The San Diego Chargers played their first preseason game Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys. In front of their home crowd the bolts won the contest 17-7. As we all know, the score is immaterial. The important thing is how did the team look? There are a lot of players fighting for a roster spot. Who is giving maximum effort and who is not? How big is the talent differential when the second and third units come in compared to the unit before them? These are the key things to watch in a preseason game. Here are my takeaways from the first game.
Preseason or not, it was great to see that it didn’t take long before the team got their first takeaway. The first team defense recovered a snap that went over the head of Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden. Donald Butler crashed the backfield and eliminated the quarterback from the play, kicking the ball upfield in the process. The ball was then recovered by an offseason acquisition, cornerback Patrick Robinson. The Chargers would force and recover a second fumble in the half. The Chargers only had 18 takeaways all last season. That stat needs to improve if they’re going to be a serious playoff contender.
The running game looked sharp. Last season the running game was out-of-sync all season with the exception of the emergence of Branden Oliver. After Danny Woodhead went down in week three and Mathews resumed his usual spot at the trainer’s table the Chargers running game died. Woodhead looked great in his return from a broken leg, rushing for an eight-yard touchdown on his first carry. Oliver also ran with power and Barry Sanders-like shiftiness, posting 53 yards and a touchdown on ten carries. Melvin Gordon gained 11 yards on six carries. He will gain more carries and confidence now that the first game jitters are out of the way. We all expect Gordon to be in contention for Rookie of the Year at season’s end but let’s temper our expectations. With rookies come growing pains.
The special teams looked better than they have in previous seasons. Undrafted kicker Josh Lambo provided a welcome sight in sending kickoffs through the end zone. Kicker Nick Novak booted a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that looked like it would have been good from another ten yards back. Punter Mike Scifres looked like his old self after finishing last season on injured reserve with a broken collarbone. Scifres’ first punt pinned the Cowboys inside their own five yard line. Reserve cornerback Chris Davis had a couple exciting kick returns and Javontee Herndon looked great finding holes on punt returns. Paired with Jacoby Jones, this may be the best group of returners the Chargers have had in a long while.
The first team defense showed the ability to get a good pass rush against what is considered to be the best offensive line in the league. Second round draft pick Denzel Perryman showed his nose for the ball with five tackles, a pass defensed and got close on a couple of potential sacks. Manti Te’o disrupted plays. Fifth round draft pick Kyle Emanuel had a great showing with three solo tackles including a sack and tackle for loss. It was also good to see nose tackle Ryan Carrethers finally off the injured reserve list and on the field. Carrethers was double-teamed on every snap he played and still managed to get two tackles.
As always, there are things to work on. The run defense, while only allowing 70 yards on the night could have had an even better output were it not for a lot of missed tackles. On the Cowboys lone score, running back Gus Johnson dragged several Chargers defenders into the end zone for the score.
Special teams did a good job in containment but there were also some tackles left on the field that could have put the Cowboys deep into their own territory. Tackling is an ailment that is usual during the first preseason games because there isn’t much tackling going on in training camp. Expect the tackling to improve as these exhibition games pass.
The biggest downside were the injuries. Offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman worked hard to get on the field after a leg injury only to break his arm during the game. Outside linebacker Tourek Williams was having a great game pressuring the quarterback and running down ball carriers until he broke his foot in the third quarter. Williams underwent surgery on Friday and the timetable on his return is unknown at the moment. While the two weren’t starters they are key depth positions.
All in all, it’s the preseason. There will be plenty of game tape with enough mistakes that there will be no shortage of things to work on this week. San Diego should feel confident in the collection of players on their sideline. This is a team fans should feel proud to come out and support. This is a team (if they can stay healthy) that can overtake the Broncos for the AFC West title. If this is their last season in the 619 area code, they will be going out with a bang.
What did you think of the season opener? Post your comments below.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers look to improve a defense that ranked 10th in total defense (4th vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Of the Chargers’ five draft picks, four were made on defense. Today we’ll take a look at the cornerback position and how the Bolts will look to improve on a pass defense that received little support in the form of a pass rush from the front-seven. Here’s a look at who the Chargers have in camp at the present time:
Brandon Flowers: The 29-year-old made an instant impact after he signed last offseason after being released by Kansas City in a cost-cutting move. He made the most of his one-year ‘prove it’ contract, and re-signed with the Chargers on a four-year, $36 million deal.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was the number one cornerback in the NFL for the first eight weeks of the season before he missed games with numerous injuries including concussion, groin and ankle maladies. He managed to perform in 14 of the Chargers 16 games despite being banged up, recording 52 tackles (48 solo), three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Now entering his eighth season, Flowers looks forward to continuing his ‘big brother’ role to the Bolts’ young group of cornerbacks.
Jason Verrett: The 2014 first-round draft pick was having an excellent season opposite Flowers until his year was cut short by a torn labrum in week six. The resilient rookie tried to return in week eight against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but only succeeded in aggravating the injury. The Chargers placed him on IR after week 10.
Flowers and Verrett ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pro Football Focus cornerback ratings while they played together. Losing both, at times, forced others to step up and fill some “large shoes.” Verrett compiled 19 tackles (18 solo), one dramatic, game-saving, late fourth quarter interception versus Oakland and four passes defensed in six games. A healthy Verrett is going to greatly improve the secondary and he is most likely to man the right corner position opposite Flowers.
Patrick Robinson: A 2010 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson signed a one-year contract with San Diego in March. In five seasons, he’s logged 180 tackles (150 solo), one sack, nine interceptions with one forced fumble and 46 passes defensed. Robinson bounced back strong in 2014 after rupturing his patellar tendon in week 2 and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
Last season, Robinson defensed 11 passes with two interceptions and 39 tackles. Robinson also found his way into New Orleans head coach Sean Paytons’ doghouse as he was benched repeatedly. Hopefully, his tenure in San Diego can mirror the second chance Brandon Flowers received. He will be the leading candidate for the number three cornerback in the rotation at this point. It is worth noting that after struggling on the outside, he picked up his play once given the opportunity to play the nickel-spot in the New Orleans’ defense. Robinson may end up be a sleeper signing for the Charger defense.
Steve Williams: Looking to get his career on track, Williams finally found the field in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury. He played in 13 games, recording 10 tackles with two passes defensed. Drafted by the Chargers alongside his college teammate Keenan Allen, the Cal Bear got onto the Chargers radar after exhibiting freakish athleticism at the combine with 4.25 speed in the 40, 10’8″ broad jump and 40.5 inch vertical jump. The Chargers still hold out hope that their 2013 fifth-round choice can fully apply his skills and stay on the field. He should see an opportunity to compete with Robinson for the nickel role, and continue to see snaps on special teams. His speed makes him an asset on both defense and special teams.
Chris Davis: Entering his second year out of Auburn, Davis played in 12 games for the Chargers, contributing mostly on special teams. The team found value in Davis in the kickoff return game, where he averaged 25.1 yards on 19 returns. After assuming those duties in the November 2nd Dolphins’ game, Davis may have found his role as the team’s return specialist. Known for what will arguably stand as the greatest return in college football history in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Davis looks to repeat his success in San Diego while also playing more on defense. Davis has shown flashes of playmaking capability, and he can be an important piece to a championship team if he can sustain his health and continue to improve in 2015.
Craig Mager: When the team’s 2015 third-round draft pick name was announced on day two of the draft, it came with a collective chorus of “Craig Who” on social media and team message boards. But fans, and the league, will soon know his name. The Chargers are very high on the Texas State cornerback. At the combine, Mager ran a 4.44 in the 40, broad-jumped 10’10” and had a 38-inch vertical jump. Mager developed a reputation as an aggressive tackler in the secondary while in college, as he was named to the second team All-Sun Belt Conference for 2014. If he can adjust to the immense jump in talent from a mid-major conference in college football to the elite level of the NFL, Mager will pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Richard Crawford: A new face that will be ready for action, Oceanside native Richard Crawford is a third-year pro. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford had a successful season culminating with an interception of Tony Romo in week 17; one that clinched the Redskins a playoff spot. His momentum came to an abrupt halt, as he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in the 2013 preseason that caused him to miss the entire season.
Crawford was eventually cut by the Redskins, and then added to the Chargers’ practice squad in week nine of last season. In his one season in Washington, Crawford recorded 18 tackles (13 solo), two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one interception and also contributed on special teams. His 64-yard punt return against Baltimore secured the field position needed to kick a game-winning field goal. As a result, the ‘Skins got the overtime win over their in-state rival. Crawford will provide healthy competition for cornerback and punt return duties.
Greg Ducre: Still looking to make an impact, Ducre is a second-year pro out of Washington. Last season, Ducre signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was signed off the practice squad by the Washington Redskins. In a two-month span, he played one regular season game and was then released by Washington the next day. The Chargers then re-signed Ducre to the active roster where he has remained ever since.
Ducre adds a much-needed speed element to the Chargers secondary. At Washington’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 and 4.34 seconds. He recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and 10’6″ broad jump. In the one game he played for Washington against San Francisco, he recorded an interception of Colin Kaepernick. His athleticism speaks for itself. But can he do it if called upon to do so in San Diego? Ducre faces an uphill battle to find his way onto the roster.
Manuel Asprilla: The undrafted free agent out of Boston College did not miss a game after getting to play three games into his freshman season at BC. A tackling machine, gathering 201 tackles (142 solo) and 15 tackles for loss. Asprilla had four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 23 passes defensed over his collegiate career. It will be a long shot for Asprilla to make the 53-man roster, but the Chargers have a long history of finding undrafted free agent gems. Practice squad is always a possibility.
This crop of cornerbacks has a boom-or-bust feel to them. If Flowers and Verrett can stay healthy all season, they can again be an upper top-10 tandem that could give the Chargers a legitimate top-10 defense. With a year of experience in the system, it stands to reason, that both will be even better than last season. San Diego missed the playoffs by one game last season. That tandem could have made up that one game.
Robinson was a great signing and will contribute right away. The rest of the field are all athletic freaks with speed to burn and off-the-charts leaping ability. When you consider the fact the Bolts don’t have a single member of the secondary that stands six-feet-tall or better, physically gifted athletes are a necessity when you look around the league at the tall, fast wideouts in the league now.
This is a group that will be charged with facing the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson, in week one. In week two, they will have to cover A. J. Green. They stand 6’5″ and 6’4″ and run 4.35 & 4.5 respectively. Add in a double shot of Demaryius Thomas, plus Jordy Nelson (both 6’3″), and it’s easy to see the Chargers’ secondary will be tested all season. Paired with Eric Weddle and the group of safeties he leads, the Bolts will boast a formidable secondary; if they can stay healthy and improve on their woeful takeaway totals (seven interceptions, one safety, 11 fumble recoveries).
This is a group that is full of promise, but can they deliver? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
¿Qué se puede decir? Casi nos da un ataque! Un partido que estuvo muy reñido y donde se vio que ambos equipos tenían esperanzas de llevarse la victoria. Es exactamente lo que se vio el domingo pasado en el Estadio Qualcomm, en la hermosa ciudad de San Diego, donde mas de 66,000 aficionados apreciaron un partido que, simplemente, se puede describir en una sola palabra: Cardiaco.
Desde el primer minuto se veía que iba a ser un encuentro que iba a dar mucho de que platicar, y mucho de que disfrutar. La escuadra relámpago se veía con mucha energía, mucho espíritu y seguridad como equipo en general, algo que no se había visto en los encuentros contra Miami y Oakland. Y a pesar de grandes errores que hubo en varios momentos del juego, los Chargers, con trabajo en equipo, buenas estrategias y un buen de suerte, lograron llevarse la victoria 27-24 contra San Luis.
Ahora a recapitular, como en cada semana, algunas notas importantes sobre el juego:
Ryan Mathews Está De Vuelta!
Vaya que se nota como un jugador lesionado afecta el juego terrestre. La ausencia de Ryan Mathews se vio por varias semanas, y ahora con su regreso, parece ser que está en sus mejores momentos. Tuvo un total de 102 yardas, un promedio de 8.8 yardas por carrera, la más larga de 32 yardas, la cuál culminó en un touchdown. El #24 esta de vuelta y con muchas ganas de dar su todo durante el juego, solo esperemos que no se vuelva a lesionar.
“El Capitán” Mostró Vida Durante Todo el Juego
Excluyendo la decepcionante intercepción por parte de Janoris Jenkins de los Rams, Philip Rivers estuvo espectacular durante el encuentro. Mostraba energía, utilizó una buena estrategia durante el juego, y tuvo control de los pases que quería hacer (otra vez, excluyendo la intercepción) Con un total de 35 intentos, de esos, 29 completados, 291 yardas y un rating de 98.9, nuestro capitán no mostraba ninguna señal de demora o lesión.
¿Problemas Al Recibir Balones Pateados?
A la mejor estoy exagerando, pero creo que los Chargers son el único equipo en la NFL ahorita que no puede correr el balón después de recibirlo, ya sea por despeje o después de una anotación del otro equipo. Un total de 3 touchbacks durante el partido, incluyendo varias capturas libres. La única esperanza de posibles corridas fue por parte de Chris Davis, quien intentó correr el balón en 2 ocasiones, y en ambas logró más de 20 yardas. Sin embargo, Davis fue participe de un grave error, al chocar con Keenan Allen en el recibimiento del balón, y dejando que los Rams recuperaran el balón. El error se corrigió por parte de Allen jugadas después con un touchdown, sin embargo, son errores que pudieron haber modificado el resultado del juego de forma drástica.
Mike Scifres y Nick Novak = Estelar!
Ya hemos comentado en varias ocasiones que el dúo dinámico de Scifres y Novak, a quien yo llamo por buen gusto “S&N”, son dos jugadores clave de la escuadra relámpago. Scifres hizo cuatro patadas de despeje, por un total de 197 yardas, un promedio de 38.3 yardas por patada, y la más larga de 55. Novak, por su parte, demostró otra vez que el toma ventaja de cada momento para patear, con dos goles de campo exitosos, uno de 23 yardas, y el segundo 48 para cerrar la primera mitad. Interesante como la diferencia en el resultado final fue un gol de campo (3 puntos), entonces debemos agradecer que tenemos un pateador estelar como Novak.
Un Mejor Desempeño Por Parte de La Defensiva
Sigue habiendo detalles como en cualquier línea defensiva, pero se debe aplaudir la estupenda participación y desempeño de los jugadores. Aprovecharon cada oportunidad dada para hacer una jugada, y vaya que dieron varios momentos de alegría para la afición relámpago. Brandon Flowers se lució nuevamente con una gran intercepción en el primer cuarto, a pesar de perder el balón, que fue recuperado por Melvin Ingram. Otra gran jugada fue por parte Corey Liuget que forzó un fumble, recuperado por Andrew Gachkar, quien corrió para sumar 6 puntos al marcador de los Chargers. Darrell Stuckey también tomó ventaja al bloquear un gol de campo por parte de los Rams. Pero sin embargo, la jugada más inesperada, y una que dejó a casi, si no a todo aficionado con la boca abierta, fue la intercepción por parte de Marcus Gilchrist, a un minuto de terminar el juego. Sin duda se vio un buen trabajo en equipo por parte de la defensiva.
Sin duda un partido cardiaco, pero deja las esperanzas de que nuestro gran equipo logre llegar a los Playoffs, o como le decimos acá en México, la “liguilla de la NFL”…quiero pensar que si le dicen así.
Bueno, en conclusión, para mi percepción fue un partido muy intenso, pero entretenido. La adrenalina estuvo a todo dar por parte de ambos equipos y ambas aficiones, y los Chargers lograron la victoria. Considerando que mi cumpleaños fue el día siguiente del partido, fue un buen regalo de cumpleaños. Ahora los Chargers se enfrentan el próximo domingo contra Baltimore, lo que será un encuentro muy interesante y contra un fuerte rival, sin embargo, en el juego del fútbol americano, todo puede suceder.
– José “Joe” Martinez
An identity crisis happens to many athletes, at every level. After Sunday’s meltdown in Miami, the Chargers find themselves in desperate need of some serious soul-searching and identity realization. Many things went wrong; even the Coaches were outperformed. However, if you looked close enough, it was obvious that one Charger player still gave his all…as if he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. Believe it or not, that player was Seyi Ajirotutu (TuTu).
It’s hard to imagine just one player, out of an entire team, giving everything he has. After seeing the Chargers embarrass themselves Sunday, you would understand that this did indeed happen. Almost all Chargers fans sat on their couches, bar stools and lawn chairs with their jaws on the floor in complete disbelief and even fury! Unfortunately, the entire nation saw the car wreck, too. Even with everything going wrong for the Chargers, combined with poor play, TuTu was playing as if it were the last game of his career.
He’s not one of those “well-known” players or even the face of the Chargers organization, but he certainly deserved the game ball, and here’s why. He plays with grit, passion and takes every play and yard personally…the reason, I suspect, is his NFL story.
TuTu was an undrafted rookie in 2010 signed by the San Diego Chargers. After an average rookie season, he was waived. In 2012, he spent some time with the Carolina Panthers before being cut. Bouncing back to San Diego, he replaced Richard Goodman, but unfortunately spent the rest of his 2012 season on injured reserve. He received another chance when the Chargers re-signed him in 2013. He then proved his value by catching the game-winning touchdown pass, with 24 seconds left in regulation, against the Kansas City Chiefs. With that track record, TuTu plays as if he will never step onto the field again; fighting to the very end. However, that fight cost him Sunday afternoon.
During regulation, TuTu was involved in a couple scuffles with Miami players. But late in the third quarter, he was ejected for making contact with an official. Prior to that, TuTu was frequently double teamed on special teams; yet still provided crucial blocks which contributed to Chris Davis’ punt return success. Doing your job during an extremely disgraceful and embarrassing game is hard when overall morale is down, but TuTu still managed to go all out.
If more players had his mindset and vitality Sunday, the outcome may have been different…and just maybe, players could have found it within themselves to play from their heart instead of their “you know whats”. The Chargers identity was lost, kind of like the Warner Bros. movie Space Jam; talents and spirits stripped away by the evil Miami space monsters. It will take a lot during this bye week to regain the momentum they had during the first six games of the season. Yet, if every player can acknowledge TuTu’s grit and hunger for the game, maybe the season will end as it did last year; winning the last four contests and clinching a wild card ticket into the playoffs.
I hope I’m not alone in wondering what in God’s name has happened to the Chargers (statistically) highly rated defense through the first five weeks. They sure as hell didn’t show up the past two weeks.
I am beginning to think John Pagano’s unit looked so good through the first five weeks was because of the play of Philip Rivers and the offense, not due to their own play. You can afford to attack with apparent reckless abandon when you’re playing with a lead and against teams that stink.
I’m beginning to think that the Jets and Jaguars are worse than anyone really suspected to be held at bay by the Bolts’ defense the way they were. I say this because Oakland exposed them with a rookie quarterback and a glass running back. In that game, they let a rookie quarterback have all day to throw the ball and he picked the defense apart to the tune of 282 yards and four touchdowns on 18 completions. Fortunately, the Raiders being the Raiders, shot themselves in the foot over and over again with penalties and dropped passes. The Bolts defense also gave up 5.7 yards per carry to Darren McFadden, who ran for 80 yards against the Chargers “vaunted” defense.
On Sunday, the Chiefs beat the Chargers at their own game, keeping Philip Rivers and the offense on the sidelines for 39 minutes. The defense let a game manager in Alex Smith complete 19 of 28 passes, many uncontested because of soft defensive coverage or just plain old poor execution. Jamal Charles ran for 95 yards to the tune of 4.3 yards per carry and the Chiefs converted on seven of 14 third down plays. Again, Kansas City’s dropped passes kept the Chargers close. Let’s not forget how the defense sat on a lead in Arizona, playing soft and letting them stay in the game and ultimately win it. Anyone else seeing a theme here?
So far, this year has been a tale of two John Pagano defenses. There’s the passive defense that cost a Week 1 loss in Arizona, a near loss in Week 6 in Oakland and a loss Sunday against Kansas City. This passive defense was also on the field when Seattle scored quickly, allowing themselves to stay within striking distance. Then there’s the swarming, attacking defense that factored in blow out wins against Jacksonville and the Jets.
What is the message here? To me, it’s elementary. The defense has to attack and not wait for the play to come to them. They have to play aggressively with 11 players. If they’re without Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, then Richard Marshall, Shareece Wright, Chris Davis and company need to step up their play and play up on receivers instead of giving them so much cushion. Donald Butler needs to show up. We haven’t seen the Donald Butler of past seasons at all this year.
Pagano’s unit needs to play with discipline, not leaving lanes wide open for the likes Derek Carr and Alex Smith to scamper through for positive yardage. This game was a display of tackling you would expect to see in a powder puff game. Sorry kids, but my mother tackles better than the Chargers did on Sunday. Nobody was immune from the missed tackle syndrome. There were countless whiffs, ball carriers running through tackles and failure to finish tackles. If this is the performance the defense brings to Denver on Thursday, it’s going to be a long night.
Tell me, am I wrong? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for taking time to visit the site.
Mike Pisciotta (@hawk_pie on twitter)
Rumors out of Chargers Park state that the knee injury suffered by Shareece Wright may not be as serious as it initially was thought to be. Kevin Acee of UT San Diego said that Wright is not practicing and he’s limping around while watching practice.
Wright’s play has improved and he is an important part of the San Diego secondary. With Jason Verrett on the shelf last week, the cornerback position was dealt a huge blow when Shareece went down. Verrett was limited today in practice but the hope is that he’ll be able to go on Sunday against the Jets at Qualcomm stadium.
Brandon Flowers was able to snag his first interception as a Charger last week and his play has been solid through the first quarter of the season. His addition alleviates a little of the stress concerning Wright’s injury, but the team is better when Shareece is on the field.
Should both Wright and Verrett be unable to go, the former is definitely out, the Chargers have Richard Marshall, Steve Williams and Chris Davis in reserve spots on the defense. Davis has been inactive but he could be called upon to contribute on gameday should the secondary be missing Jason in addition to Shareece. Marshall has seen plenty of playing time thus far after transitioning to the safety position. He plays in most of the sub-packages and knows the playbook well. It will be interested to see how he is used if the team needs him to play some corner. Similar to Marshall, but not as often, Williams has been out there, as well. He has struggled a little bit, but his speed is undeniable. Although this is his second year in the NFL, he missed all of the 2013 regular season as rookie after being injured during last year’s preseason.
Wright joins a litany of banged up Bolts. As has been written on this site by multiple writers, the injury bug has multiplied and swarmed the Charger team with force. Injuries happen to all 32 teams, but it sure seems as though San Diego is being bitten over and over again.
Moving forward, John Pagano will have to be creative when putting together his defensive lineup due to missing players. It is also very important that the front-seven creates pressure to help out the defensive backs while dealing with missing players.
When looking at week 5, the Jet offense has both Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley as their starting wideouts. They are two completely different receivers. Having Wright in the lineup would have been very helpful. Decker is a big-bodied receiver while Kerley is a smaller, quick pass catcher.
Wright might be missed most against the New York running game. He is solid in run support as evidenced by his play this season and last. He is not afraid to stick his nose in there and wrap up opposing ball carriers. But, as Mike McCoy and the entire San Diego coaching staff would say, “Next man up.”
The injury report in San Diego is a bit alarming. All teams suffer injuries, but the Chargers will be missing some key players come tomorrow’s game. There are a few players that the team is still unsure if they’ll be playing in Buffalo on Sunday.
RB Ryan Mathews
OLB Melvin Ingram
SS Jahleel Addae
WR Keenan Allen
OLB Jerry Attaochu
CB Chris Davis
CB Brandon Flowers
OLB Dwight Freeney
TE Antonio Gates
DE Corey Liuget
C/G Rich Ohrnberger
G Johnnie Troutman
Everyone knew that Mathews would be out after suffering an MCL sprain last week. Ingram has sustained a hamstring injury that will not allow him to suit up against the Bills. Losing Melvin is a blow to John Pagano’s defense as it seemed like the light turned on for Ingram in the week 2 victory over Seattle.
After not practicing all week, it might be safe to assume that rookie outside linebacker Jerry Attaochu may end up being a scratch. That leaves San Diego with Freeney, Jarret Johnson and Tourek Williams at the position. Reggie Walker is also capable of playing at OLB, but not having Ingram and Attaochu could end up being costly.
The name of the injury report that may be the most frightening to read is that of Keenan Allen. He’s been a limited participant at practice due to a groin issue. The Chargers need Allen on the field. He’s a dynamic receiver that continues to get better each game that he plays. But groin injuries are tricky. You can’t force a player into action too soon as that type of issue can tend to linger on throughout the season if not treated properly. This is certainly a situation to keep an eye on.
After not practicing since August 15th, Addae has been limited the last two days and, as mentioned above, is questionable. It would be nice to have him back on the field but he’s another guy that you don’t want to bring back too soon. Hamstring injuries are a lot like groin injuries. And as referenced by the time he has already missed, his is a pretty bad one.
Brandon Flowers didn’t play in week 2 but it looks likes he’s ready to go this week and he’ll start. It will be nice to have him back on the field and helping an improved Charger secondary.
The Bolts still have one more day to rest up and get right for week 3. Players like Keenan and Attaochu need that extra day in order to recuperate and hopefully it will enable them to play.
The final cuts have come and gone. All 32 teams reduced to the league-mandated 53 man roster. Now the games begin. Teams kept players they hope to sneak through waivers to put on the practice squad while they comb through the waiver wire to look at the 600+ cuts made across the league, looking to fill any gaps they feel still remain.
With these cuts come the uninformed comments on social media saying let’s go sign this guy or that guy. Why? Because he has a name they recognize. Ironically or not, the same folks making these statements are the ones pushing the panic button over a 2-2 preseason record. In the interests of keeping it clean, I will refer to these folks as “star chasers”.
Let’s take a look at a couple of these and why the desired is an ill-advised move for the Chargers.
Champ Bailey. Released by New Orleans, his best years are clearly behind him. While there’s no disputing his first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials, he doesn’t belong wearing lightning bolts. At 36, he’s lost a step too many and had an injury-plagued training camp. Besides, the cornerback position looks pretty strong with Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett, Steve Williams, Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall and rookie Chris Davis.
Michael Sam. He didn’t survive the Rams’ final cut and no team picked him up. I’m not worried about Sam being a distraction for the Chargers. After all, the whole Mantei Te’o circus blew out of town after he was drafted last year without as much as a whimper. Could his being open about his being gay scared teams away? Maybe, but why is Sam not a fit for the Bolts? He played Defensive End in college in a 4-3 scheme and the Chargers employ a base 3-4 defense. A 4-3 DE is a lot different from a 3-4 DE or OLB. A 4-3 DE doesn’t drop back in coverage and that can’t be taught over night. Again, with Jerry Attaochu, Dwight Freeney, Melvin Ingram, Jarret Johnson and Tourek Williams, barring injury of course, OLB isn’t a high concern.
Leon McFadden. OK, I get it. He played for the Aztecs. He was released by the Browns, kids! The Cleveland Freakin Browns! At any rate, the Jets claimed him anyway. The Chargers play the Jets in Week 5, so maybe we’ll be crying in our Cheerios, maybe we won’t. Besides, who would he replace?
Some times we as fans spend too much time dreaming and grasping at players because of their name without looking at whether they’d even be a fit for our team. As fans, we have to look past the name and look at the player’s fit against scheme and against the current roster.
The passion for our team is fantastic, but let’s stop and think before we start chasing names.
After returning a missed field goal to beat Alabama in the 2013 Iron Bowl, most people know who Chris Davis is. An incredible play, that led his team to a win over undefeated Alabama and helped push them closer to the Championship Game. It somewhat reminded me of another 5’10” athlete that won a game against a defending national champion on a historic play. (See: Doug Flutie Hail Mary)
Many people had concerns about Flutie and his height coming out of college even though he had won the Heisman. Davis and his measurables had scouts and GMs around the league concerned as well. The Seahawks have created a blueprint for the copycat league that is the NFL for having big corners. Combine Davis’ height with a 4.55 40 yard dash time at his Pro Day and his stock was dropping from the original 4th – 5th round grade.
After going undrafted, he signed as a free agent with a team that needed corner help after the failed Derek Cox experiment in San Diego. Then the Chargers signed Brandon Flowers. The path to an NFL roster spot got tougher again. That didn’t stop Davis from working hard and doing all he could to make an impression.
I watch the Chargers videos all throughout camp, both the top plays and daily recaps. Soon I started to notice #42. I’d see him breaking up passes and flashing good closing speed and say to myself, “was that #42 again?!”.
Then came the games. He was tried at punt returner, averaging 7.8 yards per return (he averaged 18.7 last year). He played defense with 6 tackles (he had 74 last year) 0.5 a sack and a couple pass breakups (he had 14 last year). The numbers weren’t off the charts, but what you saw on tape was a guy playing fast. I loved how they brought him off the corner in the preseason and that seemed to be a strength.
The question is whether or not he sticks and how much of a role he has on the team. That I don’t know, but he did change his number according to the Chargers today from 42 to 20. I would imagine a guy wouldn’t change his number if he wasn’t sticking around for a bit.
I’ll leave you with this…mostly because I love sports and science and this show is awesome. It’s an analysis of the game winning return for Davis against Alabama. Go Bolts and thanks for reading!
Editor’s Note: In this piece Peter Silberberger breaks down the defensive battles per position. Due to injuries along the defensive line, other spots on the defense may suffer cuts in order to supplement needs up front.
Tom Telesco has not ignored the need for help at the cornerback position. In fact, depending on health, it may now be a strength for the Chargers. While we haven’t seen any glaring dominance, what we have seen is how teams and players are reacting to San Diego’s rotating defensive back units.
A few things stand out. Richard Marshall was given snaps at safety during the San Francisco game. This action likely speaks to some final roster thoughts. Carrying any more than three full time safeties would cut into the other needs of depth for the team. Addae, Stuckey, and Weddle are all locks, and having part-time corner Marcus Gilchrist and a veteran like Marshall able to fill in occasionally makes the defensive backfield strong and flexible.
Teams seem more than willing to throw at Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall, but not so much toward Verrett or Flowers. Granted, the two starters from last year’s squad are labeled poorly when it comes to 2013 pass defense rankings, but with the two new faces around, it looks as though John Pagano will have plenty of options. It should also be noted that neither Flowers or Verrett have seen much playing time as of yet, but their reputation and speed respectively seem to affect the number of attempts thrown their way.
Steve Williams and Crezdon Butler have both had a rough go with actual game speed and play calling. Chris Davis, however, has been all over the place throughout training camp and on game tape. If today was 53-man cut down day, Davis would be getting the nod over both other reserves.
Brandon Ghee had seemingly disappeared completely during preseason, and found himself on the chopping block during first cuts, which finalized Tuesday. Marcus Cromartie was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, as well.
These moves leave the door open for either Steve Williams or Chris Davis, but likely not both with Gilchrist around. The team will likely total seven cornerbacks, including Gilchrist, which is a lot already. Don’t expect there to be eight.
Defensive Line/ Outside Linebackers:
At first glance, it appears that Pagano’s traditional 3-4 defense has some definite holes to fill in prototypical positions. The defensive tackle position is shaky at best, and the end depth is thin. Questions of how and where Dwight Freeney will be best utilized are still relevant, and there’s a lot of unproven talent walking around.
The team released reserve DE Damik Scafe and lost rookie prospect DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe for the year to an ACL tear. Telesco, doing what he does, pulled in two cuts from around the league in Doug Worthington and Joe Kruger. Worthington projects as a 4-3 lineman and Kruger mostly the same, although a more athletic frame may allow him to dabble in a standing position.
All of this maneuvering seems to overlap with the theme of this roster build, and its versatility. It would appear that Mike McCoy’s nature of playing the schemes which best fit his personnel has caught on with his coordinators. That being said, any personnel being brought in this late will have to be adaptable. Guys like Worthington, Kruger, and other roster hopeful Cordarro Law will have to be able to fit into multiple positions in order to make the team. This could, perhaps, be unfortunate news for a guy like Thomas Keiser.
Although noticeably productive, Keiser is viewed as a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s not that the Bolts don’t need pass rushing outside ‘backers, it’s that they already have those guys for those specific sets. Ingram, Attaochu, Johnson, Tourek Williams, and even Reggie Walker can all fill that role easily. If guys like Worthington, Kruger, or Law make this roster over Keiser, it will be because of their ability to play in multiple defensive sets, as well as contribute on special teams.
The defensive tackle position is a different story entirely. Kwame Geathers and Sean Lissemore have been at the top of the depth chart for some time. That being said, Lissemore is battling an injury and Geathers was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his season. Enter rookies Ryan Carrethers and Tenny Palepoi. Both have the prototypical build to anchor the traditional 3-4 line, but both are very young. They’ll collectively get all the snaps they can handle, which is great for their growth process. Suddenly, however, the team lacks playable veteran mentors at the position.
One thing most know about Tom Telesco is that he is never without options. The opportunistic GM will be closely watching the waiver wire as teams trim rosters to 75 this week. If he sees a bargain, he’ll certainly grab it.
Another option is long time NFL veteran free agent Ryan Pickett. The ex-Packer lives in San Diego and has expressed interest. The good there is clearly the wealth of experience and ability to teach, as he once did for Packers DT B.J. Raji. Pickett would almost certainly have to see veteran minimum salary as a must in this situation, which is also team friendly. The bad is likely his 34 year-old physique may not be what the Bolts are looking for.
It’s more in Telesco’s nature to find a second or third year guy who couldn’t squeeze onto a roster somewhere else in the league. In order to keep the talent level high, Telesco will likely wait and watch the final week with the guys already around. This will serve two purposes. One, it will give every snap available to the two rookies for invaluable experience in real-time. Two, it will allow for Telesco to wait for the perfect guy to add when final 53s are announced by Friday. There are tough decisions being made all over the league this week, and teams such as the Patriots and Broncos could be cutting some serious talent on the defensive line.
By the end of this week, Lissemore and Carrethers will be Chargers for sure, but don’t be surprised if Palepoi is challenged by a Telesco find. If that were the case, the battle for the roster spot could take place during the final preseason game. If not, and Tenny struggles, he may very well lose his spot to a more trusted veteran come Friday.
With the versatility of guys like Reggie Walker and Marcus Gilchrist, the inside linebacker and safety positions seem to be sewn up. So, while watching Thursday’s game, it’s D-Line, outside linebacker, and cornerback where the 2014 San Diego Chargers will be focused on finalizing the roster.
Can Chris Davis keep his momentum going in his duel with Steve Williams? Will newly added athletes in the front seven push Thomas Keiser out? Will there be another addition to the defensive tackle position by Wednesday afternoon? The final game of the pre season is supposed to be practically unwatchable to the average football fan. Good thing Charger fans are anything but that.