season, Brees QB rating was a respectable 89.2 which was 10th best in the league.
At the end of the 2005 season, Brees tore his labrum, an injury most athletes rarely come back from if at all. By this time, Philip Rivers is on the roster getting paid big bucks. It was an easy decision for A.J. Smith. Schottenheimer wanted to keep him but Smith said no. Wonder what he would have done had Brees stayed healthy. We all know how his career turned out since then already having won a Superbowl and surpassing Dan Marino’s single season passing record for one of only two teams that was willing to take a chance on him.
Philip Rivers has been on the Charger’s roster now for going on 10 seasons. During the 7 years behind center, Rivers has started every single game. That’s 112 straight starts. Incredible. During those 7 years, Rivers has amassed 27,891 passing yards, a 63.6 completion percentage and a 94.5 QB rating, the best in Chargers history and # 6 on the NFL career all time passing list. In comparison, Joe Montana ended his career with a 92.3 QB rating and a 63.2 completion percentage.
How can anyone argue those numbers?
I’ll take Rivers as my QB any day.
I am working on an article that will state my opinion regarding the topic in the title. That piece will be posted either tonight or tomorrow. But I am leaving the question to you.
Could the 2013 campaign be the best yet for former first round pick Ryan Mathews? Although we have only had a limited sample size thus far in the preseason, there seems to be a few things that are different about the fourth year running back.
It certainly doesn’t hurt his chances that it appears as though the Offensive line has improved from last year. This year’s group can’t really be any worse than what was put on the field in 2012.
As mentioned above, I’ll be breaking down Mathews’ chances of having a career year in a post in the very near future.
You all know the drill. Place you vote below and tell me why you voted the way you did in the comment section.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting.