The news of the week for the San Diego Chargers was the acquisition of former Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The Bolts claimed him off waivers Tuesday and released quarterback Bryn Renner to make space on the roster.
With Mettenberger in the fold that makes three quarterbacks at camp vying for the back-up quarterback position behind Philip Rivers. Kellen Clemens and undrafted free agent Mike Bercovici are the other quarterbacks filling out what will be a very interesting camp battle.
Mettenberger, 24, was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Titans. Standing 6’5″, 224 pounds, Mettenberger was a standout quarterback at LSU. Moving into the starting lineup in his junior season, Mettenberger excelled right away. In leading the Tigers to a 10-3 (6-2 in the SEC) season, Mettenberger went 207-352 for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. They lost by one point in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to Clemson 25-24. LSU finished 12th in the Coaches Poll and 14th in the Associated Press Poll that year.
In his senior season, Mettenberger made another quantum leap forward. Although they duplicated their record from the previous season at 10-3 (5-3 vs. the SEC), Mettenberger went 192-296 for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Tigers finished 14th in the AP and Coaches Poll as a result.
According to his 2014 draft profile on numerous NFL sites including NFL.com and WalterFootball.com, Mettenberger’s strengths are his outstanding arm strength, size, field vision and working from a pro-style offense in college. In his senior season he had a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron calling his plays. Cameron had just left the same position for the San Diego Chargers that offseason. Cameron’s arrival was key in Mettenberger’s senior year explosion.
Mettenberger’s perceived weaknesses were his footwork, work-ethic, long delivery and needing to improve his accuracy. For all intents and purposes Mettenberger had second-round talent. The main catalyst in his plunge into the late rounds was an ACL injury he suffered in the final game of the 2013 regular season. The injury prevented Mettenberger from participating in the NFL Combine. He did shine at LSU’s Pro Day where he completed 90% of his 125 passes.
The discussion of who the heir apparent to Philip Rivers should be has raged on for multiple seasons. We all know Scott Tolzien, Brad Sorensen, Kellen Clemens and Charlie Whitehurst were never going to be the answer to that question.
Mettenberger already has the advantage of knowing the system of new Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was the head coach for the Titans for both of Mettenbergers’ years in Nashville. The last time the Chargers made the playoffs was the one year Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator. The Chargers leaped from 31st to 5th in total offense in that season. Tennessee offered him their head coach position immediately after the season. He was fired halfway through his second season as head coach.
Whisenhunt brought John McNulty with him from Tennessee to be the Bolts new tight ends coach. McNulty was Mettenbergers’ quarterbacks coach in Tennessee. In a new interview with Ricky Henne of Chargers.com his had this to say about reuniting with his old coaches:
“I was definitely relieved to come to a situation where the future looks good for me. That was a long 24 hours to be waiting so it was great to hear his voice.” Mettenberger was speaking of Ken Whisenhunt, who called Mettenberger immediately after the waiver claim was official. Mettenberger continued. “The first thing he asked me was if I still remember the playbook. Fortunately, I know it really well. He was really excited to get back to work with me. He was the one who drafted me, so it’s worked out really well. It’s awesome to be back with Coach Whiz and Coach McNulty.”
Did the Chargers just stumble onto their quarterback of the future?
Pessimists will point to the fact that Mettenberger is 0-10 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. That is true. What also can’t be disputed is how awful the Tennessee Titans have been over the past two seasons. The Titans were 2-14 the season Mettenberger was drafted and 3-13 in 2015. The Titans ranked 25th or lower in the NFL in rushing yards, passing yards, points for and points against.
Mettenberger had a better offense at LSU than he had in Tennessee. At least at LSU he had Pro Bowlers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to catch the ball. Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill were chewing up yards running the football.
Mettenberger is in an ideal situation in San Diego. With his knowledge of the offense and coaches he already has a leg up on Clemens and Bercovici. He now has a better team and an elite, veteran NFL quarterback as a mentor. Rivers’ contract ends at the conclusion of the 2019 season. In three seasons Mettenberger will be 27 and ready to step into the starting spot. There is no pressure to produce right away as there was in Tennessee.
We’ve seen this situation play out with great success when you consider stars like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Rivers himself. All of them watched from the bench for a season or more before their number was called. All of them will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio one day.
The reset button has been pushed on Zach Mettenberger’s career. For the first time since the departure of Drew Brees there appears to be a capable second-in-command waiting in the wings. Is Mettenberger that man? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
We all rave about the acquisitions made by Tom Telesco in his 18 or so months as Chargers’ GM. Picking up guys like Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown were popular moves among many fans. Draft picks like D.J. Fluker, Keenan Allen, Jason Verrett and Jerry Attaochu had fans applauding.
But what about the departures? The players Telesco let go are probably just as noteworthy as the players he signed as free agents or drafted. Here are my top five releases/non-signings over the past year and a half:
Top spot has to be Derek Cox. Cox was benched by Mike McCoy almost more than he saw playing time. He was awful, he was horrible. He got burned, embarrassed, humiliated, caught flat-footed and out of position so much you’d think he was a pee wee leaguer. Personally, I hated Derek Cox more than I hate the cable company bearing the same name.
Next up, none other than the “Big Lazy”, Jared Gaither. Yeah, he came in during the 2011 season and pulled enough wool over A.J. Smith’s eyes as a savior at left tackle to get a stupid contract. Surprisingly, he spent more of 2012 “hurt” than he did suiting up. Apparently, the meeting Telesco had with Gaither before training camp went so well, Telesco decided cutting Gaither was worth the cap pain that would inflict.
The second spot was really a toss-up between Gaither and Robert Meacham. Wow, epic bust. He was a #3 or #4 on the New Orleans depth chart, brought in to be #2 behind Malcolm Floyd. Nobody ever will mistake Meacham for Vincent Jackson. He was such a bust, he even found himself in Norv Turner’s dog house and hardly saw playing time the second half of the season.
In this spot, Clipboard Jesus. A.J. lets this guy go to Seattle to try and be a starter, which failed miserably. So what does he do? Bring him back again to carry Philip Rivers’ water bottle and jock strap. In Charlie’s defense, why would he turn down the contract A.J. offered? Dude made some good money to stay clean, wear a baseball cap and hold a clipboard.
Lastly, we have Takeo Spikes. I liked this guy. He played hard, he worked hard, he was a leader and a mentor for the younger guys, but he’d lost a couple of steps. Defense had to get younger, and Takeo, having seen better days, needed to be released.
There are others, of course, but these are the most notable non-moves/releases from where I sit.
The 2013 season has come to a close and the off-season has begun. A nine win season, combined with a playoff victory at Cincinnati, has the Chargers fan base excited once again. Head Coach Mike McCoy and General Manager Tom Telesco have the Bolts franchise on the fast track to reopening a championship window that, under former Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith, seemed to have slammed shut. Looking back at the season, one could argue- with a little more maturity by the players and coaches- the Bolts could have finished with at least 12 wins. Some early season stumbles against Houston, Tennessee and Washington handed the Chargers some painful last minute losses. Conversely, the Bolts finished the season like studs by winning 5 of their last 6 games – beating the Chiefs twice and the Broncos in Denver during that stretch. To say things are on the upswing under McCoy and Telesco would be an understatement. With this in mind, I humbly submit the first article in my six part series documenting my thoughts and feelings regarding the state of the franchise.
The 10-year veteran had a rebirth under Mike McCoy in 2013. Recently departed Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s plan was to balance the offense and ask Philip to make quicker decisions in the passing game. “Take what the defense is giving us” was the mantra. Rivers seemed to flourish with this approach and his statistics dramatically improved across the board from the previous season. He completed 69.5% of his passes finishing with 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. There is no question that Rivers still has plenty of fire in his belly and strength in his arm to compete at an elite level through the remainder of his current contract, which expires in 2016. He remains the unquestioned leader of the team.
“Clipboard Jesus” as he is affectionately known by Bolts fans, has been Philip’s right hand man on the Chargers sideline throughout most of Rivers’ career. They bounce thoughts off of one another throughout games and it seems to help Rivers maintain his focus. The fact of the matter, however, is that Charlie’s contract is up and we have what appears to be a better back-up option in 1st year quarterback Brad Sorensen. Whitehurst’s only real game action occurs in the preseason, so Telesco will need to make a tough decision regarding Philip’s security blanket. Will Charlie accept a significantly lower contract offer to stay in San Diego? I have a feeling that’s what it will take for him to be in a Bolts uniform come this fall.
The rookie signal caller from Southern Utah opened a lot of eyes last preseason by making big play after big play with both his arm and his legs. Sorensen’s agility in the pocket and his ability to run when necessary was exciting. He made numerous throws downfield in the clutch under pressure, all with accuracy and zip. Sure, those throws were made against the opponent’s 2nd and 3rd stringers, but he had 3rd stringers blocking for him too. Charger fans haven’t seen this kind of mobility since a little guy named Doug Flutie donned lightning bolts. There is no question that Brad needs coaching up, but he seems to have that something that playmakers have to have. He’ll give McCoy and Telesco plenty to contemplate as they try to decide what they want to do in regards to Whitehurst.
There is no bigger question mark on the Chargers roster than Mathews. Coming into the season, many experts questioned if Ryan was the long-term answer at halfback for the Bolts. With a long history of fumbling and an inability to stay healthy, it seemed as though Mathews was on his way out of San Diego. Former Head Coach Norv Turner publicly questioned Ryan’s field vision and heart, while former General Manager A.J. Smith boldly stated he would be “somebody else’s fumbler” if his play didn’t improve. Those assessments may have been warranted at the time but I doubt they did much to help solidify a young back’s confidence in himself. 2013 presented Mathews with a fresh start. He embraced the new coaching style of Mike McCoy and had a very solid season in the Whisenhunt offense. Mathews ran for 1,255 yards and added another 189 yards as a receiver. He scored 7 total touchdowns and ran the ball with authority all season. He remained relatively healthy and showed toughness by trying to play through a high ankle sprain in the playoffs. It was a season that showed everyone what he is capable of. Is he the long-term answer after all? That is the million dollar question…
Ronnie’s contract is up this off-season. He has been a decent back-up over the past couple of seasons. His contribution this past season included 157 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. His value has dropped because of the stellar play of Danny Woodhead. The thought heading into the season was that the team ought to hang onto Brown due to questions regarding Woodhead’s small frame being able to take the pounding as a full-time starter if Mathews went down with an injury. As the season progressed, and Woodhead’s workload increased, it became apparent that those concerns were unfounded. Unless we can sign Brown cheaply, I doubt he’ll be on the roster next season.
Coming over from New England, Woodhead was pegged as “the guy who would fill the void left by Darren Sproles”. Sproles is a remarkable, multi-faceted threat out of the backfield. Rivers himself admitted being “depressed” when the Bolts let Sproles sign with New Orleans. Woodhead inherited these high expectations and accepted them from day one in San Diego. It didn’t take long for Danny to rise up and do Sproles-like things on the field. In addition to being small in size (he is listed at 5′ 8″ on the Chargers website), he has the same quickness and low center-of-gravity that Sproles possesses. Danny’s agility while running makes it difficult for defenders to lay a solid lick on him. Lastly, Woodhead has become as big a threat in the passing game as Sproles was as a Charger. Looking at Danny’s 2013 statistics, his dual-threat nature becomes very apparent. He rushed for 429 yards, averaging a respectable 4 yards per carry, and scored 2 rushing touchdowns. He hauled in 76 receptions for 605 yards and 6 touchdowns! He also contributed on special teams averaging 21.8 yards per kickoff return. He was the steal of last year’s free agency crop and a rather large feather in Tom Telesco’s hat.
McClain had another uneventful season. There are few “people-in-the-know” out there that would deny his blocking prowess. The fact of the matter is that most NFL offenses are going away from the traditional two-back set. Being the old-school football purist I am, I was really excited when we signed McClain a couple years back thinking that it would allow Mathews a real shot at becoming what we all envisioned he would be. In reality, his impact has been minimal to say the least. In 2013, Le’Ron carried the ball just 11 times, gaining 32 total yards. Does that level of production justify the 2.5 million dollars he is scheduled to make this upcoming season? If he is unwilling to restructure his deal in some way, I have a hard time visualizing him on our roster in the fall. His cap space will be too valuable as Telesco moves forward rebuilding the team.
Thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for part two of this series… Your comments are always welcomed!
Take heart Charger fans – the Bolt is back!!
If you read Booga’s article earlier today, “Charger fans: Step away from the ledge”, I would like to add to that a little and give you my take on last night’s game against the Seahawks.
I’ll have to agree with Booga in that as I watched the game and commented back and forth to many Charger fans on Facebook, they were very upset. I had to remind everyone that it’s only preseason. I also went on to tell fans that the Chargers can’t fix the weak areas unless they know what they are. In addition, I reminded folks that the Patriots and the Packers went 0-4 during preseason and went on to win a Super bowl during those same year. That’s not to say the Chargers will win a Super bowl this season however, it is to say that preseason means absolutely NOTHING other than to evaluate players.
I saw some bright spots as well as weaknesses last night. I’ll go through what I saw and you guys feel free to comment.
The first team offense marched right down the field on our first drive which I think could have been a touchdown had McCoy gone for a second 4th and 1 on said drive. Instead he went for the field goal. Ryan Mathews looked great on that drive. Antonio Gates and John Phillips both had big receptions as well. We also saw Eddie Royal with a couple of touches and even Keenan Allen had a reception to help the drive. Chad Rinehart did a nice job for the O-line opening up holes for the running backs. And last but not least, Philip Rivers looked sharp. You can forget what the naysayers are saying about him.
Our first team defense looked pretty good as well, stalling Seattle’s first drive. You can forget what the naysayers are saying about Dwight Freeney too. I saw him completely dominate Seattle’s offensive tackle, Breno Giacomini. No spin moves or fancy dancing, he just bull rushed Giacomini several times. I was impressed. Jarret Johnson did a nice job setting the edges to contain the Seahawks running game as well.
A lot of the second teamers and Rookies looked impressive as well. I liked the way Fozzy Whitaker was running the ball. I knew he would bust one loose (a run) after watching his first couple of touches. He’s quick and decisive.
David Molk did a nice job although he has to work on mental mistakes.
Steve Williams also did a nice job on coverage for the most part, although he did get burned for two touchdowns. You have to admit, those passes would have been difficult for any Cornerback to defend.
Areas that need work:
Here we go again with Robert Meachem. He didn’t drop any passes but he was running his routes incorrectly. Seems the coaching staff is trying to find a spot for him, using him for kickoff returns. At least Eddie Royal is showing more promise. Meachum still looks like a bust.
Josh Johnson, the rookie cornerback that was assigned punt return duties last night. Yikes. He better put some stickum on those hands or something (illegal, I know). He muffed his first attempt which almost resulted in disaster. His second attempt was almost disastrous as well. He’s lucky the ball didn’t touch him, otherwise the score would have been 38-10! Yikes!
I think the most glaring thing that stood out to me, and other fans, was Charlie Whitehurst.
My opinion of him is not good. He held the ball too long and couldn’t find his receivers. I was willing to give him somewhat of the benefit of the doubt at first, but it was the same thing I saw him doing in training camp. Then after I saw what Brad Sorensen did when coach finally put him in, no more benefit. Whiteworst out, Sorensen in. Period.
There were a lot of mental mistakes that resulted in penalties which drive coaches crazy. If these players keep making these mistakes, NFL will mean “not for long” for these guys.
Don’t fret Charger fans and like BoogaP said, step away from the ledge!! It’s only preseason. There are a lot of good things to look forward to.
In a previous article of mine, I suggested some of the players that may not make the roster and are my “surprise” cut before the season starts. The player I thought may be the “surprise” cut was Charlie Whitehurst. After having coached Peyton Manning, Mike McCoy’s standards for QB have probably been set very high.
No settling for mediocrity.
My feelings that Mike Hermann would be cut came to fruition when the Chargers waived Hermann and signed free agent quarterback Nathan Enderle on Wednesday.
Out of the University of Idaho, in his 2009 season, Enderle led an offense that was ranked 9th in the nation. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. After the Bears waived him, he went to the Jacksonville Jaguars where he was eventually cut during pre-season, then ended up with the Tennessee Titans during the offseason. I’m guessing that the Chargers may keep 3 Quarterbacks on the active roster. If they only keep two, Whitehurst, Sorensen and Enderle will be fighting for the backup spot.
In other roster moves the Chargers waived injured Cornerback Chibuikem “Kenny” Okoro and signed free agent rookie Safety Tony Burnett out of USC. If Okoro clears waivers, Chargers will place him on the IR list according to Chargers.com.
Let’s hear your thoughts.
With the new regime in place, there is a question as to whether Charlie Whitehurst’s services are needed any longer. Whitehurst has been a Charger, aside from his two year stint with the Seahawks, for the majority of his career. Charlie Whitehurst and a 2010 2nd round pick was traded to Seattle for a 3rd round draft pick as well as a 2010 2nd rounder. During his run with the Seahawks, Whitehurst played in 9 games and threw for 805 yards and 3 TDs and 4 interceptions.
Norv Turner and company brought Clipboard Jesus back for 2012 season because of the familiarity he had with the team. Not to mention the need for another QB on the roster. The question I pose to the Charger fans of the world is this: Do you feel comfortable with Charlie Whitehurst as the backup and only other QB on the Chargers active roster?
Feel free to answer in the poll below and leave any additional thoughts in the comments section. We want to know your thoughts!!
Thank you for voting and having your voice be heard. And, as always, #ReadTheBlitz