Well, this time it wasn’t an offensive player that left a Chargers’ game with an injury.
It was their defensive signal-caller and captain, Manti Te’o.
In what is appearing to be an extremely freakish beginning to their 2016 campaign, the Bolts have suffered significant season-ending injuries to three of their starters in each of the first three games.
Keenan Allen – ACL tear to his right knee.
Danny Woodhead – ACL tear to his right knee.
Add Manti Te’o to the list, though it was his Achilles’ that gave out, not his ACL.
Even more disconcerting is that each man sustained his injury in a non-contact scenario. We’ll discuss that in another article soon.
Te’o left the game early in the first quarter of the game in Indianapolis with an immediate announcement that he was done for the day. Who was going to be “next man up” this time?
Enter rookie Jatavis Brown, a product from the University of Akron and a fifth-round pick by the Bolts in this year’s NFL draft.
While the former Zips’ linebacker was chosen for a number of reasons, his 4.47-second 40-yard dash was a primary one. His versatility and athleticism only add to his ability. Additionally, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), he was only called twice for penalties (1,629 snaps) over the last two years. PFF also stated that in 2015 when utilized as a blitzer, Brown had 15 sacks, 12 hits, and 22 hurries in 144 pass-rushing snaps. I have to say – just WOW! This from a guy who some considered to be on the small side at 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds. Looks to me like he can hold his own for sure!
Prior to his entering the game on Sunday, the only sighting of Brown was in the preseason game versus San Francisco. He started that game and made five tackles — three of which were solo stops. Since then, he has participated in all three regular season games, racking up 15 tackles (10 solo), four PDs (passes defensed) and collecting a sack and a forced fumble.
His Sunday stats were six tackles with two tackles for loss, defending two passes and adding a sack. His strip-sack of Andrew Luck should be part of a highlight reel, as it was scooped up by the recently signed Caraun Reid and run in for the score.
One of the bright spots of the afternoon in Indianapolis.
So, just who is this guy Jatavis Brown? The answer: he is a player that many scouts, teams and the like knocked due to his size, though his playmaking ability spoke for itself. It was thought that if he couldn’t perform at this level as a linebacker that he could be a hybrid-safety type defender.
In his four years at Akron, he amassed 340 tackles (193 solo), three forced fumbles, two passes defensed and an interception. The 40.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks were not only team-bests but also led the MAC while his total tackles gave him 7th best.
NFL Draft Scout had him ranked #13 out of 203 OLBs. Brown was not only chosen the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, he was also named to the All-MAC Conference 1st-team three consecutive years.
This is the rookie that after the draft Telesco told Chargers.com writer Ricky Henne, “This is the one guy in our draft room that if we didn’t draft, I think there would have been a revolt amongst everyone else in the room…There are certain guys sometimes that have a trigger for everybody. (Brown) was a guy who everybody wanted on our football team. He’s actually the one guy that (we got) so many different texts from across the league (about) saying ‘Great pick!’ ‘Good pick!’ Those are kind of fun text messages to get during the draft.”
Brown told Henne shortly after the draft, “I do think I’m flying under the radar, but I’ve been flying under the radar my whole life,” he said. “I guess that’s just me. I like to prove people wrong, and that’s how I (operate). I don’t like the spotlight. I’m a laid back, chill guy. So this fits me just fine. I like to do all the dirty work, do what I’m supposed to do and I don’t worry about getting the publicity.”
Well, Jatavis Brown…publicity or no, here is your opportunity to take the bull by the horns and show those detractors just who you are. You had a great start in an unfortunate situation, but it’s always “next man up” in the pros.
Yeah, my money is on this young man to get the job done. I’m looking forward to seeing him blitz Brees and blow up a few plays this Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm.
Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts.
Roger Staubach once said, “In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.”
General Manager Tom Telesco drafted rookies and signed veterans in free agency who have ties to each other. If he did not do this on purpose, then he got very lucky. Players who already have chemistry might be the best thing Telesco has done in the offseason.
The Chargers drafted Joey Bosa of Ohio State with the 3rd overall pick of the draft. As the NFL world was discussing this shocking pick, the Chargers drafted Joshua Perry with the 102nd overall pick. Perry, a 6-foot-4, 254-pound linebacker, was also a Buckeye. Bosa and Perry already have chemistry from playing defense together at Ohio State. This should help them both transition into the Chargers’ defense.
During free agency, the Chargers signed wide receiver Travis Benjamin from the Cleveland Browns. With the 175th overall pick, the Chargers drafted OLB Jatavis Brown from Akron. This pick will not only boost the Chargers’ defense, but also reunite childhood neighbors. Although Benjamin is four years older than Brown, they knew each other because they lived only two houses away from each other in Belle Glade, Florida. Not surprisingly, Brown looked up to Benjamin and he became his idol. Benjamin, in turn, had followed Brown’s high school and college career, becoming one of his biggest cheerleaders. The 2016 Chargers’ offseason brought these two together to play on the same team and they couldn’t be happier about it. This is chemistry that is rarely found in the NFL.
Last year, the Chargers shocked the fans by letting kicker Nick Novak go, replacing him with undrafted rookie Josh Lambo from Texas A&M. This year, the Chargers shook up the special teams again with the release of punter Mike Scifres.
Scifres will go down as the best punter in Chargers’ history! The replacement for Scifres, Drew Kaser, was drafted with the 179th overall pick. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound punter also played for Texas A&M. Kaser will have big shoes to fill, much like Lambo did last year. Lambo, already having a relationship with Kaser, will be able to help him get acclimated to the NFL during his rookie year, as Lambo can share his experience being the new guy replacing the “really good old” guy!
Last year’s first-round pick, Melvin Gordon, had a less than stellar rookie year. Gordon never reached the endzone and was benched a couple of times after multiple fumbles. Many would argue that Gordon would play better during his rookie campaign, and much like he did in college, with the addition of a fullback. Not only did the Chargers draft a fullback, but they drafted Gordon’s fullback from the University of Wisconsin. With the 198th overall selection, the Bolts selected 6-foot-2, 236-pound fullback Derek Watt. This will be the best pick regarding “chemistry” of the 2016 draft. Watt, although a rookie, will bring motivation to Gordon, who is probably still feeling defeated following the 2015 season. Gordon is a workhorse and will do whatever it takes to have a better season. Having Watt as his fullback will lessen some of the load. This fullback-running-back combo is one to watch this season.
Staubach was right about consistency and chemistry being the ingredients to building a great team. Consistency, though, is the key to achieving that chemistry on a team.
The Chargers have added some new unique chemistry via free agency and the draft. The football gods just need to show the Bolts some mercy and allow the team to have a season without the plethora of constant injuries.
Telesco is a smart man. These ties to other players do not seem to be a coincidence. He definitely thought about the impact of having players that already have some chemistry to help individual transition into the NFL.
Let’s hope this science experience, of sorts, helps turn around the 2015 4-12 team in the 2016 season.