Monthly Archives: May 2014
Despite winning a playoff game in 2013, the Chargers defense ranked down in the bottom third of the league. Most of the scrutiny hit the secondary, but having to cover receivers for ten seconds or more, four downs at a time will make any secondary look bad. The entire defense needs to improve.
The numbers as a whole definitely show gaps in the Bolts’ D, but taking a closer look, they had it when it mattered the most, against the reigning AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
The road to the top of the AFC West, and likely the AFC, goes through Denver. Only three teams beat the Denver Broncos last year during the regular season, the Colts, the Patriots, and the Chargers. Only two teams held the Denver Broncos to under 400 total yards in any single game. The Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers, twice. Three times if you count the playoff game between the two teams.
In fact, the averages of the rest of the league against Denver when compared to the averages among games against the Chargers show that one team played the AFC champs as well as anyone. Consider the following stats table from 2013:
|Denver Broncos Offensive Production 2013 season||Points (Ave)||Total Yards (Ave)||Passing Yards (Ave)|
|2 regular season games vs San Diego||24||346||295|
|3 games vs San Diego (including post season)||24||352||273|
|vs all of the AFC West||30||409||324|
|2 other regular season losses (New England/Indianapolis)||32||420||248|
|vs rest of league (regular season)||40||459||341|
The unmatched Denver Broncos offense averaged nearly 40 points per game against the rest of the league, while averaging only 24 over three games with San Diego. A 16 point differential.
The two other teams to defeat Denver during the season had an average of 32 points allowed, and 420 total yards allowed. The three games against the Chargers, 24 points allowed, 352 total yards allowed. That would be 70 less yards and an 8 point differential. San Diego’s defense, as unheralded and patchwork as it was, consistently defended Denver as well as any defense they went up against.
Consistency. As long as the San Diego defense can play at a more consistently high level over the entirety of the season, it looks as though they know the big opponent very well. Perhaps it’s safe to say better than anyone.
The Chargers lost their top two pass rushers in Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney for most of the season, and the free agent acquisition of starting cornerback Derek Cox was a major bust. Not to mention that Jarret Johnson and Donald Butler missed time and both Corey Liuget and Manti Te’o played the season with injuries. Winning five straight before their season ended, John Pagano and company clearly had something working toward the end of the year. Adding to the areas of need with draft picks and free agency, the defense must be better this time around.
Three of four teams in the AFC West made the playoffs, which made it one if the tougher divisions in the AFC, and in the NFL last season. Going 4-2 in that division and doing what they did to the Broncos over three games, this San Diego defense may actually look worse on paper than it actually is. Given another year together, playoff run experience, new talent, players returning from injury, and several crucial re-signings, this team has put themselves in a great position to battle with the Broncos for the top once again.
If you’re the Denver Broncos, the road back to the AFC West Championship must go through San Diego, twice. Yes, Denver went 2-1 against the Chargers and eliminated them from playoff contention, but it would appear that if the Broncos were to have a thorn in their side it would be the Chargers. With an improved pass rush, potentially improved secondary, and added speed on defense, hopefully these numbers will get even better.
The Broncos’ roster has made some changes, losing Eric Decker while adding Emanuel Sanders, but no team knows this roster and offense as well as John Pagano and the San Diego Chargers. Having played Denver three times in 2013 and bringing back an improved defensive unit, the Broncos may enter the season as the champs, but they are the champs that the Bolts know incredibly well.
After a surprising, albeit exciting, playoff appearance last year, are the Chargers poised for another run at the playoffs? I’m going to go through the daunting schedule and take a look at some matchups that could potentially give the Bolts some trouble.
First, the Chargers open the preseason with the Dallas Cowboys, and play three preseason games against regular season opponents (Seattle, Arizona, and San Francisco).
Week 1 @Arizona: San Diego’s toughness will be tested from Week 1. Arizona showed a lot of improvement last year with strong quarterback play from Carson Palmer and a much improved defense. If the Chargers can control the time of possession and limit turnovers I don’t see them losing this game.
Week 2 SEATTLE: The most exciting, and probably the toughest, game on our schedule happens to be against the defending Super bowl champs. This early matchup offers a barometer-setting home game for Bolts fans. Although this game is at home, Philip Rivers would have to play close perfect for the Bolts to come out with a win. The league’s toughest defense will prove to be too much for the Bolts to handle in Week 2.
Week 3 @Buffalo: Buffalo should be an easy win for the Bolts, but we have seen let downs when San Diego travels east for a 1:00 PM EST kickoff. Luckily, weather should not be much of a factor for a late September game, which takes away one of Buffalo’s biggest weapons. As long as the Bolts can slow down CJ Spiller and Sammy Watkins, then a victory won’t be in doubt. I expect San Diego to steamroll to a victory in Buffalo.
Week 4 JACKSONVILLE: The Jacksonville Jaguars have consistently been one of the worst teams in the NFL for more than a decade, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It will be interesting to see if Gus Bradley gives Bortles the keys to the offense from Day 1, or if he will stick with the underachieving Chad Henne. The Jags have some young talent on the offensive side of the ball, with acquisition of Toby Gerhart and acquiring Blake Bortles and Marquise Lee through this year’s draft. In the end, none of this will matter, and Philip Rivers will have his way with a poor Jags Defense. Bolts win this one in blowout fashion.
Week 5 NEW YORK JETS: The Jets will pose a challenge for San Diego. With the new acquisitions of Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, and the always tough Rex Ryan defense, the Jets could be a team fighting for a Wild Card spot. I expect the pass rush to do their job and contain Vick, while forcing him to commit a couple of turnovers. Rivers will put points on the board as well, putting pressure on the Jets’ offense to score. San Diego should win this game fairly easily, which will prove to be a big tie-breaker opportunity in the race for a Wild Card spot at the end of the year.
Week 6 @Oakland: Don’t sleep on the Oakland Raiders this year. Reggie McKenzie and the staff added some quality players in this year’s draft; players that will play a major role in bringing wins to a city that has only seen a handful per year for a decade now. That being said, Oakland is still years away from being a legitimate contender in the AFC West. San Diego should win both games against the Raiders, but the season split from the previous two seasons has me concerned. The team from America’s finest city is miles ahead of Oakland at this point in time, and that should show on the field. If Matt Schaub can’t get the offense moving in Oakland, then the Raiders are in for another dismal season. San Diego will get back to their winning ways and sweep the Raiders this year, but wins over the hated rival may be a little tougher to come by in years to come.
Week 7 KANSAS CITY: I believe the Kansas City Chiefs began showing us who they really are toward the end of the season. Andy Reid is a great football coach and that defense, when healthy, can cause nightmares for opponents. Kansas City will be a good football team this year, but I do not see them having the same success as last year. As long as San Diego can limit the effectiveness of Jamaal Charles then they can expect a win. It is very reasonable to believe that the Bolts can sweep the season series with the Chiefs, much like last year. Nonetheless, I expect the Bolts to split with the Chiefs at the very least. Bolts win at the Q.
Week 8 @Denver: I find it very hard to believe that anyone is going to dethrone the Denver Broncos this year. As long as Peyton Manning is in Denver, they will be very hard to beat. I do, however, believe it is reasonable for Charger fans to expect a split in the home/away series. San Diego will be hard pressed to get a win in Denver. Denver will prove to be too much in this one as the Bolts will struggle to find their groove after two consecutive division opponents in weeks 6 and 7.
Week 9 @Miami: Miami may appear to be a fairly easy win for the Bolts, but I think otherwise. Miami is an improving team, and they could give the Chargers some problems. Ryan Tannehill has shown that he is capable of winning games in this league, and the addition of Knowshon Moreno will add versatility to an offense that sometimes lacked an identity last year. Coming off an emotional week preparing to play division rival Denver, this game will serve as a speed bump for the Bolts. San Diego will leave Miami with a loss.
Week 10: BYE WEEK
Week 11 OAKLAND: As I stated in my analysis of Week 6, the Bolts will get back to owning the Raiders and life will be grand. After two weeks to prepare, the Bolts win this one with ease.
Week 12 ST. LOUIS: The Rams are a young team on the rise, and could give the Bolts some problems on the offensive side of the ball. Tavon Austin is a young, explosive receiver who could change the momentum of the game with one play. Jason Verrett will have a breakout game and shut down Austin helping the Bolts come out with a win.
Week 13 @Baltimore: Baltimore remains a dangerous team in the NFL. With Super bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco the Ravens could be poised for another run at the playoffs. If Baltimore can get consistent play from Ray Rice this year then they will be right in the thick of the AFC Playoff race. This will be yet another tough test for San Diego, but as long as the Chargers can avoid giving up 4th and 29 conversions they should be competitive. I expect Phillip Rivers to have a big day against an inexperienced Ravens secondary, and the Bolts to squeak out a close game in Baltimore.
Week 14 NEW ENGLAND: San Diego will welcome the New England Patriots to Qualcomm Stadium for Sunday Night Football. This will be another stiff test for this team, but I expect to see a close, well-fought game from the Bolts. Historically, these two teams have played very close games, and it seems like the team with the ball last usually wins. Call me crazy, but I expect to see the Chargers win this game at home in front of a raucous crowd at the Q.
Week 15 DENVER: With the Chargers dropping the first game between these two hated rivals I expect to see a very strong showing from the Bolts at home. Throughout Manning’s career, San Diego has been his kryptonite, forcing Manning into a turnover machine. Also, with the expertise of former Denver personnel, head coach Mike McCoy and secondary coach Ron Miles, fans should expect a strong showing against the Broncos. I see the Chargers using their plethora of running backs to control the time of possession and play keep away from Manning’s offense. If the San Diego can limit Manning’s possessions and convert field goals into touchdowns, then they should be in very good position to pull out a win. Bolts will win this game at home and remain in the hunt for the AFC West crown.
Week 16 @San Francisco: This is one of the games I’m looking forward to the most. I believe this game will be a huge measuring stick for this football team. That being said, I expect an all out war when these teams meet in the Bay Area, and depending on which Charger team shows, I definitely don’t think a win is out of the realm of possibility. In the end, I think San Francisco’s offense will be too much for the Chargers to handle. The Bolts will play the ‘9ers close for the majority of the game, but San Fran will pull away when they need to.
Week 17 @Kansas City: Like last year, the Bolts will finish the season with the Kansas City Chiefs. I expect the Chiefs to be eliminated from playoff contention at this point, with virtually nothing left to play for but pride. San Diego could very well be playing for the playoff lives, and I expect them to finish the season strong and head into the playoffs with confidence.
As I look at the schedule and my analysis of each matchup, it looks I am very optimistic about the upcoming season. I have the Chargers winning 12 games (STL, AZ, NE, NYJ, BUF, DEN, KC (Twice), OAK (Twice), BAL, and Jacksonville) and losing 4 games (SEA, SF, MIA, and DEN).
As much as I would like to see the Bolts win 12 games this year I know the probability of that happening is slim. Even though the Chargers made a playoff run last year, it will be a lot more difficult this year with the schedule they’ll be facing.
Whether or not we make the playoffs should not be the measuring stick of success for this season. We have a GM that is loading this team with young talent, and I think it’s only a matter of time before the Bolts are back atop the AFC West.
Now, I will ask you the same questions. What is a realistic number of wins for this football team? And, will it be considered a failure if the Bolts fail to make a second consecutive playoff berth?
For starters, I have no problem admitting that I was a bit disappointed with the drafting of another running back in the this year’s draft. That being said, one of my senior writers is doing his best to get me on board with the selection. That writer is Jamie Hoyle. Hoyle is a huge Arizona State fan and alum. He has nothing but great things to say about the selection of Marion Grice in the sixth round. And from what I’ve watched on tape and heard via multiple people who I respect, he’s the real deal.
The jury is still out.
The Charger backfield is crowded. But is that a problem? I’m here to explain that it’s a great problem to have. The uncertainty regarding the health of Ryan Mathews is something to keep an eye on. Danny Woodhead was on the field nearly as often as Mathews in 2013. Despite Mathews having what could be his most successful season as a Bolt, there is uncertainty about his return following the 2014 season.
The addition of Donald Brown provides the Chargers with insurance in case of an injury, or future departure, while Ryan is still wearing lightning bolts. Let me be clear: I’m a huge fan of Ryan Mathews but I refuse to not be realistic. He’ll have to have a similar campaign to 2013 to continue his career in San Diego, in my opinion.
When looking at the Charger running game, having Mathews, Woodhead, Donald Brown and Marion Grice seems to be a portion of the offense that should be feared by opposing defenses. Each player has strengths that are necessary to an offense being effective on all parts of the field. It’s safe to say that each player is sufficient, or a serious weapon, in both the running and receiving of the ball in America’s finest city.
We must remind ourselves that Mathews is not a product of the new regime. They know more than we do. Though Mathews ran incredibly hard and aggressively, acting as though we can predict his future with San Diego is a mistake. Tom Telesco holds all of the cards. It would not surprise me if the team settled for a trio of Brown, Woodhead and Grice after 2014. But is that going to be the case? Are they willing to watch Mathews go and be a star elsewhere? If that’s not a huge question regarding the Bolts, then I’m not sure what is.
Danny Woodhead came in as free agent last year and, without a doubt, was incredibly impressive for the majority of 2013. He finished second on the team in receptions with 76 balls caught. He accumulated over 1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns in his first year in San Diego. Thoughts are being spread around that, though this is his contract year, he’ll be a member of the Bolts for quite some time. Sounds good to me.
Donald Brown was a free agent acquisition that made a lot of fan’s jaws drop. Not me. I’m regretting the fact that I only tweeted about the need to add a player like Brown, as opposed to posting about it. Brown was under-utilized in Indianapolis; partially due to the trade of a first-round pick for Trent Richardson. Oops, Indy. Not a fan of guys that average, roughly, 3.5 yards per carry. Donald is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He’s also an underrated blocker from the running back spot. His addition will pay dividends to the Charger offense this year and going forward. Book it.
Now let’s talk about the Grice selection. He’s a guy, as illustrated by Hoyle, that is a monster in the redzone and has fantastic hands as a receiver. Some feel as though he’ll line up in the slot more than he will as a ball carrier. With his credible hands and the ability to make the first guy miss, I’m very comfortable with the addition of another weapon in the San Diego offensive arsenal.
This is where we analyze what the future production of Ryan Mathews plays into the 2014 Chargers. He ran as hard as any running back in the NFL last year. He still has a propensity to run into the back of his offensive lineman; patience is clearly not his strong-suit when running the ball. But Ryan ripped off multiple long runs in ’13. He looked very solid and gave me hope that we had our running back for the long-term. But, again, he’s a player that was drafted by the past regime; those that will not be named in this article. His future in San Diego is up in the air. And, quite frankly, I’m not certain that it should be. But the NFL is a business.
The Charger running back position may be crowded, but that’s a damn good problem to have. I expect this team to run the ball nearly 60% of the time in 2014. For an exact percentage, stay locked into BoltBlitz.com. I’d guess around a 56% running the ball with the rest of the gameplan being geared toward Rivers doing what he did in 2013. Efficiency and quick-timed passes will still remain the norm. I do expect the team to go down the field more often in the passing game. But that’s for another post, another day.
Keenan Allen started off his career as a San Diego Charger with a bang. After being forced into a starting role due to the injuries of both Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd, Allen showed that he should have been the first wide receiver taken in the 2013 draft.
Keenan won the “Pro Football Writers of America Offensive Rookie of the year” award after becoming one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. Here is what’s scary about Keenan Allen, he’s only going to get better.
Despite having a strong performance as a rookie, there were times that he and Rivers were not on the same page. Allen being thrust into the starting lineup put him in a great position to succeed. But Allen seemed to struggle at times with option routes and was in the wrong place occasionally. And as you diehard Charger fans know, Philip was not shy about voicing his displeasure with such instances as we all saw on the field.
If it seems like I am being a bit harsh on a rookie wideout, I’m not. I am a huge fan of Allen and I strongly believe that he’ll be even better in 2014. He now has another offseason to build his rapport with Rivers. The more that Philip trusts him, the more targets number 13 will receive. One of KA13’s most admirable traits is what he does after catching the ball. He has a great arsenal of moves and is sneaky-elusive. He’s very good at planting his feet and changing direction with the ball in his hands.
Allen finished the 2013 campaign with 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and 8 touchdowns. His receiving yardage total broke the Charger rookie record set by John Jefferson. I’d say that is pretty darn impressive. But, to speak to the point of this article, I genuinely believe that he’ll be even better in 2014.
Although Keenan was solid in year one, he did make his fair share of mistakes. Give him this offseason to work with Rivers and gain a better understanding of what Philip is thinking and his numbers will go up. For a guy that considered giving up due to lack of playing time, I’d say Keenan Allen has already proven that he’s a great player in the NFL. The bad news for the rest of the teams in the AFC West and the entire NFL is that he WILL only continue to improve. And that is very scary for opposing defenses.
While working on a post about the Chargers being deep at outside linebacker, I started to think about who would lead the Chargers in sacks in 2014. I then decided that I would ask the fans what they thought on the subject.
San Diego’s pass rush, or lack thereof, was quite pathetic in 2013. Injuries and poor play in the secondary certainly aided in the defense allowing opposing quarterbacks to take their sweet time in delivering the ball. I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that John Pagano’s scheme, more often than not, was bland and unimaginative.
When looking at the defense for the upcoming season, I feel like the health of that side of the ball could be the key to the team’s success going forward. Melvin Ingram was hurt on the very first day of OTAs in 2013. Although he miraculously came back near the end of the season, he’ll certainly benefit from being further removed from the torn ACL he suffered.
Another huge defensive loss for the Bolts was Dwight Freeney. After losing Freeney in week 4 of last year, unproven players like Thomas Keiser and Tourek Williams were forced into starting roles on defense. Clearly, that is not the ideal situation. It is said that Freeney is healthy and ready to contribute. Although I don’t expect to see much of Dwight on running downs, he will be utilized on passing downs.
To say that it was difficult to lose both of your starting outside linebackers is an immense understatement. The team drafted some insurance in the form of Jeremiah Attaochu in the second round of this year’s draft. It’s hard to say what kind of impact he’ll have as a rookie, but look for Pagano to ease him into the lineup and send him after opposing team’s signal callers.
Last year our leading sacker was an injured Corey Liuget. He had a paltry 5.5 sacks while playing through a torn labrum. Finishing a half a sack behind Liuget was Kendall Reyes with 5. The entire Charger defense only accounted for 35 sacks in 2013. That is a number that must improve for this season to be a success defensively.
There are a few candidates that stand out to me as being capable of leading the team in sacks, but I’ll make the list long so that people are able to choose whomever they believe will be tops in the category.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting.
The cliché “Big Fish in a Small Pond” comes to mind when I spoke to one of the newest Chargers. Our beloved Bolts have had success with undrafted players in the past and the examples include: Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Jahleel Addae, just to name a few.
Please join me in welcoming another solid find to the San Diego Chargers, Craig Watts Jr. He stands 6’4” with 335 pounds of awesome. He’s the perfect size perfect for an O-Line specimen. This young man didn’t start playing football until his junior year in high school, however his quickness, ability to adapt, raw tools, and willingness to learn put him in the position that he has earned right now with the Bolts.
In reviewing former NFL Pro Bowler LeCharles Bentley’s statements about Craig Watts, I was amazed that no other team grabbed this guy. Mr. Bentley said about Craig, “He has a high work ethic and a switch that he can turn on which allows him to go to another level to get things done. I believe that switch comes from his military upbringing.”
I had the privilege to interview Mr. Watts. He is not only a beast on the field – allowing no sacks his senior year – but as a human being he is respectful, honest and down to earth. Craig is a well-rounded young man and I could not be happier that he signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers.
I just wanted to thank Craig for taking part in this interview and to say that myself and the rest of the BoltFam will be rooting for you all the way is an understatement.
Brian: Let’s start the interview off by you giving the fans a short personal bio about you.
Craig: First I just wanted to say thank you for your support during this process and that I’m beyond excited to be a part of the Charger family!
My name is Craig Watts Jr.
I majored in history at West Texas A&M and earned my Bachelor’s of Arts in it. I call Texas my home but was born in Colorado. Both of my parents are retired soldiers from the US Army. I have an older brother and a baby sister.
Brian: What did you learn from the game of football in college that has helped you earn the opportunity in the NFL with the Chargers?
Craig: One of the biggest things I learned in college that has helped me get to where I am is that nothing is handed to you. Coming from a small school, you have to earn every little thing. I also learned the intense focus required to be successful.
Brian: Tell me a little about your extra-curricular activities including your time with S.A.L.T.
Craig: Well Salt actually is for Student Athlete Leadership Team. I was in that as well as a few academic honor clubs including Mortar Board. I also was a campus tour guide for a couple years and a peer leader intern which was a group responsible for helping incoming freshmen adapt to the college transition.
Brian: You spent 3 years at West Texas A&M; a college not too many people have heard about. What is it that you loved the most about the city and the college?
Craig: What I loved most about WT was the commitment and dedication of both athletics ancient academics towards student success. We have great academics there a culture of winning in sports. And the city is just very American ha. It’s full of people who are genuinely great people.
Brian: As mentioned above, former NFL Pro Bowler LeCharles Bentley has a high regard for you and when asked about you he stated, “He’s extremely coach-able and the kid is one of the best offensive line athletes that I have ever been around.” Those are quite the compliments. How does that make you feel to have a former NFL pro-bowler say that about you after him only knowing you for such a short time?
Craig: Well first I want to say that everyone at O Line Performance are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever been around. Each one is incredible and they are beyond knowledgeable about the game and the journey of becoming a man. To have LeCharles speak highly of me is a blessing and flattering to earn the belief and praise of someone who I’ve looked up to, even before we ever met. But don’t let the few months I’ve trained with his company be the indicator of our relationship. OLP is a family and truly a brotherhood. It’s a great feeling to have people like them in your corner.
Brian: Being a former educational advocate myself in the foster care system, I was happy to see that you worked with elementary schools to help with the children’s reading skills. How rewarding was this for you?
Craig: Working with kids is amazing and I can’t get enough of it. Seeing a kid grow is incredibly satisfying and rewarding knowing that you have made an impact on their life. Growing up I moved a lot and it was always cool to have people who showed interest in your development. I think it’s very important to give back wherever you are. I’d really like to start doing the same here in San Diego.
Brian: What was that like and what was your first thought when you realized you were getting a shot in the NFL?
Craig: Incredible. Absolutely surreal. You dream about it every day. You’ve envisioned the chance to live out a dream, but there’s always that voice, especially coming from a small school, that says that it’s a long shot. Great players are everywhere. So you just pray for a chance and work hard so when the opportunity comes, you’re ready. It’s very motivating and reassures you that you can do it.
Brian: If you could be a superhero, who would it be and why?
Craig: My favorites are Iron Man and the Hulk. But I’d say Iron Man, because he doesn’t have powers, but uses what’s at guys resources to get the job done.
Brian: What would it be like in a position group that is lead by veteran Nick Hardwick and first round draft pick of 2013 DJ Fluker?
Craig: It’s an amazing place to be. All of the Veterans are amazing guys that exemplify what it is to be a professional. Being able to learn from them and all of their experience is incredible and I try to learn all I can.
Brian: Some are saying there is not much youth on the O-Line. Besides your age, what else will you bring to the Chargers?
Craig: I think that what I bring to the Chargers is a high level of work ethic and commitment to the team, and like the guys already here, an attitude to do what it takes to win. One team, one goal.
Brian: How often will you be visiting BoltBlitz.com?
Craig: Very often. You guys do great work!
Brian: I hear that you were a “Military Brat” and spent a lot of time in Germany. How many languages can you speak?
Craig: I was and I spent about 7 years in Germany. But living on an American military base, there really isn’t a necessity to speak the language. Unfortunately I’m fluent in none, but I can understand German decently and speak enough to get around, as well as some French and Japanese.
Brian: What is your favorite movie?
Craig: Good question. I have so many but if I had to choose I’d say Saving Private Ryan or Forrest Gump. The Ocean’s movies are my favorite trilogy.
Brian: What are you listening to on your iPod right now?
Craig: Ha. The last song I listened to was Change the World by Eric Clapton. I listen to everything.
Brian: What does it mean to you signing your first NFL contract?
Craig: It means another step in the process. It gives me something to work for but it in no way means I made it. There’s still a lot to do. It’s just a signal to keep working.
Brian: There is a BoltBlitz Meetup on May 31st at the Tilted Kilt in Mission Valley at 4pm. Can we expect to see you there?
Craig: I’ll do my best but it depends on the work schedule. However, I will make a meeting at some point.
Brian: Last question…What do I have to do to get a Watts jersey?
Craig: Haha. Once I officially make the active roster, I’ll make sure you’re good to go.
I’d really like to take a moment to thank Craig one last time for taking the time to do this interview. I look forward to seeing him not only make the roster, but be a major cog going forward for your San Diego Super Chargers.
Brian “Big White Kahuna” Scott
The San Diego Charger offensive line has been in flux ever since losing tackle Marcus McNeill and guard Kris Dielman to injury/retirement in 2011. Over the past several seasons there have been two lineman who’ve managed to stay in the starting rotation, center Nick Hardwick and guard/tackle Jeromey Clary.
Hardwick isn’t going anywhere this season, but the same might not be said for Clary. The guard position is beginning to get crowded through the offseason maneuvering of General Manager Tom Telesco, and Clary is due some substantial non-guaranteed money. The sum of which is 4.5 million dollars to be exact.
Chad Rinehart, Rich Ohrnberger and Johnny Troutman all saw time at guard last season, along with Clary. Through the draft, Telesco took Notre Dame guard Chris Watt in the third round. Watt has been practicing at rookie mini camp at right guard, Clary’s current starting position with the team. Early this week, the team signed Craig Watts, an undrafted rookie free agent guard out of West Texas A&M, after an impressive invite try-out.
Granted, the team needs depth on the line, but no matter how you slice it, it’s more than likely that the team won’t carry six guards.
Although it appeared that the offensive line had truly come together toward the end of the 2013 season, Clary had the third lowest run-block rating for all guards, according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus. An argument could be made for Clary’s versatility, as he was the team’s starting right tackle for some time. That argument is dashed fairly easily due to the dominance and youth of DJ Fluker, and due to anyone having watched Clary turn the right tackle position into the right turnstile.
Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris is known throughout the league as one of the best in the business, and is likely the one responsible for the renaissance of the line play last season. If Joe D can turn young wattage into high boltage, (sorry for that) then Clary becomes immediately expendable. As it is, rookies and all, it’s looking that direction anyway.
Clary is obviously happy to be a Charger, is well-liked, and is good for the locker room; when chasing a championship, however, sometimes tough decisions need to be made. Saving the 4.5 million would put the Chargers in a much nicer place when it comes to some thoughts on roster versatility. It’s unclear whether Telesco is considering bringing in any other depth. The option to attempt to trade Clary also exists. Clary is still certainly capable of starting at guard in the NFL and could yield at least some future late round draft pick(s).
As Charger fans saw last offseason, it’s good to have a plan B for key contributors on the roster as unfortunate things can happen during training camp or early in the season. That being said, there are still some quality veterans seeking employment whom would likely fit nicely into the range of extra cap space generated by cutting ties with Clary. Let’s explore some options.
WR Santonio Holmes:
Pros- Big play wideout with a lot of big experience, including one very memorable Super Bowl winning catch from Ben Roethlisberger. Versatility with differing offenses/QBs.
Cons- Does not fit the Chargers’ locker room mold. Known to be selfish and disruptive. May want more money than he’s worth. Santonio has also fought injuries lately.
DE Brett Keisel :
Pros- Coming off of a long and prosperous career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, Keisel would add significant experience and depth along a thin, albeit talented, defensive line. Could be a big time rotational player and mentor, and has a nasty streak.
Cons- There must be a reason the Steelers chose to not bring back this team and fan favorite. Lack of versatility and aging speed likely put Keisel out of the Steelers’ future plans. Can push up field, but likely not effectively get off blocks if the play isn’t coming right at him. Injuries are also a concern.
DT Aubrayo Franklin:
Pros- Spent a productive season with the Bolts in John Pagano’s defensive scheme in 2012. Quick and powerful and lots of experience in 3-4 schemes. Familiarity with some of the young roster and coaching staff. Could line up at end or tackle.
Cons- A hired gun who’s been floating around the league year to year, may not offer much to a young and impressionable locker room. Could be part of an unwanted old regime attitude and culture.
CB Asante Samuel:
Pros- Has a career full of highlight reel plays in big games. Is a ball hawking veteran who could play on any down and be trusted in many situations at least as much as current potential starter Richard Marshall.
Cons- Instincts may still be sharp, but speed and durability may be a factor late in his career. Takes a lot of risks, and can get burned. May be a gamble when Marshall is still productive.
Other possible options:
DT Kevin Williams
DT Isaac Sopoaga
The other lingering option is for Clary to restructure his contract, as some other Charger players recently have done. The truth is that through the good, the bad, and the ugly of his career, Clary has always been a good Charger. If he wants to stick around to see this new team through, he’ll simply have to do it at a more team-friendly price. If Clary is on this team week one, it must speak very strongly of his intangible value to the team, but it will still be all but certain that the clock is ticking in San Diego.
Although the greatest Charger running back of all-time will have to wait until 2017 for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, today it was announced that LaDainian Tomlinson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Tomlinson holds numerous records at both TCU and in NCAA football.
Here’s what LT had to say about the honor in a tweet he posted earlier today:
I’m so honored to be selected to the College Hall of Fame. Thanks to my teammates, coaches, family and fans!!#TCU
— LaDainian Tomlinson (@LT_21) May 22, 2014
To say that LT earned this honor is an understatement. He was highly-decorated in both the NFL and college. Even fans of rival teams seem to have high praise for the former running back. He had an impressive arsenal of moves at the running back position that so many people would attempt to emulate. But there was only one LaDainian Tomlinson. His performance on the field may have only been topped by what he did – and still does – off the field.
For those of you that have been following me for quite sometime on Twitter, or reading the blog, you already know about the supreme respect that I have for number 21. I just so happened to be someone that tried to rip off his moves even after I stopped playing organized football. I mean, who doesn’t want to make people look like fools in a backyard pickup game? I’d like to think that I had my share of those moments where a Tomlinson stiff-arm or jump-cut left opposing players in the dust.
Congratulations to LaDainian on this fine honor. I feel confident speaking on behalf of the entire staff at BoltBlitz.com that we are incredibly happy for you. Now, all we’ll have to wait for is that gold jacket in 2017.
We all rave about the acquisitions made by Tom Telesco in his 18 or so months as Chargers’ GM. Picking up guys like Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown were popular moves among many fans. Draft picks like D.J. Fluker, Keenan Allen, Jason Verrett and Jerry Attaochu had fans applauding.
But what about the departures? The players Telesco let go are probably just as noteworthy as the players he signed as free agents or drafted. Here are my top five releases/non-signings over the past year and a half:
Top spot has to be Derek Cox. Cox was benched by Mike McCoy almost more than he saw playing time. He was awful, he was horrible. He got burned, embarrassed, humiliated, caught flat-footed and out of position so much you’d think he was a pee wee leaguer. Personally, I hated Derek Cox more than I hate the cable company bearing the same name.
Next up, none other than the “Big Lazy”, Jared Gaither. Yeah, he came in during the 2011 season and pulled enough wool over A.J. Smith’s eyes as a savior at left tackle to get a stupid contract. Surprisingly, he spent more of 2012 “hurt” than he did suiting up. Apparently, the meeting Telesco had with Gaither before training camp went so well, Telesco decided cutting Gaither was worth the cap pain that would inflict.
The second spot was really a toss-up between Gaither and Robert Meacham. Wow, epic bust. He was a #3 or #4 on the New Orleans depth chart, brought in to be #2 behind Malcolm Floyd. Nobody ever will mistake Meacham for Vincent Jackson. He was such a bust, he even found himself in Norv Turner’s dog house and hardly saw playing time the second half of the season.
In this spot, Clipboard Jesus. A.J. lets this guy go to Seattle to try and be a starter, which failed miserably. So what does he do? Bring him back again to carry Philip Rivers’ water bottle and jock strap. In Charlie’s defense, why would he turn down the contract A.J. offered? Dude made some good money to stay clean, wear a baseball cap and hold a clipboard.
Lastly, we have Takeo Spikes. I liked this guy. He played hard, he worked hard, he was a leader and a mentor for the younger guys, but he’d lost a couple of steps. Defense had to get younger, and Takeo, having seen better days, needed to be released.
There are others, of course, but these are the most notable non-moves/releases from where I sit.
After the announcement the other day that Jeremiah Attaochu has signed with your San Diego Chargers, that only leaves the first-round selection of Jason Verrett to sign from the 2014 draft class. With the new CBA in place, the signing of rookies has become incredibly simplistic. It is only a matter of time until Verrett signs his deal to “officially” become a Charger.
The Bolts were able to sign the last four draft choices of this year’s class in one day earlier this past week. Despite the ease of signing rookies in this day and age, being a Charger fan automatically puts one in a place to be nervous for absolutely no reason.
It has been said that Verrett’s injury will keep him off of the practice field until as late as August. He’ll most likely be slotted to start opposite of Shareece Wright in week 1. Although being healthy and on the field is the ideal situation, Jason will be taking mental reps for the time being.
One thing that is perfectly clear, Jason Verrett will be welcomed with open arms. The San Diego secondary has been in need of a playmaker like him for the last few years. The cornerback position has been a bit of a mess and it needs a guy like Verrett to come in and start.
With an improved secondary and healthy players in Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram, the Charger defense should be able to get after opposing quarterbacks and create turnovers; a problem they had last year that allowed offenses to pick them apart.
There is no rush to sign Verrett, but I wouldn’t expect it to take too much longer. Getting all of the team’s draft picks signed is one less thing to worry about going into the 2014 season.