After somewhat of a writing hiatus, I am now back to the grindstone after the Chargers were ousted from the playoffs by the Denver Broncos. This season provided many ups and downs. Considering what Tom Telesco, Mike McCoy and company had to work with the 2013 season can definitely be considered a success.
As you all know, the Bolts advanced past the first round of the playoffs and eventually fell to Denver. During that game, and many others throughout the year, San Diego’s flaws became quite obvious. In this post I’ll breakdown the team’s needs all over the defensive side of the roster.
Despite improved play in the secondary, it is clear that the cornerback position must be addressed during the offseason. The Chargers finished with the 29th ranked passing defense. That is not going to get it done. Shareece Wright played hard and was tough during certain stretches of the year. But he was a bit inconsistent. Richard Marshall played admirably but was not a guy that you want starting in your defensive backfield. I am very interested to see what this year’s fifth round pick, Steve Williams can do next season after tearing a pectoral muscle prior to the season. The Chargers may look to address this need in both free agency and the draft depending on how the feel the play of Wright progressed as a starter on the outside. Wright had his share of plays and he was also exploited by some of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Sticking with the cornerback spot, the addition of Derek Cox was, without a doubt, a serious disappointment to say the least. After multiple benchings due to poor play, Cox was relegated to special teams play or occasionally coming in when another corner was injured. It has been said by Telesco that the team will try to work with Cox. But it would not be a surprise at all to see him cut in an effort to save a little bit of cash toward the salary cap.
On a high note regarding the secondary, the emergence of strong safety Jahleel Addae just might have eliminated the need to fill that spot in the upcoming draft or free agency. It is also seemed that Darrell Stuckey, who began to see the most defensive snaps of his entire career, is a solid backup. Oh, and there’s that one guy Eric Weddle. He’s pretty damn good. Adding a little depth to the safety spots wouldn’t hurt but the future there seems to be bright.
Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, we’ll work our way to the linebacking spots. Beginning with the inside backers, it is paramount that the team re-sign Donald Butler. He is a leader on this team and, despite a dip in play this year, he is a top 7 inside linebacker in this league.
Next to Butler is the highly talked about Manti Te’o; who it turns out has a real girlfriend, by the way. After missing the first three games due to injury, Te’o had a rough beginning to his rookie campaign. He had some issues adjusting to the speed of the NFL game and his inability to shed blocks was still the same issue he had in college. All of that being said, his play did improve over the season.
The Bolts have Reggie Walker, who plays both the inside and outside spots, Andrew Gachkar – special teams standout – and Bront Bird for depth at the inside linebacker position. Walker had a good year making plays when called upon. It might be necessary to upgrade over either Gachkar, Bird or both.
The outside linebacker position was hoped to be one of the strengths of the defense with Melvin Ingram entering his sophomore season and the addition of Dwight Freeney in free agency. The team already had a dominant edge-setter in Jarret Johnson as well. Then on May 2nd, the team’s second day of OTAs, Ingram tore his ACL.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Freeney was lost for the year during the week 4 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. The Chargers were then starting Johnson and rookie sixth round draft pick Tourek Williams. As mentioned above, Johnson is solid against the run and constantly disrupting running lanes to the edge, but he is not what one would consider to be a threat as a pass rusher. Despite the high-motor play of Williams, he was a rookie making the transition for collegiate defensive end in a 4-3 to an NFL outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The learning curve appeared to be steep at times for the former Florida International product.
Without being certain what the future will hold for Freeney, the Chargers could look to add a future stud to the outside linebacking corps. Although Freeney is under contract through the 2014 season, there is no guarantee that he won’t retire or the team could even decide to part ways with him due to age and injury concerns.
Now on to the final portion of the Charger defense. Going into the 2013 season the defensive line was thought to be the strongest segment of the entire team. Although this would be the first year that Cam Thomas would be used as a starting nose tackle, he had the benefit of being flanked by both Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes.
The defensive line was a bit of a let down, as a whole, for a good portion of the year. Liuget had a good year and seemed to be playing through injury in the first few games of the season. He did begin to turn out it on and wreak havoc in the opposing team’s backfields as the season wore on. He put up respectable numbers for a 3-4 defensive end but 2013 showed that he needs better support from his linemates.
Thomas had a tough time making his mark and was bullied at the point of attack at times. The 2013 season could have been the last year that Thomas will be in lightning bolts. Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego has already been on record saying that he doesn’t anticipate Thomas will be re-signed by the Chargers.
The importance of a dominant nose tackle in a 3-4 cannot be overstated enough. For the 3-4 to be successful, you must have a space-eater that can take on double teams and win while collapsing the pocket. At this point, San Diego does not have anyone on the roster capable of doing a sufficient job at the position.
Then comes the play of Kendall Reyes. After seeing his outstanding play in 2012, this season was a let down of sorts for Reyes. He didn’t seem nearly as explosive and I didn’t see the same tenacity when engaging at the point of attack. He was able to make some plays but much more was expected of him. Again, this could be the lack of an impact made by Thomas in the middle. The hope is that we’ll see a rejuvenated Reyes in 2014.
In conclusion, the needs on the defensive side of the football seem to be obvious and the most prominent of those are at nose tackle and cornerback. There are some depth needs at inside and outside linebacker. The team may also need to look at adding another safety to the mix for depth purposes as well.
Thanks a lot for reading and in the next day or so I’ll be breaking down the needs for the Charger offense going into the 2014 offseason. This team overachieved in 2013 but it has a solid foundation to build upon for the future. I have complete faith in Telesco to do what it takes to bring the Chargers back into the upper echelon of the NFL. Hopefully he can get the Chargers back to the promised land and San Diego may bolt into the Super bowl and bring back the Vince Lombardi trophy to America’s finest city.
Only time will tell.
It took almost a full season but the San Diego Chargers are finally starting to become the team we envisioned at the beginning of the season. The possibility of a team that would once again become playoff relevant looked good but not great as the Chargers took a 4-3 record into the bye week. The bye week came as the Chargers had won two straight games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville. After the bye, the Chargers dropped three straight games to fall to 4-6. With that losing streak, all hope for a return to prominence looked lost.
The Chargers went to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs. The Chiefs were 9-1 and coming off their first loss at Denver. The Chargers took it to the Chiefs and won a shootout 41-38. That win began a Chargers run that has seen them win four of their last five games. The Chargers now sit at 8-7 with a shot at getting into the playoffs if they can beat the Chiefs at home and the right teams lose on Sunday.
What has been the reason for this turnaround? The offensive line has solidified and while it isn’t a list of marquee names, the same guys are suiting up every week and staying on the field. Last season the offensive line was a turnstile with a new starting five almost every week. First round draft pick D.J. Fluker has done a great job at right tackle, helping open holes for the running backs. When starting left tackle King Dunlap missed games because of a concussion, Fluker moved to left tackle and played just as well. Jeromey Clary has found new life at right guard, Nick Hardwick hasn’t missed a game at center. Rich Ohrnberger, Johnnie Troutman and Chad Rinehart have all played well at left guard. The unit is playing better as the weeks go by and it shows. Rivers has been sacked 27 times through 15 weeks this season. Last season, Rivers was sacked a league high 49 times, a drastic improvement.
Ryan Mathews has found his stride and has put together his best season as a pro. Whether it was a change in philosophy or the new system implemented by head coach Mike McCoy, Mathews has run with a purpose and was one yard away (he had 99 against Oakland) from tying LeSean McCoy with six 100-yard rushing games this season. Mathews has more 100 yard games than higher profile backs like Jamaal Charles(4), Arian Foster(2), DeMarco Murray(3), Alfred Morris(3), Matt Forte(4) and has as many Adrian Peterson(5).
Mathews has run for over 100 yards in five of the last ten games and has a 99 yard game as well. For the first time in his career, he is set to play all 16 games and has already posted a career best 1,111 yards rushing. The Chargers are 4-1 when Mathews rushes for 100.
As a result of the first two factors, Philip Rivers is having an All-Pro season. Only Peyton Manning has more 400 yard games(4) than Rivers(3). Rivers is the fourth highest ranked quarterback in the league.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen was rushed into the starting lineup after a season ending injury to Malcolm Floyd. Allen quickly became the number one receiver and has burst onto the scene over the last 11 games. If Keenan Allen isn’t the Offensive Rookie Of The Year, the award should be discontinued due fraud. Allen is going to be a big name in the NFL as he gets years under his belt.
A who’s who of big names on defense hit the injured list before the season began including Melvin Ingram, Dwight Freeney, Larry English and draft pick Steve Williams. Out of that necessity, lesser names have had to fill greater roles, thrust into the spotlight as starters. As a result, unknowns such as Thomas Keiser, Andrew Gachkar, Bront Bird, Sean Lissemore and rookies Tourek Williams and Mantei Te’o have logged significant playing time and thrived. Now the defense has solidified and become a cohesive unit. The defense now has 33 sacks, 74 passed defensed, 11 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles (recovering 6).
The Chargers have finally all come together and look like one of those teams no one will want to play should they get into the playoffs. They played as close to a perfect game as possible in beating the Giants at home and Broncos in Denver with only five days between games. They played sloppily in the first half of the Raiders game but took over the game in the second half and cruised to victory.
The story of the season is the Chargers have beaten Denver, Kansas City, Dallas, Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Each are teams who are now or were at the top of their division. Their quality of wins are excellent. They have lost to Washington, Oakland, Tennessee and Houston. Those teams are now or were last in their division. Questionable play calling, poor execution and mental lapses have made the difference in the Chargers being in the playoffs now as opposed to fighting for a spot at the end of the season.
The good news is the Chargers are finally playing together. The offense is on track and all the moving pieces on both sides of the ball are set in place and formed a solid wall instead of a Jenga building. The new faces on defense are making fewer mistakes as they get valuable playing time in and that on-the-field experience has made all the difference here at the end of the season. Those unknowns will make the Chargers a dominating defensive unit once the injured players like Freeney, Steve Williams and Ingram start next season healthy.
At 8-7 the Chargers are guaranteed at least a .500 season. Most (not me) expected the Chargers to finish with fewer than eight wins. The McCoy/Telesco era is already off to a promising start and as this program is reshaped, will only get better.
It is so hard in this social media-driven day and age to determine whether or not a twitter conversation is to be taken seriously. In the case below, it is entirely possible that the player’s tweets in this post are to rile up the very likes of blogs such as this one. But considering the widespread talk of issues and discord in the locker room, perhaps we’re not reading into anything at all.
The tweets in this post are from Donald Butler, Jarret Johnson and Ladarius Green. Green simply posts a picture of the weather in KC.
I’ll leave it to you, the readers, to decide if these guys are playing around or not. Take a look.
— Ladarius green (@king_green89) November 23, 2013
@DAButler56 stop worrying about the weather and get ready to smash some heads. FYI it’s 45 degrees in Seattle.
— Jarret Johnson (@JarretJohnson96) November 24, 2013
Seems innocent enough at this point, right? No big deal. Just a couple of players jabbing at each other a little bit about the weather. And then there’s a reaction tweet from Donald Butler.
— Donald Butler (@DAButler56) November 24, 2013
The first tweet is obviously from rising star and tight end, Ladarius Green. Then you see a comment from Butler, followed by a response from Johnson. It all seemed like fun and games up to that point. But then the curve ball in the equation is thrown by the former Washington Huskie. He seems to call out Jarret Johnson. Butler then proceeds to tell Bront Bird that he should be in the playbook and that they are being a “distraction” on Twitter.
There has already been talk among the media that there are problems in the Charger locker room. If this exchange of tweets is not a complete farce, or jab at the same media members reporting such a rift at Chargers Park, then it appears as though the problems in San Diego are not just on the field.
I am really hoping that my gut is correct and there is no problem among the players. This could easily be a situation where the players are using social media to toy with the emotions of those that get paid to write about it. The good news here, I don’t make a penny for running this site. I am just trying to keep all the Charger fans informed. We’ll keep an eye on this and see if anything materializes from here on out.
UPDATE: I spoke to Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego and he informed me that this is a non-story. That is, obviously, great news to hear.
The Philadelphia Eagles have gotten a lot of attention with their fast paced offense. While they caught the Washington Redskins off guard initially, they can be beat.
Coordinators John Pagano and Ken Wisenhunt have their work cut out for them, but here’s what I see as the keys to beating Philly:
Key #1: Run the ball. Run the ball again. Run the ball some more. Washington got too far behind too quickly and didn’t have the luxury of establishing the run. When they did run, they posted an effective 4.1 yards per carry (but only 18 carries). Chargers have a Mack Truck at RT in D.J. Fluker. Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Fozzy Whittaker and Danny Woodhead need to get on Fluker’s hip and ride him to success.
Key #2: Run success means clock control. Keep Chip Kelly’s offense on the sidelines where they can’t get a rhythm going.
Key #3: Gap discipline. Front seven has to maintain gap discipline to stop Shady McCoy and the Philly ground attack.
Key #4: Coverage, coverage, coverage. No more namby-pamby zone crapola. Disrupt DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant. Bront Bird, you need to stick to Brent Celek like a bum on a ham sandwich.
Key #5: Did I say run the ball yet?
Chargers need to run, run again and run yet again to come away from Philly with a win. This isn’t a knock on Philip Rivers. Throwing the ball, gaining huge chunks and scoring quickly plays right into Chip Kelly’s wheelhouse. Keep his offense harmlessly on the sidelines and we have a good shot at our first win under the Tom Telesco/Mike McCoy era.
Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o has suffered a foot sprain, according to Coach Mike McCoy.
Te’o had limited playing time in last Thursday’s exhibition game against the Seahawks, though no specifics have been given as to when or how Te’o was injured. Coach Mike McCoy had initially reported that the team had suffered no injuries during Thursday night’s loss. He later stated that he was not aware of the injury until Friday afternoon.
Mike McCoy says Manti Te’o (foot sprain) will be out this week.
— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) August 10, 2013
This is the second time McCoy has been late on reporting an injury this week, the first being when Danario Alexander tore his ACL during training camp on August 6th.
Te’o is expected to miss one week, and, presumably, the upcoming preseason game against the Chicago Bears. Hopefully his foot doesn’t become a recurring/nagging sort of problem. My bet is it won’t. I’ve never heard of Te’o being tagged as a player who is prone to injury.
The Chargers tweeted this earlier today:
Coach McCoy on Manti Te’o’s foot sprain: http://t.co/yr4dRDzhKR
— San Diego Chargers (@chargers) August 10, 2013
While Te’o recovers, Bront Bird fills the No.1 spot at strong inside linebacker, while D.J. Williams moves to second string.
There always seems to be that one guy on every team that, for one reason or another, you can’t help but hope they make the roster. For me, and the San Diego Chargers, that player happens to be Bront Bird.
Despite not being the most athletic guy, the phrase “give up” does not exist in his vocabulary. Bird is the epitome of a hustle guy. He has shown in his limited playing time that he is constantly hustling around to make plays.
At 6’4″ and 250 pounds, the former Texas Tech Raider has managed to hang around with the Chargers the past two seasons. Last season in the team’s upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bird filled in admirably at inside linebacker. He finished the game with six tackles and his first career NFL interception.
He has never posted any gaudy numbers in his brief time in the NFL. He hasn’t really had any solid playing time. He most likely won’t ever see quality minutes unless due to the injury of one of the starters. But he could definitely be a serviceable backup at linebacker and also continue to be a solid player on special teams.
Bird did serve a four game suspension in 2012 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Bird wrote a letter to the Chargers apologizing for mistakenly taken an over the counter pill following laser eye surgery. ( This was written in article on UT San Diego last year, I believe.)
It is not to be expected that Bird will ever be a starter for the Chargers. But it is not out of the realm of possibility that he finds a way to stick to the team for at least the 2013 season.
I know that I’m rooting for him to be on the roster again in 2013.
Thanks a lot for reading