Monthly Archives: May 2015

Keenan Allen 2014

 

Wide receiver Keenan Allen finished the 2014 season on the sideline due to multiple ailments. Despite missing the last two games of the season, his 77 receptions were a career-high for the wideout.

After bursting onto the scene as a rookie, Allen experienced what some may consider to be a sophomore slump, totaling only 783 yards receiving after topping the 1,000-yard mark (1,046 yards) as a rookie. He also saw his touchdown catches cut in half, decreasing from eight to four.

“I was average,” Allen told Chargers.com regarding his second year in the NFL. “From what I expect of myself, it was average.”

 

Allen

 

In Allen’s defense, opposing defenses had a full-year of tape on the former Cal Bear, bracketing him or placing a safety over the top in a robber role. The lack of a consistent running game certainly didn’t make matters easier.

In the same article on Chargers.com, Allen mentioned that he could see some increased playing time in the slot.

“My focus this offseason was just getting back to the basics, said Allen. Focusing on fundamentals and doing what I do.  Playing my ball and not trying to do too much.  It was tough being out at the end of last year when the guys were fighting, but everything happens for a reason. I will definitely do whatever is best for the team, and that could mean more in the slot.  That would be good.  Stevie (Johnson) and I can do some work there, so I will try to do the best I can be.  For me, the biggest difference when I get in the slot is that you don’t have just a one-way option.  You can go pretty much both ways on the release, and on the outside, if you have an outside route you go outside and inside route you go inside.”

The move to the slot-receiver position could actually benefit the 23-year-old. He is a solid route runner, possessing good feet which allow him to secure a strong release from the line of scrimmage. That’s not to say that his time on the outside is over, but increased time in the slot will allow him to use more of the field in an effort to create separation between himself and opposing defenders.

 

 

Although the team lost Eddie Royal in free agency to the Bears, the addition of veteran Stevie Johnson should help alleviate some pressure from Allen. Though Johnson didn’t quite impress with the 49ers, if used properly, Johnson can beat one-on-one coverage. Add in another healthy season from Malcom Floyd, and the Chargers have a wide receiving corps that can do some damage. The ageless Antonio Gates, despite losing a step or two, is still a force to be reckoned with in the passing game. Allen seems to be focused on leaving 2014 behind him and forging forward to having a strong season in year three of his NFL career.

As long as the third-year receiver continues to work on his rapport with Philip Rivers, this season could easily see him surpass the numbers he put up during his first two seasons in the league. The future seems bright for such a young player. Fans should look forward to watching him grow within the Charger offense.

 

 

Booga Peters

 

weddle

 

Uncharacteristically, high-profile San Diego Chargers have been making headlines during this offseason. It started in the front office with the ongoing stadium issue, Antonio Gates asking for reduced playing time and rolled into the Philip Rivers-for-Marcus Mariota trade chatter that consumed national and social media in the weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft. Since the draft, defensive captain Eric Weddle has proclaimed he will not show up for offseason training activities until he is signed to a new contract.

Weddle is the undisputed leader of the defense and one of the best if not the top safety in the league. Safety play is going to be critical if the Chargers are going to make the postseason. Let’s take a look at who the Chargers currently have on the roster at the safety position.

Eric Weddle: One of the few safeties wearing the helmet mic to receive the defensive calls from the sideline, Weddle is the conductor of the Chargers defense. Now entering his ninth season in lightning bolts, Weddle hasn’t missed a game in five seasons and has only missed four games in his career. Unlike other seasoned vets, Weddle has gotten better with age. The 30-year old has compiled 97, 115 and 114 combined tackles in the last three seasons. Weddle has been elected to the Pro Bowl four times, three in the last four seasons. Once Weddle signs his new deal, he and his beard will be permanently inked into his starting safety spot for the rest of his Chargers days. It will happen.

Jahleel Addae: Another Chargers undrafted free agent success story, Addae is entering is third season with San Diego. After contributing significantly on special teams he was thrown into the mix on defense halfway through the 2013 season and continued his stellar play. Last season, Addae started at safety alongside Weddle in five games and played eleven games. He compiled 48 tackles (35 solo), one sack, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Although he missed five games, two to hamstring and three to concussion, he showed an aptitude for the position. Addae has great safety instincts and he can be expected to start significantly more games at safety this season as long as he can stay healthy.

Darrell Stuckey: Heading into his sixth season, Stuckey has established himself as the Bolts’ special teams captain. He has continually improved his production each season to the point where he was named special teams Player of the Year and was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. Stuckey was also given extended playing time on defense at safety and proved his coaches right in doing so. The Chargers have an excellent three-man core at safety with Weddle, Addae and Stuckey consistently making plays.

Jimmy Wilson: An offseason free agency pickup by the Chargers, Wilson signed a two-year deal with the Bolts in March.  A native San Diegan, Wilson was a seventh-round draft pick by Miami in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is expected to challenge Addae for the starting strong safety and nickel corner positions. Durable and versatile, Wilson has only missed four games in his four-year career and has compiled 153 tackles (133 solo), 16 passes defensed, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two sacks. Last season was the first time he started more than four games when he started in 13 of the Dolphins 14 games. As a result he had his best statistical year with 58 tackles, two passes defensed and one interception. Wilson provides another playmaker into the Chargers rebuilt secondary and will be exciting to follow as camp progresses.

Adrian Phillips: The undrafted free agent out of Texas spent last season on the Chargers practice squad. Phillips was team captain for the 2013 Longhorns and had 206 career tackles from the safety position. He did see action in the Miami Dolphins game, where he recorded one tackle.

UDFA’s Johnny Lowdermilk and Gordon Hill: If the name Lowdermilk sounds familiar, it’s because his father Kirk Lowdermilk had a 12-year career in the NFL with Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts as an offensive lineman. Iowa’s Lowdermilk is lauded for his physical play, nose for the football and coverage ability but lack of speed is a concern. Last season he totaled 103 tackles (58 solo), three tackles for loss, three interceptions, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He’s worth a look just from a hustle and bloodline standpoint.

Hill entered the NFL after leaving Sacred Heart after his junior season. An All-NEC (Northeast Conference) first team selection, he collected 85 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and two interceptions last season. It will be a long way up to make the main roster but he will get his opportunity to shine in camp.

The Chargers have one of the better collections of safeties in the NFL. Weddle deserves to be the highest paid safety in the league and likely will be soon. Addae and Stuckey fly to the football and are finally coming into their own with regular playing time on defense. There is definitely room for a fourth man in the rotation. Whether it comes from this lot or from an unexpected name arising when roster cuts are made remains to be seen.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

#TelescoMagic

 

Grant

 

Due to having only five draft picks this year, the Chargers added 20 undrafted free agents to bring their roster total to the 90-man maximum (It was 21 but the team released Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt when they signed Chase Rettig). Historically, they have had great success finding key contributors in undrafted free agent rookies. Names like Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd and Kris Dielman immediately stand out. You can even throw in players like Jahleel Addae and Branden Oliver. Both are younger players, but they have been key contributors in their short careers.

In part one of this two-part look at the undrafted free agents signed by the Bolts, there is a list of the 20 undrafted rookie free agents acquired by the team. The second part will highlight some of the signees that will have a good shot at making the team as a member of the practice squad or the 53-man roster.

 

• Central Michigan wide receiver Titus Davis

• Western Oregon wide receiver Tyrell Williams

• Arkansas wide receiver Demetrius Wilson

• Albany tight end Brian Parker

• Marshall tight end Eric Frohnapfel

• Ball State running back Jahwan Edwards

• West Virginia running back Dreamius Smith

• Mississippi State guard Ben Beckwith

• Cincinnati offensive tackle Tyreek Burwell

• Western Kentucky offensive tackle Cameron Clemmons

• Minnesota defensive end Cameron Botticelli

• Nevada outside linebacker Brock Hekking

• Kansas State outside linebacker Ryan Mueller

• Northwestern inside linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo

• Ohio State inside linebacker Curtis Grant

• Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo inside linebacker Nick Dzubnar

• Iowa safety Johnny Lowdermilk

• Sacred Heart safety Gordon Hill

• Boston College cornerback Manny Asprilla

• Texas A&M kicker Josh Lambo

With the roster set for the most part, all of these undrafted rookies will have their work cut out for them when it comes to seizing a spot. That being said, due to the expansion of the practice squad to 10 players, there are some legitimate opportunities to earn said spots with the Chargers.

Without breaking down each individual undrafted rookie in this portion, I am going to focus on several players that I believe will push themselves forward through the field and earn a spot in the second part of this article. Part two will be posted later today or early tomorrow.

Booga Peters

BoltBlitz-800x450

 

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com writes about Melvin Gordon’s first OTA performance.

 

Derek Togerson of NBC7 San Diego has a post where Philip Rivers talks about this offseason and contract talks.

 

Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune penned a piece about Melvin Ingram’s weight loss.

 

Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune explains how Jason Verrett stood out at the team’s first OTA.

 

Don Muret of Sportingnews.com writes that Mick Jagger is the newest person to support the Chargers staying in San Diego.

 

 

 

Weddle3

 

The Chargers begin offseason training activities (OTAs) on Tuesday. Although there is no hitting/tackling allowed, this is the first time of the offseason the players will practice in helmets.

OTAs provide the team with the opportunity to begin installments in all three phases of the game. It also gives the entire team a chance to begin to gel.

For the first time since Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy took over the reins with the Chargers, the team has a player not attending due to contract issues.

That player is Eric Weddle.

Weddle has made it clear that he will not be at voluntary workouts with the team until a long-term contract extension is signed. Although Telesco has said numerous times that the Chargers plan on extending him at the right time, the talks have been non-existent as of late.

He voiced his displeasure about not having a new contract to Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“I feel highly, highly disrespected,” Weddle told Acee in late April. “… It is what it is, but there is no reason for me to put out any more effort.”

“We’ve come to them numerous times and said we want to be part of the team, we want to retire as a Charger,” Weddle said. “We’ve completely gotten pushed aside.”

The 30-year-old free safety is in the last year of his contract; one that will pay him $7.5 million in 2015. Weddle desires to sign a long-term extension, ensuring his place on the Chargers’ roster for the remainder of his career.

Weddle has played in all 16 games of the season for five consecutive years. His career numbers include 772 total tackles, six sacks, 65 passes defensed, 19 interceptions and five forced fumbles.

It goes without saying that Weddle is the leader of the defense, wearing the helmet mic that John Pagano uses to call in the defensive plays. He is one of the only safeties in the NFL to have that distinction. The two-time first-team All-Pro deserves a new contract. He changes the way that the defense can be called. I cannot imagine what it would be like if he were to refuse to show up come training camp.

Mandatory training camp begins on June 16.

Also absent from OTAs Tuesday were Antonio Gates and King Dunlap.

 

 

Fluker6

 

This has not, overall, been a positive offseason for the Chargers, especially when you take into account all of the off-the-field issues. No, not a single player has been arrested, nor has one been in the news for breaking the law. It goes without saying, the fact that Charger fans have no idea whether or not the team will remain in San Diego has muddled the positive efforts of Tom Telesco and company regarding their moves via free agency and the draft.

Couple the stadium banter with the earlier trade talks of Philip Rivers and the absence of Eric Weddle — as he sits out of team workouts in hopes of a long-term contract — and you have a trying offseason that hides all of the positives surrounding the team.

In lieu of all of this negativity, I thought it to be prudent to focus on the team itself, and point out some players with the Chargers that are on the brink of surprising all of the fans that support the team.

Here are five players that I believe are on the rise this upcoming season.

 

DL  Tenny Palepoi

As an undrafted free agent out of Utah, Palepoi was not expected to make much of an impact as a rookie. After forging his way onto the practice squad, Palepoi was elevated to the 53-man roster. His presence was known, although the boxscore wouldn’t show you such an impact.

The 24-year-old filled in admirably when called upon to do so. He provided the defensive line with a strong push and solid leg drive in forcing opposing offensive lineman backwards. Due to the descending play of Kendall Reyes, Palepoi may find himself in a position to make more of an impact in 2015. After defying the odds as a rookie, look for the former Ute to come in and make a name for himself, both on special teams and as an inside pass rusher on the defensive line when called upon to do so.

The team has spoken highly of Palepoi this offseason, showing their belief in his ability to make plays going into his second year. Despite only logging nine total tackles in 2014, he did show the makings of a player that can find a place on this team and in this league.

 

S  Jahleel Addae

Some believe that the acquisition of Jimmy Wilson may ensure the relegation of Addae to role player on the Charger defense. That may be the case, but I believe the competition at the strong safety spot will push Addae to elevate his game to another level.

I’ve seen multiple publications, including the U-T San Diego, state that Wilson will be slated as the starter at strong safety. I think that is an error in judgement. Addae is completely aware of what is in front of him, and I doubt that will slip his mind as he works to solidify his place in the secondary. He’s a ferocious hitter that just needs to work on his coverage ability — which did improve as he saw more playing time as the season wore on. If he continues to tune up his pass-coverage skills, he may be named the starter at strong safety sooner rather than later.

 

DL Ryan Carrethers

Despite dealing with injuries throughout portions of his rookie year, Carrethers showed promise in limited action. You could really start to see flashes of a player that could make an impact on the defensive line in San Diego. The fifth-round pick in last year’s draft had five solo stops in one game last season.

Carrethers has the perfect build for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Although the Chargers don’t spend much time in their base defense, he could force his way into the starting lineup with a strong training camp and preseason. If he makes enough progress to take over the starting role at nose, that would allow for Sean Lissemore to kick out to the defensive end spot where he is most likely better suited to play. Both the improvement by Carrethers and move of Lissemore to end would provide Corey Liuget with some much-needed help on the defensive line.

 

OL DJ Fluker

There has been quite a bit of speculation in the media this offseason regarding whether or not offensive lineman DJ Fluker will be moved to the right guard position. These talks began prior to the team signing Joe Barksdale, a right tackle formerly of the Rams and Raiders. The signing of Barksdale has stoked the fires even further.

Fluker, the 11th overall pick of the 2013 draft, has flashed great ability as a run blocker, punishing defenders while creating running lanes for Charger ball carriers. But he has struggled at times as a pass blocker, especially against speed rushers.

The 24-year-old played last season at a weight that fluctuated around 350 pounds. His size alone would lend itself to the right guard position being the more suited spot, as opposed to right tackle. Fluker is working this offseason to lose weight and improve his foot quickness and his punch. If he is successful in doing so, he could make an impact at either spot, depending on what the team decides on as its starting-five along the offensive line.

Maintaining the proper weight could be the only factor that stands in the way of Fluker making a name for himself in the NFL. He is very powerful and his foot work has improved over his two years in the league. Seeing a 325-pound beast in Fluker man either the right guard or right tackle position would pay dividends in both the passing and running games for the Bolts.

 

CB  Jason Verrett

I tried to not include Verrett on this list because he played so well when on the field. He was ranked as the No. 2 cornerback in all of the NFL for a couple of weeks due to his stellar play. But Verrett struggled through hamstring and shoulder injuries as a rookie, ultimately being placed on injured reserve in the middle of November last year.

What Verrett lacks in size he makes up for with speed, quickness and good instincts. He does a great job of breaking on the ball in coverage. Despite a small sample size as a rookie, he showed that he can lock down receivers and make the necessary plays to make an impact. He is also surprisingly aggressive against the run, unafraid of coming up and securing stops in the running game.

Having Brandon Flowers opposite of him in the secondary, and next to him in the film room, will certainly accelerate Verrett’s play going forward. He has the skillset to become a force at the cornerback spot for many years to come.

 

Honorable mentions:  Jerry Attaochu, Sean Lissemore, Chris Watt and Melvin Ingram

 

The Chargers have the makings of what could be a very successful team in 2015. The team has added more weapons on the offensive side of the ball, while increasing team speed and physicality on the defense. It will be interesting to see how this squad gels in all three phases of the game.

 

Booga Peters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FlowersAndVerrett

 

The San Diego Chargers look to improve a defense that ranked 10th in total defense (4th vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Of the Chargers’ five draft picks, four were made on defense. Today we’ll take a look at the cornerback position and how the Bolts will look to improve on a pass defense that received little support in the form of a pass rush from the front-seven. Here’s a look at who the Chargers have in camp at the present time:

 

Flowers4

 

Brandon Flowers: The 29-year-old made an instant impact after he signed last offseason after being released by Kansas City in a cost-cutting move. He made the most of his one-year ‘prove it’ contract, and re-signed with the Chargers on a four-year, $36 million deal.

According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was the number one cornerback in the NFL for the first eight weeks of the season before he missed games with numerous injuries including concussion, groin and ankle maladies. He managed to perform in 14 of the Chargers 16 games despite being banged up, recording 52 tackles (48 solo), three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Now entering his eighth season, Flowers looks forward to continuing his ‘big brother’ role to the Bolts’ young group of cornerbacks.

 

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Jason Verrett: The 2014 first-round draft pick was having an excellent season opposite Flowers until his year was cut short by a torn labrum in week six. The resilient rookie tried to return in week eight against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but only succeeded in aggravating the injury. The Chargers placed him on IR after week 10.

Flowers and Verrett ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pro Football Focus cornerback ratings while they played together. Losing both, at times, forced others to step up and fill some “large shoes.” Verrett compiled 19 tackles (18 solo), one dramatic, game-saving, late fourth quarter interception versus Oakland and four passes defensed in six games. A healthy Verrett is going to greatly improve the secondary and he is most likely to man the right corner position opposite Flowers.

 

Robinson1

 

Patrick Robinson: A 2010 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson signed a one-year contract with San Diego in March. In five seasons, he’s logged 180 tackles (150 solo), one sack, nine interceptions with one forced fumble and 46 passes defensed. Robinson bounced back strong in 2014 after rupturing his patellar tendon in week 2 and missing the rest of the 2013 season.

Last season, Robinson defensed 11 passes with two interceptions and 39 tackles. Robinson also found his way into New Orleans head coach Sean Paytons’ doghouse as he was benched repeatedly. Hopefully, his tenure in San Diego can mirror the second chance Brandon Flowers received. He will be the leading candidate for the number three cornerback in the rotation at this point. It is worth noting that after struggling on the outside, he picked up his play once given the opportunity to play the nickel-spot in the New Orleans’ defense. Robinson may end up be a sleeper signing for the Charger defense.

 

SteveWilliams

 

Steve Williams: Looking to get his career on track, Williams finally found the field in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury. He played in 13 games, recording 10 tackles with two passes defensed. Drafted by the Chargers alongside his college teammate Keenan Allen, the Cal Bear got onto the Chargers radar after exhibiting freakish athleticism at the combine with 4.25 speed in the 40, 10’8″ broad jump and 40.5 inch vertical jump. The Chargers still hold out hope that their 2013 fifth-round choice can fully apply his skills and stay on the field. He should see an opportunity to compete with Robinson for the nickel role, and continue to see snaps on special teams. His speed makes him an asset on both defense and special teams.

 

Davis,Chris

 

Chris Davis: Entering his second year out of Auburn, Davis played in 12 games for the Chargers, contributing mostly on special teams. The team found value in Davis in the kickoff return game, where he averaged 25.1 yards on 19 returns. After assuming those duties in the November 2nd Dolphins’ game, Davis may have found his role as the team’s return specialist. Known for what will arguably stand as the greatest return in college football history in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Davis looks to repeat his success in San Diego while also playing more on defense. Davis has shown flashes of playmaking capability, and he can be an important piece to a championship team if he can sustain his health and continue to improve in 2015.

 

Mager

 

Craig Mager: When the team’s 2015 third-round draft pick name was announced on day two of the draft, it came with a collective chorus of “Craig Who” on social media and team message boards. But fans, and the league, will soon know his name. The Chargers are very high on the Texas State cornerback. At the combine, Mager ran a 4.44 in the 40, broad-jumped 10’10” and had a 38-inch vertical jump. Mager developed a reputation as an aggressive tackler in the secondary while in college, as he was named to the second team All-Sun Belt Conference for 2014. If he can adjust to the immense jump in talent from a mid-major conference in college football to the elite level of the NFL, Mager will pay dividends sooner rather than later.

 

Crawford

 

Richard Crawford: A new face that will be ready for action, Oceanside native Richard Crawford is a third-year pro. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford had a successful season culminating with an interception of Tony Romo in week 17; one that clinched the Redskins a playoff spot. His momentum came to an abrupt halt, as he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in the 2013 preseason that caused him to miss the entire season.

Crawford was eventually cut by the Redskins, and then added to the Chargers’ practice squad in week nine of last season. In his one season in Washington, Crawford recorded 18 tackles (13 solo), two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one interception and also contributed on special teams. His 64-yard punt return against Baltimore secured the field position needed to kick a game-winning field goal. As a result, the ‘Skins got the overtime win over their in-state rival. Crawford will provide healthy competition for cornerback and punt return duties.

 

Ducre

 

Greg Ducre: Still looking to make an impact, Ducre is a second-year pro out of Washington. Last season, Ducre signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was signed off the practice squad by the Washington Redskins. In a two-month span, he played one regular season game and was then released by Washington the next day. The Chargers then re-signed Ducre to the active roster where he has remained ever since.

Ducre adds a much-needed speed element to the Chargers secondary. At Washington’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 and 4.34 seconds. He recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and 10’6″ broad jump. In the one game he played for Washington against San Francisco, he recorded an interception of Colin Kaepernick. His athleticism speaks for itself. But can he do it if called upon to do so in San Diego? Ducre faces an uphill battle to find his way onto the roster.

 

Asprilla1

 

Manuel Asprilla: The undrafted free agent out of Boston College did not miss a game after getting to play three games into his freshman season at BC. A tackling machine, gathering 201 tackles (142 solo) and 15 tackles for loss. Asprilla had four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 23 passes defensed over his collegiate career. It will be a long shot for Asprilla to make the 53-man roster, but the Chargers have a long history of finding undrafted free agent gems. Practice squad is always a possibility.

 

This crop of cornerbacks has a boom-or-bust feel to them. If Flowers and Verrett can stay healthy all season, they can again be an upper top-10 tandem that could give the Chargers a legitimate top-10 defense. With a year of experience in the system, it stands to reason, that both will be even better than last season. San Diego missed the playoffs by one game last season. That tandem could have made up that one game.

Robinson was a great signing and will contribute right away. The rest of the field are all athletic freaks with speed to burn and off-the-charts leaping ability. When you consider the fact the Bolts don’t have a single member of the secondary that stands six-feet-tall or better, physically gifted athletes are a necessity when you look around the league at the tall, fast wideouts in the league now.

This is a group that will be charged with facing the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson, in week one. In week two, they will have to cover A. J. Green. They stand 6’5″ and 6’4″ and run 4.35 & 4.5 respectively. Add in a double shot of Demaryius Thomas, plus Jordy Nelson (both 6’3″), and it’s easy to see the Chargers’ secondary will be tested all season. Paired with Eric Weddle and the group of safeties he leads, the Bolts will boast a formidable secondary; if they can stay healthy and improve on their woeful takeaway totals (seven interceptions, one safety, 11 fumble recoveries).

This is a group that is full of promise, but can they deliver? What do you think Bolt Nation?

 

Bolt Up!!

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

#TelescoMagic

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San Diego Chargers All-Pro, future Hall-Of-Fame tight end Antonio Gates made headlines this summer when he said he wanted a lighter workload this season. After years of dealing with debilitating plantar fasciitis, Gates looked like his old self as he caught 12 touchdowns, one short of his career high of 13 touchdowns in his breakout 2004 season.

The next touchdown Gates catches will be the 100th of his career, the rarest of air for a tight end. To date, only one tight end has caught more than 100 touchdown passes in NFL history, Kansas City great Tony Gonzalez with 111. Gates will do it in three fewer seasons than Gonzalez.

This will be a season to watch number 85 for a number of reasons. Barring injury, he is most assuredly going to catch number 100. It will be worth keeping an eye on Gates all season to see if Philip Rivers can get him 13 touchdowns this season, placing him at No. 1 all-time for touchdown catches by a tight end.

Fittingly, like Rivers, Gates is also in the last year of his contract.

Can all this talk of wanting a lighter workload be indicative of wanting to complete an unspoken farewell tour in one piece? No one is more deserving of a victory lap than man that revolutionized the tight end position by using his basketball background as a standout frontcourt player at Kent State to become the greatest undrafted free agent in Chargers history.

While it is possible Gates could continue his career beyond this season, the writing is on the wall. It is time for the heir apparent to Gates’ throne to step up and claim it. Who will do it? Let’s look at the candidates.

Ladarius Green: Now entering his fourth season on the roster, the 6’6″, 240 lb. Green was expected to have a breakout year last season. Instead, Gates found the fountain of youth and played most of the snaps last season. Green has shown flashes of potential on offense. The highlight of his season was a 60-yard touchdown grab against Kansas City, where he showed great agility and surprising breakaway speed for a man his size. He’s had three seasons to learn from the master, now it’s time for him to put up or shut up.

John Phillips: The 6’5″, 250 pounder is a seven-year veteran. Used for protection, Phillips proved to be an asset due to his skill as a blocker. During the 15 games he played for the Chargers last season, he lined up at fullback in addition to his tight end duties. He caught one pass for one yard last year, but it went for a touchdown. A knee injury landed him on IR for the last game of the season, but he looks to be ready to go when the new season begins.

David Johnson: Like Phillips, Johnson (6’2″, 260) is entering his seventh season. Signed away from the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason, Johnson was primarily used as the de facto fullback. He was a good physical point of attack blocker and utilized on special teams. He had one reception for four yards. Expect more of the same this season unless an unknown makes a stronger case for his spot.

Kyle Miller: Two weeks ago the Chargers claimed Miller off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons. The 6’5″, 260 pound product out of Mount Union is a second-year pro. He played one game with Indianapolis in 2012 and was cut from the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Last season he was on the Falcons practice squad. Miller is the son of former NFL quarterback Mark Miller. At 27, he is still looking for his first official NFL reception. In college, he was a three-time Ohio Athletic Conference first team selection as a tight end. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do in training camp.

Dave Paulson: The (6’4″, 240) former Oregon Duck spent the first two years of his NFL career (2012, 13) in Pittsburgh. The Chargers signed him to their practice squad shortly after the beginning of last season. Coming from Oregon, Paulson was recognized as a dependable pass catcher and leader. His ability to block will most likely determine whether he will make the team.

UDFA rookies Eric Frohnapfel and Brain Parker: Frohnapfel is an intriguing prospect from a size standpoint. He stands 6’7″ and weights 235 pounds. As a member of the Marshall Thundering Herd he accounted for 37 catches for 420 yards and five touchdowns. If his blocking and route running are on par, he could be an unstoppable red zone target after the staff gets time to coach him up.

The 6’4″, 260 lb. Parker logged similar numbers in college at Albany, where he collected 39 balls for 500 yards and five touchdowns. The two are camp bodies but the scouts have seen enough impressive tape on them to extend invites and give them the chance to make the team. The Chargers obviously won’t carry seven tight ends on the roster, but three on the active roster and one on the practice squad is very likely.

At this point Green, other than Gates, is the only person I would pen onto the opening day roster. Everyone else is expendable. All of these players will have the advantage of being able to watch how a future first ballot Hall-Of-Fame player at their position prepares and trains. They will also have the benefit of having a legend of the game as their position coach in Buffalo Bills’ great Pete Metzelaars. Metzelaars won a Super Bowl ring as an offensive quality control coach for the Indianapolis Colts. It’s up to them to learn and adapt as much of their expertise to their game as they can.

We all look forward to seeing this camp battle play out. Who do you think will secure the role of Rivers’ next security blanket?

 

Bolt Up!!

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

#TelescoMagic

 

 

troutman

 

By now, the news has spread through the San Diego Chargers’ news wire that free agent offensive tackle Joe Barksdale has been signed by the Bolts. The offensive line has been an area that needs improvement this offseason. They have re-signed left tackle King Dunlap and reserve center Trevor Robinson. Offensive guard Orlando Franklin was added via free agency, as was Chris Hairston, former Buffalo Bill. The team also brought in guard Michael Huey for depth or as a camp body.

Barksdale, 26, was a third-round pick in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders. The St. Louis Rams claimed him off waivers prior to the 2012 season. Barksdale has played the last 29 consecutive games for the Rams at right tackle. Now at the end of his rookie contract, the Rams drafted Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, instead of re-signing Barksdale as an unrestricted free agent.

Until the Rams’ offensive line was beset by injuries midway through the season, particularly to Jake Long and Davin Joseph, Barksdale ranked as a top-15 tackle according to Pro Football Focus. As the injuries and losses mounted during the second half of the season, his ranking also plummeted. The Chargers signed the 6’5″, 325 lb. bruiser to a one-year deal.

With Barksdale in the fold, the projected starting offensive line looks to be King Dunlap at left tackle, Orlando Franklin at left guard, Chris Watt at center, Barksdale at right tackle with D.J. Fluker moving to right guard. Guard Johnnie Troutman would be the odd man out of the starting lineup.

Looking at Troutman’s body of work, his career to date has been marred by injuries and ineffective play. He was the Chargers fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Troutman missed his entire rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered two weeks before the draft. In 2013, he started nine games and missed seven as a result of injury, or ineffectiveness. Coach McCoy benched Troutman halfway through the season after picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The injured reserved list was where Troutman’s season would end in 2014 due to a knee injury. Though he played 15 games, his run and pass blocking were equally abysmal and contributing factors to the overall lack of offensive production that caused the Chargers to miss the postseason by one game.

All the offensive line woes can’t be blamed on Troutman, but it is easy to see why he will be on the hot seat this season. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and he’s not shown he’s worthy of a starting position, much less a new contract. Younger, hungrier and more talented lineman are coming in every season and Troutman has yet to prove himself.

Troutman will be in a battle just to make the roster, as he will have to show he belongs with Hairston, Huey and the host of UDFA linemen the Chargers brought in to create quality depth at all positions on the line. The Chargers lose nothing by keeping Troutman, but they can gain a more capable, reliable player with whom they already have and who will become available when final roster cuts occur.

In the end, I believe Johnnie Troutman will not play another down in a regular season game for the Chargers. Like letting Ryan Mathews walk, it’s addition by subtraction. One less injury-prone player on the roster makes the team better. Best of luck to Troutman elsewhere, but his time is up.

What do you think? Does Troutman deserve one more year to prove himself?

 

Bolt Up!!

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

#TelescoMagic

Barksdale

 

Offensive tackle Joe Barksdale has agreed to terms with the Chargers, first reported by Yahoo’s Rand Getlin. It is a one-year deal worth the minimum base salary and a $350,000 signing bonus, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. He can earn up to an additional $1 million in incentives.

The 26-year-old is entering his fifth season in the NFL, playing for both the Oakland Raiders and, most recently, the St. Louis Rams. Barksdale started 29 games in the last two seasons with the Rams, including all 16 games last year.

After passing up the opportunity to add to the offensive line via the draft, Tom Telesco has added Barksdale via free agency, joining Orlando Franklin, Chris Hairston and Michael Huey as free agent pickups this offseason.

Now the elephant in the room is whether or not DJ Fluker will remain at right tackle, or be kicked inside to right guard, where he may be better suited to excel. Although Telesco has said the team is comfortable with Fluker at tackle, success in the NFL isn’t about being comfortable, it’s about putting the best players out on the field.

It will be worth keeping an eye on what the starting offensive line will look like going into this season.

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