2015 NFL draft

GordonWatt2

 

The San Diego Chargers’ coaching staff is hard at work coaching and evaluating their players in the classroom and on the field during OTAs. They have a very interesting camp battle going on in the fullback department. Though the competition is a two-man race, it’s going to be one of the most compelling to watch.

The Chargers drafted Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt (pictured above) with the second of their two sixth-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. The man he is hoisting in the air is the running back the Bolts tabbed to be their new franchise running back, Melvin Gordon. The Chargers traded up to select Gordon with their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Watt was the lead fullback for Gordon during his three seasons at Wisconsin. Gordon broke NCAA rushing records and finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist in his last season at Wisconsin.

Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 236 pounds, Watt is the favorite to win the job because the Chargers did use a draft pick on him and for his already established chemistry with Gordon. Watt is the younger brother of Texans’ superstar and 2014 NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Derek has a great template on how to be a great pro from one of the best players in the game today.

cswain1

No player is guaranteed a roster spot and in this case it is no different. The Chargers signed Chris Swain of Navy as an undrafted free agent. Last week, the Department of Defense granted a deferral of his military service in order for him to play for the Chargers. With San Diego being the United States epicenter for the Navy, Swain is a fantastic success story. Swain will be an automatic fan favorite, one every fan will want to see make the cut.

Standing 6-foot and weighing 247 pounds, Swain ran for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Taking into account his stout frame, he’s the proverbial bowling ball rolling downhill. He was the perfect complement to Navy’s high-flying, triple-option offense. A perceived weakness could be his pass-catching skills, as he only caught two passes in his career at Navy. His running style and pass blocking have drawn criticism but those are all things a good coach can develop.

What works to the advantage of both players is the offense of new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Last season under Frank Reich, the Bolts ran 12 plays from a two-back formation. Reich was unwilling to adapt his “pistol-centric” offense to Gordon and the running game suffered. In Whisenhunt’s lone year as offensive coordinator in 2013, he ran 115 plays out of a two-back formation. The last time the Chargers made the playoffs? 2013. Whisenhunt parlayed that success into a head coaching position with the Tennessee Titans after that one season.

It is expected that Whisenhunt will be running more conventional two-back formations, so both fullbacks will get ample opportunities to succeed and make the roster.

My expectation is Watt will be the win the starting gig and Swain will be placed on the practice squad. We as Chargers fans know how often injuries happen. The practice squad is not a black hole, it’s an on-deck circle.

Good luck to both young men, and salute to you, Mr. Swain. You defend our Country so we can live out our dreams. Here’s to you getting to live out your dreams.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#Fullbackfanclub

This article is not (just) to remind you that Melvin Gordon is a rookie.  Even though most people are already passing judgment on him after only a few preseason appearances and one official NFL game.  Am I defending 14 carries for 51 yards? Never. But here’s my point: Stop blaming Melvin.

“Cool, so which offensive lineman should we hate? I had a feeling Orlando Franklin still had some Bronco in him!”… It’s not the O-Line’s fault either.  Point fingers at the inadequacy of the coaching staff.  

Check this out.

Since 2010 (the first season without LaDainian Tomlinson), the Chargers have only finished with a top-10 rushing statistic TWICE and they were both in the attempts category.  In 2010, they were 9th with 457 rushing attempts which was the first year sans LT. In 2013, they ranked 6th with 486 carries in McCoy’s first season.  The carries also did not translate to any success in the run game as San Diego finished 22nd (4.0) and 21st (4.0) in yards per carry in respective seasons.  

You could argue there was no talent in these post-LT years and I’d point to the fact that Ryan Mathews (2011), Mike Tolbert (2013), and Darren Sproles (2014) all went to Pro Bowls.  While only Mathews represented the Chargers in his Pro Bowl appearance, they all were awarded the honor by filling the same role they were known for in San Diego for their respective teams.  

Five years. Two different coaching staffs. Same results.  

I’d sum it up to the fact that the formula for running the football has not been found in San Diego.  Melvin Gordon is not good enough to change that himself, nobody but Barry Sanders is.  It will take a concerted effort by coaches and players alike for him to become a premier running attack.

I say all of that to get this point across:  Have patience.  

San Diego obviously knows how much better their run game needed to be with the way they built the offensive line this offseason and spent TWO draft picks on what should be a top-talent at running back in Gordon. It will not happen overnight, but I do have faith it will happen.

The bottom line is, cut the kid some slack. He’s going to be just fine.

You just #ReadTheBlitz

Jarvis Royall

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

 

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.

 

Verrett5

 

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

qb

 

Listen to all the draft coverage on any network and you will hear the same thing coming from a different mouth. The two best quarterbacks in the draft are Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon. All signs indicate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will select the man they see as the best quarterback, Winston, with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

As they have been throughout their team’s history, Tampa Bay will be wrong.

A fact that has recently emerged regarding Tampa Bay sheds a little light on that statement. In the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, they have never signed a quarterback they drafted to a second contract. Every quarterback the Bucs have ever drafted has washed away or drifted off to another team. As a result, the team has to reset the position with the frequency of a Presidential election, every four years at best.

Of the 32 men who have been quarterbacks for Tampa bay since their inception in 1976, only 5 have played four or more seasons in Buccaneer Orange. Their frugality in contract talks have cost them players who went on to greater success and Super Bowl rings with other teams. (Steve Young, Doug Williams, Joe Flacco). Now they’re primed in the top spot of the draft to choose the new face of their franchise at the quarterback position.

The best quarterback is not Jameis Winston. Not by a long shot.

The measurables for Winston look great. He has a NFL build. He played in a pro-style offense at Florida State that everyone sees as the dividing line between him and the man who really is the best quarterback available, Marcus Mariota. Winston is a proven winner who won the Heisman Trophy his freshman year. Despite putting up better numbers than Winston, Mariota didn’t win the Heisman until last season, his junior season.

There are few positive metrics that Mariota does not beat Winston. Last season, Mariota was better than Winston in completion percentage, passing yards, rushing yards, passing and rushing touchdowns, yards per completion and quarterback rating while leading the fourth highest scoring offense at Oregon to the tune of 45 points per game. Winston led Mariota in one category, interceptions, with 18 to Mariota’s 4. He completed one pass more than Mariota (305 to 304) but it took 22 more attempts to do so.

To the eye, Winston looks much bigger than Mariota. In reality they’re practically the same. Both players stand 6’4. Winston (225-230) outweighs Mariota (215-220) by 10-15 pounds depending on how much indulging on crab legs he’s been doing lately. Winston does carry a spare tire around his midsection where Mariota has a more slender, athletic frame. Both men have rifle arms and show great pocket presence and escapabilty. Mariota gets the nod in the speed department after posting a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

The single knock on Mariota is the system he played in. In Oregon, he was the maestro of the spread offense. He operated out of the shotgun and Oregon ran a play an average of every 20 seconds. Pro pundits debate whether that system of play will translate to the NFL. That stands as the only reason Winston is considered a can’t-miss NFL prospect while Mariota is seen as a project. The Oregon QB hasn’t ran a play from the under center since high school.

Any quarterbacks coach should be salivating over the possibility of having a prodigy such as Mariota to mentor. A three, five or seven step drop is not rocket science to teach. As Mariota gets comfortable operating under center he’s going to get better with each season as the drops become second nature. Look at his tape and Mariota goes through his progressions quickly, not just deferring to his first read as many have said. He has an above average release time and is adept at reading defenses.

Winston comes with a lot of red flags. All of his misadventures at FSU are well documented and it should force a GM to reconsider using the highest draft pick on one with such a questionable moral code. The quarterback is the leader of the football team, the face of his university. It could be argued that Winston has damaged the reputation of Florida State as much as he has enhanced it. Mariota has no such character issues.

Immaturity does (or should) play a role in the decision making process. If Winston makes such bad decisions when he’s a poor college student, what is he going to do with his free time with millions of dollars in the bank? How will he behave when the gold-digging groupies of the NFL come after him? What are the odds Winston will be able to keep his nose clean his entire pro career, help his team win games and be the first person the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have ever signed to a second contract? Things can always change but I wouldn’t bet he will.

Both quarterbacks are the top of their class. Mariota has unlimited upside while Winston enters the league at the height of his powers. This is shaping up to be the millenium edition of the Manning/Leaf debate. In my view, Mariota is trending to be the next Steve Young or Cam Newton (another spread quarterback) while Winston looks like the next Byron Leftwich or Jamarcus Russell. (All the raw, physical tools in the world but lacking the self-discipline to put it all together).  A quarterbacks’ most important weapon is his brain and I trust Mariota to be the film room junkie, first one in, last one out of the facility type of athlete that becomes a Hall-Of-Famer. Four years from now we’ll all look back and wonder how it was even a question.

Sorry Tampa, you got it wrong. As usual.

draft

 

There are less than three days remaining until the offseason day we’ve all been waiting for aside from the start of free agency. The NFL Draft will commence with the Tampa Bay on the clock and a whirlwind of speculation surrounding our beloved San Diego Chargers. I will be there in person to see the events unfold and write of it in the days thereafter. After ingesting all the rumors and speculation of the last couple months, I have a feel for the way things go and I am brave (or stupid) enough to put them in print. Without further adieu. here are my top ten fearless predictions.

1. Philip Rivers will NOT be traded. Chargers GM Tom Telesco knows how valuable a commodity he has in Rivers and he’s simply not for sale. Not for Mariota. Not for Winston. Not for a handful of magic beans. No trade. No way. No how.

2. Adrian Peterson WILL be traded. To my chagrin, I have come to the realization that he will not be traded to the Chargers as dearly as I want that to happen. The Vikings know there is no chance in hell Peterson will ever suit up in the Purple and Gold ever again so on draft day he will be gone to the highest bidder. I will stand by my projection that the best they will get is a third round pick and maybe a late round throw in but their first round asking price will not happen.

3. Marcus Mariota will be the second pick in the draft but he will not play for Tennessee, who own the second pick. Not coincidentally, it leads to my next prediction…

4. Marcus Mariota and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly will be reunited in Philadelphia. All the talk of a Mariota-for-Rivers deal has to make the Eagles happy because they have been largely forgotten in the equation. This will turn out exactly the way we expected it to at the end of the National Championship game. Chip Kelly wants Mariota to run his offense the same way he did at Oregon. Kelly knows there is no one better to run his offense than Mariota. Kelly will get Mariota.

5. To get Mariota, Kelly will trade off his offseason acquisitions. We all thought Kelly traded off his best pieces if he wanted to trade up to get Mariota. The Eagles sent former rushing champion LeSean McCoy packing. They traded away a strong quarterback in Nick Foles. What they did was overload their skill positions in order to make a deal the Titans would want. Let’s examine the facts. They now have DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles as running backs. They now have Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and Tim freaking Tebow in their five quarterback stable. Kelly is going to give the Titans the quarterback and running back of their choice AND their first rounder to get the Titans spot and claim Mariota. Book it.

6. Eight household name players will change addresses during the draft. Expect at least five veterans to get traded on day one and more on day two as Peterson comes into play. Chip Kelly will be responsible for three of those names alone. More will come.

7. The Chargers first round pick will be a running back. Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon will be the man depending on who’s available.  Florida State center Cameron Erving will be the selection (as I indicated in my recent mock draft) if both are gone. Offense will be the order of the day in the first round. Telesco has not addressed the running back issue at all in the offseason and contrary to what has been said, don’t expect him to stand pat with Donald Brown, Branden Oliver and  Danny Woodhead. A top two running back will be drafted.

8. Only two quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round but three will be traded. Among those names, expect Robert Griffin III to be one of them.

9. The bidding war for Adrian Peterson between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys will be won by….New England. The Patriots will give the Vikings their first, second and fifth round picks to secure Peterson as Belichick shows why he is still the smartest person in the room. Hear that sound? It’s Bill Belichick dropping the mic.

10. Telesco will go against formula and trade down on day two to recover the seventh round pick he dealt last year. He’s saving one other bombshell for day two that lands the Chargers the services of.. disgruntled Bears feature running back Matt Forte. You heard it here first. A big name veteran will end up with the Chargers by the end of the draft. Telesco has a plan and its going to jolt Bolt Nation.

There you have it. My expectations for the draft. There’s always a few surprises, a few head scratchers but it will always be entertaining. Look for me on Thursday wearing my powder blue lightning bolted jersey of the quarterback who won’t be traded.

 

 

Bolt Up!!

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

#TelescoMagic

Crying Chargers Fan

 

The San Diego Chargers find themselves between a rock and a hard place. With the words of franchise quarterback Philip Rivers ringing in their ears, they know they have a choice to make.

To paraphrase, Rivers said he’s going to play out his contract, which concludes at the end of the upcoming season, and what happens next happens. He has no interest in playing in Los Angeles and he’s simply going to focus on this season. His decision to play any further for the Chargers rests on what happens with the stadium issue and relocation to Los Angeles.

What’s a front office to do?

The rumor mill has been abuzz with talk of the Chargers possibly trading Rivers to Tennessee in exchange for the number two pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, affording them the ability to draft Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to be the new quarterback of the Chargers. Other rumors are circulating about Rivers being dealt other places and for any combination of picks and players but that’s all they are, rumors.

Would the Chargers front office really trade Philip Rivers?

We all know football is a business before all things. No player is untouchable. Anyone can and has been traded. All-time legends of the game like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, Ronnie Lott, Deion Sanders, Brett Favre and countless others all saw phenomenal careers end in a jersey other than the one they were drafted in. The Chargers are well within their rights to do their due diligence in searching out options in case Rivers decides to leave if the Chargers relocate.

Obtaining Mariota with the second pick and then a game changing running back like Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley with the 17th pick has to look attractive on many levels. It’s a hyper speed rebuild with the intent of keeping up with the Joneses (Denver) at the same time. The Chargers would be taking two of the most dominant players at their position in college football over the last four years, rolling the dice and hoping to come up roses.

Here’s the problem. They’re still rookies. It’s still too much to ask them to take on such a huge task and expect immediate results. Quarterback and running back are arguably the two most difficult positions to come in and be the day one starter. There will be growing pains. There will be flashes of brilliance some days and startling ineptitude in others until they adjust to the game at the NFL level and some gifted players coming out of college never do. Ask Johnny Manziel how easy it is to go from being a big shot quarterback in college to playing against NFL defenses.

That is the very reason San Diego should not entertain the thought of trading Philip Rivers.

Rivers is the face of the franchise. He is the Captain, the undisputed leader of the team. As he goes, the Chargers go. No team feeds off their quarterback more than San Diego. Rivers has been the consummate team player. Seemingly every offseason the Chargers revise his contract to free cap space to sign players and he does so without complaint. He’s the first man in the facility and the last to leave. Rivers is the player every man in the locker room, rookie or veteran, can look up to and draw inspiration from. Philip Rivers is the heartbeat and the soul of the Chargers and the San Diego fan base.

In the San Diego county, Rivers has made himself at home and become a pillar of the community. He is a role model. Never do you hear of him getting into trouble at the club, getting arrested, bashing media or rival players in social media or falling prey to any other trapping of success afforded to a multi-millionaire athlete. Rivers began a humble son-of-a-coach and has stayed that way. He comes with a blue collar mentality. A true grinder in every sense of the word, he shows up with the traditional lunch pail and hard hat in hand, leaves it all on the field and quietly goes home to his family at the end of the day.

If only more players would follow his example….

I feel a strong connection to Rivers on a number of levels. Being born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina I literally grew up on the N.C. State campus. I saw all of Rivers games at NCSU. There hadn’t been a successful quarterback out of N.C. State since Roman Gabriel back in the 60’s. Logically, Rivers became my favorite player and I was elated when the Chargers fleeced the New York Giants in the Eli Manning fiasco to bring Rivers to my favorite pro football team in 2004.

Few players are more fun to watch than Rivers. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He feels the way we feel sitting in the stands watching the action unfold before us. We live through him. Ironically, I have to admit, Marcus Mariota is my favorite college player since Rivers. Mariota shows the same poise, accuracy, score at any moment capability Rivers did in college. All eyes stay on him and he does not shy away from the big stage. Mariota is going to be an amazing pro and the Chargers have every right to wine and dine him and work him out. That being said, I don’t want Mariota if the cost is Philip Rivers.

It is alarming the Chargers haven’t made significant strides to assure the fan base that Rivers isn’t going anywhere. Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. GM Tom Telesco has said he wants to do everything to make sure Rivers retires a Charger. We’re all wise to front office speak by now and what happens at the draft will speak volumes.

I will be attending the draft in person with my Rivers jersey on as it is every year on day one. A nightmare scenario will be hearing that the front office pulled the trigger and sent Rivers to Nashville. Soul crushing would be the phrase that comes to mind. I grew up a Chargers fan. I bleed Navy and Gold. I thought nothing would ever change my allegiance to the one team I hold on a pedestal above all others regardless of sport.

However, I find my faith has been shaken. I’ve honestly had to sit down and reevaluate my allegiance to the Chargers if a trade were to happen.

One man is not bigger than the team but Philip Rivers is the embodiment of the San Diego Chargers. A move like this would make me question the decision making of the front office. Franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. Ask the Browns, Jets, Cardinals, Rams, Titans, Raiders how hard it is to find a quarterback you can rely on day in day out, year in year out. Once you get out of the top ten quarterbacks in the league every team remaining would give anything to have a signal caller as great as Rivers.

To trade Rivers means they have given up all hope on keeping him even if they have signed and sealed documents confirming a move to L. A. sitting on their desk. It means they’re not willing to exhaust all avenues to convince him to stay. I know a lot of this rests on Rivers shoulders also, he is not without blame in this. Philip has painted the Chargers front office into quite a corner. However, aside from Rivers himself coming out and telling the world through TV, newspaper or radio that he is asking to be traded will I be able to forgive the Chargers brass for letting him go.

What are the Lakers without Kobe? Nothing. What would the 90’s Chicago Bulls have been without Michael Jordan? Nothing. What are the Patriots without Tom Brady? Nothing. What are the Chargers without Philip Rivers?…

Would YOU remain a Chargers fan if Rivers gets traded Thursday?

After long thought on the matter I arrived at this conclusion: I have been a Chargers fan since day one and that was three and a half decades ago. The Chargers are part of who I am. I have seen them all come and go both ceremoniously and unceremoniously. I have seen good, bad and inbetween. Without the Chargers I am a man without a country sports-wise. There’s no NBA team, no baseball team, no college team aside from my Alma Mater, N.C. State, that I root for nearly as feverishly. Leaving my Chargers would be like losing a family member.

I’ve been in the trenches with this team too long. I’m past the point of no return with this team. I want my casket to be in Chargers colors and the date(s) we win the Super Bowl to be inscribed upon it. Love won’t allow me to leave but I understand more practical, less emotionally invested fans leaving the Chargers ranks over a move like this. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that.

 

Bolt up!!

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

 

#TelescoMagic

 

It’s that time of year in the NFL again. After the free agency frenzy dies every talking head in the industry gives birth to a mock draft in hopes of getting a few picks right. The reward for achieving such a task is getting to label themselves a ‘genuis’, ‘guru’, ‘svengali’ or other related overexaggeration. Getting a few no-brainers right makes one no more of a draft expert than picking the right Powerball numbers makes one a Numerologist. In the end, let’s call it what it is, guessing.

Not to be outdone, The Greg One is throwing his hat in the mock draft pool. The Chargers have a lot of holes to fill and GM Tom Telesco has shown himself very adept at filling those holes in the draft. This year will be no different. Below is my perfect Chargers mock draft. This isn’t my crystal ball of what the Chargers will do on draft day but what would happen if I were General Manager of the Chargers on draft day. Most of you will probably be glad i’m not by the end of this but it will make for a fun read and you can tell me how insane I am in the comments. Enjoy.

 

Round One

erving

Cameron Erving, Center, Florida State

No position was hit harder last season than center. The Chargers played five centers last season, a major factor contributing to the overall instability of the offensive line. Rivers was hit more last season (37 sacks allowed, 75 QB hits) than the season before (30 sacks, 60 hits), causing multiple injuries. If the Chargers are going to maximize the remaining years on Rivers odometer (and they will, don’t listen to the Mariota hype) they need a legitimate starter now and for the future. Erving is a 6’6, 315 lb. giant that has all the tools to be the rock the team needs in the middle of the line. He is the best center in the draft and made all the line calls for the Seminoles last season as they contended in the inaugural BCS playoffs. As long as he can stay healthy, Erving has ten-year veteran and Pro Bowl written all over him. A talent like this won’t last into the second round so the Chargers need to pounce.

Round Two

phillips

Jordan Phillips, Defensive Tackle, Oklahoma

The defensive tackle position is another area that hasn’t been addressed during free agency and while the players they have there are serviceable at best, they need a player that will solidify the nose tackle position the way Erving will on the other side of the ball. Phillips is a 6’5, 330 lb. space eater with massive upside. A reason he falls into the second round is the back surgery he had in 2013. Lauded for his athleticism, Phillips showed no decline in skill coming off that back surgery last season and would be a steal for the Chargers in the second round.

 

Round Three

AP

Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings

Ladies and gentleman we have ourselves a trade! The Chargers trade their third round pick to the Vikings for the rights to Adrian Peterson. This move shows the Chargers are committed to winning now, especially with the stadium movement underway. The Chargers need a name that will create a buzz in the community and Peterson is the name that can do it.  With the picks the Chargers are using to solidify the lines, this will make the Chargers not only a playoff contender but a Super Bowl favorite. This works on a number of different levels.

1. Want to convince Philip Rivers to stay with the team even if disaster happens and they move to Los Angeles? Here’s AP to get you a Super Bowl ring. They sure won’t be contending for one in Tennessee any time soon.

2. Peterson gives the Chargers a legitimate three down back that forces defenses to commit eight men in the box. In turn, the Chargers tight ends, receivers, Woodhead and Oliver will all have favorable one-on-one matchups and the Chargers will ring up points at a rate they haven’t since the prime years of Ladainian Tomlinson.

3. After essentially having the year off last season, Peterson is going to come back healthy, angry and hungrier than ever. The Chargers can still draft a back to groom for when Peterson retires but i’d expect no less than three more productive years out of the All-Pro.

4. The Chargers are on Peterson’s short list of teams he wants to be traded to. He will allow Telesco to craft a deal that makes it possible to sign him without hamstringing the budget.

5. It’s a third round pick! Even for a proven commodity the Vikings are not going to get much better than a middle round pick in exchange for his services. Third round would actually be overpaying. The last time a player over 30 drew a high draft pick in exchange for his services was when the Oakland Raiders gave the Cincinnati Bengals their first round pick in 2012 and second round pick in 2013 for Carson Palmer.  We all know the Raiders are the last team to be used as a measuring stick in the front office. Third round is going to be more than the Vikings will get from another team and it solves the void left behind by the departure of Ryan Mathews.

Round Four

Ifo

 

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon

This player will be a steal reminiscent of the Chargers getting Keenan Allen two drafts ago. Like Allen, Ekpre-Olomu is a first round talent who’s stock has plummeted because of injury. In the weeks leading up to the inaugural NCAA playoffs he suffered a serious knee injury and missed both of Oregon’s games.  That injury, while healing ahead of schedule according to reports, will cause him to miss rookie camp, training camp and possibly some of the season. That alone will scare teams away and drop Ekore-Olomu into the middle rounds.

He is however, a ball hawk of the highest order. Although undersized at a hair under 5’10, he is a very physical corner with great instincts. An All Pac-12 selection for the past three seasons, Ekpre-Olomu finished his Oregon career with 18 takeaways (nine interceptions, eight forced fumbles, one fumble recovery) and was adept playing in press man or off coverage. He is solid against the run and the type of value pick Telesco covets. However, the GM may have to trade up in the round to get ahead of Ekpre-Olomu’s college coach, Chip Kelly and the Eagles, who pick four selections before.

 

Round Five

Mannion

 

Sean Mannion, Quarterback, Oregon State

With all the talk surrounding Rivers and his contract situation, it is time to seriously address the quarterback of the future instead of just finding a clipboard holder.  Sean Mannion is one of the top five quarterback prospects in this draft class and has the potential to be very successful at the next level. Mannion is similar to Rivers in stature, standing at 6’5, 220 lbs.  Among his other advantages is that he comes from a traditional pro-style offense at Oregon State, has above average grade in accuracy and a cannon for an arm.

The knocks on Mannion are his ball security (30 funbles and 54 interceptions in his four years at OSU), his immobility and handling pressure. A year or two sitting behind a franchise quarterback like Rivers will leave the Chargers well prepared moving forward after Rivers retires the same way Rivers benefited from sitting behind Drew Brees for three seasons.

 

Round Six

crowder

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Duke

Crowder was the speed burning ace of Duke’s receiving corps during his four years in blue. He will be another candidate to fill the slot receiver void opened by the departure of Eddie Royal. In his last three seasons, Crowder topped 1000 yards receiving and at least 76 receptions. Jamison is a threat to go the distance on special teams as well as he had four punt return touchdowns over his last two seasons.

The  knock on Crowder will be his size. Standing at 5’9, 185 lbs., GM’s will wonder if he has the ability to withstand the rigors of playing in the NFL with his slight frame. This isn’t stopping teams from working him out as New England, Cincinnati and Houston are among the latest teams to bring him on for private workouts.

 

So there you have my mock draft. I’ve addressed the present and the future, strengthened the offensive and defensive lines, secondary and brought in a legend to get Rivers a ring now. You can feel free to tell me how awful I am below. I’m looking forward to attending the draft in two weeks to find out what the Chargers do in real time. In the meantime, it’s fun to speculate. What do you think? Good, bad or indifferent?

 

Bolt Up!!

 

 

 

The Greg One

 

 

 

#TelescoMagic

TGC-McCoy-and-Telesco

 

 

Even though the 2015 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, college prospects are still very busy visiting numerous clubs around the league.

There are many reasons as to why players visit NFL teams. Some team’s motives are intended to be a distraction, but others are exactly what many would assume they would be for – to visit a team that plans to select them in the draft.

So far, the Chargers have had eight pre-draft visits; including projected first rounder, Marcus Mariota from Oregon. Pump the breaks, though. What exactly does that mean to Bolt fans? Nothing.

Pre-draft visits are overrated, and here’s why.

 

A missed opportunity at the scouting combine

The NFL combine was established for college football players to perform various tests in front of league coaches, general managers and scouts. During the event, staffs attempt to preview every player on their radar. Yet, they don’t have the opportunity to run them through team-specific drills, ones that fit their team’s scheme. That being said, teams will have their players of interest visit before the draft, in order to gain a better understanding of each player on a one-on-one basis.

 

Post-draft planning

It is well-known that all college players do not get drafted. In fact, out of roughly 3,500 men, only about 250 are drafted. For the remaining players, they start their search for a job. However, there are players who are picked up right away as rookie free agents; ones that had previously conducted a pre-draft visit with that same team. For example, defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe had a pre-draft visit in 2014. That year, he went undrafted and was swiftly picked up and signed by San Diego. Pre-draft visits are not solely scheduled for individuals that NFL teams plan on being drafted.

 

Decoys

The NFL is a business, and those in back office operations have to continuously play a game of poker. It’s almost like wearing sunglasses at a poker table. There are some general managers that do not want many people knowing who they plan to draft.  So they schedule pre-draft visits with players that they truly have no interest in. Sneaky? Absolutely. And it is far more common than the casual fan would think.

 

Behind the scenes communication

Just because a player hasn’t visited a team for a private session, doesn’t mean that the club hasn’t been in contact with him. With advanced technology, communicating is now the easiest it’s ever been. Voice calling, text messaging, even Skyping are all ways coaches can converse with their college prospects. If you’re worried that your favorite draftees haven’t visited the Bolts yet, then you may want to reconsider the conditions.

 

Teammate insight

Since a lot players that are drafted come from the same schools, it’s possible that a team will host a player just to obtain information on one of his teammates. The Bolts brought in offensive tackle D.J. Humphries of Florida, yet he is also the teammate of outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., who had an impressive showing at this year’s combine. Even with San Diego needing a legitimate tackle to solidify the offensive line, they do have some gaps to fill at the linebacker position. It’s very possible that Fowlers’ name came up a few times during Humphries’ visit. That’s not to say this was the case, but it is surely a possibility.

 

Overall, pre-draft visits do not always indicate what they imply. College players are visiting as many teams as they can before draft day. Additionally, one should not get worked up about Mariota working out with Philip Rivers in America’s finest city. All rumors aside, teams already have a good indication of whom they would like to take with their picks this year, and these pre-draft visits are just the cherry on top.

 

Briana Soltis
(@BrianaSoltis)

635568731752943181-AP-Cincinnati-Miami-Football

 

 

It’s no secret that the Chargers offensive line still needs some work. Arguably, the 2014 season may have had better days with a healthy, yet talented line. In order for the team to see the playoffs in 2015, Tom Telesco needs to address the offensive line first and foremost.

With less than five weeks until the 2015 NFL Draft, fans are becoming increasingly more vocal as to who their favorite team should draft in the first round. For the Bolts, the first round pick should be reserved for offensive tackle like Ereck Flowers.

 

Measurables*:

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 329 lbs

40-yard dash: 5.31 sec

*Combine Results

 

Analysis:

What’s not to like about this guy? First off, he is huge. Standing at 6-foot-6, his height alone fits the mold of what San Diego needs to block for Philip Rivers. His 40-yard time wasn’t the best at this year’s Combine, but it definitely wasn’t the worst. He has broad shoulders and a low stance which adds to his run blocking talent.

He has quick feet and the ability to scramble if beaten. The speed he possesses off the line allows him to power and drive through blockers. Additionally, he has played both tackle positions. The diversity and ability to play more than one position is what Telesco seems to be looking for in players lately.

Flowers’ run blocking is exceptional, however his pass blocking needs work. He has the talent and quickness to be a high performing tackle in the NFL, yet has some balance issues. He tends to get beaten by smaller defensive ends due to poor stance and balance.

Summary:

With his huge frame and competitiveness, there’s no reason why Flowers can’t become a starter in the league. Some of his downfalls can easily be improved upon by some advanced coaching. When it comes down to it, the Chargers still have some gaps to fill on the offensive line. If the Bolts draft Ereck Flowers, the line will finally look like a contending unit.

 

 

 

Briana Soltis
(@BrianaSoltis)

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