Monthly Archives: June 2016
In part one of my analysis of the San Diego Chargers offense I covered the quarterback, running back, fullback and tight end positions. Simply by using their stats and past history I gave a number of points per game I expect that group to get every week. Today I break down the rest of the offense, looking at the wide receivers, offensive line and coaching staff.
The most hard to read of all the skill position groups, the wide receiver position has been long on potential but short on production and consistency. Injuries have decimated the wide receiver corps year after year.
Keenan Allen is leader of the wide receiver group who have dubbed themselves the ‘Aliens’. Allen was off to an amazing start in 2015, hauling in 67 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns in his first eight games. In a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Allen lacerated his kidney when he landed on the ball while catching a touchdown, ending his season. He was on pace to shatter the Chargers’ single season record for receptions (100) held by Ladainian Tomlinson and the break the NFL record for receptions in a single season (143) held by former Indianapolis Colt Marvin Harrison.
Now armed with a brand new four-year extension in hand Allen is locked in through the 2020 season. Allen has established himself as a star on the rise and will be taking the field with a chip on his shoulder after the way his 2015 campaign ended. In 37 games he has caught 215 passes for 2,554 yards and 16 touchdowns.
However, the success of the receiving corps will be dependent on Allens’ supporting cast.
Getting Allen help was a priority heading into the offseason and the first splash the Chargers made into the free agency pool was acquiring former Cleveland Brown Travis Benjamin. The 5’10” speedster caught 68 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. Aside from a knee injury that caused him to miss the second half of the 2013 season, Benjamin has only missed the first two games of his NFL career with a tweaked hamstring.
In his four years in the NFL, he has established himself as a dangerous return specialist. At the 2012 NFL Combine he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and it has carried over into the pros. As a punt returner, Benjamin gained 324 yards on 28 attempts. Of those 28 attempts, four returns were over twenty yards and one was a 78-yard touchdown return. By comparison, the Chargers had 20 punt returns for 84 yards as a team last season. Their longest return was 18 yards.
Benjamin automatically legitimizes the punt return game and now gives the Chargers what they haven’t had in years, a wide receiver with the speed to take the top off the defense. At 26, Benjamin is just beginning to enter his prime. This signing could trumpet a revival of the vertical passing game that we haven’t seen since the height of the Tomlinson era.
In his first season with the team, Stevie Johnson showed excellent chemistry with Rivers. Johnson was second among wideouts catching 45 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns. Hamstring and groin injuries caused him to miss seven games, including the last five games of the 2015 season. The nine-year pro is a dynamic receiver who has shown he can make an immediate impact if he can stay healthy.
Dontrelle Inman started in seven of the 14 games he appeared in last season. The CFL import continues to improve as he caught 35 balls for 486 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. Heading into his third season he will become a bigger part of the offense, likely assuming the role formerly held by the now-retired Malcom Floyd. Moving off the bench into a full-time starting role should greatly increase his numbers across the board.
Tyrell Williams can be penciled in as fifth on the wide receiver depth chart at the moment. Williams made his presence felt in the final game of the 2015 season against the Denver Broncos with a two reception for 90-yard performance, highlighted by burning Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on a scintillating 80-yard touchdown catch. Those were his only stats of the 2015 regular season. Signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft he spent time on the active roster and practice squad. He has the size (6’3″, 205), speed (ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds) and agility (39.5-inch vertical jump) to be a dominant pro wide receiver. Will he live up to his potential going into his second season?
The rest of the receiver field is comprised of undrafted free agents and second-year pros. Unless a veteran is brought in, this is the group that will likely start the 2016 season.
Points-per-game expectation: 6
All the new additions to the skill positions mean nothing if the offensive line can’t provide continuity, open holes for the running backs and allow Rivers enough time in the pocket to throw the ball. That has been a large task that has fallen woefully short in those categories in the last number of seasons. In the last four seasons Rivers has been sacked 155 times, 40 times in 2015. The running game was dead last in touchdowns (4) and 31st in yards (1,358) last season.
Last season the offensive line had 25 different combinations due to injury. This season San Diego boasts the biggest projected starting offensive line in the league, but can they stay healthy? Veteran free agent Matt Slauson was brought over from the Chicago Bears to finally stop the turnstile at the center position. Lining up next to him will be guards Orlando Franklin, D.J. Fluker and tackles King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale. Concussions, knee and lower leg injuries were the downfall of this group last season. What will they do differently to stay on the field this season? The success of the season rides on it.
Points-per-game expectation: -4.
As frustrating to watch as the play on the field at times were the decisions of the coaches in key game situations. Last season the Chargers lost four games by three points. Eight of their twelve losses were by a touchdown or less. More often than not the staff played not to lose instead of playing to win. Head Coach Mike McCoy and then offensive coordinator Frank Reich called conservative games, focusing on short to intermediate routes in the passing game and running almost exclusively out of the Pistol formation.
The playcalling was predictable and did not attack downfield enough to make opposing defenses concerned about getting beat deep. Injuries played a big part but so did not having the personnel to execute that type of game plan. Blame can be laid at the feet of those in the front office for lack of quality depth once the injuries started mounting.
Thankfully, Reich is out and Ken Whisenhunt returns to take his place. Whisenhunt parlayed a successful 2013 season as the Chargers’ OC into a head coaching position with the Tennessee Titans. Not coincidentally, 2013 was the last season the Chargers made the playoffs.
Whisenhunt is intent on revamping the run game first and foremost. The Pistol formation will be scratched in favor of having Rivers back under center and using short drops. Expect to see a return of the power run game highlighted by Watt and Gordon in their familiar college roles. In 2013, Whisenhunts’ running attack averaged 122 yards per game and Rivers was fourth in the league in passing with 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns.
If McCoy trusts Whisenhunt with the playcalling duties the Chargers should be able to take advantage of a last-place schedule and return to the playoffs as long as the team can stay healthy at key positions. It is a positive sign that the front office reached out to Whisenhunt and bring back a system that worked with this group of players. His track record speaks for itself going back to his days in Pittsburgh, then leading the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII to coordinating the Chargers offense to its only payoff appearance in the last six years. Until McCoy steps away from the playbook, I remain skeptical.
Points-per-game expectation: -2
In all, my points per game expectation went like this: QB (14), WR (6), TE (4), RB (6), OL (-4) and coaching staff (-2) for a total of 24 points per game. Until the offensive line proves they can stay on the field and the offense is shown to be run through Whisenhunts’ headset instead of McCoys’ will I believe they won’t be a detriment to the team. Right now I believe those factors will cost the team one touchdown per game.
The 24-points per game are an improvement over the 20 points per game the Chargers averaged last season (26th in the NFL in 2015) and is on par with Philip Rivers’ lifetime average. Over his career, the Bolts average 25.6-points per Rivers start. That number has been as high as 27-points per game during the Tomlinson years.
This team has all the tools for a worst-to-first turnaround. The question is can they do it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Excitement and enthusiasm is in the air for the 2016-2017 edition of the San Diego Chargers. At this time in the offseason, it’s in the air for the fans of the other 31 NFL teams as well. With the free agency, NFL Draft period over and what looks to be a loaded 90-man roster in place, hope for a successful season is renewed.
Time to take off the rose-colored glasses for a moment and look at the team from an analytics standpoint. The Chargers do look like they have helped themselves immensely this offseason. To take a closer look I am going to dissect the offense and assign each aspect of the offense a point value. These will be the points I expect that aspect of the offense to generate every game. Of course that number is subject to change based on injuries, offseason acquisitions etc…
The points will then be added and that will be the expected points-per-game expectation for the offense. Some of you will think I’ve graded too harshly while others will think not harshly enough but it’s a jumping off point and that’s the objective. I’ll be looking forward to reading your views in the comments below.
The offense begins and ends with Philip Rivers. The Chargers’ iron man, Rivers has not missed a single game in ten seasons. His streak is second-longest in the NFL behind Eli Manning of the New York Giants (183). Rivers only trails Manning because Rivers didn’t start until his third season while Manning started in his rookie year.
Over the last three seasons, Rivers has averaged a stat line of 398-591 for 4,518 yards passing with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and two fumbles lost. What’s more, he has averaged 56 passes of 20-yards or more and slightly over seven completions of 40-yards or more. This impressive stat line comes despite woeful offensive line play that has him getting sacked an average of 35 times over that same three-season period.
Last season, Rivers threw for career-highs in attempts (661), completions (437) and yards (4,792). The running game was non-existent and the Chargers went through 25 offensive line changes. The weight of being the only reliable offensive option took its toll on Rivers and the Bolts record. This year, a more balanced offense will yield better results on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Points-per-game expectation: 14
Running backs and fullbacks
Franchise running back Melvin Gordon had a disappointing rookie season. The Chargers, the fans and Gordon himself expected better than the 184 carries for 641 yards he accumulated in 14 games. Gordon is still awaiting his first NFL regular season touchdown and needs to improve his ball security. Four of Gordons’ six fumbles were recovered by the defense.
Danny Woodhead was the most consistent running back and the leading receiver for the Chargers last season. Woodhead had 98 carries for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Receiving, Woodhead amassed 80 receptions for 755 yards with six touchdowns. Take away the 2014 season in which Woodhead missed all but three games with a broken leg; in 2013 and 2015 Woodhead has averaged 382 yards and 2.5 touchdowns on 102 rushing attempts and 680 yards and six touchdowns on 78 receptions.
Branden Oliver was rarely seen in 2015 but showed his worth in 2014 after the injury to Woodhead where he emerged to lead the Chargers in rushing in 2014 as a rookie. Last season he had 31 attempts for 108 yards rushing at 13 receptions for 112 yards receiving. The coaching staff has expressed their desire to add Oliver in the mix in 2016 which is an intriguing prospect. Time will tell.
In the sixth round San Diego selected Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt. The significance of this selection is Watt was Gordons’ blocking fullback each of his three seasons at Wisconsin. It’s reasonable to expect the two already have a chemistry and understanding of one another that will translate to the field.
The new rule that chop blocks will not be allowed on the line of scrimmage will make having a good fullback on the field more important. This will also slowly bring about the re-emergence of Power-I formations. Not coincidentally, the Power-I is the formation Watt and Gordon ran to NCAA record-smashing success. There is change brewing in the run game and it will only help the offense as a whole.
Points per-game expectation: 6
At 36 years young, Hall of Fame bound Antonio Gates enters his 14th NFL season after re-signing with the Bolts for two more seasons. The eight-time Pro Bowler began the 2015 season on the suspended list, missing four games for taking a banned substance. He played well in the eleven games he saw the field afterward, tallying 56 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns. Gates contemplated retirement before the end of last season but after the Chargers dismal season, Gates opted to return. He told the media “I didn’t want to go out like that.”
Gates finds himself on the precipice of NFL history this season. With eight touchdowns, Gates (104) will surpass Tony Gonzalez (111) into first place for touchdowns scored by a tight end. Over his brilliant career, Gates averages eight touchdowns a season. He is the most reliable part of the passing game. Starting the season from week one, expecting a better statistical season than 2015 is almost a certainty as long as he stays healthy.
The Chargers did draft the heir apparent to Gates when they drafted Hunter Henry our of Arkansas with their second round pick. The 6’5″, 250-pounder was a first-team All-SEC selection and winner of the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end in 2015. Henry collected 51 passes for 739 yards and three touchdowns. As sure-handed as they come, Henry did not drop a single pass last season.
Vying for a slot on the roster are Sean McGrath, Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, and undrafted free agent Matt Weiser. All fit the mold the Chargers like at standing 6’5″, 260-pounds. The most intriguing prospect may be Tim Semisch, a one-year pro who stands an imposing 6’8″, 267.
Points per-game expectation: 4
Come back tomorrow for part two of my breakdown including the wide receivers, offensive line, coaching staff and final summary. I hope you have enjoyed my analytical breakdown. Do you agree or disagree so far? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
The Greg One
Sometimes the men who declare for the NFL draft watch seven rounds come and go without their names being called. Why their draft stock seemingly does not translate to a phone call could be for a myriad of reasons. Hold on, though. There is still a way that you can play in the NFL.
One of those ways is being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent (UDFA).
One such player is Tyrell Williams.
Presently, the Chargers have six undrafted players on the roster at the wide receiver position. Three are second-year players while the other three are rookies. Each one is looking to show the coaches that they deserve to be on the team beyond next month’s minicamp.
Williams is a second-year receiver out of Western Oregon University. He signed his UDFA tender in May of 2015 and was with the team until early September when he was waived. The team needed to replace safety Jahleel Addae with practice-squad player Adrian Phillips. Williams subsequently made it through waivers and was re-signed.
He stayed on the practice squad until November when he was promoted to the active roster and debuted in the December 20 home game against the Miami Dolphins. Williams didn’t garner a catch until the final season contest of 2015 when he zipped by Broncos’ cornerback Aqib Talib and scored an 80-yard touchdown. The performance in that final game has continued to whet his desire to be a part of the starting lineup rather than the practice squad.
At 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds, Williams is similar in build and size to both Keenan Allen (6-foot-2/211 lbs) and recently retired Bolts’ wideout Malcom Floyd (6-foot-5, 225 lbs). In training camp last year, Williams apparently reminded Rivers so much of M-80 that he nicknamed him “Little Malcom.” They are both long-armed and long-legged, and when they run it appears more like gliding because they are so fluid. Don’t underestimate his blocking ability, either, as Williams is good at that, too. He is unafraid to launch that big body to haul in a pass; a la Floyd.
Who would have thought that a guy who began his collegiate career at 160 pounds would eventually bulk up to 208 pounds and find himself on an NFL team? The Wolves’ head coach, Arne Ferguson, and their director of football operations, Jason Slowey, extended a scholarship to Williams upon entering college. He worked hard to hone his craft and put weight on his frame. By the time he was entering his junior year, NFL teams were beginning to take notice, scouting him as a potential fit on their respective rosters.
It just goes to show what dedication, perseverance and hard work can provide you with; in this case, a chance to make your dreams come true.
With all the hype that has been put out there both last year and in the recent OTAs, the Chargers might have another competition brewing. Here’s hoping that young Williams makes the Bolts’ roster.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading!
On Wednesday, San Diego Chargers faithful everywhere held their collective breath upon hearing about Danny Woodhead getting injured in practice. On ESPN, cameras cut away to Chargers Park where it showed players huddled around Woodhead, some down on a knee around him.
The prognosis is a sprained left ankle, sustained after Woodhead was rolled up on by a defensive lineman. Woodhead was coming across on a screen when the injury happened. Woodhead was down for several anxious minuted before getting up and walking off under his own power. Head Coach Mike McCoy ended practice a couple of plays later and called an end to minicamp with one day left to go.
The Swiss Army knife of the Chargers backfield, Woodhead led the team in receiving last season with 80 receptions for 755 yards and six touchdowns. He was second to Melvin Gordon in rushing with 98 rushes for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Woodhead is an integral piece of the offense the Bolts can’t afford to lose.
The next day, a smiling Woodhead tweeted out this photo of himself in a space-age looking cryospa.
— danny woodhead (@danny__woodhead) June 16, 2016
Looks like the scare was just that. Danny is okay and we can all breathe easily now. With a month off until the start of training camp, Woodhead and the rest of the Chargers will be at full strength and ready to rumble.
Get well soon, Danny.
The Greg One
Time to take a look back at the San Diego Chargers news that made headlines this past week. The biggest news is centered around Joey Bosa. This week we learned more about why he is the only man in the first 19 first-round selections of the 2016 NFL Draft that has not yet signed a contract. Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune explains here:
Obviously, the Chargers are disappointed in Bosas’ decision to hold out of mandatory minicamp and Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSports writes about it here. Included, video of Philip Rivers talking about his draft day experience.
From Chargers.com, the team has released eleven dates that training camp practice will be open to the public, including FanFest. Get the dates here: http://www.chargers.com/news/2016/06/17/fans-invited-11-training-camp-practices
Chargers.com also released new video of GM Tom Telesco addressing questions about the team. Watch the video here: http://www.chargers.com/video/2016/06/14/tom-telesco-talks-joey-bosa-optimism-and-keenan-allens-new-deal
The most positive news of the past week comes from the signing of blossoming star wide receiver Keenan Allen to a long-term contract. Allen is now locked in through the 2020 season. The San Diego Union-Tribune broke the story. Read the details here, courtesy of Michael Gehlken: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jun/10/chargers-sign-keenan-allen-contract-extension/
The national sports media also chimed in on the signing, beginning with Austin Knoblauch from NFL.com. Read his take here: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000668666/article/keenan-allen-chargers-agree-on-fouryear-extension
Check out this release from ESPN.com, which includes an interesting sidebar. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/16114440/keenan-allen-san-diego-chargers-agree-extension
Minicamp is over and training camp is a month away but that won’t stop the news and BoltBlitz.com will bring it to you. Thanks for reading!
The Greg One
The mantle has been passed.
When long-time defensive team captain Eric Weddle moved on to sign with the Baltimore Ravens in March of this year, it was the end of an era.
Now, the onus is on Jahleel Addae to take on a more prominent role in the secondary. The question is, can he?
In the offseason, Addae signed a one-year RFA (restricted free agent) tender for $2.553 million. Last year, the strong safety racked up 65 tackles and a sack. Four years in San Diego have given him 151 tackles, three sacks, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
An undrafted free agent, Addae has been a part of the Bolts’ secondary longer than anyone else currently back there. He and defensive backs coach Ron Milus joined the Chargers in 2013. So, Addae should have a better grasp than the rest of that position group when it comes to what Milus is striving for out of his players in the secondary.
One of the challenges he faces is staying on the field. Now entering his fourth year with the Bolts, Addae has only managed to have one complete 16-game season (in 2013 as a rookie). Since then, he has missed parts of the last couple of campaigns with injuries to his ankle and hamstring. Let’s not forget there were two concussions, also.
Dubbed “The Hitman” by his fellow Chippewas at Central Michigan University, the ferocious hits that Addae has put on opponents have not only rattled them, but No. 37 himself. One such hit occurred in the October 23, 2014 game in Denver — a helmet-to-helmet collision with Broncos running back Juwan Thompson; the aftermath was disconcerting to many who witnessed Addae’s behavior. The safety is clearly seen experiencing some type of reaction to that impact. Though all on-field evaluations were negative, he was diagnosed with a concussion two days later. He did not miss any playing time.
Fast forward to 2016 and the expectations that Addae has for himself now that No. 32 is no longer across from him. Throughout OTAs, he has realized that he can take the knowledge learned from lining up opposite Weddle, use it to step up his game and become the leader that the young guys coming in need him to be. The offseason addition of former Colts’ safety Dwight Lowery should make that challenge seem less daunting.
Maturity and experience have also brought recognition of the example he needs to set with respect to those hits that he is so well-known for; putting himself on the bench due to injury as a direct result of one is not in his plans. As he recently stated, “I’m a physical safety. I love contact. But I know that I have to play smart. I’ve been hearing that since I’ve come into the league…My biggest goal is to play in all 16. And I feel I’ll be able to do that.”
Will Addae lead the secondary in helping the team overcome a forgettable 4-12 season? I believe he can. It is on him now to mentor the youth movement and be the voice of experience.
Thanks for reading!
If you were to look up the word “dreadful” in the dictionary, this is what you might find:
- causing or involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness; extremely bad or serious.
“The San Diego Chargers’ running game has been dreadful over the past two years.”
In 2012, Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times, which was the 4th worst in the NFL. In that same year, the Bolts’ running backs combined for a dismal 3.6 yards per attempt — tied for 2nd worst — totaling 1,461 rushing yards and ranking them 27th out of 32 teams.
Change was needed to right the ship
Signing head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt gave Charger faithful something to look forward to; because let’s be honest, it could not get any worse.
With “The Wiz” working on Philip’s quick release and utilizing a fullback to pave way for the running game, things turned around nicely for the team from America’s finest city.
In 2013, Rivers was sacked only 30 times — 4th best in the NFL — and the running game amassed 1,965 total yards (13th best) with an average of four yards per carry. The three-year playoff drought had ended as San Diego went to the AFC Divisional Game, losing to the eventual AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
After Whisenhunt left to become the head coach for the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Frank Reich was promoted to take over the reins and continue improving the offense. As the 2014-15 season began to sink deep down into an abyss filled with injuries and blame, it was not a shock to see the final results. San Diego totaled only 1,367 total rushing yards, averaging only 3.4 yards per attempt.
The one shining star to emerge out of the 2014 season was an undrafted free agent named Branden Oliver.
The diehard fans remember him well when in Week 5 he ran all over the then No. 1 ranked rush defense of the New York Jets. Getting his chance due to injuries, Bo ran with quickness, tenacity and a toughness that the Chargers’ backfield had not seen in some time.
With Danny Woodhead back from injury for the 2015 season and the Chargers’ first-round draft pick of Melvin Gordon, the optimism of the running game spilled out of the mouths of the devoted. And with the overwhelming hope of anew, the ship was back on track.
Or….so people thought.
Watching the worst rushing attack in the NFL for the 2015 season come out of San Diego seemed synonymous to Thomas Andrews being aboard his mighty Titanic as it sank to the bottom of the ocean.
There were no words.
An inexplicable disappointment, the 4-12 Chargers needed another change. With talks of moving the team out of San Diego, righting the ship was more important than ever.
“Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
- John F. Kennedy
With Whisnehunt back in charge of the offense, things again seem promising. He was the last to utilize a fullback when the Chargers had Le’Ron McClain. Now, added via the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft, fullback Derek Watt adorns the lightning bolt dome. The hiring of Jeff Davidson, whose resume is quite impressive, should spring some new life into the veteran offensive linemen on the roster.
It is unknown how Watt will be used or how well Coach Davidson will adjust going from the NFC to the AFC, but make no mistake about it, there is hope in the Chargers’ backfield. Gordon is out to prove his touchdown-less campaign was a fluke. Woodhead is out to prove he is always a legitimate threat on every down. Oliver, who has yet to fumble the ball in 191 carries, is out to prove that he can excel in any role.
On paper, the ship seems to have been righted in the proper direction.
And it’s destination……Houston?
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
The hype surrounding Manti Te’o prior to the San Diego Chargers selecting him in the 2013 draft was mountainous, to say the least. Then first-year general manager Tom Telesco moved up seven slots (from 45th to 38th) to take the former Fighting Irish linebacker.
After all, Te’o had received a plethora of awards and trophies at the end of the 2012 collegiate season: The Nagurski Award, the Lombardi Award, the Bednarik Award, the Maxwell Trophy (the nation’s most outstanding football player), the Walter Camp National Player of the Year and a two-time winner of The Butkus Award (once in high school and then again in 2012 with Notre Dame). There was also this one other little thing – Heisman Trophy runner-up.
Those are ALL spectacular acknowledgements. In 51 games at Notre Dame, he amassed a total of 437 tackles (212 solo/34 for loss), 12 quarterback hits, 8.5 sacks, seven interceptions, 10 pass break ups, 17 passes defensed with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Te’o has the distinction of being only the second linebacker of Polynesian descent drafted by the Bolts, the first, of course, being Junior Seau. Te’o was also the highest selected Fighting Irish linebacker drafted since Demetrius DuBose in 1993.
At this juncture in his young career, Te’o’s pro stats look like this through 35 games: 202 tackles with 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defensed. He has missed 13 games due to injuries to both feet dating back to his rookie season.
Here is the list of his various ailments since entering the NFL:
August 8, 2013: Sprains his foot in a game against the Seattle Seahawks. He is seen in a walking boot two days later and ends up missing the next five games. Ultimately has surgery in the offseason to repair a bone in his right foot.
August 15, 2014: Another preseason game versus the Seahawks has Te’o injuring his left foot. He sits out the next two weeks and is back in action for the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
September 21, 2014: In the road game versus the Buffalo Bills, he injures his right foot. It’s bad news for the Bolts when it is announced that Te’o suffered a fracture. He doesn’t take the field again until after the Week 10 bye when San Diego faced the Oakland Raiders.
Te’o stayed injury-free for the remainder of the 2014 season, compiling an additional 40 tackles over the last seven games. In that stretch, he managed to get his first NFL interception in a Sunday Night game against the New England Patriots on the Chargers’ own turf. The pass was intended for Rob Gronkowski. Two weeks later, he collected the first sack of his pro career, on 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
October 12, 2015: The Pittsburgh Steelers come to town for a Monday Night matchup. Unfortunately, the guy wearing No. 50 had to leave the game for a few snaps to get his ankle taped. While he did return to the contest, and finish with seven tackles, he again is out for over a month trying to get it strong once more.
The Chargers are in a bit of a pickle here. Right now the team is loaded at linebacker with the likes of Te’o (who will be calling the defensive plays), Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu and sophomore Denzel Perryman most likely the starters. Joining the mix are second-year men Kyle Emanuel and Nick Dzubnar; plus rookies Joshua Perry, Jatavis Brown and Dexter McCoil. There is also fourth-year player Tourek Williams, who returns after a limited 2015 due to breaking his foot in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Needless to say, linebackers coach Bob Babich and defensive coordinator John Pagano are going to be putting in plenty of observation and film study over the next couple of months to determine who potentially makes the roster, moves to the practice squad or ends up being released.
Whether Manti Te’o remains a Charger for the entirety of his career remains to be seen. However, Te’o staying injury-free might solidify his spot. The Chargers have always liked him for his leadership ability, strong work ethic, perseverance and instincts. He is an extremely smart player. His only downfall has been an inability to play an entire 16-game season.
Now, I know that there are many people out there who are not fans of Te’o for whatever reason(s). No, he doesn’t always wrap up and tackle his target. Yes, sometimes he runs a bit slow. He is, however, starting to become the tackling machine that had him landing on several top-ten college recruiting lists before he began his senior year of high school.
Te’o himself said it best in a December 2014 interview with Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune: “I’ve always been one to keep grinding, keep grinding, keep grinding, keep grinding. I’m going to continue to get better because I’m going to continue to work.”
Yet the question remains, is Te’o going to be part of San Diego’s plans beyond the ’16 campaign? When all is said and done, this is a business. There is going to be stiff competition at the inside linebacker spot next month from the rookie Perry. We could very well see a repeat of Butler versus Te’o, and that might not end well for Manti. He’s been put on notice. As much as I like No. 50, I don’t think he will be sporting blue and gold come the 2017 season.
I’m pulling for him to stay with the team and pick up where he left off in 2015.
What do you think? Share your thoughts. Thanks for reading!
Friday morning the Committee for Sports, Entertainment and Tourism delivered 83 boxes containing 110,786 signatures to be filed with San Diego City Clerk Elizabeth Maland.
“On behalf of the entire San Diego Chargers organization, we want to thank every registered San Diego City voter who signed the petition,” said Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos. “We also want to thank representatives of organized labor – and particularly the unions of the Building Trades Council – for their significant help and support during this process. And we are grateful for the volunteer signature gathering work coordinated by the fan groups, including Save Our Bolts and the San Diego Stadium Coalition. The fan groups did a great job, as did the hundreds of other people who contacted us and volunteered to gather signatures.
“Most signature gathering efforts of this kind take six full months. We had just six weeks to complete our work,” Spanos continued. “The fact that we were able to collect more than 110,000 signatures in that short period of time demonstrates tremendous support in our community for a new, combined stadium-convention center expansion downtown.”
The City Clerk and the County Registrar of Voters are now working to verify the signatures that we have submitted. While that verification process continues, the Chargers will continue working behind-the-scenes to win the support of community leaders and elected officials.
Taking the time now to understand why no true stadium plan was ever presented for Mission Valley will help prevent mayor Kevin Faulconer from using false pretenses to not work with the Chargers towards their downtown solution. Faulconer convincingly won re-election in the primary and will be the mayor of San Diego for the next four years. If the Chargers are to stay in San Diego, it’s high likely it will be under his watch.
Faulconer delayed taking a stance on the Chargers initiative for a new stadium downtown before the election with the pretense that he was analyzing the numbers and waiting for a report on the cost to move the MTS bus yard. He also repeatedly claimed that Mission Valley was originally chosen because the costs associated with the that site for a stadium were largely known.
These are red flags that Faulconer could use the bus yard costs as a reason to justify not supporting the Chargers initiative and attempt to pivot back to Mission Valley.
By understanding the costs that were never included in either the Citizen Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG) or the mayor’s plans for a stadium in Mission Valley, we can hold Faulconer accountable and prevent him from misleading us in attempt to further play politics with the stadium issue instead of solving it.
Before unveiling some of the factors that would inflate the costs of a Mission Valley stadium project, let’s be clear, the Chargers are never going to pivot back to Mission Valley. If the Chargers are to stay in San Diego, it will only come with a new stadium downtown.
We know the Chargers are focused solely on downtown because Dean Spanos sent a letter to former councilwoman Donna Frye to assure her that they would never pivot back to Mission Valley. The Chargers have endorsed Frye’s vision that after the Chargers vacate Mission Valley, the land should be used for a river park and education purposes with an expansion of SDSU and/or UCSD.
“We want to be as clear as we can possibly be about this issue,” Spanos wrote, according to NBC Sports. “We did not choose downtown over Mission Valley casually. Downtown is a plan that can work for the community and our fans. We have tried to make it clear that Mission Valley will not work for the NFL or for the community. The Mayor asked us to make a choice. We made the rational business choice, and the rational choice for the community-at-large. That choice is downtown. Mission Valley is not an option for us, now or in the future.”
The letter assured Frye the Chargers will never opt for stadium in Mission Valley that would partially be paid for with a massive development that would prevent her vision from being realized. This partnership in understanding helps enable supporters of the Citizens Plan backed by Frye and the Chargers initiative to work in tandem despite the initiatives appearing to be in competition. Both sides feel they are in an uphill battle against the City, and have taken the approach that their boats can rise together if they do not allow the media and the City to pit themselves against each other.
A substantial reason the Chargers have no interest in Mission Valley is the cost for a stadium project there would be vastly more expensive than their downtown proposal. In downtown, construction costs are saved by sharing expenses with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center. In Mission Valley, Faulconer and (CSAG) ignored several known obstacles that would undoubtedly greatly inflate the cost of the overall project.
A few members of CSAG met with stadium advocates days before the group announced they were focused on Mission Valley. Jason Riggs, the Chairman of the San Diego Stadium Coalition, and myself brought a lengthily list of known obstacles to Mission Valley and we campaigned hard for downtown.
Riggs became frustrated that members of CSAG were clearly focused on Mission Valley, but were not able to come up with substantial obstacles for downtown. Riggs then said I have a list of obstacles for Mission Valley right here and challenged CSAG members to provide the obstacles to downtown. There was a pause, a hem and a haw, and then one prominent member of CSAG admitted the real obstacle to downtown was the hoteliers. He even went as far as to define the hotelier’s political power by the number of rooms their establishments represent.
Our lists of obstacles were politely received and we were told they would be taken under advisement, but neither CSAG nor Faulconer ever addressed them.
CSAG repeatedly justified their decision to choose Mission Valley because the City owns the land. Eighty of the 166 acres of the Qualcomm site is actually owned by city of San Diego’s Water Utilities Department, according to NBC San Diego.
Faulconer has continued to regurgitate the fallacy of the City owning the Mission Valley land in recent interviews. This could be a preview for the foundation for an argument to reject the Chargers initiative after the report on the cost of moving the MTS bus yard is released. The argument would continue to be that the expense of the bus yard would not factor into the stadium if Mission Valley were the site. Therefore downtown is more expensive for taxpayers.
That argument does not hold merit when factoring the fiduciary responsibility that the Water District has to their rate payers to be fairly compensated by the City for their land.
For decades, the city leased the 80 acres for a measly $15,000 a year. The City had been paying rent to Water District until 2005 when the lease ran out. The City then stopped paying and justified withholding of funds by claiming the land had no real value because the stadium was a money losing operation.
“It’s illegal, flat-out illegal,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “We got to treat the water fund fairly. The water fund is different than tax payers.”
It was also reported that Goldsmith said compensating the water district for past rent and negotiating a future lease with a new appraisal would add millions to any new stadium development in Mission Valley with.
When CSAG released their stadium plan, they recommend selling 75 acres of the Qualcomm Stadium land. CSAG claimed the sale would generate $225 million. There are experts who believe the Mission Valley land is worth nowhere near the valuation CSAG assigned, but within hours Faulconer backed CSAG’s plan giving credence to the valuation for the property.
The acreage CSAG recommended selling is largely owned by the Water District, but there was no plan to compensate them for the land. The Water District was apparently supposed to forgo their fiduciary responsibility to their rate payers so that the funds of the sale could go to the stadium.
In the process, CSAG affectively told the Water District their previously worthless land was now valued at $240 million.
There is no exact science to determining a fair lease value on the land. When speaking to real-estate professionals, a conservative 5% of return for a long-term contract was suggested.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume CSAG’s valuation is accurate and assign an annual fair lease value at 5%. That would equate to a $12 million a year lease. This is on-par with Goldsmith’s estimation that compensating the Water District would add millions to the project.
The Water District is now in position to reasonably argue they are entitled to $132 million in back rent plus interest. They would also need to have been fairly compensated for their land if sold. Much of any sale would have to have gone to the Water District and not the stadium project.
“Perhaps the water fund could retain the water rights under Qualcomm, but then get other compensation by having a land exchange for something else owned by the city,” Goldsmith explained. “But you’d better make sure these appraisals are honest and make sure there’s an arm’s-length transaction. Another option is to buy the 80 acres from the water fund.”
If the Water District maintained ownership of the land, then a fair compensation plan would need to be established for the next 30 years, the time expected to payoff stadium construction bonds. With the same 5% rate of return, and with no inflation on CSAG’s $240 million valuation, then it is fair to argue the Water District should be compensated $360 million over 30 years.
Add in the now 11 years of unpaid rent, the total compensation for the Water District’s share of the land could represent a near a half billion shortfall .
Even if CSAG valuation for the land is not correct, this one obstacles illustrates there was no real plan for Mission Valley.
CSAG and Faulconer also completely ignored known infrastructure needs. Ever since the Chargers turned their focus to downtown in 2009, the pre-existence of needed infrastructure was always touted as a major cost savings for building downtown. In 2012, that saving was estimated at $200 million when the Chargers released art work for a downtown stadium.
Steve Cushman has been particular outspoken against the Chargers plan to build a stadium with a non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center because Cushman has fought for a contiguous expansion. Cushman acknowledged the cost savings of a downtown stadium after he thought he won a contiguous expansion and suggested the Chargers use the site at Tailgate Park for a stadium in a KPBS interview.
“The advantage of downtown is there is already lots of infrastructure,” Cushman said. “The Trolley is there. There is lots of parking.”
Councilman Scott Sherman, who has been out spoken against the Chargers downtown vision, acknowledged the need for infrastructure in Mission Valley in a recent Union Tribune interview where he discussed his vision for development.
“It has to be done right with the infrastructure,” Sherman said. “It just has to be. We’ve got to get the bridge that goes across to Camino Del Rio North down by the stadium, you know, behind IKEA there. That bridge has been proposed and killed several times. And that would just alleviate all kinds of traffic because that road is very underutilized.”
The bridge Sherman referred to is also just one of 16 infrastructure needs that the Chargers made CSAG and the mayor aware of in a website provided by the Chargers that had previous stadium plans the team had proposed. The infrastructure needs were in the Chargers 2003 plan for Mission Valley.
In 2003, when the Chargers offered to pay for the entire cost of building the stadium in exchange for the Mission Valley land, they also offered to pay for these infrastructure projects after conducting engineering studies. This further validates the need for this infrastructure, because it is unlikely the team would have wanted to pay for any additional infrastructure that what was not required.
Since 2003, there has been a substantial amount of development in Mission Valley without the addition of corresponding infrastructure improvements. With a higher density in Mission Valley today, it is likely the infrastructure needed for a major project has only increased.
None of the 16 known infrastructure needs from 2003 were included in either CSAG’s or the mayor’s plan. Let alone any new infrastructure. It’s possible the infrastructure cost alone needed for a Mission Valley stadium project could in itself exceed the cost of moving the bus yard.
16 known road infrastructure needs of 2003 provided to CSAG:
- Friars Road/SR 163 Interchange Roadway & Ramp Improvements including improvements at Friars Road and Frazee Road Intersection
- Friars Road/Interstate 15 Exchange, Roadway and Ramp Improvements
- Friars Road/Qualcomm Way, Ramps and Intersection Improvements
- Texas Street/Camino Del Rio South Intersection Improvements
- Camino Del Rio South/Interstate 15 North bound improvements
- Friars Road/Mission Center Road, Ramp and Intersection improvements
- Rancho San Diego Road/ Ward Road, Intersection Signalization
- Friars Road/Mission Center Drive, Interchange Improvements
- Interstate 8 Hook Ramps Westbound from Camino Del Rio South to near Interstate 805
- Camino Del Rio South to 4 lanes from Fenton Parkway/Mission Center Parkway to Interstate 805
- Camino Del Rio North to 4 lanes, from Fenton Parkway/Mission Center Parkway to Interstate 15
- Mission Center Parkway Bridge over Interstate 8, widen to 4 lanes
- Bridge over San Diego River at Fenton Parkway
- South Development Road Connection offsite, west to Fenton Parkway
- Western Development Road Connection, offsite to Northside Drive
- Extend Murphy Canyon Road South to development area
The issues surrounding fill dirt were also not addressed. One of the biggest obstacle to construction at Mission Valley is that the entire 166 acre site would have to be brought up to Friars Road level, as illustrated in councilman Sherman’s plan he presented for a stadium.
There are several variables with fill dirt, such as where it is coming from and the quality of dirt, so without knowing those variables ahead of time it is hard to estimate a true cost for a project of this magnitude that would likely take multiple millions of cubic yards (CY) of dirt. Consider one dirt truck only carries 16 CY of fill dirt, it would take 62,500 trucks to deliver each million yards of fill dirt.
The Draft EIR for Mission Valley revealed 920,000 CY of contaminated dirt would be exported from the site and may also entail dewatering. The fuel plume that Kinder Morgan is responsible for the mitigating was only a contributing factor to the contamination. Organo-chlorine pesticide is listed is also listed as a contaminate and is pervasive throughout the site, so it is unclear who would be responsible for cleanup costs.
To provide an idea of how much 920,000 cubic yards of dirt is, it would equate to 57,500 truck loads, or roughly three truck loads of dirt for every parking spot currently surrounding the stadium.
It also represents the same amount of ruble that is expected to be created by the demolition of Qualcomm Stadium, according to same Draft EIR. The fact the Draft EIR came up with the same number for the cubic yards of dirt that is need to be exported, and the rubble generated by the demolition of the stadium, may validate the concern that the Draft EIR was indeed rushed.
The difference between the Qualcomm Stadium debris and contaminated dirt is the debris would be trucked to the Miramar Landfill, while the soil will likely have to be hauled out of state. The SF Giants ran into this problem when they built their stadium and it cost them over $1 million to export just 18 thousand CY of dirt to Utah.
The mostly likely destination for Qualcomm’s contaminated dirt is Arizona, according to the contractor who discovered the organo-chlorine pesticide in 2005. An Arizona official said they “may” take the dirt.
After the dirt is removed, it would be replaced and then enough additional clean dirt would need to be brought into raise the entire site to Friar’s Road level.
The same company that discovered the contamination, quoted me a drive time of around $110 an hour to export the dirt. Each trip would also need require a disposal fee and labor to load the dirt. They also said that they said they had several hundred thousand CY of certified dirt available for fill. This dirt was nearby Mission Valley and could be brought in for $60 to $70 a truck load.
That, however, may not even replace what needs to be exported. If not enough fill dirt could be found locally for the project, then same high cost of drive time would need to be applied for importing new dirt.
It is important to note that the fill dirt obstacle was discovered after the proposal the Chargers made in 2003 to develop Mission Valley, and may be a huge contributing factor on why the team decided to look elsewhere for their stadium plans.
Parking was also dramatically underfunded, especially in the CSAG plan that proposed a 12,000 space parking structure. This would be the largest in North America, but CSAG only allocated a $144 million in funding.
The Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, a 10,250 space garage at Disneyland, came in ahead of time and under budget in the neighborhood of $240 million in 2001, according to Michael Tomczak, an assistant construction manager on the project. A 1994 Los Angeles times article supports that claim by estimating the project would cost $223 million.
The 12,000 spaces is also dramatically insufficient. There are currently over 19,000 parking spaces at Qualcomm Stadium. On game days, the parking lot is typically full and the Trolley is extremely busy. The Trolley set a record in 2014 when it carried on average 15,202 passengers to Chargers games.
When factoring in the Trolley, it would take an unattainable four person per car average to accommodate 63,000 fans with only 12,000 parking spaces.
Qualcomm Stadium is a virtual land locked island, so unless there is a significant investment in public transportation, nearly all of the 19,000 spaces would be needed in a new stadium at the location. After speaking to multiple contractors, I learned a fair estimate for a parking structure of that size would be north of $350 million.
These obstacles were brought up again when stadium advocates meet with the team after they announced downtown. They were acknowledged that these and others greatly contributed to the decision to focus on downtown.
None of the estimations made are meant to be set in stone examples. They were not derived from any actual quotes for a job, and estimations can dramatically change based on the contractor. With enough time and money any of these obstacles could likely be overcome.
What is important is these obstacles were either completely overlooked, or dramatically underfunded by both CSAG and the mayor’s plans. With an understanding of the existence of these obstacles, and a rough idea of the costs associated with them, we can hold the mayor accountable.
We must not allow Faulconer to again suggest Mission Valley would be cheaper than downtown in an effort to not embrace the Chargers vision and/or their initiative.