The San Diego Chargers’ secondary has been tested early and often through the first five games of the season. Though their 2-3 record suggests otherwise, the banged-up unit led by Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett has fared extremely well against the NFL’s top receiving talent.
The Chargers began the season at home against the Detroit Lions and their All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson finished third in the NFL in receiving in 2013 and fell out of the top ten in 2014 despite recording over 1,077 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. San Diego allowed Johnson one catch on the first drive of the game and one catch on the last drive of the game. At the end of the day:
Calvin Johnson: 2 catches for 39 yards.
The very next week, the Chargers traveled to Cincinnati to face the Bengals and their All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green. Green is currently fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 495, adding three touchdowns. He did have a touchdown reception on a perfectly thrown ball in the back of the end zone. Aside from that score, Green only touched the ball three other times. At the end of the day:
A.J. Green: 4 catches for 45 yards and one touchdown.
In Week 5 before a prime-time audience on Monday Night Football, San Diego welcomed Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The All-Pro Brown finished 2014 as the number one receiver in the NFL with over 1,600 yards, and is third in the league this season with 523 receiving yards after five games. In the prime-time tilt, Brown was held to three receptions for a paltry 45 yards. At the end of the day:
Antonio Brown: 3 catches for 45 yards.
This is a great sign for a team that is once again beset by injuries in the secondary and the offensive line. Both Flowers and Verrett have missed critical game action. When they’re on the field, they have proven to be exceptional at shadowing the best wide receivers the game has to offer.
At the present time, San Diego owns the ninth-ranked passing defense in the league at 218 yards passing allowed per contest. Through three weeks, Green had been allowed the most catches with four and Bengals wideout Marvin Jones had the most receiving yards with 48. In the Week 4 overtime thriller against Cleveland, the Chargers allowed six passes for 79 yards to the Browns best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin.
In the soul-crushing Monday Night Chargers loss, Steelers’ wideout Marcus Wheaton caught only one pass. Wheaton shook off Flowers with a double move that resulted in a 72-yard touchdown. No Steelers’ wide receiver caught any more than three balls. At the end of the day:
Most yards allowed to a wide receiver: 79
Most catches allowed to a wide receiver: 6
Most receiving yards allowed regardless of position: 85 (RB Duke Johnson, Cleveland)
No player has had a 100-yard receiving day against San Diego.
Only one quarterback, Cleveland’s Josh McCown, has thrown for over 300 yards against the Bolts.
The Chargers three losses can be attributed to many things. Injuries, turnovers, clock management and play calling can be named among the various reasons. A weak secondary is not one of those reasons. Dropped interceptions can definitely be added to the list. In the Pittsburgh game alone, three interceptions were dropped, two of which had a clear path to the end zone. Dropped picks were among a list of other missed opportunities that cost San Diego a win against Cincinnati as well.
This bodes well for a team that has more elite receivers on the horizon. San Diego will travel to Green Bay (Randall Cobb) in Week 6 and still has two games against Denver (Demaryius Thomas) remaining.
There is also a trio of rising stars the Chargers secondary will face with Jacksonville (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) and two games against Oakland (Amari Cooper). If the Bolts can continue to keep bottling the opposition’s best weapons, the Chargers will win more games and be in prime position to challenge for the AFC West title.
Keep in mind, the remainder of the schedule after the game against the Packers is very favorable for the Chargers.
It is not over yet, BoltFam.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Encouraged or discouraged?
Leave your thoughts in the remarks below.
The Greg One
Chargers fans may still be smarting from the last-second win (aided by horrific clock-keeping from the referees) in front of a Monday Night Football national broadcast AND a Qualcomm Stadium full of Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
Take heart, though.
There were a few positive actions that can be taken from that game.
While Antonio Gates reached his 100th touchdown, then again stealing all of the highlights on touchdown reception No. 101, a guy in the secondary deserves some recognition, too.
Jason Verrett, the Bolts first-round pick (#25, TCU) in 2014, was back at right corner Monday night after missing the Cleveland matchup with a sore foot. His assignment: covering Steelers’ wideout Antonio Brown for the evening.
Daunting prospect? Perhaps. Not for Verrett, though. The second-year pro did not disappoint. He and Brown are similarly matched in height (Verrett at 5-foot-9 versus Brown at 5-foot-10) and weight (181 versus 189). Both are fleet of foot with the sophomore DB getting the edge at 4.38 seconds over Brown’s 4.47 speed. Yet, the young corner blew up a couple of passes and had two solo tackles against Pittsburgh’s number one receiver. Those may be small numbers, however, the fact remains that the man inside the No. 22 jersey was a force to be reckoned with that evening. Brown was limited to three receptions for 45 yards on the night.
It is easy to see why Chargers general manager Tom Telesco chose Verrett. The former TCU Horned Frog has blazing speed, is explosive, feisty, and highly competitive. During his first year at TCU (2011; 10 starts/13 games) he tallied 58 tackles, four pass break-ups, an interception and 1.5 tackles for loss. In 2012, he led the Big-12 conference with six interceptions, five tackles for loss and a blocked field goal after undergoing surgery on his left knee in the spring of that same year. Despite suffering and playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder in 2013, he recorded 39 tackles (14 solo), a sack, and a forced fumble. Surgery for that injury occurred just after Pro Days in 2014; fortunately it did not affect his draft stock, as he was among the top-three choices for his position.
While the young player has just 10 games (8 starts) under his belt since joining San Diego in May, 2014, he has tallied 24 solo tackles and defended against six passes. He snagged his first interception versus the division rival Oakland Raiders. As many Bolts fans are aware, Verrett and his family spent many years rooting for the Raiders. On October 12, 2014, with family and friends in attendance, on top of tearing his left labrum earlier in the game, the then rookie jumped the route of receiver Brice Butler to haul in an errant Derek Carr pass, thus sealing a San Diego victory.
After spending the remainder of the ’14 season on IR because of his shoulder, Verrett came back and picked up right where he left off. Sure, there were a couple of inopportune penalties in the duel at Cincinnati, but he was facing A.J. Green that game for portions of that game. No excuses for penalties, though.
The fact remains that the signing of Jason Verrett signaled a change in the secondary. His presence on the field is evident in the fierceness with which he plays, his ability to go up against some of the best players in the current landscape of the NFL and is a huge bonus for San Diego’s fans to behold. A glimmer of light in some heart-breaking losses.
Thus far, I’m beyond glad that he is wearing lightning bolts.
Thanks for reading.
The excitement surrounding the secondary of the 2015 San Diego Chargers was palpable heading into the regular season. What they lack in size – as not one is taller than 5-feet-11 – they make up for in experience. Consider that the on-field leader for these men is eight-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle, a guy who is matched in intensity only by the Bolts’ offensive signal caller, Philip Rivers. There are only two other Pro Bowlers in this unit, Brandon Flowers and Darrell Stuckey. For a bunch of men who were primarily drafted in rounds one through four, they should be performing at a high level. At least that is how it shakes out on paper.
Chargers fans are quite obviously frustrated with the product appearing on the field these past four weeks. So, what seems to be the problem? Injuries have a role, but so do ridiculous penalties when the team has the opponent stopped and a chance to get the ball back into the hands of No. 17. What lengths do secondary coach Ron Milus and his assistant Greg Williams have to go to so that this bunch does what it is paid to do? With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town for a Monday Night game, and even if Ben Roethlisberger isn’t under center, this unit needs to be prepared.
Let’s review some of the issues through the first month of the season.
First and Foremost: Get healthy, stay healthy!
Of the four designated starters: free safety Eric Weddle, strong safety Jahleel Addae, left cornerback Brandon Flowers, and right cornerback Jason Verrett – only Weddle has started each game. Opposite him, Addae has been nursing a sore ankle since the Cincinnati game. Additionally, Flowers (knee/concussion) and Verrett (foot) have been in and out of the lineup. Milus has had his own merry-go-round to manage due to injury, shuffling corner/safety Jimmie Wilson as well as safety Adrian Phillips, plus corners Patrick Robinson and Steve Williams into the lineup. Rookie cornerback Craig Mager was finally on the field against the Minnesota Vikings only to be inactive last week with a bum hamstring. As of this writing (Friday) Addae, Verrett and Mager are still on the injury report though with limited participation in practice. Who suits up this week will be of utmost importance against the Steelers.
Although there have only been five penalties, the fact remains that they have come at inopportune times. Two by Verrett gave the Cincinnati Bengals a new set of downs TWICE; both were 15-yard personal foul infractions. In the game against the Minnesota Vikings, Williams was flagged for a costly pass interference (PI) which set up the Vikings at midfield rather than punting. Against the Cleveland Browns last week, Williams was called for illegal use of hands. And in the same matchup, Flowers was nailed for a PI which fortunately only cost six yards. Five penalties in four games by just the secondary is not conducive to winning. This area needs to be addressed.
Tackling by the numbers
As per usual, Weddle leads the posse with 38 combined tackles (29 solos), plus half a sack. Addae has managed four solo tackles in two games. Flowers has collected eight solo tackles (10 total), while Verrett has been credited with six overall (4 solo). The back-ups (Wilson, Robinson, Phillips and Williams) collectively have 42 tackles, a forced fumble (Robinson) and two picks (Robinson versus Detroit and Williams at Minnesota). In 2014, the secondary was responsible for six interceptions on the year. Is having two thus far a good measuring stick for Milus’ men? Time will tell.
Despite the secondary undergoing a bit of upheaval early in the season courtesy of the injury bugaboo, Milus and Williams seem to have their group on the right path. However, they will need to step it up and play smart. Meaning, no getting beat, no dumb penalties, no blown coverages. Monday’s AFC divisional face-off with Pittsburgh will be a turning point as the Bolts’ secondary will need to play it tight – keep Antonio Brown and company in check.
Here’s to execution being stellar this week!
Thanks for reading!
Former Bills and 49ers wide receiver Stevie Johnson chose to sign with the Chargers on Tuesday for three years and about $10.5 million. That fills a much-needed veteran receiver spot after Eddie Royal signed with the Bears. So, are they done? Do the Bolts need to draft a receiver? Yes, they still need to draft a receiver.
Receivers currently on the active roster: Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and Dontrelle Inman.
Allen is the youngest at 22, and the one with the most upside. The second youngest is Inman. He played a total of two games last season and did fine, but seems to have little upside. Johnson, 28, has seen his production fall off since his last season in Buffalo (2013). Floyd and Jones are 33 and 30, respectively. M-80 is two seasons removed from what could have been a career-ending neck injury. In 2014, he played a 16-game season for the second time in his career. Jacoby seems to be more of a deep threat receiver than an every down receiver. So, with that being said, the depth on this team in the receiving corps is still thin.
Some receivers to watch for in this upcoming draft:
This year’s NFL draft is loaded with wide receivers. This is a perfect opportunity for the Bolts to draft one. Here’s a few that could be there for San Diego at pick #17:
DeVante Parker: Senior from Louisville 6’3″, 209 pounds.
He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 36 1/2 inches. His last season at Louisville he had 43 catches for 855 yards and five touchdowns. He leaves Louisville with 2,775 career receiving yards and 33 career touchdown catches, ranking him in the top-five in Louisville football history in those categories. Every time I watched him, he looked a lot like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He could come in right away and help out.
Jaelen Strong: Junior from Arizona State 6’2″, 217 pounds.
He ran a 4.4 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 42 inches. His last season at Arizona State he had 82 catches for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is a very good jump-ball receiver who is a crisp route runner. His hands are the best part about him. He has hands similar to those of Odell Beckham Jr, as in the ball sticks to him. He could have an impact day one.
Dorial Green-Beckham: 6’5″, 237 pounds.
He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 33 1/2. He transferred from Missouri to Oklahoma and was suspended for the 2014 season. But in the final season he played, he had 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has a big catching radius and quarterbacks can just throw the ball up to him, something Philip Rivers loves to do. He has been compared to Julio Jones, in terms of talent. His off-the-field trouble has him ranked as the fifth best receiver by many in this draft class. If it wasn’t for the off-the-field troubles, he could very well be battling Amari Cooper and Kevin White for the number one ranked receiver in the class.
The Chargers should take a look at all three of these options at #17 for receiver help. If this is the way general manager Tom Telesco wants to go, he will add an immediate starter and a future number one receiver to go along with Keenan Allen. What do you guys think? Who do you like in the draft? Let me know below!
More often than not, the will of a person to achieve success comes from their inner desire to be the best. By nature people want to win, to be the first to do…anything. Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd showed everyone their will and crushed all the doubters with their performances last season. Keenan Allen, many of whom labeled him to be the Chargers number one receiver, did not have the type of season most thought he would have. Is he able to be the frontman of the Bolts receiving core or are the Chargers in dire need to bring in a receiver who would be the clear-cut number one guy? Perhaps the more realistic explanation for Allen’s shortcomings, was primarily due to his inability to get separation in the milliseconds that Philip Rivers had in the pocket. With Eddie Royal’s future not yet known, fans have been voicing for San Diego to bring in a super star receiver.
In theory, adding a young and/or established top wide out to play along with our current receivers, might provide a boost to an offense that sputtered in the second half of last season. However, do the Bolts really need to spend a big chunk of change on a free agent wide out – or a top draft pick – that potentially could not live up to expectations, i.e. Robert Meachem, or perchance spend time on the injured reserve?
Around the NFL there are unequivocal wide receivers who are their teams #1. Here are a few of them in no particular ranking order:
Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions
Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Brandon Marshall – Chicago Bears
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Looking at this list, it would be phenomenal if one of those players bore the lightning bolt insignia. What magic could happen when any one of these players was on the receiving end of a Rivers pass!! Now awaken from the dream of pairing Rivers to any of those, and wipe away the drool thinking about them on any fantasy football team. Let’s look at reality and what those players’ teams have done.
Over the past three seasons, Detroit has a combined record of 22-26 with one playoff appearance; losing to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round last year. Atlanta had gone 23-25 in that span with one playoff appearance; making it to the Conference Championship in 2012. The Bears showcase a record of 25-25 with no playoff games.
Conversely, those with winning records in the past three seasons are the Cowboys, Steelers and Bengals. Dallas sported a 28-20 record and went to the playoffs once; last season losing to the Packers in the Divisional Playoff game. Pittsburgh’s mark is 28-21 with a lone playoff entrance – last season in which they lost to Baltimore in the Wild Card round. Cincinnati, on the other hand, exhibited a 31-16 record and played in the playoffs in all three seasons; losing in the Wild Card round each time. If you noticed, not one of those teams played for the NFL title.
“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.” – Joe Paterno
Here is a list of the Super Bowl participants over the last three seasons: Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. Outside of Demaryius Thomas of Denver, do you see any teams that have that clear-cut, top 10 wide receiver on those rosters?
Specifically looking at the New England Patriots, and recent Super Bowl Champion team, they don’t have a top-tier receiver. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are good receivers, but would you take any of them over Allen, Floyd or Royal? What the Patriots have vested in is a solid front line unit that is there to not only create lanes for their running backs, but to protect Tom Brady and give him the time to pick apart defenses. In my opinion, it does not matter who is out there catching passes from Brady, because he is given enough time to watch the receivers run their routes and hit them in stride. Of course in addition to that, they have a solid defensive unit; put those two things together and you win championships.
“A bridge is not built from one piece of wood” – Chinese Proverb
Perhaps instead of vesting in a large salaried receiver to pair up with Allen, Floyd, and others, the money would be better spent on fixing the structure of the bridge; not just slap an expensive band-aid on it. More specifically, enhancing the o-line will allow Philip to breathe and be comfortable in the pocket. Once he is in that space and is able to step up and follow through on his throws, he will make all of our receivers into top-tier players. In turn, the offense will once again flourish all because we started acknowledging the infrastructure’s demise and built that bridge to a championship caliber level.
(Thanks to www.zimbio.com for the pictures)