Arizona Cardinals

<> at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.

On April 18th, the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders announced they have cut nose tackle Dan Williams. The release comes two seasons after picking him up as a free agent from the Arizona Cardinals. The L.A. Chargers should be interested in this development as they sorely need depth along the defensive line, particularly at nose tackle. Williams would be a solid backup to starter to Brandon Mebane and give the Chargers two legitimate veteran run stoppers in the middle of the line.

Williams is currently listed at 6’2″, 330-pounds. In Arizona, he was a cornerstone of their defense, consistently occupying two blockers and plugging running lanes. As a result, pass rushers such as Karlos Dansby, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Bertrand Berry and Daryl Washington feasted on quarterbacks. With the uprising of young, hungry pass rushers and linebackers on defense, having wily veterans like Mebane and Williams is just the type of anchor needed to make the defensive line unstoppable.

Bringing in Williams also finally rectifies an egregious mistake that is seven years old.

I take you back to the 2010 NFL Draft.

The San Diego Chargers had closed a 13-3 season with a humiliating loss in the divisional round to the New York Jets. All-Everything running back Ladainian Tomlinson asked for and was granted a release. Seated at the 28th spot in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Chargers sacrificed their first- and second-round picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up 16 spots and select…

Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews…(insert rim shot here)….

The heir apparent to Tomlinson, like a bottle rocket, had a few flashes…and fizzled out. In five seasons, he had 24 touchdowns and 15 fumbles lost. Mathews missed 25% of the teams’ regular season games with injuries (20 out of 80). Mathews has logged a full 16-game season only once in his career (2013). That includes his current stint in Philadelphia.

And the injuries….soooo many injuries. Hamstring. Quadriceps. Groin. Thumb. Both collarbones. Concussion. Both ankles. And on and on and on….

Back to the 2010  NFL Draft. With the 26th pick in the draft the Arizona Cardinals selected Dan Williams and he became their keystone nose tackle. Aside from a broken arm in 2011 in which he missed the last six games he has only missed four games his entire career. Williams hasn’t missed a game in the last three seasons. The only reason he’s a free agent now is because of his salary cap number. Cutting Williams took $4.5-million off the Raiders’ ledger.

Perhaps the Chargers thought Mathews was the only worthy replacement in the draft. Jahvid Best, Dexter McCluster and Ben Tate were all selected after the Chargers’ original draft slot. Brain Westbrook, Thomas Jones, Willie Parker, Jamal Lewis and Pierre Thomas were all available in free agency.

What other names were missed in the first round? There was Safety Earl Thomas with the 14th pick. DE Jason Pierre-Paul (15), G Mike Iupati (17), C Maurkice Pouncey (18), WR’s Demaryius Thomas (22), Dez Bryant (24) and CB Devin McCourty (28).

As far as that second round pick goes, that was the year Rob Gronkowski was drafted. What’s Gronkowski up to these days? Dude has so much game he’s bodychecking pro wrestlers at Wrestlemania and cutting in on White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during an official press conference!

And that’s only this month…

Take a moment and envision a two-tight end set of Antonio Gates and Gronk! The Chargers wouldn’t have needed wide receivers and Philip Rivers would’ve been smashing passing records. DT Linval Joseph (46), LB Daryl Washington (47), DE Carlos Dunlap (54), LB Sean Lee (55) and WR Golden Tate (60) all heard their names called that round.

As much as that day in 2010 will live in infamy for me and many other Chargers fans, bringing Williams into the fold will add some salve to the wound. It makes sense and there’s history there. While Williams was in Arizona his head coach was current Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Don’t be surprised if a visit isn’t already in the works.

Moral of the story is do your homework. Stick to your board. Don’t let one great year of college football eclipse a checkered injury history coming into the draft. In short…

Don’t Mathews it up!

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#NFLDraft2017

 

 

 

 

chargers

 

 

In case you missed it, measure C, the plan that would have given the Chargers a brand new, non tax payer funded, downtown stadium got struck down with a vengeance by the citizens of San Diego. So what is next for the San Diego Chargers? Vegas? Los Angeles? Franchise disbandment?

 

If you ask me, someone who is currently studying sports business, the answer to that is none of the above.

 

The reason that it would not be Las Vegas, is because the Oakland Raiders have already been in talks with the city of Las Vegas and a move there is all but official. However, with the large amount of gambling that goes on in Las Vegas, something tells me Mr. Goodell is going to do anything in his power to not let that move happen. The Raiders fanbase or “Raider Nation”, is the perfect candidate for Las Vegas because of the large amount of residents that migrated from California. It is one team that is guaranteed to bring in a lot of money not just for the organization itself, but for the city of Las Vegas as well. So Vegas is out for the San Diego Chargers.

 

The issue with Los Angeles is that it is now Rams country after the team recently left St Louis. Before the Rams left for St Louis, they were the longest tenured team in Los Angeles, so as I stated before, they practically almost had an established fan base, minus of course the ones that became Raiders fans when the Raiders spent their time in LA. Citizens of Los Angeles do not want the Chargers; several fan polls done by ESPN and Fox Sports proved that earlier this year (2016). Not to mention there is a reason that the Chargers left the Los Angeles area in the very early stages of the franchise.

 

Now to franchise disbandment: This is a possibility so do not think that it is not. It is a highly unlikely possibility but it is still there. Let’s call it the worst case scenario. The reason this is a possibility is because San Diego is a bandwagon sports town – a transplant city. If you do not believe me, just look at the stands from this past Sunday, or look at how much measure C lost by. In places like San Francisco, you can not walk a city block without seeing at least seven 49ers logos. In San Diego, you are lucky to walk two miles to see one bolt on the window of a bar. They can not trust the fans in their own city to show up to games, and the answer to that is a whole other discussion/debate.

 

What I honestly believe will end up happening is the Chargers are going to have to look somewhere in San Diego county for a beachfront stadium. Why the beach you ask? It brings more people in and it encompasses what is so great about San Diego.

 

How great would a tailgate on the beach be?

 

The Chargers would be able to enclose an area specifically for that and charge per tailgater, similar to what the Arizona Cardinals do with the great lawn. There is a large amount of the population that likes to go to the beach, so not only would it give the Chargers a new stadium location, but you will see an increase in single game tickets, and more importantly, season ticket sales.  On top of all of that, it will make San Diego eligible to host the greatest money makers in all of sports; like the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and the college football championship.

 

Just my take, thank you for reading.

 

Corey Decker

September 25, 2016: San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Caraun Reid (91) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the NFL game between the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

September 25, 2016: San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Caraun Reid (91) returns a fumble for a touchdown during the NFL game between the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

News out of Chargers Park is that ANOTHER player is lost for the year due to injury.

Monday we learned it is defensive end Caraun Reid. And as has been the sickening norm for this team, it was an ACL tear to the big end’s left knee.

Reid sustained his injury in the first quarter of the Atlanta game after being hit in his lower leg as he planted his foot. Linebacker Denzel Perryman was heading for the pile and just caught Reid’s knee.

Claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions roster, the 6’2, 302-pounder (Princeton, round five of 2014 draft) has been with the Chargers for about six weeks. Filling in while Joey Bosa (2016 draft first round #3) nursed his sore hamstring, Reid has been a contributor on the defense. In 103 snaps he collected five combined tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

That notable highlight occurred in the week three game at Indianapolis. Rookie linebacker Jatavis Brown strip-sacked Andrew Luck and Reid scooped up the ball, taking it to the house 61 yards and tying the game at 13 all.

While announcing Reid’s situation, McCoy said “Caraun came in on the very first day and did an outstanding job. He’s a smart player that picked our system up in a hurry and made some big plays for us.”

If anyone is counting, including Reid, that makes TEN – yes, I said TEN – players lost to season-ending injuries. Five of those ten are to the knee and have occurred in the last seven weeks. Here’s the long and incomprehensible list:

Keenan Allen – torn right ACL, week one vs the Chiefs
Danny Woodhead – torn right ACL, week two vs the Jaguars
Jason Verrett – torn left ACL possibly sustained in the Jaguars game
Nick Dzubnar – torn right ACL, week four vs the Saints
And of course, Caraun Reid from yesterday.

Though it was not his ACL, the Bolts lost Manti Te’o to a torn left Achilles’ tendon early in the Colts game.

On top of those, what about the non-contact injuries that besieged the team before the 2016 campaign even began:

wide-out Stevie Johnson tore his meniscus in training camp
tight end Jeff Cumberland was lost to a torn Achilles’ during the pre-season game against Arizona
rookie guard Donavon Clark tore his right ACL in the Arizona contest
change of pace back Branden Oliver had his right Achilles’ snap during the Minnesota game

It is ONLY Week 7 and that list is scary!! I don’t know if there is any other NFL team playing right now that has had the upheaval to their roster that San Diego has endured. There are still nine weeks to go to the end of the season.

I shudder to think what the “football gods” have in store for this group of men and the accursed injury phenomena as time rolls by. Every time a man goes down, I cringe and pray it is just a minor hiccup and they’ll be back quickly.

Time for the CBA to be re-evaluated. Some teams don’t lose any players, some one or two. But to have TEN is like looking at an emergency room full of wheelchairs!

Sorry to see your name added to that list, Caraun Reid. Your presence on defense will be sorely missed.

Cheryl White

#IRclaimsAnother

#VoteYesonCandD

#BoltnUp

Te'o

 

In what appears to be an unfortunate yet ongoing theme, the Chargers lost yet another player for the season.

The team announced on its official website on Monday that Manti Te’o suffered a torn Achilles and that he will miss the remainder of the 2016 campaign

The few snaps that Te’o saw Sunday before being hurt may very well have been his last in lightning bolts. The inside linebacker is in the final year of his rookie contract which has yet to be extended.

Te’o exited Sunday’s nail-biter against the Colts with an obvious injury to his lower leg. No contact was made as he was clearly in the middle of the field and suddenly went down, grabbing at his calf. Initial reports shortly after were that it was his Achilles and he would not be returning to the game.

This is the third non-contact injury to a Bolts’ player in as many weeks. First to be lost in the regular season was Keenan Allen, who tore his ACL in the Week 1 game against Kansas City. Last week the team saw all-around back Danny Woodhead go out with an ACL injury, as well. Sunday it was Te’o. This trend brings up many questions but I’m not going to discuss them right now.

What is disconcerting is that this is the third player on the team to be lost for the year due to an Achilles’ tear. First up was tight end Jeff Cumberland, an offseason pickup. He had gone up to catch a deep ball from Kellen Clemens in the Week 2 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. The following week it was Branden Oliver. Everyone can recall with utmost clarity when BO’s Achilles’ snapped and rippled up his calf. Now Manti Te’o, the defensive captain and signal caller, has had the same thing happen to him.

Three players lost to an Achilles’ tendon tear in what, six weeks?! Each one coming in a situation where the individual is not being contacted by another player.

The Chargers may not be the only team to have the “injury curse” hit them this early in the 2016 campaign, but it’s damn freaky to have the SAME type of trauma effect three different players in the course of a season.

Let us all hope that this does not continue to be the theme over the course of the remaining games.

Thanks for reading!

Cheryl White

#AchillesWoes

GatesAllen1

I was at the joint practice between our San Diego Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium Tuesday night. Just before it started, it was announced on social media that Cardinals’ head coach, Bruce Arians, had been taken to the hospital experiencing stomach pains. Best wishes to him in his recovery.

The practice started with special teams drills (yawn). Then it was time for 1-on-1 drills,  consisting of wide receivers versus defensive backs that were much more exciting. Brandon Flowers was burned for several deep passes. His days as an outside cornerback are hopefully over. Jason Verrett also struggled early trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald.

After good coverage caused Philip Rivers to be unable to connect with Keenan Allen twice, the duo started lighting up the Cardinals secondary. First, with a deep bomb over coverage from Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals top defensive back. Allen looked unstoppable all night, catching nearly everything thrown his way, and getting open early and often.

Travis Benjamin made several nice and difficult catches where he used his quick twitch speed to change direction and come back to perfectly placed balls from PR17. Rivers later said that he and Benjamin “needed” that type of connection in practice. The duo looks to be gelling nicely.

During 11-on-11 drills the Chargers got the best of the exchanges on offense and defense. Melvin Gordon had several nice runs through the middle of the Cardinals’ defensive front seven. The Cardinals’ defense had trouble covering Tyrell Williams, because he is a beast.

Melvin Ingram looked like a man on a mission. He set the edge on back-to-back run plays to the outside with tackles for a loss or no gain. Early, Arizona was running almost every play to the outside, no doubt from watching the Chargers get gashed by the Titans on Saturday. With Ingram in the backfield on almost every run they changed the plays.

Casey Hayward looked very good; he had tight coverage on several plays resulting in pass breakups. In my opinion, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward need to be the starting outside cornerbacks this season. Dexter McCoil ran stride-for-stride with Arizona receivers and had a great pass break-up in the end-zone.

Something interesting I saw during linebacker interception drills; both Manti Te’o and Jeremiah Attaochu had balls clank off their hands and land on the ground. As soon as they got to the huddle they were told to bust out push-ups in front of everyone. I personally love this kind of accountability. I have heard that this has happened before in some practices this year. In those cases, the whole front seven had to do push-ups during a practice when the unit was not getting enough pressure on the quarterback.   

Hunter Henry had a nice toe-tap touchdown, he looks to be a better red zone weapon than Ladarius Green was.

No major injuries to report. The “no-tackling” practice was competitive but not combative.

Quickly, I will give my thoughts on that sorry excuse for a preseason game that was played on Saturday between the Titans and Chargers:

Obviously it was great to see Ken Whisenhunt getting the Bolts’ offensive linemen coming forward on run plays instead of skating backwards. It was great to see Melvin Gordon finally get in the end-zone on a long catch-and-run. Gordon looked more confident and decisive. Not much bad to say about the first team offense. A low-light on offense was too many penalties on the line (coaching); hopefully they can get that cleaned up before they play Arizona on Friday.

The defense was terrible. They picked up right where they left off last season with not being able to tackle and giving up big plays in the run game. Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s been like this for five years now. John Pagano is still the defensive coordinator, and his defense still looks like they have no clue what they are doing with tons of missed assignments.

Now, I’ve heard people say it’s the first preseason game. Tackling across the league is bad right now since these players haven’t really tackled in 7-8 months. Okay, but this defense was missing it’s assignments, shooting the wrong gaps, and looked woefully unprepared. All of which is coaching. They have a lot to clean up.

One of the few bright spots on defense and special teams was Dexter McCoil. He blew up a Titans’ returner on a special teams play that caused him to lose about ten yards. He’s big, fast and can cover and tackle. He also had a fumble recovery. He needs to be one of the starting safeties. The kicking game and punt game both looked good. That’s all for now, thanks for reading.

 

#Preseason

 

@TravisBlake101            

AFCWest

 

Usually when journalists such as myself look forward to a brand new season of football, we look at things like QBR, preseason numbers and even the previous season’s statistics. This analysis will different than usual. Why? That is because football is so much more than just a number’s game; it is a game that is not played by players who have their data set and can be predictable.

Football is a game played by humans, and that in and of itself can directly affect play on the field. Using the skills I have learned while studying human communication while minoring in Sports Management at Grand Canyon University, (Go Lopes!) I will look team-by-team and present my analysis here.

San Diego Chargers: The big controversy around this team is whether Joey Bosa will sign or not. Several current and former Chargers players have already voiced their disgust for this situation. If Bosa does end up signing with San Diego and not “pulling an Eli Manning,” that will cause rifts that will directly affect team chemistry on the defensive side of the ball.

As we all saw from the Denver Broncos last season, defensive chemistry is a must for a championship season. Also coming off of a season with as many injuries that the Chargers had last season, it will take a little bit of time for Philip Rivers to get acquainted or reacquainted with his wide receiving corps. If a quarterback does not trust his receivers, he is unable to make the split-second decisions that are needed to win football games.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense is facing the issue of a lack of leadership due to the uncertainty of the situation of their longtime defensive captain, Eric Berry. Captain is more than just a fancy title and a stitching on their jersey; it is a position that is handed to those that rise above and are chosen by their teammates to lead them not only on the field, but off the field as well. On the offensive side of the ball, Alex Smith must get comfortable throwing more than ten yards on any given play. As soon as teams start jumping routes, the Chiefs will not be able to return to being over .500.

Oakland Raiders: The issue with the Oakland Raiders is the fact that they may not have a home next season. It is a situation similar to the Chargers, however, at least last season Chargers’ fans knew that it would be at most a 2-hour drive north. With the Raiders, it will either be a 6-hour drive to Los Angeles or a 10-hour drive to Las Vegas. There are not many fans that can put their faith in a team that may leave them.

Fan presence is a huge factor when the game is on the line, when the opposing offense is on the field, driving towards a score. The only thing that can disrupt that momentum is a lot of crowd noise to get inside the opposing QB’s head, such as when another team plays in either Seattle, Arizona or Kansas City.

Denver Broncos: The issue with the Broncos this season will be at the QB position. Something a lot of fans may not realize is that the QB is the leader. When you have no idea who the outstanding leader is, the offense will have nothing but miscues, accompanied by little to no sense of direction. Also, they are dealing with choosing from a few youngsters and a QB who has garnered little respect in the NFL, Mr. Butt-fumble himself, Mark Sanchez.

 

Corey Decker

cardsbolts3

The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.

The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.

Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.

“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.

“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.

More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.

“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.

This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.

Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…

Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.

Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.

San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.

RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!

QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.

CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.

Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.

ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.

Why would the Chargers let him go now?

Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.

A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#TrainingCamp2016

cardsbolts3

To begin, I will start with a lyric from Metallica, this comes from their song, Wherever I May Roam, “I adapt to the unknown/Under wandering stars I’ve grown/By myself but not alone/I ask no one/ And my ties are severed clean/The less I have the more I gain/Off the beaten path I reign.” The reason I use this particular lyric is not only because it is a great song, but also because it perfectly encompasses the feeling of being a San Diego Chargers fan in enemy territory, Arizona.

Although the Cardinals and Chargers are not division rivals, there is still the unspoken Arizona versus California rivalry that gets created because of all of the people who have moved between the two states.

The unknown, refers to the feeling of whenever I wear my Chargers jersey to the University of Phoenix Stadium. I am highly uncertain of the reactions that will be thrown my way. Some may approach and try to have a healthy conversation where we discuss sports and whatever is going on with each others teams, such as, Philip Rivers or Larry Fitzgerald.

Others do the uneducated and frankly stupid thing many sports fans on social media are guilty. They utter the short, dastardly and annoying phrase, “Your team sucks!” Now that is all well and good…… If they can back it up. Most times, they are too drunk to remember why they stated that in the first place so it is kinda funny to ask why and watch them stumble on their words.

The wandering stars refers to the fact that I have lived in Arizona my entire life. So how did I become a Chargers fan you ask? It’s kind of a dumb story but I have never looked back since. When I was younger, my family would often vacation to the San Diego area and there was one time I can remember, we were at the convenience store on the southwest corner of Shelter Island Drive and Scott street. Me being my curious young self I picked up a koozie with a Chargers lightning bolt on it. When I got back I turned on the Madden game I had at the time, and I have grown more and more in my fanhood each year since. That was around…… 14-15 years ago.

By myself but not alone, refers to the surprisingly large presence of Chargers fans that inhabit the metro-Phoenix area that I call home.

The less I have the more I gain, off the beaten path I reign, refers to the ability that I was able to find within myself being the only Chargers fan at my school. When I realized it was actually a huge advantage to have a team not in the state of Arizona. Also, to me any team that does not have a Super Bowl ring from after the AFL-NFL merger is off the beaten path.

A lot of sports fans will gravitate to teams like the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their loyalty is purely based upon the fact that they have a pull safe that they can use if they are ever in a sports argument. That pull safe is “Well, we have rings.” It is a luxury a fan of those teams can use without ever watching a football game.

This is what makes the San Diego Chargers fan base so strong. It’s called faith. Similar to the Chicago Cubs, all we are able to do is look forward to the future rather than living our lives in the past. That is what we will do this season. We will charge forward, not just on the field, but off the field. In the stands we will charge forward. Why? It is because that is what our team needs, and also because of the community it builds.

 

Bolt Up Charger Brigade.

AllenStevie1

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.

Wide Receiver

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

Offensive Line

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.

Coaching Staff

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 Summary

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.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#Bolttothefuture

Manti8

 

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!

Cheryl White

#healthandhardwork

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