Golly! It’s about gosh darn time.
Tonight at 7:30 pm your San Diego Chargers will host the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium. Although the starters won’t see much playing time, there is a lot to be excited about.
- As mentioned above, the first-team offense and defense won’t be on the field for more than a series or two.
- This is the 16th time the Chargers and Cowboys have met in the preseason. The Bolts hold an 8-7 advantage.
- Please understand in advance that both teams will be very “vanilla” in their play calling on both sides of the ball.
- It will be interesting, due to his inexperience at right guard, how long D.J. Fluker will stay in the game.
- The final score does not matter in the slightest. These preseason contests are about evaluating the players and staying healthy. For example, the 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 during the preseason that year. They then went on to finish the regular season as the only team in NFL history to go 0-16.
- The last report I heard about Jason Verrett playing tonight was that it was a “longshot.” It wouldn’t surprise me if Brandon Flowers sat this one out, as well.
Players to keep an eye on:
Melvin Gordon – Being listed as the starting running back on the depth chart, Gordon won’t be on the field too much. But it will be nice to see the first-round draft choice in action. Keep an eye on him in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield.
Colton Underwood – Per the advice of Nick Hardwick during his new program “Behind the Bolt,” Underwood is a player that I’ll be keeping an eye on. The second-year linebacker has impressed many people at Chargers Park during this offseason. Underwood should see a quite a bit of playing time tonight.
Ryan Carrethers – The former fifth round draft pick is entering his second-year with the Bolts. With Sean Lissemore sitting this one out due to a hand/wrist ailment, Carrethers could see more of the field than expected. The 24-year-old began to come on late during the 2014 season before getting hurt, pushing the pocket and filling running lanes.
Titus Davis – This will be about the sixth time that I have written about Davis, I know, but I really think this kid has a chance to earn a role with this team. It may only be with the practice squad, but he just looks like he belongs in the NFL. Due to the wide receiving corps being stacked on the 53-man roster, he will have the opportunity to soak in as much knowledge as possible from the veterans at his position.
Josh Lambo – The undrafted free agent has his first chance to show off his leg on kickoffs starting this evening. If he performs well throughout the next month, he may state his case for a spot on the 53-man roster. That is not to say he’ll take field goal and extra point attempt duties from Nick Novak, but it is no secret that Novak struggles on kickoff depth. Keeping two kickers is not completely out of the question.
Michael Huey – The 26-year-old is now in his second stint with the Chargers. He spent some time with the team in 2011. Huey has received a ton of praise from McCoy during training camp. He has recently been working with the second-team offense at right guard. With Johnnie Troutman spending a bit of time watching from the sidelines, this is a good opportunity for Huey to seize the back-up role at right guard.
Craig Mager – This year’s third-round draft choice has struggled adapting to the pace and complexity of the NFL game. Tonight’s game is a great stepping stone for him to begin to slow down the thinking process and just play football. Mager is very athletic with good speed. Another impressive part of his game is his physicality. He is not afraid to stick his nose in there against the running game.
The day that Charger fans had been waiting for has finally come and gone. In the words of Mike McCoy during last night’s postgame press conference, ” There were some negative things and some positive things that can be taken from the game. But, it is the first preseason game.”
I would like to reiterate the last portion of his statement. It was only the first preseason game.
Before you induct Branden Oliver into the Hall of Fame, and before you act as though Kellen Clemens is the next savior at signal caller for the Charger offense, please take heed of the fact that there is very little that can be drawn from the first preseason game of the year.
I asked McCoy during the same press conference about playing against a team other than your own and he basically said that is what we were wanting to do as a staff, team and organization. Everyone was excited and glad to be lining up against a team wearing different helmets.
There were certainly some highlights last night that had several players deserving kudos. Below I am listing my takeaways from the victory of the Dallas Cowboys last night at Qualcomm stadium.
– In an effort to get it out-of-the-way, Branden Oliver looked solid. He racked up 64 yards on only 7 carries and managed to find the endzone on an impressive 14-yard run where he carried the last defender 4 yards with him in for the score. Additionally, and this needs to be said, he is not, I repeat, not Darren Sproles. I believe he is about 20 pounds heavier. He has quick feet – similar to Sproles, but not as quick – and he is a bit more physical. He runs with a very low center of gravity and his cuts are impressive. But, his foot-quickness is not on the same level as that of Sproles made popular. He’s looked good in camp and he also looked good last night.
– Dontrelle Inman continues to impress. Despite a fantastic showing of surprising speed on that 70-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens, he beat a guy that was just signed by Dallas that had yet to practice with the team. He is another player that has impressed throughout the offseason. He has a big frame and capable hands. Inman is, without a doubt, going to continue to make a strong push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
– The Charger quarterbacks were very accurate. When looking at the trio of Philip Rivers, Clemens and Brad Sorensen, only two incompletions were thrown all night. Both of those were by Sorensen as both Rivers and Clemens finished with 100% completion percentage on the night.
The fact of the matter that remains, as it did prior to the game, if Rivers goes down it’s all over but the crying. If you want to crown the backup quarterbacks as capable starters, then crown their asses. <— Dennis Green voice
– Jerry Attaochu is fast. Really fast. Even though he lost contain due to biting on a play-action rollout, he was still able to turn and make the tackle after a minimal gain. His speed will be an asset to John Pagano’s defense and the quicker he learns the defensive scheme the sooner he’ll be making plays on a consistent basis.
– Ryan Mathews is fine and I would rather him lose a ball in the first preseason game than in any of the games that truly count. The man had only two fumbles last year after having over 300 touches. I have an article coming out this afternoon stating why I believe he’ll have the best year of his career in 2014. So, keep calm and realize the talent this man has. Do not forget, last year he ran as physically as any running back in the NFL and was a key cog to a successful Charger offense.
– Lawrence Guy suffered a shoulder injury after the devastating hit he put on Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden. To add insult to injury, Weeden managed to throw a touchdown pass on the very same play. At this time, I am not sure of the severity of the injury. I saw Guy in the locker room speaking to Coach McCoy while wearing a sling. He provides valuable depth on the defensive line and it could mean trouble for San Diego if he is out for an extended amount of time.
– Knowing this is the preseason, and the playcalling on defense will remain vanilla until the regular season, I wasn’t too surprised by the first-team defense’s inability to impose their will on the Dallas offense. The team did finish with three total sacks as both Thomas Keiser and Colton Underwood each had a sack while Reggie Walker and Cordarro Law shared a sack to end the game with a half a sack a piece. It is paramount that the team is able to generate a pass rush seeing that they play in a division with Peyton Manning. The lack of of a pass rush in 2013 must be remedied this year if the team wishes to contend in a tough AFC West.
– Darrell Stuckey for the Pro bowl will be something that I am going to begin lobbying for very early in the season. He’s a beast and he made a couple of plays that should remind fans of why he is so valuable on special teams.
– Craig Watts Jr. looked good and it is obvious the game is slowing down for him. While playing on both the offensive line, and some of the special teams units, he was impressive. He has improved each and every time that I have watched him. There is a steep learning curve going from West Texas A&M to the NFL. But with Craig’s intelligence and very strong work ethic, I stand by my prediction that he will be a San Diego Charger in 2014 and beyond.
– Marion Grice racked up 35 yards on 14 carries. If you take away his 18-yard run, he had a tough night. It’s not realistic to take out a play that happened, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. He also added a 4-yard reception as well.
– Both the kick and punt return games were pedestrian on limited opportunities. The three returns netted a total of 19 yards. The Chargers have not had a threat in the return game since the days of the Lightning Bug.
– The redzone offense is still a work in progress. This was also touched on by McCoy. It is too early to be concerned but when the regular season begins, I have no doubt that everyone will be paying close attention to how the teams performs inside the 20.
That is what I saw during last night’s game. I am curious to hear what you took away from the game. Let me know by leaving your comments below.
Thanks a lot for reading.
When running a 3-4 defense the ability of your outside linebackers is paramount. Although pressure and disruption is needed from the entire front-seven, and occasionally a blitzing member of the secondary, the OLBs provide your best opportunity to cause mayhem.
After a 2013 season that saw quite a bit of rotation due to injuries to starting outside backers Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney, the Chargers have a significant number of playmakers at the position heading into 2014.
In addition to Ingram and Freeney, the Bolts are loaded at outside linebacker. After drafting Jeremiah Attaochu in the second round of this year’s draft, and having veteran edge-setter Jarret Johnson in the fold, the team has four quality members that are able to make plays. Additionally, San Diego has depth players such as Thomas Keiser, Reggie Walker, Larry English ( for now ), Cordarro Law ( although he’s listed as a defensive end ), undrafted free agent Colton Underwood and Tourek Williams.
In this article, we’ll take a look at these players and what their production could be this year. Having so many players at one position is a great problem to have, so to speak. To have that much competition will help bring out the best at the outside linebacker spot. Let’s also not pretend that the pass rush, or lack thereof, last year was anything more than anemic at best.
Prior to analyzing the players, it goes without saying that John Pagano must be more creative in his defensive playcalling. Although he was masterful with his gameplan against Indianapolis last year, he tends to be very passive and predictable more often than not. In Pagano’s defense, his side of the ball has been riddled by injuries and some low-level talent. But it’s clear to me that he must find a way to be less predictable and find what his players do best and put them into a position to do so.
Let’s get right to looking at each outside linebacker that is currently on the roster.
Before the acquisition of Freeney was made by Tom Telesco, I lobbied in a serious way here on BoltBlitz.com. I was met with a lot of negativity regarding the possibility of him signing with San Diego. Well, here we are now are losing the dynamic pass rusher for most of the 2013 season due to injury. Though he is still not 100% the expectation is that he will be by the start of the preseason. My guess would be that he will see very little time in the preseason in an effort to keep him fresh and healthy for the regular season.
When focusing on the regular season regarding Freeney, I also believe there will be an emphasis on keeping him healthy. Meaning, I do not expect him to see much time in the Charger base defense, which the Bolts hardly run anyway. Look for Dwight to be employed on pass rushing downs and third down situations. I’d be willing to put the over/under on his sack totals at 6, barring injury, I would call it a push.
The leader in “almost plays,” Ingram is primed to have a breakout season. But, like Freeney, his contribution is based on remaining healthy. After miraculously coming back from an ACL injury he suffered on the first day of OTAs in 2013, Melvin made his impact felt despite it not showing up in the sack column. His disruption in the backfield and pestering of opposing team’s quarterbacks made a definite impact when returning from injury. He was constantly on the other side of the line of scrimmage creating havoc.
After Ingram fell in the 2012 draft I was ecstatic that he landed in San Diego. The hopes for him to be an immediate contributor were extremely high. After finishing his rookie campaign with two half sacks, the belief that his T-Rex arms were a factor in him falling were widespread. I actually lost a $50.00 bet regarding the sack numbers he would put up during his first year. Though he is not on the hot seat, by any means, he is now in a position to be held accountable for his production. Heck, he was already there considering a poor first season stat-wise.
Look for SupaMelvin to have a big year and rack up anywhere between 7 and 10 sacks in 2014.
Talk about the consummate professional. JJ, as known around the locker room and organization, is one of the best edge-setters in all of the league at outside linebacker. He is a great leader and allows his plays to do the talking for him. After being acquired in free agency by he who will not be named on this site, he came in and made his mark on the Charger defense. Despite sacks not being his forte, his instincts and ability to read offenses are a true asset to the Bolts.
Another Charger that suffered, and played, through injuries in 2013, Johnson is reliable when on the field. Don’t expect many sacks from the veteran but his presence will be felt on the San Diego defense.
When Tom Telesco sees a player that he covets, he does what it takes to get him. Telesco traded a fourth round selection in this year’s draft to move up and nab Jerry. When Attaochu left Georgia Tech he did so as the school’s all-time leading sacker with 31.5. He finished his career leaving college as a playmaking backer that made sure that opposing offensive coordinators were cognizant of where he was lined up on the football field.
Though he is a rookie at a crowded position, the team is not afraid to thrust him into the spotlight and give him playing time. Again, there are three quality starters ahead of him heading into the 2014 campaign, but it’s up to Pagano to find ways to incorporate him into the defensive scheme. A premature over/under for his sack totals as a rookie could be set at 3.5.
Where do I begin with Larry English. He may struggle to find a spot on this season’s roster due to the fact that he was a draft choice of the prior regime. English has all of the potential in the world. But the “P-word,” potential, is what gets coaches fired and players released if they are not able to live up to their billing. A former first-round pick out of Northern Illinois, Larry has flashed, at times, a tenacity to aggravate opposing offensive lineman and make a play here and there. But that’s part of the problem. He has yet to do anything to warrant his selection as a first-round pick.
I hold out hopes for English in that he can prove all of the doubters wrong, myself included. But he is facing a steep climb to even make this team at this point.
I can’t say enough about how pleased I was with the Walker signing by the organization. This guy has a no quit mentality and his ability to play multiple positions is highly admirable. As I’ve talked about on BoltBlitzLIVE on Mountain Country 107.9, Reggie makes plays down the field and has a certain tenacity that any squad would be lucky to have in its ranks.
Walker’s versatility to play both inside and outside have him as a valuable member that gives depth to a unit that needs it in a sense of the need of having non-stop motor individuals that can make plays when called upon.
After being thrust into action due to injuries at the outside linebacker spot, Keiser made plays despite an uncertainty regarding his true ability to contribute. He not only made plays, Thomas was in the right place at the right time often. Though some people would point to his recent off the field incident as a question mark, the Chargers have made it seem as though he has a place on this team for the immediate future by not cutting him.
We all remember the game-sealing interception against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. But he added a few sacks to his numbers as well. Keiser is an athletic specimen that has the build of a comic book hero. If the organization is truly at peace with his recent “issue,” then look for him to provide quality depth to a strong unit. I don NOT expect to see him removed from the Bolts. I feel confident setting his over/under sack total at 3.5.
A monster in the CFL, it’s still hard to find a place on the current roster for Law. If he is able to replicate his CFL success in the NFL, then the fans have a lot to be excited about. It boils down to his ability to impress Pagano and the defensive coaching staff to determine whether or not he has a place on the 2014 Chargers.
I know nothing about him and his only hope in being a part of this team is via the practice squad.
Despite being a sixth-round pick in last year’s draft, Williams was forced to start a few games due to injuries. Is there a tone to this piece? Lots of guys that weren’t brought in to start that the defense needed due to injury. Playing as a defensive end at FIU, Tourek came out and made a handful of plays. But, moving forward, he is not a player that the Bolts can rely on moving forward as a starter.
Williams may, eventually, develop into a solid contributor, but I wouldn’t bet on it. BoltBlitz.com was fortunate enough to earn his first interview as a pro. I wish him nothing but the best.
There you have it. There’s my position outlook concerning the outside linebacker spot. It’s a unit that should be a strength on the Chargers defense. But so much of their success depends on the health of the veteran players. If the younger guys are pushed into playing, it could be a long year for the San Diego defense.
Thanks a lot for reading.
The second the Commissioner closes the NFL Draft after “Mr. Irrelevant” is named a feeding frenzy begins. Instead of having to wait for your turn 1 by 1, it is now open season on hundreds of players. A team almost has to have more of a game-plan going into the UDFA period after the draft than they do for the draft itself. With all 32 teams suddenly now fighting over mostly the same players all at the same time, the stakes get a lot higher.
The stakes are also higher for these players. Many of them had hopes of being drafted, others just looking for a chance. No matter what their situation is, Undrafted Free Agents all start with a chip on their shoulder because unlike most of the draftee’s, they are still in a knockdown, drag-out fight for their dreams.
With that said, before draft weekend finished the Chargers had signed 17 UDFA’s and invited 10 additional players to come try-out at mini-camp. So out of these 27 players are there any worth keeping? Any diamonds in the rough that could beat the odds and find a spot?
The Chargers have had pretty good luck with UDFA’s as recently as last year with scrappy SS Jahleel Addae who became a starter on our defense by the end of the season.
Lets take a look at a few names of guys I think might push for a spot on the roster or practice squad.
Alden Darby SS ASU 5’10 194lbs
Darby is a do-it-all safety who isn’t afraid to tackle but also has the range and skill to help in the pass game. In 3 years as a starter for ASU Darby amassed 203 tackles including 8.5 TFL and 2 sacks. In pass defense he grabbed 10 int and 22 PD. He doesn’t have the hard hitting style that Addae fly’s around with, but he is better in pass coverage. He will provide competition for Addae and Brandon Taylor who is coming off injury (again). My Prediction: Practice Squad. With how often our DB’s seem to get injured keeping an extra Safety on the PS would be nice.
Javontee Herndon WR Ark 6’0 207lbs
The Chargers grabbed a few WR’s as UDFA’s and the one I think has the best chance to stick somewhere based purely on physical abilities and experience is Herndon. He is coming from the SEC, which has some very tough defenses, and averaged over 14 YPC for his entire college career. He also showed some nice numbers at his pro-day running a 4.44 in the 40, a 6.87 in the 3-cone and 23 reps of 225. My Prediction: Practice Squad. The Chargers like to keep 2 or 3 WR’s close by since our WR’s are usually made of paper so Herndon gets an offer for the PS.
Tenny Palepoi DL Utah 6’1 1/2″ 298lbs
Tenny only played 2 years at Utah but displayed some playmaking ability while there. After the departure of Star Lotulelei* last year Utah coaches expected a sharp drop off in the quality of play from their defensive line. It didn’t. Utah coaching staff has credited Palepoi’s play with keeping up the level of play after the departure of Lotulelei. As a starter last year Palepoi managed 53 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks from an interior DL position. He showcased his athleticism at the combine where he looked very fluid in drills and displayed explosion posting a 9’3″ broad jump and 30 1/2″ vertical at 300lbs. My Prediction: Practice Squad. I only say practice squad because the team seems enamored with both Lawrence Guy and Sean Lissemore. However if there is an injury or if the team wants to keep an extra player active on the DL this year he might get the extra spot.
Gustave “John” Benthin DL Western Oregon 6’2 299lbs
Benthin is exactly what the Chargers need on the DL. He has played every position on the DL through his career at Western Oregon. He is extremely explosive (36 reps of 225, 35″ vert and 9’3″ broad jump at 299lbs). And my favorite, he plays like a bully. Just look at some of his highlights from the 2012 season and 2013 season . From the first play in the first video just watch how he bullies offensive linemen when he gets ahold of them. I’d love to see him in short yardage situations as a blocking FB. My Prediction: Same as Palepoi. He is not an UDFA, he just has a try-out invite. I think he gets a contract and will be on the practice squad, if not the active roster due to his versatility. He will have to prove he can maintain that dominance against higher levels of competition since he is coming from the GNAC conference but I think he does.
A few other names to keep your eye out for in practice:
Chris Davis CB Auburn – Lead the SEC in punt return avg last year and ran back the missed field goal at the end of the Iron Bowl.
Alvin Scioneaux OLB Wofford – Very athletic OLB. Undersized at 6’2 225lbs, think a poor man’s Ryan Shazier or Lavonte David. Explosive first step and has the range and football IQ to drop back occasionally. Brings a new level of speed to the LB Corps. Could be a Darryl Gamble type player in the pre-season that you want to root for. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSn11ObdLQs
Colton Underwood OLB Illinois St – Big, athletic LB. In 45 games played he had 44 TFL and 21.5 Sacks. Quick off the edge and disruptive in the backfield. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_pdof5LM_I
Blake Oliaro OLB/DE San Diego University – Local kid who used his length and great moves to amass 30 sacks and 40.5 TFL in his college career. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUznkXgB-t4