Coach Rogers

The 2014 NFL regular season is fast approaching and it is time to get revved up about the team General Manager Tom Telesco is assembling in America’s Finest City.  Head Coach Mike McCoy and the rest of his coaching staff turned a team with a below average roster (thanks A.J. Smith!) into a playoff team in his rookie year at the helm.  Now that Telesco and McCoy have had another offseason to bolster the roster (Jason Verrett, Jeremiah Attaochu, Donald Brown and others) and cut loose some dead weight (Derek Cox, Le’Ron McClain, Johnny Patrick and others), the team is beginning to take the shape envisioned by the current Bolts brass.  It is a very exciting time to be a San Diego Chargers fan!  That being said, I humbly submit my 2014 season record prediction.  I present it in a week by week format and include a thought or two regarding the pick.  Enjoy!

Head Coach Mike McCoy and Quarterback Philip Rivers

Head Coach Mike McCoy and Quarterback Philip Rivers

 

Week 1:  Chargers at Cardinals

WIN … The Cardinals are an improving team with nice talent in spots, but I believe that our Bolts are deeper and more explosive at this point.  We’ll get the season off to a good start in Phoenix.

 

Week 2:  Seahawks at Chargers (1-0)

LOSS … This game will be a nice measuring stick for us.  How well do we match up against the elite teams in the league?  Well, the answer for now at least, will be not well enough.

 

Week 3:  Chargers (1-1) at Bills

WIN … We’ll squeak out a win in Buffalo in a knock-down, drag-out street-fight type of game.  Bills LB Kiko Alonso is a beast and will give us fits.  Should be a nail-biter…

 

Week 4:  Jaguars at Chargers (2-1)

WIN … This will be fun.  Jaguar rookie QB Blake Bortles will get acquainted with Dwight Freeney early and often.  This one shouldn’t be close.

 

Week 5:  Jets at Chargers (3-1)

WIN … Historically, the Jets usually provide a tough matchup for us.  It’ll be close for a half, but the Bolts pull away in the 3rd quarter and don’t look back.

 

Week 6:  Chargers (4-1) at Raiders

WIN … The winning streak continues at the dreaded Black Hole.  Looking to avenge our loss in Oakland last season, Rivers will torch the silver & black for over 400 yards!  Let’s hope D.J. Fluker choke slams at least one Raider before the game ends.

 

Week 7:  Chiefs at Chargers (5-1) 

WIN … In a back and forth slugfest, having he home field advantage get the Bolts over the top.  This one goes down to the wire as Nick Novak hits a long field goal in the final minute to seal the victory.

 

Week 8:  Chargers (6-1) at Broncos

LOSS … Despite a valiant effort by Philip Rivers, the Broncos have just too much firepower to overcome.  Oh, and the fact that the Bronco CBs can basically mug our WRs without ever getting flagged for it…

 

Week 9:  Chargers (6-2) at Dolphins

WIN … Mike McCoy regroups his squad and the Bolts bounce back with a surprisingly easy win in Miami.  They head into the bye week with a solid 7-2 record!  Nice!!

McCoy and Rivers celebrate a great first half of the season.

McCoy and Rivers celebrate a great first half of the season.

Week 10:  bye.

 

Week 11:  Raiders at Chargers (7-2)

WIN … The Chargers complete the season sweep of the hated Raiders, albeit in close fashion, with a 7 point victory.  Great way to get going after the bye week!

 

Week 12:  Rams at Chargers (8-2)

LOSS … This is the definition of a trap game.  Coming off an emotional win over a despised rival, the Bolts have the Ravens, Patriots, Broncos and Niners lying immediately ahead of them.  The chances of looking past St. Louis are high.  The Rams will be a much improved team this season.  They get caught napping and drop a game they should’ve won.  :(

 

Week 13:  Chargers (8-3) at Ravens

LOSS … Still stinging from the Rams defeat, the Bolts come out flat on the road.  Rivers presses, trying to get the Bolts back in it, and throws multiple picks.  Bad day.

 

Week 13:  Patriots at Chargers (8-4)

LOSS … The Bolts are always hyped for this matchup.  Lots of bad blood between the two teams.  I expect the Chargers to come out like gangbusters and jump out to a big lead…only to watch the game slip away in the second half.  My blood boils.  That’s three losses in a row.

 

Week 14:  Broncos at Chargers (8-5)

WIN … McCoy’s familiarity with the Bronco offense comes in very handy once again as the Bolts make Peyton Manning’s life difficult in sunny San Diego.  Manning is sacked multiple times and throws a couple picks- one of which is returned for 6 by rookie Jason Verrett!  The stadium has a playoff like atmosphere that Rivers later credits for the win.

 

Week 15:  Chargers (9-5) at 49ers

LOSS … The Bolts inability to establish any kind of running game sets up Rivers to struggle.  The Niners take advantage of the plethora of known passing situations to frustrate Rivers, causing him to post his lowest QB rating of the season.  It’ll be best to just put this one out of our memory and gear up for the season finale against Kansas City…

 

Week 16:  Chargers (9-6) at Chiefs

WIN … Just like last season, the Bolts will need this win to secure a post-season berth.  Just like last season, they will beat the Chiefs to make the playoffs!  This time, however, they’ll beat the Kansas City starters…

 

Final record: 10-6

The Chargers earn a Wildcard berth and enter the playoffs as the team that all the “experts” say don’t stand a chance to make it to the Super Bowl.  (I guess some things will never change.)  Upon arriving back in San Diego after their flight from Kansas City, the Chargers are greeted by thousands of adoring fans.  A reporter stops Rivers and asks, “How does this feel right now?”  Philip coyly smiles and replies, “We love our fans for being there for us.  It feels great every single time.  But honestly, we still got work to do.  Ask me how it feels after we get back from winning the Super Bowl.”  Reporter Booga Peters replies, “I will.”

Five weeks later, he does.

#BoltingToAChampionship

#BoltingToAChampionship

KEEP BELIEVIN!

– Coach Rogers

The 2014 NFL Draft is only a couple of months away and the big names in free agency have been snapped up.  As a result, numerous teams around the league have seen their draft needs change.  Taking into consideration these changes, while understanding that many teams maintain a “best available player” approach to the draft, I humbly submit my first mock draft.  Let’s get to it!

ROUND ONE:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Jason Verrett (CB – TCU)

Verrett TCU

 

At 5’10” some general managers have expressed concerns in matching up with bigger NFL receivers.  There are also some concerns with an injured Labrum in his shoulder that required surgery this spring.  It is this second guessing that could very well allow Verrett to slide to us at pick 25.  However, the TCU Horned Frog posted impressive numbers at the combine running a 4.38 40 yard dash and posting a 39 inch vertical jump.  Jason is very smooth in his back pedal and closes on the ball in a flash.  He doesn’t back down against taller receivers and attacks the ball at the catch point with regularity.  He plays with a confidence and swagger that I like!  Simply put, he plays bigger than his size and is a flat-out playmaker.

 

ROUND TWO:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Anthony Johnson (DT – LSU)

Johnson LSU

6’2″ and 300 pounds of explosive disruption up the middle.  Anthony has good strength at the point of attack and the ability to shoot the gap on passing downs.  The disappointing play of DE Kendall Reyes last season opened the eyes of many to the importance of a dominant DT to free up Reyes to do his thing.  Johnson isn’t just a space-eater though, he is a playmaker.  A player requiring double-team consideration by offensive coordinators.  Many NFL Draft writers have labeled him a “high-ceiling” guy who is likely to develop into a dominant force down the road.  Sounds like our kind of guy to me…

 

ROUND THREE:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Carl Bradford (OLB – Arizona St.)

Bradford ASU

Bradford has some size concerns at 6’1″ and 250 pounds – which is why I project him slipping a bit in the draft, allowing us to snag him in the 3rd round.  He has displayed difficulty in providing run support, but is without question a ferocious pass rusher.  His presence on the roster would provide insurance behind an aging Dwight Freeney, who is returning from a season ending torn quadriceps muscle.  Additionally, he would provide instant improvement in our kick coverage teams.  If we invest a year or two in improving his strength against the run, Bradford has the makings of a pro bowl caliber linebacker in the future.

 

ROUND FOUR:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Joel Bitonio (OG – Nevada)

Bitonio NEV

Joel played left tackle in college, but he projects as a guard in the NFL.  He has good hands and packs a punch.  Bitonio consistently drives defenders back in the running game.  The upside for the young man is great.  Moving to guard will present some adjustment time for pass protection skills, but with patience and good coaching, Joel has starter potential by the 2015 season.

ROUND FIVE:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Martavis Bryant (WR – Clemson)

Bryant CLEMSON

Standing at 6’4″ and weighing 200 pounds, Martavis presents a big-time matchup problem for many cornerbacks in the league.  He reminds me of a young Malcom Floyd with better speed.  Like Floyd, Bryant excels as a red zone threat.  His ability to run the fade and out jump the defender is tremendous.  Many in the media have given Martavis the dreaded “Boom-or-Bust” label heading into this year’s draft, which accounts for him being available here in the 5th round.  I’m betting he’d blossom in Mike McCoy’s system.

 

ROUND SIX:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Brandon Coleman (WR – Rutgers)

Coleman RUT

Another gigantic target for Philip Rivers at 6’6″, Coleman is a project with equally gigantic upside.  He is a good downfield blocker that would help turn 7 yard carries into 20 yard gashes.  He is good at “posting up” smaller cornerbacks with his massive frame and then soaring high in the air to snag the ball.  For a receiver his size, Coleman is surprisingly adept at tracking deep throws as well.  Straightline speed is a bit of a concern.  He clocked a 4.56 in the 40 yard dash at the combine, but he is good out of the break with decent hands.  He is very raw and will need time to develop but I see this guy as a diamond in the rough…

 

ROUND SEVEN:  The San Diego Chargers select…

Russell Bodine (C – North Carolina)

Bodine UNC

 Selecting in the seventh round, the Bolts land a player who could develop into Nick Hardwick’s replacement at center.  Russell Bodine has been a very good run blocker at the collegiate level.  He is technically sound and very intelligent.  He was able to get to the 2nd level smoothly and consistently during his tenure as a Tarheel.  The question with Russell is whether or not he’ll be able to do the same thing against NFL defensive tackles.  He’ll need to bulk up and add some strength to be able to hold up as a pass protector.  His upside makes him intriguing.  With time and coaching, Bodine should develop into a starting caliber center.

 

…and there you have it.  My take on this year’s draft picks.  This is a topic that always generates plenty of debate, so feel free to comment below.  Thanks for reading and remember to come back to BoltBlitz.com for your daily Chargers fix!

Keep Believin’!

– Coach

Since the “Air-Coryell” days of the 80s, the San Diego Chargers have been famous for having high powered, up-and-down the field passing offenses.  Quarterback Dan Fouts led an aerial assault that was exciting and unrelenting.  During that era, a few pass receivers stand out: wide receivers Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson, Wes Chandler and, of course, tight end Kellen Winslow. Winslow revolutionized the position by demonstrating that tight ends, usually used primarily for blocking purposes, could be used as impact receivers.  Kellen posed a match-up problem for opposing defenses because of his size, speed and phenomenal catching ability.  Does a defensive coordinator place a safety on him to match up size and strength, knowing that the safety is going to have difficulty running with him?  Does he dare try to cover him with a nickel cornerback as a better speed match up and chance the defender being manhandled after the catch?  Winslow’s dominant career has forever altered the NFL landscape- as most tight ends today are viewed more like wide receivers than offensive lineman.  It is with this in mind that I take a close look at the players at tight end on the Chargers’ roster heading into the off-season.

TIGHT ENDS

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates

The undrafted basketball player from Kent State University has been a fixture in the Charger passing attack for 11 great seasons.  The future Hall-of-Famer is the Chargers all-time leader for career touchdown receptions with 87.  In fact, the Rivers to Gates combination is the NFL’s all-time leading QB-to-TE touchdown scoring tandem with 60 scores.  Rather than continue listing the myriad of accolades bestowed upon Gates, let’s take a closer look at the here and now.  Surprisingly, Gates was able to stay healthy for an entire season, something he had struggled to do for several years in a row.  Nagging foot issues have hampered him and limited his effectiveness when he was able to play.  For the first time in years, Antonio felt 100% for most of the season.  Production rebounded as a result as Gates improved upon a 49 reception season in 2012, finishing with a team high 77 catches in 2013.  He racked up 872 yards and scored 4 touchdowns.  Not bad for an aging star at 33 years old.  It wasn’t all good news however, as Chargers fans witnessed numerous dropped passes from the perennial all-pro…something rarely seen from the big guy throughout his career.  He also coughed the ball up a couple times by not securing the ball properly after the catch.  Despite these missteps, the season was a breath of fresh air for fans that had begun to accept the thought that this legendary player was on the decline.  Last season showed that, though he isn’t as shifty and quick as he once was, Gates is still a viable threat in the passing game.  Despite a price tag of $5 million entering 2014 , expect “Gatesy” to be the starting tight end in his 12th season with the Bolts.

 

 

 

Ladarius Green

Ladarius Green

Ladarius Green

In the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft, ex-General Manager A.J. Smith selected a 6’6″, 240 pound tight end out of Louisiana-Lafayette.  I remember pumping my fists wildly and grinning ear to ear.  This was the guy I had hoped we would snag on day two of the draft.  Being from the Midwest, I had actually seen a couple ULL games on television and I remember being amazed at what Green was capable of.  At the time, Antonio Gates was having injury issues and his absence from the lineup was devastating.  I felt like it was time to begin grooming an heir-apparent for our superstar tight end.  Not only does Ladarius have a tall frame, he possesses unbelievable speed for someone that big.  He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the 2012 combine.  This young man presents a huge match-up problem for defensive coordinators.  The knock against Green was his blocking ability.  To say it was inadequate would be putting it mildly.  He needed serious “coaching up” in that area, which is likely what kept him from being selected sooner in the draft.  Year one as a Charger was uneventful, as former Head Coach Norv Turner barely utilized the rookie.  Green accounted for only 56 yards on 4 receptions that season.  2013 brought a new group of coaches and a new offensive philosophy.  As a result, Green played in all 16 games and totaled 376 yards on 17 receptions.  Those modest gains may seem unnoteworthy, but Ladarius scored 3 touchdowns and had a fantastic average per catch of 22.1 yards!  He established himself as a big play threat while playing behind a future Hall-of-Famer.  His blocking has steadily improved, but it is far from being considered good yet.  We all got a glimpse of the game changer that Green can be last season, and that has the fan base very excited.  Green is not scheduled to become a free agent until 2016, so we can look forward to watching his continued development next fall.

 

John Phillips

Despite finishing the season on the injured reserve list, I still have high hopes for what John Phillips brings to the team.  Unlike Gates and Green, Phillips is a solid run blocker that can be counted on to help seal the edge for outside running plays.  General Manager Tom Telesco signed Phillips away from the Cowboys last year as added insurance in case of another injury-laden season for Gates.  Though not a target in the passing game last year, accounting for just 30 yards on 4 catches, John’s value to the team seems secure.  He is signed through 2015 and is scheduled to earn $1.1 million this season.  I expect him to make be on the roster on opening day this season.

 

Ryan Otten

This young man is intriguing.  Ryan was signed last spring by the Jaguars, but finished the year as a member of the Bolts’ practice squad.  He has prototypical measurables for the position, standing 6’6″ tall and weighing 241 pounds.  He has only average speed, running the 40 in 4.7 seconds, but his long arms and big hands make him an interesting receiving prospect.  He demonstrated nice route running ability while at San Jose State and excelled at catching the ball in traffic.  His run blocking must improve if he hopes to make the 53-man roster next fall.  Still, remember the name next preseason…

 

Thanks for reading!  Please like and share…

Keep Believin’!!

– Coach

Philip Rivers amassed nearly 4,500 yards through the air in 2013.  This couldn’t have been accomplished without good pass blocking and, of course, solid pass catchers.  The Bolts had an unexpected dose of both last season.  We’ll take a closer look at the offensive line in a future article.  Today, we’ll be looking at the Chargers’ stable of receivers and examining how each fits (or doesn’t fit) into the team plans heading into next season.  Injuries early in the season forced General Manager Tom Telesco to add some new faces and some old friends, and challenged one highly-touted rookie to elevate his play much sooner than expected.  In the end, there were lots of ups and a few downs along the way.  The aforementioned injuries will impact Telesco’s off-season plan when addressing team needs.  This position was considered a strength heading into the 2013 season, but now big question marks remain about the health of the receiving corps.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Keenan Allen

Allen2013

Keenan Allen

Coming into the 2013 season, the Chargers third round pick in last year’s draft was expected to see occasional time at the slot position.  Playing behind Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander was supposed to afford Allen a chance to get used to playing football at NFL speed.  Even so, there was a prevailing feeling that he may be able to chip in some big plays within his limited role.  He had a fantastic career at Cal and many draft “experts” felt Telesco had the steal of the draft after Keenan slid to the third round due to concerns over a knee injury suffered in college.  Potentially career-ending injuries to Alexander in preseason and Floyd in week two thrust Allen into the spotlight early.  It took a few games for Keenan to really take off, but when it clicked, it was something special to behold.  Allen’s style is not that of a speed demon threatening to get behind the defense quickly, but rather a quick, agile route-runner that can turn a 7 yard crossing pass into a 40 yard gain with his running ability.  This rookie shouldered the burden as the Bolts #1 wide receiver and flourished.  He displayed a confidence rarely seen in rookie receivers and a flair for the big play.  He finished the season with 1,046 yards on 71 receptions, scoring 8 touchdowns.  His efforts landed him the Pepsi Next Rookie of the Year award and the respect of players and coaches throughout the league.  We’ll all continue to expect big things in the future and I am confident that he will deliver.

Danario Alexander

2013 was cruel to Danario.  Coming off a solid 2012 campaign, expectations were through the roof.  Many felt like this would finally be the season that Alexander would become the elite wide receiver the Chargers hoped he could be.  The issue dogging Danario was repeated knee problems that have plagued him since the Senior Bowl in college.  He has all the physical tools to be a superstar, but his knee kept failing him.  Then on August 6th of last year, Alexander suffered a torn right ACL to the same knee during practice.  His entire season was lost.  It was made public earlier this week, that Danario has undergone a 2nd surgery on the knee.  Despite the high hopes heading into last season, it looks like it may have been his last with the Chargers.  The odds of him returning are incredibly low and I for one do not expect him to be on our roster next fall.  Heartbreaking.

Malcom Floyd

Malcom Floyd

Malcom Floyd

The man known as “M80” in San Diego had really come into his own.  Having signed a four year, $13 million contract in September of 2012, Malcom had finally made it to the top of the ladder.  Watching this young man go from distant back-up to starting wide receiver over the years has been especially gratifying for me.  It harkened back to the old adage “work hard and great things will come of it”- a belief my parents instilled in me as a child.  Malcom isn’t particularly fast, but he is very tall (6’5″) and has truly magical hands.  He’s made some of the greatest circus-style catches I’ve seen in San Diego since the great John Jefferson and Wes Chandler donned lightning bolts.  The team was counting on him to provide the security blanket that Philip Rivers needs on critical 3rd downs.  Unfortunately, a blow to the top of his head on a crossing route against the Eagles ended Malcom’s season in just the second week of action.  The scene was very scary as the trainers carefully removed Floyd’s face mask from his helmet and strapped his entire body to a board.  Everyone watching knew that this was a bad situation.  The resulting neck injury, thankfully, didn’t result in a life-long injury- but it did sideline M80 for the remainder of the season.  Now Tom Telesco and company will need to take a very close look at Floyd’s future with the team.  If doctors clear Floyd to return (which is still in question), the cost versus reward equation may come into play.   Malcom is 32 years of age and scheduled to earn $2.75 million for the upcoming season. There is little doubt that a healthy Malcom Floyd is a solid player and can help the team for at least one more season.  The real question revolves around his ability to stay healthy.  Do we roll the dice or look at getting younger?  Being the M80 fan I am, I’m hoping they give him another chance.

Eddie Royal

Eddie Royal had a very solid season.  He caught 47 balls for 631 yards and scored 8 touchdowns.  He started opposite Keenan Allen after the injuries to Alexander and Floyd.  Eddie was on fire early in the season, scoring twice in the season opener against the Texans and then three more times the following week against the Eagles.  What started out looking like a monster year for Royal soon faded away as his impact was felt less and less as the season moved on.  The harsh reality of Eddie’s contract situation is that he is due $4.5 million dollars this year.  Will Telesco and McCoy feel that Royal is simply too expensive for what he provides the team?  Royal is only 27 years old and did show the potential to be a game changer.  It’s a tough call for Telesco.  My gut tells me that Eddie will likely be a cap casualty.

Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown

Vincent returned this season from an ankle injury suffered during the preseason in 2012 and had a moderately successful season- all things considered.  Hauling in 41 balls for 472 yards and 1 touchdown may seem like a poor season to some, but for a youngster trying to return to form after a severely broken ankle, it provides hope.  Like Alexander, Brown has shown flashes of greatness at times.  These glimpses of what he could be have elevated expectations to levels that are going to be difficult to attain.  He doesn’t show the same explosiveness out of breaks that he once had.  His jumping ability appears to have taken a hit as well.  The good news for Vincent is that he is under contract, he’s young and he’s relatively inexpensive- earning $645 thousand for the upcoming season.  I believe his roster spot is safe.  Here’s hoping that he can find a role within Frank Reich’s offense that he can grow into.

Seyi Ajirotutu, Lavelle Hawkins, Dontrelle Inman, Tobais Palmer

General Manager Tom Telesco was forced to bring in a number of receivers to fill out the depth chart as the season progressed.  He brought back Seyi Ajirotutu midway through the season, a move that paid huge dividends when Seyi hauled in a last minute game winner against the Chiefs in Kansas City.  Tutu finished the year with only 64 yards, but had a gaudy 21.3 yards per catch average.  Hawkins was brought in to provide some depth in the kick return game.  He averaged 22 yards per return, but wasn’t much of a factor in the grand scheme of things.  Telesco really likes his potential however.  Both of these players were “band-aid” type signings and both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this spring.  Dontrelle Inman and Tobais Palmer spent the season on the practice squad and both will be given a shot to prove themselves next preseason.  Inman is a big receiver at 6’3″ and 203 pounds, while Palmer is more of an Eddie Royal type of receiver at 5’11” and 178 pounds.  Keep an eye out for these two next August!

 

Thanks again for reading!  Continue coming to BoltBlitz for all of your Chargers information needs!!  If you enjoyed the piece, please like and share.  As always, your comments are welcomed below…

Keep Believin’!!

– Coach

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.

QUARTERBACKS

Philip Rivers

Rivers2013The 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.

Charlie Whitehurst

“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.

Brad Sorensen

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.

 

RUNNING BACKS

Ryan Mathews

Mathews2013There 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 Brown

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.

 

Danny Woodhead

Woodhead2013Coming 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.

 

Le’Ron McClain

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!!

– Coach

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

When the Bolts selected Manti Te’o with the 36th overall pick in the second round of last year’s draft, the Notre Dame linebacker came into the league with a dark cloud hovering above his head.  Widely considered a top-5 draft prospect heading into his last season with the Irish, strange off-the-field happenings took place during that season that undermined his draft stock.  Te’o turned out to be a victim of a relatively new social media scam called “catfishing”.  This occurs when a scammer assumes a persona, creates an entire false identity and then uses it to swindle unsuspecting victims.  Manti believed he had met a special young lady online in 2009 and, in turn, fostered a relationship with her though internet posts, texting and phone conversations.  In September 2012, Te’o was informed that this “girlfriend” had passed away suddenly.  He then used this “tragedy” as fuel during his final collegiate campaign.  When the truth of the scam became public, many began to question whether Te’o was in on the scam all along.  Some thought he had used the fake death as a way of garnering nationwide sympathy and support in his push for Heisman Trophy votes.  (For a detailed timeline of all of these events, follow this link: http://abcnews.go.com/US/timeline-manti-teo-girlfriend-hoax-story/story?id=18268647)  Te’o has continually denied any involvement in the bizarre tale, but there are plenty of people out there who still hold the whole debacle against him.  Te’o says that he uses that distrust as motivation to excel in the NFL.  As far as I’m concerned, I feel bad for the guy and want to see him succeed on the field…period!  He’s a San Diego Charger now and that means he’s one of us.

When asked about his impressions of Manti after drafting him, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco replied, “We did a lot of work on Te’o and I’ve seen him for a number of years.  He loves football.  He’s passionate about it.  He loves to practice.  He loves to play.”  It was clear that the organization was excited to be adding Te’o to the mix.  The preseason, unfortunately, was unkind to Te’o.  He suffered a foot injury just a few plays into the first game, sidelining him for the rest of preseason.  No games and, more importantly, no practices.  There is a lot to learn as a rookie linebacker and Manti did his homework mentally, but nothing prepares a player better than being out on the practice field going through the motions- physically- with his teammates.  This would set his development back significantly.  Once the foot healed and Te’o was cleared to play, expectations were sky-high in San Diego.  Fans expected to see him jump in and make an immediate impact.  That didn’t happen.  Te’o was routinely out of position, unable to disengage from blockers and looked lost in pass coverage.  The lack of preseason work had taken its toll.  Four or five weeks into the regular season, it was commonplace to read tweets from disgruntled fans proclaiming Te’o a “bust” and a wasted draft pick.  As a coach myself, I know how important training camp is in any sport- but especially football.  I held out hope that Te’o could, and would, pull it together.  Secretly, however, I began to wonder if the adversity he was facing was simply going to be too much for him to overcome.  Time would tell.

During the final four weeks of the regular season, throughout the Bolts’ improbable playoff push, I began to notice Manti disengaging from blockers much better.  In some cases, he would put a little side-step on the incoming blocker allowing himself the ability to slide right past the block entirely.  He was attacking more now and seemed in better position more of the time.  Sure, there are still plays when it is obvious that he’s still a rookie out there getting his feet under him.  In Sunday’s playoff win against the Bengals, however, I saw Te’o taking on 322 pound lead blocker Domata Peko with no fear!  I witnessed him take the big hit from Peko, slide underneath and grab the ankle of BenJarvis Green-Ellis.  Add a tackle-assist to his game log.  More importantly, add a ton of respect from an excited Chargers fan base…

The future is never certain and things can change in a heartbeat, but right now- I am very excited to watch Manti Te’o continue to grow and mature into the All-Pro linebacker that Tom Telesco envisioned him to be last April!

Keep Believin’!

– Coach

SDCINAs the Chargers prepare for a chilly playoff matchup with the Bengals this Sunday, it behooves us all to take a gander back at what transpired between these teams a month ago in San Diego.  Though the weather will be immensely different than the first meeting, the players and coaches remain the same.  To what extent the offensive game plans for each team change due to the sloppy weather forecast remains to be seen, but these are the PLAYOFFS…both teams will look to their “money” players regardless.

The biggest stat that jumps out at me from the first meeting is the way each team achieved their first downs.  The Bolts made a total of 19 first downs: 13 through the air, 5 on the ground and 1 due to a penalty.  Conversely, the Bengals achieved their 19 first downs primarily on the ground.  Cincinnati racked up 13 first downs by rushing the ball while attaining 6 by way of the pass.  The Chargers cannot allow the Bengals to dictate tempo by allowing BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to consistently move the chains this Sunday.  To win defensively, we must stuff the run and put Andy Dalton into known passing situations.  By doing so, the Bolts can send additional pass rushers.  Our cornerbacks will have a tough time keeping up with Bengal wideouts A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins, so not allowing Dalton time to sit comfortably in the pocket is paramount to achieving more 3-and-outs.

Nearly all of the other pertinent stats from the first meeting were identical.  If our offense can maintain balance, keep feeding Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead the ball and control the clock with quick high-percentage passes, the Chargers have an excellent chance of moving on to the next round of the playoffs.   These two teams match up very evenly and should provide for a very exciting, down to the wire finish.  What a way to start off 2014!

In the words of Philip Rivers himself…”Keep believing!”

– Coach

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