As you all may now know, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco got a three-year extension right before the start of the 2015 season. But did he deserve it? Here I breakdown his three draft classes, free agent classes and contract extensions. I will be grading by a very easy criteria: Performance (worth the draft pick, money, etc), Value (starter or depth) and if they’re still on the team. It will be broke down by a number scale of 0-10, 0 being very bad and 10 being very good. At the end of each section I will give a percentage and a letter grade to that category by adding up the number I give to the player and divide it by 10 (max number a player/move can get). 90-100% = A, 89-80% = B 79-70% = C, and anything below that is an F. Lets get to it:
His Draft Classes
***Note: these rankings are how they have played since joining the Chargers. 2015 draft class is too early to judge, I get that, but it’s on how they have played as a Charger.
2013: #11 OL DJ Fluker, #38 MLB Manti Te’o (traded up), #76 WR Keenan Allen, #145 CB Steve Williams, #179 OLB Tourek Williams, #221 QB Brad Sorenson
DJ Fluker: Started off as a Right Tackle and played fairly well in 2013 before injuries in 2014 set in and he was recently moved to Right Guard in the offseason. He didn’t play as well as hoped, but it was his first time ever being there so it wasn’t really unexpected. Grade: 6
Manti Te’o: Trading up in the draft for anyone who isn’t a playmaker is a very big loss no matter what you gave up to get said player. Manti has been battling injuries most his career and is still having troubles wrapping up and tackling NFL sized players. He isn’t terrible like Donald Butler and did play better next to Perryman. Grade: 5
Keenan Allen: This was the best draft pick Telesco has had and Keenan is quickly developing into one of the best receivers in the AFC. He was on a torrid pace this season leading the league in catches and yards and was well on his way to breaking records until he got hurt. Again. Ended the season on IR with a lacerated Kidney. Grade: 9
Steve Williams: Keenan’s roommate at Cal, he hasn’t really done much before this season and even ended his rookie year before it started. He’s looking more and more like depth than he is a solid part of the team and wouldn’t be missed in terms of production if cut. Grade: 3
Tourek Williams: Tourek hasn’t done anything either since his rookie season. He was injured the entire year this season and even ended up finishing the year on IR. Grade: 1
Brad Sorenson: Has never been listed as more than the third-string quarterback, he spent 2014 on another team and 2015 between free agency and practice squad. Grade: 0
2014: #25 CB Jason Verrett, #50 Jerry Attaochu (traded up), #89 OL Chris Watt, #165 DT Ryan Carrethers, #201 RB Marion Grice, #240 WR Tevin Reese
Jason Verrett: Verrett is quickly becoming a lockdown cornerback, if only he can stay healthy. He had 3 picks this season, one for 6, and was ranked the fifth best CB this season according to pro football focus. Grade: 8
Jerry Attaochu: Again, trading up in the draft for players who aren’t playmakers hurt your team no matter what you gave up. Attaochu is one of those guys. Chargers moved up to get him and he has been getting better, but isn’t a playmaker who can bring it from week to week yet. Grade: 5
Chris Watt: Watt was a reach when drafted and a guy the coaches are hoping to be the heir to Hardwick at the center position. It hasn’t worked and he hasn’t stayed healthy. In fact, he has been graded as one of the worst offensive linemen in football. Grade: 3
Ryan Carrethers: Carrethers shows promise but for some reason, the coaches don’t play him. Whether it’s work ethic or attitude, we don’t know. But for him being a second year, 5th round pick, it’s not really uncommon. Grade: 5
Marion Grice: Got beat out by undrafted free agent Brandon Oliver and then swooped up by Arizona. Grade: 0
Tevin Reese: Never had a chance at the NFL level because he was way too small. His speed was for real but his size and catching were not. Never made the roster. Grade: 0
2015: #15 RB Melvin Gordon (Traded up), #48 MLB Denzel Perryman, #83 CB Craig Mager, #153 OLB Kyle Emanuel, #192 DE Darius Philon
Melvin Gordon: For trading up in the draft, see Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu. Yes, ANOTHER trade up and this time for a running back. Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin was most everyone’s pick that were Charger fans. But he has shown tremendous flaws in his game and hasn’t been anywhere close to the guy the Chargers had hoped for. The line was a problem as well, no doubt about it. Grade: 2
Denzel Perryman: Perryman looks promising and has quickly become a fan favorite. By the end of the year, he took the starting job from Butler (and deservedly so) and shined. He is by far the best linebacker we have on this team and he only started in about 5 games. Grade: 7
Craig Mager: Mager couldn’t find the field in 2015. He was a very big reach in the third round to begin with, but I understand why he did it. He has a lot to work on to become valuable and it’s going to take a few years to see that most likely. Grade: 3
Kyle Emanuel: Emanuel started strong. First game of the year vs the Lions he had a sack and an interception and then eventually was nowhere to be seen. He has tackling issues and doesn’t seem to set the edge like an OLB needs to do. He does come from a small school and was a 5th round pick so it is warranted and excusable. Grade: 4
Darius Philon: A guy I really liked coming out of Arkansas, Philon has shown some promise but overall looks to be a very good rotational player. He was put on the IR-designated to return list during the season but was playing well before that. Grade: 3
Final result: 64/170 = 37%, F
His free agent signings (major ones only)
***Note: these are how the players have played since joining the Chargers
2013: RB Danny Woodhead, OT King Dunlap, CB Derek Cox, OG Chad Rinehart, TE John Phillips
Danny Woodhead: Probably Telesco’s best signing and a big reason why we made the playoffs in 2013. Woodhead brings that “security blanket” the team had been missing since Sproles signed with New Orleans. He was versatile up until the Bills game last season where he ended it with a broken fibula. Other than that, he’s been a rock. Grade: 9
King Dunlap: Another strong signing by Telesco. Dunlap wasn’t much in Philly but Chargers brought him in on a very team friendly deal and he excelled and actually earned a pay raise this last offseason. Another solid signing by Telesco that year. Grade: 8
Derek Cox: The biggest miss by Telesco in 2013. He was toast everytime he touched the field and eventually was benched and ended his time with the Chargers. Cut after his first season. Grade: 2
Chad Rinehart: He was average at the guard position in 2013 and awful there in 2014. He was a fill in for the future and expecting anything other than below average was a pipe dream. Grade: 4
John Phillips: Nothing flashy but he was the blocking Tight End that the team needed. Being mostly used as that, he has caught a few passes and even a touchdown. He was eventually cut by the team this season and brought back as well. Grade: 4
2014: RB Donald Brown, CB Brandon Flowers, MLB Kavell Connor, TE David Johnson. Quick note: Kellen Clemens was also signed, but as a backup QB it is unfair to grade so I left him off for those purposes
Donald Brown: Terrible signing by Telesco as he was brought in for RB depth and got $5 million a year. He went inactive for most of this season as well. Grade: 3
Brandon Flowers: As bad as the Brown signing was, is how good of a signing the Flowers one was. He really boosted this secondary and his lockdown play earned him his new contract in this past offseason, something I will get to in a bit. Grade: 8
Kavell Connor: Brought in for LB depth, Kavell had a big workload in 2014 as he filled in for oft injured Manti Te’o and played fairly well when called upon. Grade: 6
David Johnson: Brought in to be the FB, David Johnson is brutal. He constantly looks lost and doesn’t know where he’s going and doesn’t seem to find the field that often now as well. Grade: 3
2015: WR Jacoby Jones, OG Orlando Franklin, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Patrick Robinson, DB Jimmy Wilson
Jacoby Jones: He was brought in to give us a feared return game. He never lived up to that and in fact, wasn’t even half of what we expected. Cut halfway through the season. Grade: 0
Orlando Franklin: Big money linemen signing, Franklin has been a HUGE disappointment as he isn’t even close to the guy who Telesco thought he was signing. System fit, as they ran a zone scheme could be a huge factor of why, but overall he was as bad as Rinehart. Grade: 3
Stevie Johnson: Started out strong, pulling in touchdowns in each of his first two games played for San Diego, but then seemed to check out and then eventually got hurt. Grade: 6
Patrick Robinson: The sneakiest of signings, PRob may have been the best signing of Telesco’s tenure. He graded as a very solid corner this season by Pro Football Focus and was a bright spot in a secondary that had high expectations going into the season. Grade: 7
Jimmy Wilson: Jimmy Wilson was brought in to be a Marcus Gilchrist type safety. One that could play safety and cornerback but actually do it well. Well, he couldn’t and eventually got cut at the end of the season. Grade: 2
Final Result: 65/140 = 46%, F
His contract extensions/re-signings (major one’s only)
2013: K Nick Novak, RB Ronnie Brown
Nick Novak: There wasn’t many re-signings his first year, which wasn’t bad. But Novak was solid here as he was very reliable. Grade: 8
Ronnie Brown: Ronnie Brown was brought in as a veteran backup and one who was very reliable with the rock. He had one big touchdown vs the Benagls that sealed the deal in our first playoff win since 2008. So for that, he gets a little extra love from me in his grade. Grade: 7
2014: MLB Donald Butler, S Darrell Stuckey, OG Chad Rinehart, CB Richard Marshall
Donald Butler: This couldn’t have gone any worse than it has. 2014 he was rated as one of the worst MLB’s in football and in 2015, rookie Denzel Perryman took his starting job and his time as a Charger may be over. Grade: 0
Darrell Stuckey: Solid as a special teamer, Stuckey was another sneaky good extension. He has made the pro bowl a few times as a special teamer but as a safety, he has been very limited in playing time. Grade: 6
Chad Rinehart: From an average 2013, to an awful 2014, Rinehart was below average for us. I understand the signing, but should have had a plan B. Grade: 3
Richard Marshall: Marshall had a knack at getting turnovers at the end of 2013, but most of that was due to him being in the right place at the right time. He was brought in for depth because he knew the system in 2014 but due to injuries, he played more than he should have. Grade: 3
2015: OT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers
King Dunlap: Dunlap was a rock for us since 2013, but after his extension, he was very concussion prone again. Missed a chunk of the season and hasn’t lived up to his extension quite yet. Grade: 4
Brandon Flowers: Another player hit by injuries and possibly even coaching, Flowers under performed big time and was even rated as a bottom third corner this season. He really needs to have a bounceback season for his contract to not look so bad. Grade: 2
Final Result: 33/80 = 41%, F
Final overall result: 162/390 = 41%, F
Using my grading scale, Tom Telesco has gotten an ‘F’ grade as a general manager hitting on only 4 of every 10 personnel decisions. This doesn’t even include an undersized defense he has put together and coaches that are not good at what they do.
We all have differences of opinion on the different players aforementioned, but we can all agree that most his decisions have been sub-par.
Agree or disagree with my assessment? Did Telesco deserve this extension? I don’t think so, as my grading scale has proved. Let me know below!
After Tom Telesco was brought in as the new general manager in 2013, one of his priorities was to improve the offensive line. That year he drafted right tackle, D.J. Fluker out of Alabama. Although it partially aided the right side, the addition wasn’t enough.
In 2014, injuries plagued the offensive unit into oblivion. Philip Rivers went without veteran center and longtime teammate, Nick Hardwick, after he spent almost the entire season on injured reserve. By the end of the year, Rivers was on his fifth center. According to Pro Football Focus, San Diego ranked 27th in pass blocking, and 26th in run blocking at the end of last season. If things are going to change in 2015, Telesco needs to make ascendant transactions.
As the team made its way into the offseason, Bolt fans questioned how the Chargers will find the talent needed to fix the offensive line. Telesco started off by re-signing left tackle, King Dunlap, this year’s respectively best free agent in his position. Shortly after locking up Rivers’ stud blocker, the young general made great strides by signing former Denver Bronco’s guard, Orlando Franklin to the roster. In addition to securing Dunlap and Franklin, Telesco also re-signed center Trevor Robinson. These transactions alone have brought the Chargers’ very mediocre line to a contending unit.
So, have the Bolts done enough to fix the offensive line? The answer is almost. According to Eric D. Williams of ESPN, Tom Telesco stated that Johnnie Troutman, as of right now, is the team’s starting right guard. Considering Troutman has been far from impressive, that’s extremely alarming. WalterFootball.com reported that Johnnie Troutman and Chad Reinhart were the worst guard duo in the league in 2014. Franklin replaces Rinehart, but that still leaves a frightening breach at right guard.
There has been a lot of talk about shifting Fluker from tackle to guard this offseason. He has no experience in the position. Not in high school, and not in college. Yet, let’s say he is moved, it still leaves a gap in the tackle position. A potentially effective way to address the matter would be to swing Fluker to the inside, and find a tackle in this year’s draft. Even though San Diego needs a running back after the departure of Ryan Mathews, this year’s draft class is loaded with talented running backs. It’s not an outrageous option to think about taking a offensive lineman like Ereck Flowers in the first round.
A solid offensive line has proven fruitful for some clubs in the NFL. Since 2011, the Dallas Cowboys have drafted three offensive linemen in the first-round: Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The other two, Ronald Leary and Doug Free, were undrafted free agents. Last season, the Cowboys finished with the 4th best pass blocking, and the 2nd best run blocking in the league. If the Chargers want those type of results, it would have to be from following Dallas’ blueprint.
As of today, the line lists as follows: LT King Dunlap, LG Orlando Franklin, C Chris Watt, RG Johnnie Troutman, and RT D.J. Fluker. Not bad, but not stellar. If the Bolts plan to contend for a playoff appearance in 2015, they will need a comprehensive offensive line. An upgraded line will upsurge Rivers’ productivity, plus adding some life to the lackluster run game. With less than five weeks left until the 2015 NFL Draft, fans will have to continue to wait and see what the Chargers organization plan to do with their six picks.
Should the Chargers draft a offensive lineman in the first round? Vote your opinion below:
The one thing that really held the Chargers back last season was the offensive line. With King Dunlap, Chad Rinehart, five different centers, Johnny Troutman, and D.J. Fluker all a part of the offensive front, Philip Rivers was sacked 37 times and hit 75 times. The running game wasn’t much better, as the Chargers ranked 30th in rushing yards in 2014. Their number one priority this offseason? Solidify the line. Well, Tom Telesco has started to do just that.
New Additions: Orlando Franklin, OG/OT from the Denver Broncos. At 6’7″, 320 pounds, he is an absolute monster. Place him next to Fluker, or Dunlap, and you have one side of the line fixed. He was ranked 2nd highest of all guards in 2014 with a 98.6 pass blocking efficiency. He may not play tackle anymore, but he is an instant upgrade over both guards the Bolts had last season.
Re-signing of King Dunlap: The Bolts have re-signed Dunlap, who, in my opinion, was as important to the team as Brandon Flowers. He signed a 4-year, $28 million contract a few weeks ago. Dunlap, 29, had one of the best seasons of his careers. The King solidifies the left tackle spot and makes Rivers’ blind side well protected.
Who the Chargers should target in the draft: There is still one big hole on the line, and that is who is playing right tackle/right guard? Will D.J. Fluker get one more year to prove he can play the position of right tackle? Or will they shift him inside to right guard? The Chargers should stick with Franklin as their left guard, and keep Fluker as their right tackle.
So, the question arrises as to who should be targeted in the upcoming NFL Draft. Offensive guard Laken Tomlinson of Duke is a great option. He has quick feet, rolls his hips well and is a bulldozer in the run game. In Mike McCoy’s offensive system, running is a huge part of the gameplan. Adding Tomlinson potentially gives the team of the best run blocking lines in the league. One of his weaknesses is his consistency. He tends to be lethargic at times, but that can could be adjusted in the NFL. He is projected to go in the second round, and he could fall into San Diego’s hands. That leaves you with a first-round pick, which could possibly be used on a running back.
With these additions to the team, it gives you the perspective of the offensive line in 2015: King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, Chris Watt, Laken Tomlinson, and D.J. Fluker. That is a very good offensive line.
How do you guys think the line will do? Who would you like to see drafted/signed? Let me know in the comments.
Since late last week, the social media buzz has been ringing nonstop. Trades, re-signings, and various pick-ups have stunned the NFL and have given fans an entertaining start to free agency 2015. For Charger fans, the frenzy started when left tackle King Dunlap was re-signed. Since then, multiple players have also resigned and or joined the Bolts.
Entering the 2015 season, it was made very clear that the Tome Telesco had the most cap space available since taking over as general manager. The adjusted salary cap for this year is $142.98 million, leaving roughly $30 million of the cap unused.
So far, Telesco has locked up a total of 6 players: King Dunlap, Brandon Flowers, Orlando Franklin, Jacoby Jones, Trevor Robinson, and Ricardo Mathews. Knowing now who has already been secured, there seems to be a burning question as to how much cap space is left after recent contracts.
King Dunlap’s signing brought the cap space down to about $25 million. Brandon Flowers signed a 4-year, $36 million deal bringing the cap space now to a little more than $20 million. Now, Orlando Franklin was the heavy hitter signed from the Denver Broncos to a 5-year, $36 million dollar contract which brings the cap to roughly $16 million. Let’s not forget Jacoby Jones who signed a 2-year, $5.5 million dollar incentive which makes the cap space in the ball park of $14-15 million. That’s four impact players all locked up for 2015, with funds still available.
The last two players that were re-signed are backup center Trevor Robinson who signed a 2-year, $4.25 million and playing-time bonuses. Defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews signed a one-year deal estimating around $1 million.
We must not overlook that there have been some players released to free up some cap space. The Chargers cut guard Chad Rinehart, saving the team $3.25 million. Inside linebacker Reggie Walker was also released a few days ago, saving $1 million against the salary cap. With all these recent transactions, San Diego’s cap space should be approximately be in $16-17 million range.
Free agency isn’t over yet. It’s actually far from it. Telesco is still actively searching for aptitude, not big numbered headliner players who eat up cap dollars. Remember, the culture has shifted to obtaining quality over quantity. Don’t expect names like Ndamukong Suh or Mike Iupati to wear a blue and gold uniform, but don’t hope for a player like Vince Wilfork. The biggest sore spot in 2014, the offensive, has already been tremendously been upgraded. Moving forward, Charger fans should not get discouraged for this is only the beginning. In addition to free agency mania, the NFL Draft will aid the team in fresh young talent. Due to the rookie wage scale, all draftees will not be detrimental to cap availability.
The Bolts still have some gaps to fill, but having available cap space is crucial to filling those voids. Tom Telesco and his back office staff are diligently, yet wisely playing a game of football chess. Carefully placing each pawn in the right place for the advantage to win in free agency. With roughly $17 million dollars left to play with, expect a lot more to come from the crafty general manager.
Call me crazy, but I think the Chargers will be “all in” this offseason. Why? For one thing, they have the cap space available. But for the most important reason, because they want a new stadium and the best way to get the citizens and the city on deck with financing is to play in the Super Bowl.
Winning is one BIG reason why these stadiums get built. Lets take a look back at a few:
Metlife stadium in New York:broke ground in 2007. Jets and Giants both lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2006. Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007
Sports Authority Field: broke ground in 1999. Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 & 1998
Lincoln Financial Field: broke ground in 2001. Lost in the 2000 divisional round. 2001 the Eagles went 11-5, won the division and lost in the NFC Championship game
Gillette Stadium: broke ground in 2000. Patriots went 8-8 in 1999, 5-11 in 2000 but won the Super Bowl in 2001
How about a stadium locally?
Petco Park: Broke ground in 2000. Won the division in 1998 and also went to the World Series.
These are just a FEW of the stadiums I have found being built after or during a winning season.
Chargers know this is possibly the last season in San Diego and Spanos wants to stay. So who’s to say they wont give it one last chance? Reported today that the Chargers are going after Ndamukong Suh, Mike Iupati, and Randall Cobb and last week Adrian Peterson said he would take a pay cut to get out of Minnesota and was added the San Diego could be a possibility. Those are four players who are an immediate upgrade over anyone we have on our roster right now and would make this team an instant contender.
Ndamukong Suh adds a HUGE boost to the defense. It would take the double teams off of Luiget and Ingram and would make the entire defense better. Randall Cobb would add that deep threat and a very nice complimentary piece to Keenan Allen on the receiving corps and would also give the defense something to worry about. He can beat one-on-one press coverage, something our receivers couldn’t do last season. Mike Iupati gives you a bulldozer next to the King. His pass protection is suspect, but in a run heavy, quick passing offensive scheme that was used successfully in 2013, he will be a huge upgrade over Rinehart from last season. Adrian Peterson is an elite back that would make this offense unbelievably balanced and would give the Chargers a very reliable RB, something that has been missing since LT.
There’s no surprise that the Chargers are rumored to all 4 players, whether they can get all of them or not is still to be determined. But don’t be surprised to see anything such as this happen as a last effort to get a stadium here in San Diego.
Agree with me? Am I out of my mind? Let me know what you think!
The 2014 version of the Chargers offense was not what San Diego fans have grown accustomed to watching. Chargers fans are used to dominant running backs and a high flying passing game that few teams can match. That was not the case in 2014. Last season’s offense scored less than 20 points on six different occasions, including a shutout in Miami, and a pathetic week 17 effort against Kansas City that only posted seven point, keeping the Bolts out of the playoffs. There were signs of greatness throughout the season, but no consistency to be found. Why is that? Well, the obvious answer was all of the personnel changes on the offensive line. The Chargers went through centers with the frequency that a doctor goes through rubber gloves. You just never knew who would be blocking for Rivers from week to week, or even play to play. That has to be it! Or does it? Will fixing the offensive line cure what ails the Chargers offense? I’m not so sure.
Not being a huge fan of history when I was in school, I have found in my old age that it truly is important to study the past when trying to predict the future. If you follow proven successful strategies, you tend to succeed. If you make the same mistakes that your predecessors make, you will most likely fail. I believe the Chargers have gotten away from what works. It may not be an intentional change, but there has been a change nonetheless. Let’s take a look back and see why previous Chargers offenses were so successful. There were two eras that stand out in my mind when I think of great Chargers offenses: “Air Coryell” and “Marty Ball”.
Despite the annual snubbing by the Hall of Fame toward Chargers coaching legend, Don Coryell, everyone agrees that when he was the Bolts coach, the offense took off! “Air Coryell” brought the passing game to the forefront and left the three yards and a cloud of dust offense far behind. Scoring points was rarely a problem for Coryell’s teams. But why were they so effective? Two reasons: A great offensive line and outstanding offense weapons at the skill positions.
Looking at the Chargers line from those days it is no wonder why Dan Fouts is in the Hall of Fame. Billy Shields holding down left tackle, Doug Wilkerson and left guard, Don Macek at center, big Ed White at right guard, and Russ Washington was at right tackle week in and week out. You could count on these behemoths to be there for you on a weekly basis protecting the star QB and opening holes for the running backs. They stayed together for many years and got to know what to expect from each other. That kind of talent and cohesiveness is huge for an offensive line. When you have to switch the lineup and put guys in positions they are not used to, it creates great challenges that are often nearly impossible to overcome in a short period of time.
Some would look at the formidable offensive line that Air Coryell possessed and figure that they were the reason that the offense was so great. I agree, to a point. I think without that line, the Chargers offense would have been above average, but not as devastating as they were. Give Dan Fouts time to throw and he will carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey. What they had that put them over the top was very talented weapons in the skill positions. Let’s take a look at some of the players who benefited from great O line play, a brilliant offensive coach in Don Coryell, and a lot of talent:
Quarterback: Dan Fouts (HOF)
Wide Receiver: Charlie Joiner (HOF), John “JJ” Jefferson, Wes Chandler
Tight End: Kellen Winslow (HOF)
Running Back: Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, Lionel “Little Train” James, James Brooks
If you were fortunate enough to watch these guys play, you know that this is not a list of average players who would not have had success without the help of the offensive line. These players were special talents who did benefit from the great line, but also helped the line look better by getting open faster, hitting holes faster and harder, and throwing with quickness and decisiveness. Air Coryell was truly a gifted and complete offense.
Okay, that was a long time ago and the game has continued to evolve. So let’s take a look at a more recent offense: “Marty Ball”
Marty Ball was different than Air Coryell as it was more of an old school approach to moving the ball. Coach Marty Schottenheimer loved to run the football and impose his will on opponents. Having a top-notch offensive line was a very large part of Marty Ball. As Chargers fans have witnessed in the last couple of years, if you can’t open a hole, backs are rarely successful. Schottenheimer’s line could open holes and the backs could certainly hit them. Of course it never hurts to have one of the best running backs of all time on your team.
What did Schottenheimer’s offensive line have in common with Coryell’s? They were big, nasty, and reliable. They were there opening holes every Sunday for many years. Shane Olivea at right tackle, Mike Goff at right guard, Nick Hardwick at Center, Kris Dielman at left guard, and Marcus McNeill at left tackle were a formidable bunch who were not intimidated by defenses. They knew if they did their job, the Chargers would score and score often.
But again, would the Bolts have put up the huge numbers they did with average skill players? I highly doubt it. Here are some of the skill position players that benefitted from the O-Line:
Quarterback: Drew Brees (future HOF), Philip Rivers
Wide Receiver: Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd (younger version), Eric Parker
Tight End: Antonio Gates (younger version – future HOF)
Running Back: LaDainian Tomlinson (future HOF), Lorenzo Neal, Michael Turner
As you can see, both of these exceptional offenses have one thing in common; they were both filled with talent. They did not just have a strong offensive line and average talent that was able to excel due to large holes and great protection. They were able to dominate defenses because they were able to take advantage of their great offensive line by using above average to great talent at the skill positions.
In 2014, the Chargers offense looked great at times and then dropped off to a shell of what people hoping to see. Injuries on the offensive line were a major reason for the decline in effectiveness, but was that the only reason? I don’t think so. To see the whole picture, we need to look at the season and take a very hard look at the roster.
Coach Mike McCoy did not have the luxury of sending out a dominant offensive line like some of his predecessors. Nick Hardwick was his center in week one, but failed to make it back to the lineup the remainder of the season. That was a big blow as the center is responsible for reading the defense and calling out the blocking assignments for the line. That is a skill that takes time to develop. Throughout the remainder of the season, four other players got to take a shot at center due to a plethora of injuries at that position. In fact, the player who ended the season looking like the front runner to be the starter in 2015, Chris Watt, had never played the position before.
Along with Hardwick Et Al., at center, the Chargers had DJ Fluker at right tackle, Johnny Troutman at right guard, Chad Rinehart and left guard, and King Dunlap at left tackle. With the exception of Dunlap, this was a very inexperienced line and injuries plagued them throughout the entire season. But who was there to help them out?
Quarterback: Philip Rivers (Arguably future HOF)
Wide Receiver: Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen (missed two games), Eddie Royal, Seyi Ajirotutu (special teams players forced to get snaps at WR), Dontrelle Inman (rookie discovered in last couple weeks)
Tight End: Antonio Gates (aging, but still solid, Future HOF)
Running Back: Ryan Mathews (6 games, 74 carries), Donald Brown (13 games, 85 carries), Danny Woodhead (3 games, 15 carries, 5 rec), Branden Oliver (14 games, only 582 yards to lead team in rushing)
Comparing the 2014 Chargers offensive players to Air Coryell and Marty Ball makes it easy to see the problem with the current offense. Not only was the 2014 offensive line hampered by injury, it wasn’t great to start! Once Hardwick went down, there was little hope that the line would be able to work together like the lines of old. Too little experience and too many injuries really limited the offense and what plays they could run. That being said, would the 2014 Chargers offense have been one for the ages if the line had stayed healthy from week one? Honestly, I seriously doubt it.
Along with their inexperienced offensive line, the 2014 Chargers simply did not have the skill players needed to score points like Chargers teams of the past. They are lacking a deep threat at wide receiver. Malcom Floyd had a very nice season and can still get deep at times, but he does not strike fear in defenses like he did when he was younger and lined up opposite of Vincent Jackson, a deep threat in his own right. Keenan Allen is a nice route runner and makes a lot of catches, but only averages 10.2 yards per catch. The Chargers will need to add a true deep threat if they want Allen and Floyd to be dangerous weapons in 2015.
Running back is the most trouble for the Bolts moving forward. Most Chargers fans will argue that if the line could run block, the backs will gain yards. I have argued that myself! Looking back, I see where Ryan Mathews came back from injury and ran quite effectively behind a poor offensive line. He even put up over 100 yards (8.8 ypc) against a highly touted Rams front seven. So it can be done, if the back is good enough to make defenders miss or run through them.
One argument that I have not broached is that the 2014 offense did not compare favorably with the offenses of the past because Offensive Coordinator (OC) Frank Reich does not match up with Don Coryell, or Cam Cameron (OC under Schottenheimer). Perhaps we will tackle that topic another day.
Another argument is that you can’t load your offense up with three or four future Hall of Fame players anymore because of the salary cap. If you spend that kind of money on offense, your defense will suffer and your team will not be balanced enough to win championships. This argument has merit, but I say if you draft well, you will not have to pay the future stars big money for their first four years with the team. If they are worth big money for their second contract, there are many things that can be done to spread out the money over time and not kill your cap space. Other teams do it, why not the Chargers?
So, bringing this back to the original question, will fixing the offensive line fix the Chargers offense in 2015? My answer is no. That being said, I believe it will greatly improve the offense, just not get It to the elite level that we have seen in San Diego in the past. Until a deep threat and a true number one running back can be brought in, I don’t see this offense being any better than above average with occasional flashes of brilliance. Philip Rivers can only do so much at quarterback. The man needs talent around him.
Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below.
(Thanks to the following sites for the pics: thelandryhat.com, outdoor-wholesale-dropship.doba.com, spokeo.com, m.theepoctimes.com, and hillnholler.net)
The Chargers are heading into their fifth week with great poise and a record of 3-1 being led by the league’s leading MVP contender – Philip Rivers. They’ve been praised and dubbed Super Bowl contenders for their early season success, yet it’s no secret that the running game seems to continuously be struggling in each match up. Averaging only 2.4 yards a carry this year, and with only one rushing touchdown, gives them the distinction of almost last place for total rushing offense. The circling question of who is to blame can be debatable, yet the facts are pointing more toward the offensive line.
When it was announced that Ryan Mathews was going to be out 4-6 weeks due to injury, there was no question that Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead would step in nicely. However, that hasn’t gone as planned, forcing Tom Telesco to make a flood of active roster changes. Brown is now averaging 2.0 yards a game and 6.0 receiving yards. In hindsight, he is playing the role of both Mathews and Woodhead. Yet, how is a running back supposed to complete his job when he isn’t given the proper tools? Let me explain.
The offensive line has made an overflow of changes in just four games played. Nick Hardwick was placed on IR after the Arizona game which required the next center, Rich Ohrnberger, to step up. His performance hasn’t been stellar, yet he has been able to get the job done. However, after playing an incredibly physical game against Seattle, the Chargers found themselves digging for their third-string center to step in. With that said, every opponent that has played Seattle has lost their next matchup – until San Diego.
Already limited at the guard position, and no guaranteed timeline of when Jeromey Clary will be back, we’re left with two great pass blockers to hold the line – RT D.J Fluker and LT King Dunlap. In the last four games, the Chargers have played three of the league’s top 10 defenses: Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo. Keep in mind, Arizona ended last year with the number one ranked rush defense and Seattle’s defense crushed Denver in the Super Bowl with a 43-8 win.
Currently, the Chargers do not have the talent on the O-line to dominate the run game, which leaves the game dependent on Rivers’ throwing arm. With Brown having 50 rushing attempts and sharing the load with Oliver, it’s slowly wearing down each team that the Chargers play. This eventually tires the defensive line and opens up the passing game. It may not look too pretty in the boxscore, but the running game is serving its purpose.
Moving into week five versus the New York Jets, the Chargers will need a finely tuned game plan. Currently, the Jets rank #3 in total rushing defense, and #7 in total defense. These numbers are just as scary as going back into week one and two – in addition to an injury-ridden secondary. In order for the San Diego Chargers to defeat the Jets, the offensive line needs to step up big, open the gaps for the run, and hold firm for the entire game. Adding the way Rivers is connecting with his receivers and the defense’s continued success, there are no reasons as to why the Chargers can’t add another one to the win column.
At the start of the Chargers 2013 season my hopes were pretty low. I have to admit a 9-7 record and a playoff victory did not in any way seem realistic. My biggest concern coming into the year, like many of you, was the offensive line. In 2012, Philip Rivers was running for his life. And that is not a pretty sight. He took 49 sacks that season, fourth-worst in the league. Let’s not forget that the team ranked 27th in rushing in 2012 with a measly 91.3 yards per game average. The conventional thinking was that the team’s woes were rooted in a lack of continuity. The Bolts used nine different starters on the oline and never had the same starters for more than three games in a row. This clearly affected Rivers whose total QBR dipped to 40.6 which was the worst of his career since ESPN created the stat in ’08.
The offensive line was the root of so many of the team’s problems thus it is hard to know where to begin. Rivers and Charger fans were spoiled by years of pro-bowl service from Nick Hardwick, Marcus McNeil and Kris Dielman. It is easy to crucify the old regime for the debacle of the Jared Gaither contract in hindsight. But if you remember what happened when he entered the line (pre-contract) it seemed like the man was what the team needed. I know “that one GM” should have done his homework on his work ethic and it looked like disaster would continue to punish the team for years.
Consider how Evan Silva of Yahoo sports felt when ranking all 32 O-lines before the 2013 season. He ranked the Chargers dead last. It is kinda comical reading in hindsight, “The Chargers are a good sleeper for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft because they can’t protect their quarterback, and can’t rush other team’s quarterbacks. GM Tom Telesco’s first season is going to be a long one. Both projected starting tackles are heavy-footed waist benders who will get destroyed by Von Miller, Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali in the AFC West.”
What is my point in bringing all this up? Old news, right? Sure, but I want Charger fans to understand that Joe D’Alessandris was our unsung hero last year. My MVP of the 2013 season and every bit as important a change as Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy.
Joe D’, as the players call him, has a coaching background that includes time in the CFL and he told Chargers.com, “Up there it’s only three downs so you’re throwing the ball quite regularly and you have to pick up the blitz because it is a big blitz league. So that was a great, great experience. When I look back on my career that was a good move.”
Nick Hardwick has commented several times that Joe D’Alessandris belief is the hogs upfront need to practice at every position. That is why his squad excelled last year playing in multiple combinations. While coaching for the Bills in 2011, D’Alessandris started eight different offensive line combinations and the 23 sacks allowed was the third-fewest in team history during a 16-game season.
Certainly no one saw this coming. Sure, we drafted DJ Fluker but who thought that King Dunlap who was dumpster dived from the Eagles would play so well? Who expected Chad Rinehart would play well? At the end of the season Profootballfocus.com ranked the Chargers 18th, ten spots up from the spot they held with the same site the year before. Hardwick looked the best he had since his 2006 pro-bowl season, taking 1,075 snaps last year and allowed zero sacks. As a unit last year Rivers was sacked 29 times, 20 less sacks is of course a huge deal (8 of which were coverage sacks, and not obvious oline mistakes). The running backs were tackled for no gain or a loss on just 12 percent of carries, the lowest rate in the NFL in 2013.
Philip Rivers is a pocket passer and the foundation of our offense comes down to protecting him. And as seen last year, the running game certainly benefited from having Joe D’ on the Charger coaching staff. I think it is easy to undervalue the impact of Joe D’Alessandris. Is there a way to sign him up for life?
The San Diego Charger offensive line has been in flux ever since losing tackle Marcus McNeill and guard Kris Dielman to injury/retirement in 2011. Over the past several seasons there have been two lineman who’ve managed to stay in the starting rotation, center Nick Hardwick and guard/tackle Jeromey Clary.
Hardwick isn’t going anywhere this season, but the same might not be said for Clary. The guard position is beginning to get crowded through the offseason maneuvering of General Manager Tom Telesco, and Clary is due some substantial non-guaranteed money. The sum of which is 4.5 million dollars to be exact.
Chad Rinehart, Rich Ohrnberger and Johnny Troutman all saw time at guard last season, along with Clary. Through the draft, Telesco took Notre Dame guard Chris Watt in the third round. Watt has been practicing at rookie mini camp at right guard, Clary’s current starting position with the team. Early this week, the team signed Craig Watts, an undrafted rookie free agent guard out of West Texas A&M, after an impressive invite try-out.
Granted, the team needs depth on the line, but no matter how you slice it, it’s more than likely that the team won’t carry six guards.
Although it appeared that the offensive line had truly come together toward the end of the 2013 season, Clary had the third lowest run-block rating for all guards, according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus. An argument could be made for Clary’s versatility, as he was the team’s starting right tackle for some time. That argument is dashed fairly easily due to the dominance and youth of DJ Fluker, and due to anyone having watched Clary turn the right tackle position into the right turnstile.
Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris is known throughout the league as one of the best in the business, and is likely the one responsible for the renaissance of the line play last season. If Joe D can turn young wattage into high boltage, (sorry for that) then Clary becomes immediately expendable. As it is, rookies and all, it’s looking that direction anyway.
Clary is obviously happy to be a Charger, is well-liked, and is good for the locker room; when chasing a championship, however, sometimes tough decisions need to be made. Saving the 4.5 million would put the Chargers in a much nicer place when it comes to some thoughts on roster versatility. It’s unclear whether Telesco is considering bringing in any other depth. The option to attempt to trade Clary also exists. Clary is still certainly capable of starting at guard in the NFL and could yield at least some future late round draft pick(s).
As Charger fans saw last offseason, it’s good to have a plan B for key contributors on the roster as unfortunate things can happen during training camp or early in the season. That being said, there are still some quality veterans seeking employment whom would likely fit nicely into the range of extra cap space generated by cutting ties with Clary. Let’s explore some options.
WR Santonio Holmes:
Pros- Big play wideout with a lot of big experience, including one very memorable Super Bowl winning catch from Ben Roethlisberger. Versatility with differing offenses/QBs.
Cons- Does not fit the Chargers’ locker room mold. Known to be selfish and disruptive. May want more money than he’s worth. Santonio has also fought injuries lately.
DE Brett Keisel :
Pros- Coming off of a long and prosperous career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, Keisel would add significant experience and depth along a thin, albeit talented, defensive line. Could be a big time rotational player and mentor, and has a nasty streak.
Cons- There must be a reason the Steelers chose to not bring back this team and fan favorite. Lack of versatility and aging speed likely put Keisel out of the Steelers’ future plans. Can push up field, but likely not effectively get off blocks if the play isn’t coming right at him. Injuries are also a concern.
DT Aubrayo Franklin:
Pros- Spent a productive season with the Bolts in John Pagano’s defensive scheme in 2012. Quick and powerful and lots of experience in 3-4 schemes. Familiarity with some of the young roster and coaching staff. Could line up at end or tackle.
Cons- A hired gun who’s been floating around the league year to year, may not offer much to a young and impressionable locker room. Could be part of an unwanted old regime attitude and culture.
CB Asante Samuel:
Pros- Has a career full of highlight reel plays in big games. Is a ball hawking veteran who could play on any down and be trusted in many situations at least as much as current potential starter Richard Marshall.
Cons- Instincts may still be sharp, but speed and durability may be a factor late in his career. Takes a lot of risks, and can get burned. May be a gamble when Marshall is still productive.
Other possible options:
DT Kevin Williams
DT Isaac Sopoaga
The other lingering option is for Clary to restructure his contract, as some other Charger players recently have done. The truth is that through the good, the bad, and the ugly of his career, Clary has always been a good Charger. If he wants to stick around to see this new team through, he’ll simply have to do it at a more team-friendly price. If Clary is on this team week one, it must speak very strongly of his intangible value to the team, but it will still be all but certain that the clock is ticking in San Diego.
While free agency isn’t over, the draft is rapidly approaching. I wanted to analyze what is the biggest needs the Chargers have and whether they address them in free agency or the draft.
- Keenan Allen is a player to build around
- Hoping Vincent Brown can get back to the player that looked on the verge of a breakout in preseason 2012
- Malcom Floyd isn’t a guarantee to return
- Eddie Royal was strong last year but we need more help
Overall this is a big need and given that offense is our strength, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team go after a player early. However, the 2015 free agent class is ridiculous right now at the wide receiver position. I expect some of those big names to be locked up by then, but the Chargers could really add a big weapon next year.
- Fluker and Dunlap were huge at the tackles (literally and figuratively)
- Rinehart was a nice addition and played well
- Beyond excited to have Hardwick back but we need to also groom for the future here
- Clary is Clary…they missed him when he was out in the playoffs but they could definitely upgrade
Overall, there is a need for depth here if they are committed to Clary in 2014. Fluker is the key here and he’s one to be really excited about.
- Sean Lissemore is there and played well towards the end of last year
- Cam Thomas is in Pittsburgh
- Kwame Geathers is incredibly raw
Overall, this is a definite need. The current free agents are definitely on the older side (Franklin or Sopoaga) and I don’t think you can use a first round pick on a NT unless you know he’s going to be an impact guy. Could the Chargers think about moving Corey Liuget inside to DT or maybe just run more 4 D-line sets?
- Shareece Wright is the one that you are hoping continues to build on the last couple years.
- Steve Williams gives you hope at the slot
- Maybe with the emergence of Addae you can move Gilchrist back into the mix at corner
Overall, they have some players but a lot riding on some young players to step up. Marshall gives them a veteran presence but I expect this position group to be a HUGE battle in camp with all spots up for grabs.
- Melvin Ingram showed some flashes coming back from his knee injury. Gives me hope that fully healthy he can make impact plays.
- Larry English has 11 sacks in 5 years
- Dwight Freeney is coming off a major injury and is up there
- Tourek Williams played in 13 games last year, mostly due to injury
- Jarret Johnson is still a solid player but needs others around him to step up
Overall, they have a lot of players here. But this group was exposed because of injuries last year. They definitely need depth, but they also need some luck on their side.
Which positions do you hope the Chargers address in free agency or the draft? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!