The excitement surrounding the secondary of the 2015 San Diego Chargers was palpable heading into the regular season. What they lack in size – as not one is taller than 5-feet-11 – they make up for in experience. Consider that the on-field leader for these men is eight-year veteran and three-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle, a guy who is matched in intensity only by the Bolts’ offensive signal caller, Philip Rivers. There are only two other Pro Bowlers in this unit, Brandon Flowers and Darrell Stuckey. For a bunch of men who were primarily drafted in rounds one through four, they should be performing at a high level. At least that is how it shakes out on paper.
Chargers fans are quite obviously frustrated with the product appearing on the field these past four weeks. So, what seems to be the problem? Injuries have a role, but so do ridiculous penalties when the team has the opponent stopped and a chance to get the ball back into the hands of No. 17. What lengths do secondary coach Ron Milus and his assistant Greg Williams have to go to so that this bunch does what it is paid to do? With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town for a Monday Night game, and even if Ben Roethlisberger isn’t under center, this unit needs to be prepared.
Let’s review some of the issues through the first month of the season.
First and Foremost: Get healthy, stay healthy!
Of the four designated starters: free safety Eric Weddle, strong safety Jahleel Addae, left cornerback Brandon Flowers, and right cornerback Jason Verrett – only Weddle has started each game. Opposite him, Addae has been nursing a sore ankle since the Cincinnati game. Additionally, Flowers (knee/concussion) and Verrett (foot) have been in and out of the lineup. Milus has had his own merry-go-round to manage due to injury, shuffling corner/safety Jimmie Wilson as well as safety Adrian Phillips, plus corners Patrick Robinson and Steve Williams into the lineup. Rookie cornerback Craig Mager was finally on the field against the Minnesota Vikings only to be inactive last week with a bum hamstring. As of this writing (Friday) Addae, Verrett and Mager are still on the injury report though with limited participation in practice. Who suits up this week will be of utmost importance against the Steelers.
Although there have only been five penalties, the fact remains that they have come at inopportune times. Two by Verrett gave the Cincinnati Bengals a new set of downs TWICE; both were 15-yard personal foul infractions. In the game against the Minnesota Vikings, Williams was flagged for a costly pass interference (PI) which set up the Vikings at midfield rather than punting. Against the Cleveland Browns last week, Williams was called for illegal use of hands. And in the same matchup, Flowers was nailed for a PI which fortunately only cost six yards. Five penalties in four games by just the secondary is not conducive to winning. This area needs to be addressed.
Tackling by the numbers
As per usual, Weddle leads the posse with 38 combined tackles (29 solos), plus half a sack. Addae has managed four solo tackles in two games. Flowers has collected eight solo tackles (10 total), while Verrett has been credited with six overall (4 solo). The back-ups (Wilson, Robinson, Phillips and Williams) collectively have 42 tackles, a forced fumble (Robinson) and two picks (Robinson versus Detroit and Williams at Minnesota). In 2014, the secondary was responsible for six interceptions on the year. Is having two thus far a good measuring stick for Milus’ men? Time will tell.
Despite the secondary undergoing a bit of upheaval early in the season courtesy of the injury bugaboo, Milus and Williams seem to have their group on the right path. However, they will need to step it up and play smart. Meaning, no getting beat, no dumb penalties, no blown coverages. Monday’s AFC divisional face-off with Pittsburgh will be a turning point as the Bolts’ secondary will need to play it tight – keep Antonio Brown and company in check.
Here’s to execution being stellar this week!
Thanks for reading!