With the 35th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Chargers drafted University of Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. In doing so, they may have finally found the heir to the aging Antonio Gates throne. Coming out of Arkansas, the 6’5, 250-pound tight end has soft hands, great route running, and the ability to block. Henry was named the 2015 John Mackey Award winner, an award reserved for the nation’s top tight end. He also earned first-team All-SEC honors, finishing the 2015 season with 51 catches for 739 yards and reaching the end zone three times.
Other than Gates it seems as though the tight end position has been somewhat of a revolving door, being temporarily filled by one-dimensional players. Fan-favorite Ladarius Green was expected to take the reins from Gates, and showed flashes of greatness. However, after an ankle injury last season, concussion issues, Gates steady play, and a lucrative $20-million dollar contract later, Green inked a deal with the Pittsburg Steelers this offseason to join Ben Roethlisberger and their top-tier passing offense.
I like Green and think he will have a good career with Big Ben at the helm. However, I think it was a smart decision for the Chargers to part ways with Green. With injury concerns and his lack of size for the blocking game, he was just too much of a liability for the money. Drafting a well-rounded tight end like Hunter Henry has eased my concern surrounding the future of the tight end position.
Antonio Gates’ decline has been graceful. His production has been steady. At 35 years of age, one begins to question how much more he has in the tank. Many of his duties and roles have been slowly shifted to younger players like running back Danny Woodhead, and the security blanket he once provided Phillip Rivers has started to unravel.
Now is the perfect time to start grooming a potential heir to take over Gates throne, and Henry is the perfect candidate. Let’s be honest no one will ever be able to replace Gates, he is arguably one of the best tight ends to ever play the game! Hunter Henry will be able to contribute right away, and will be able to learn from one of the best to ever do it. Ultimately, he will become a long-term solution to the tight end position.
Henry has the potential to thrive in a Ken Whisenhunt offense. His system is a steady balance of short passes and physical runs, with an emphasis on clock management. Henry can shed defenders, and has secure hands to haul in passes, as shown in his Junior campaign at Arkansas, where he didn’t drop one pass. Henry also has the ability to stack up on the offensive line and offer blocking support to Rivers in the pocket, or open up holes for Melvin Gordon in the run game.
The rookie has already started to turn heads in rookie minicamp. With only a day to familiarize himself with the offense the rookie looked comfortable on the field. He showed why the Chargers targeted him with their second round pick. He was running smooth routes and making several highlight reel worthy catches, immediately becoming the break out star of the two-day event.
Realistically, Gates has another two or three good seasons left on his aging body, but I believe Gates might hang it up quicker if the Chargers can make a deep run into the playoffs sometime soon. This time frame provides Henry with the ability to learn the offense, his role and responsibilities, build chemistry with Rivers, and work on some of his weaknesses.
Henry has a tendency to get a little grabby at the offensive line and was flagged for holding three times in 2015, and struggles to get good body position against defenders, making it easier for defenders to bully the young rookie. However, he is still very young and growing into his body. By adding bulk, along with perfecting his technique he has the potential to be one of the better tight ends in the league.
Not only does Henry have the desired size and skill, he also possesses great work ethic and football IQ. I believe the Chargers have found the tight end for the future and can quit looking for help via free agency. I can see Henry easily amassing 400+ yards, and 3 TD’s in his rookie campaign. What are your predictions? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.
In Sunday’s game at Jacksonville, San Diego Chargers’ all-everything quarterback Philip Rivers accomplished a pair of milestones to add to a laundry list of other career achievements. Rivers recovered from a dismal showing against the Kansas City Chiefs where he managed a season-low 178 yards through the air and no passing touchdowns in the Chargers’ 33-3 loss. Sunday, Rivers looked and played like the elite quarterback we all know him to be. He threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns in the 31-25 Bolts’ win.
With two touchdown passes going into halftime, Rivers moved into a tie for 13th place with San Francisco 49er legend Joe Montana for career touchdown passes (273). With two more touchdown passes in the second half, Rivers moved into a tie with Vinny Testaverde for 11th place on the all-time touchdown passes list (275). With his next touchdown pass, Rivers will move into sole possession of 11th place, pushing Testaverde into 12th place.
Ironically, sitting in tenth place is a man Rivers is forever tied to in NFL and Chargers lore, class of 2004 draft mate Eli Manning. With 282 scoring passes, Manning is seven touchdowns ahead of Rivers. What makes the accomplishment even more impressive for Rivers is the fact that he’s ready to surpass Manning even though the New York Giants’ QB had a two-year head start; Manning started from day one with the Giants. Rivers sat behind Drew Brees and didn’t start for the Chargers until his third season in the NFL.
Rivers entered the game needing 134 yards to reach the 40,000-yard plateau. In doing so, he became the fourth-fastest to accomplish the feat in NFL history. This season alone, Rivers has surpassed Chargers great Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Dave Krieg, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Montana on the all-time touchdown passes list. With five games remaining, he’s on pace to surpass Testaverde (275) and possibly Manning (282). Johnny Unitas (290) and Warren Moon (291) will fall to Rivers early next season, at the latest.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rivers is an elite quarterback in this league. He is also the most taken for granted of the elite quarterbacks league-wide. The talking heads think there is room to debate whether Rivers is Hall-Of-Fame worthy. The accomplishments listed above should prove that he belongs in Canton, among his other achievements. The NFL and even a segment of Chargers fans don’t appreciate what the 33-year-old has accomplished in lightning bolts. He is a leader, a winner, an inspiration to all around him. Rivers ranks right next to Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers as the most cerebral quarterbacks in the league.
With the four-year extension Rivers signed this past offseason it ensures he will retire a Charger. We should all take the time to appreciate the brilliance this man shows us on a week-in, week-out basis before he’s gone and we all realize how good we had it when a rookie is trying to move the ball down the field for San Diego.
The Greg One
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!
The hurry-up or “no huddle” offense was adopted by Philip Rivers and company as the previous coaching tenure came to a much desired end. From 2007 to 2012, the former coach called the plays and ran a huddle offense. The team rarely run a no huddle unless there was a need to speed up the play. Well, good thing we don’t have to worry about that train wreck anymore. Since then, head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have handed the reins over to Rivers and allowed him to run with the hurry-up offense. If you haven’t noticed the difference, you must have been living under a rock for the past few seasons.
First off, the hurry-up offense has been utilized in football dating as far back as 1899. The concept of it is to limit the huddle time and avoid delays between each play. Additionally, the hurry-up no huddle offense (HUNH) is used to pick apart and confuse the defense because the quarterback can call the plays at the line of scrimmage. In recent years, the philosophy has been used by the New England Patriot’s Tom Brady and the Pittsburgh Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger, arguably some of the best offenses in the league.
The Chargers offense has flourished with the leadership of Rivers. The HUNH offense allows for up-tempo play and an increased amount of high-percentage passes which ultimately drives momentum. In 2013, the Bolts led the NFL in team completion percentage with a 69.51% completion rate. In 2014, they declined a bit (probably injury driven) but still finished at 66.20% ranking them 6th in the NFL. We all know that Rivers does not excel in the deep passing game, so this system is extremely favorable for the entire offensive unit.
Along with an increased completion rate comes the improvement of first down percentages. Back in 2012, the Chargers had only a first down percentage of 29.7%, ranking them 21st in the NFL. Once they implemented the hurry-up offense, it was no wonder that they finished the 2013 season with a 35.2% in first downs, 2nd in the league and just shy of the Denver Broncos. It’s no coincidence that the offense has thrived with the new system. Even with a very vanilla play calling, the Chargers can still put up points with the no huddle scheme.
The offensive line certainly had the most ailments and setbacks this season, and as crazy as it sounds, it could have been worse. The HUNH offense favors the offensive line by limiting the number of huddles performed. Ultimately, the structure decreases the amount of trips to and from the huddle making it very merciful for the players. Imagine a banged up line and having a huddle system in place? I don’t even want to think of how the 2014 season would have ended. Linemen are big boys therefore by prolonging their onset of fatigue allows them to play longer and continuously protect the quarterback.
Due to many injuries this year, the run game suffered greatly. It should be no surprise that San Diego ranked 30th in the league in rushing yards. Yet, without the HUNH offense, the Bolts certainly would have ended the season worse than 9-7. Since the scheme favors the passing game, Rivers and the offense became less dependent on running the ball and resorted to passing it. At the end of the year, the Chargers ranked 10th overall in passing yards. This couldn’t possibly have been accomplished without a system that aids the offense. Just to prove that point, back in 2012 the team ranked 27th in rushing yards and 24th in passing while running the huddle offense. Coincidence? Not at all.
The no huddle outline is simple for all players on the offense to understand. The focus is about speed and yards gained. Speed is no issue considering the average 40-yard-dash time of Rivers’ top receivers is 4.5 seconds. The hurry-up offense has made the Chargers a better team and has assisted the units that struggled in the previous regime.
Moving forward, Philip Rivers will continue to prefect his version of the hurry-up no huddle philosophy. There’s only a few reasons as to how the Chargers came back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the San Francisco 49ers late in the season, and the HUNH is certainly one of those reasons. With healthy players and the mentality to win, there’s no question that the Bolts will enter the 2015 season as playoff candidates and dare I say it, Super Bowl contenders.
“You define the moment…or the moment defines you.” – Kevin Costner in Tin Cup
As a Charger fan out here in Florida, I am not surrounded by Bolt fans and family. Being constantly surrounded by Patriot and Steeler fans, I have heard enough about our beloved QB. Most of what I hear on a weekly basis I cannot state here. However, recently I received a genuine remark from a Steeler fan, who is not only from Pittsburgh and a die-hard, but a huge fan of the game itself. This is what he told me:
“I do like Rivers and think he’s talented. But the thing that I have against Philip, is that he does not show up for big games.” This remark came after our loss to the Denver Broncos; a divisional foe, nationally broadcast Thursday night game and hated rivalry.
So I began to ponder about this and decided to do some research. I even asked my friend Craig Watts Jr. from the Chargers practice squad, what he thought defined a “big game.” He responded by acknowledging that every game is a big game and, of course, divisional and playoff games too. Craig added that, “It’s a game that you look at and realize you don’t want to look back at it and think ‘We really needed that one and we let it slip away.’” As true as that statement is, it was difficult for me to research those type of games. What I did my fieldwork on was Philip’s performance in divisional and playoff games. Being able to beat your divisional adversaries is a huge step in getting into the playoffs. Once a team is there, it doesn’t matter who you face or what seed you are as long as you are given the opportunity.
I looked back the past 5 seasons, including the current one, and looked at the numbers. Since 2010, Rivers and the Chargers are 15-12 in their division contests; 1-2 to start out this year. It goes without saying that it takes more than one player to win/lose a game. Each team is different and the surrounding cast can be significantly better or worse each year. With this information, I decided that I needed to compare Philip’s numbers against others. With the 2004 draft, three highly-touted signal callers were picked: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. As we all know, Ben and Eli have each earned two SB championships in that time. Why not compare these two with Philip? I did compile research on another leader of the offense, but you will have to read on to see who that is later in the article.
As far as divisional records since 2010, Big Ben leads Pittsburgh with an 18-10 clip. What that resulted in was 8 playoff games and one Super Bowl victory. Eli was last (go ahead and laugh now if you would like) with a divisional track record of 13-14. Eli, however painful this is, played in 11 playoff games with one Super Bowl victory during that span. Does this prove or disprove Rivers ability to perform in big games? I will let you decide that. Moving on!
In the 27 divisional games Rivers has played in since 2010, his completion percentage is a whopping 64.4% I’m impressed. In looking at Eli and Ben, Philip beats them all. Eli put together a 61% completion rate in his 27 games against division opponents and Big Ben, who only played in 24 games during that period, completed 62.1% of his passes. Are you now debating whether Rivers is clutch or not when it comes to big games? Next please!
Captain Rivers has whirled 7,135 total yards with 49 touchdowns and 27 interceptions against division teams since 2010. That averages out to 264.2 yds, 1.81 Tds and 1 interception per game. The yardage is above average although the TD/INT ratio is a little unnerving. Does Philip put too much pressure on himself during these key games? Is he over-thinking and not allowing his natural football skills to do what they know how to do or using the label “paralysis by analysis?” Let’s see what those other two did and compare.
Eli Manning threw for 7,137 yards with 50 touchdowns and 30 interceptions; equating to 264.3 yds, 1.85 TDs and 1.1 INTs per game. Not any better. One would imagine that with 11 playoff games and a Super Bowl ring, these numbers would be much higher. In Pittsburgh since 2010, Ben has accumulated 5,780 yds, 35 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 24 games. This averages out to 240.8 yds, 1.46 TDs and .79 INTs per division game. Outside of the low interception rate, Big Ben is falling way short of the others. What are your thoughts? Is Philip overconfident in these games? Is he underperforming? I’ll continue and let you know what I think. But first, remember that “other” quarterback I mentioned earlier? The one I was going to compare his numbers? Well, I am glad you were patient so here he is: Mr. Drew Brees.
Brees is always in conversation as being an elite QB, and rightfully so. Fans have stated over the years that if Rivers wants to be inducted into Canton, he needs to BE an elite player; to the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Since I don’t have the stomach to talk about Eli, Peyton or Tom in one article, I easily selected Brees. It also didn’t hurt that he started his career in San Diego and has never shown ill-will towards his former team. So without further ado, let’s see what an “elite” QB in this league posts against their important division rivals:
In 27 games, Drew has completed 67.5% of his throws, launched 8,649 yds with 61 touchdowns and 35 picks. In other words, Brees hurls for 320.3 yds with just under 2.3 TDs per game and 1.3 INTs – his average game vs division. That is pretty spectacular, albeit the TD/INT ratio could improve, it is still better than all three. It also helps that his record against the NFC South is 19-8. Now onward with the utmost important comparison: Playoff Games.
Philip is the only one out of these now four captains, to have a losing record in the playoffs. Eli tops them all with an 8-3 career playoff record, with Ben at 5-3 and Drew at 6-4. Rivers is only one man and as they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Now let’s look deeper inside the numbers.
During his 9 playoff games since entering the NFL, Rivers has a completion percentage of 58.8%. That is a significant drop from his regular season “big games.” Brees, of course, leads this group with a clip of 65.2% completion rate; followed by Eli at 61.4% and Ben at 60.7%. Philips yards per game diminishes to the tune of 235.3, which is about 30 yards less than in the regular season. His touchdown average comes in at .89 with his interceptions remaining at 1 per playoff game.
What does all this tell us? All these stats and percentages that are thrown in here have to mean something right? I want you all to decide: does Philip Rivers choke when it matters most? Or are these numbers obtuse and the real let down is the team itself? Does he suffer from “paralysis by analysis” or is he trying to put the game and team on his shoulders with a less than stellar supporting cast?
Respond below and let the debate begin!
Thanks for reading,
Story Written by Chris Curran ( @ccurran2744 )
Rivers and Manning will forever be linked and debated. The media bias leans toward Manning. I know it’shard to argue with two Super Bowl wins. I could counter that if the quarterbacks switched teams, Rivers would have two titles as well.
After 2003, Drew Brees was not panning out as a Charger QB. The local team was picking first overall. AJ Smith was not very high on Brees and was in the market for a new starting QB.
There were three QB’s in the 2004 draft that were considered first round talent. There was a quarterback from Mississippi with “Manning” on his back that was pretty good. Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio University and Rivers from North Carolina State were considerations as well.
Roethlisberger, or “Big Ben,” was big and strong with a tremendous arm. He could move and throw on the run with the best improvisational skills. He played his college ball in the MAC.
Rivers started every game in four years. He brought respectability to a college program that rarely won anything and was a College Bowl MVP five times in four years. He was considered an exceptional leader and held a high football IQ,
Manning had the best mechanics and an NFL pedigree that will never be matched. A solid first round talent, although I do believe if his name was not Manning he would have been the number three among the quarterbacks taken in round one of the 2004 NFL draft.
Archie Manning announced that his youngest boy would not play for the San Diego Chargers. Archie refused to state any reason for this other than to say the Chargers were not a good fit for his son. Maybe he did not like the Spanos Family. Maybe he was not a Schottenheimer fan. Maybe he remembers the beating, he himself, took in New Orleans on a lousy team and was afraid to have history repeat itself. Maybe a combination of all three made him pull his Royal ‘Manning card’ to not have his son play for a franchise stuck in nine years of playoff futility.
In 1983, John Elway let everyone know he did not want to play in Baltimore, the reason being his family had no respect for then coach, Frank Cush. Jack Elway (John’s father) and Cush were not the best of friends. John Elway spoke for himself to the press and Baltimore Colts. I lost complete respect for Eli when he let his father do all his bidding.
In 2004 Ernie Accorsi, General Manager of the New York Giants, held the fourth overall picks.The Giants needed a quarterback. Accorsi, being famous in football circlesfor losing arguably the highest rated quarterback prospect ever. Elway was lost in a post draft trade to Denver made by the owner after selecting him number one overall. That pick was against the Elway family wishes. In 2004 Accorsi had his heart set on Eli Manning. Accorsi relayed this info to Archie early on and later let the press know of his desire to draft Eli Manning.
As the draft approached Charger General Manager, AJ Smith, was about to make his shrewdest and greatest move as an NFL executive.
AJ may have coveted Rivers all along. He did not cave to a pre draft trade proposal by New York. AJ held off until his price was met. He even went so far as to select Eli first overall. I still remember the constipated look on Eli’s face as he reluctantly held up the Charger jersey and cap with Goodell.
The Raiders selected offensive lineman Robert Gallery second overall and Arizona took wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald third overall, the Giants were on the clock and picked Rivers. No one in the Giants war room even had the courtesy to call Rivers about being their selection, reason being that a deal was being consummated with the Chargers. In order to obtain Manning number one overall, the Giants traded Rivers, who was number four overall, a third round pick in the current draft, a first round and fifth round pick in the following year. The Chargers turned those picks into kicker Nate Kaeding, outside linebacker, Shawne Merriman and offensive lineman, Roman Oben.
As for the 3rd QB taken in round one of 2004, Roethlisberger was drafted by Pittsburgh and has been very successful. He has two glaring negatives, these being durability and a questionable character at best.
Due to the Drew Brees hangover, Eli had twenty-one more career starts early in his career. This and the two playoff runs give the edge to Eli. You cannot take away the results. Most other remaining intangibles do go to Rivers. Completion percentage, yards per game, touchdown-interception ratio and quarterback rating are all in Rivers favor. Both quarterbacks have been durable and have yet to miss a start.
So, if the two Super Bowl wins are the benchmark, lets examine them. Does anyone think Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, or Brad Johnson are better than Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly or Warren Moon?
Eli’s Giants had a superior dominant defensive line. An ill-advised pass, and other bone headed decisions by Brett Favre led to crucial turnovers. A down field heave throw up for grabs followed by a fluke catch off a helmet? These plays led to Eli’s first Super Bowl win. A 49er fumbled a punt in the Red Zone and a crucial Wes Welker drop led to Eli’s second Super Bowl win. I understand a win is a win and that is the bottom line. However, there are always other factors that lead to wins and losses outside quarterback play.
So if Eli gets credit for these play-off wins, then is Rivers to blame for Charger playoff losses? Rivers played without his pro bowl tight end, A. Gates, and pro bowl running back, L. Tomlinson. Playing on a completely torn ACL factors in to. Kaeding missed three field goals in each of Rivers’ playoff losses. Not to mention, the cluster of Marty gaffes, (fumbled punt, dropped TD, several personal fouls, going for it on 4th and 11, etc.) in the 24-21 home loss to the New England Patriots.
Like I said, the comparisons may never end, but if I were building a team, I would start with Rivers. How about you?