“Games are won and lost in the trenches.” How many times have we heard that from coaches and commentators alike? I think the 2014 Charger season proved that out.
A patchwork offensive line was tasked with protecting Philip Rivers, was not consistently effective. Too many times we saw #17 running for his proverbial life. The run game was terrible as well. The Chargers lost their anchor, Nick Hardwick early in the season and now for good with his expected retirement. A total of five men played at the center position. Johnny Troutman was awful. DJ Fluker’s inexperience at the professional level was exposed in his Sophomore season. Truth be told, I felt King Dunlap was the only bright spot along the front five.
The defensive front seven wasn’t a whole heck of a lot better. Donald Butler was invisible. The nose tackle by committee was a failure. Kendall Reyes seemed to regress. Pressure from the outside linebackers (pass rush specialists in a 3-4) weren’t helped by their teammates. Corey Liuget was the only consistent performer on the defensive side.
With the Free Agency period beginning on March 10, I’ve been going over the list of pending free agents and have compiled a wish list of whom I’d like to see Tom Telesco pursue. Also, I will look at who the casual fan clamors for and why I don’t see them in lightning bolts in 2015. This, of course, is without considering salary restraints.
On Defense, nose tackle is of particular concern to me. You may say that John Pagano ran a base 3-4 less than half the time. Perhaps because NT was a weak link? Sean Lissemore didn’t impress at all. Ryan Carrethers showed potential until he got hurt, but he needs seasoning. Ricardo Mathews is a serviceable sub, but the Chargers haven’t had a stud nose tackle since Jamal Williams. Personally, I think this is one position Tom Telesco needs to look over the free agent crop. Chargers can ill afford to have the front seven compromised by the nose being the weak link.
Should Denver not retain Terrence Knighton, he tops my list. He’s big, he’s quick and he’s strong. He can take on multiple blockers, which is what your NT needs to do. He’s durable, having started 16 games in four of his six NFL seasons. Dan Williams of the Arizona Cardinals is another. While his numbers (tackles and assists) don’t stack up to Knighton’s, he’s been a force in the middle of the Arizona defensive front. I don’t see Ndamukong Suh in lightning bolts at all. He’s a 4-3 defensive tackle, and I’m not convinced he can make the transition to a 3-4 NT. His inability to control of his temper concerns me as well.
A stud in the middle of the 3-4 has a ripple effect on the rest of the front seven as well, so this position is critical to the success of the Charger defense. Washington’s Danny Shelton looks impressive if they wait for the draft to fill the need at NT. Kid’s got a motor. If Tom Telesco doesn’t want a NT, then perhaps he, Mike McCoy and John Pagano should abandon the 3-4.
On the offensive side of the trenches, signing King Dunlap to a new deal was huge (no pun intended). He was rock solid protecting Philip Rivers’ blind side. As for the interior of the line, I’m really worried. Mike Iupati tops mosts lists. He’s a solid guard, he’s quick and he’s been durable for San Francisco. Denver’s Orlando Franklin is another solid possibility. Again, he’s durable and we all know that Denver’s line has been great in protecting Peyton Manning the last few years.
Depth can be filled in through the draft. The Bolts need to draft and groom for the future. Chris Watt will be better this year, having been forced into service with as a rookie. Fluker needs to improve his footwork and quickness if he’s going to continue to play right tackle. I focused on guards through free agency because all indications seem to point to Fluker staying at RT.
That’s my take on the trenches on both sides of the ball. Next, I’ll look at linebackers and running backs.
Thanks for reading, and let me know what your thoughts are!
Ever since the Chargers let Jamal Williams go, they have been lacking at one vital position in their 3-4 defense: Nose Tackle (NT). Yes, Antonio Garay stepped in for a while and performed adequately, but he soon put on too much weight and began to get a steady flow of injuries. Now, NT is one of their most glaring weaknesses. With only Sean Lissemore and Ryan Carrethers getting snaps at NT, opposing offenses have been running wild against the Bolts.
San Diego fans often complain about the offense running up the middle too much. Well, it sure seems to work for the other teams. Second and five or worse is all too common as the middle of the Chargers defensive line gets pushed around.
So what can be done about it? Answer: Danny Shelton: Washington – NT
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 339 lbs.
Projected 40-Yard Dash: 5.1 Sec.
*All pre-combine unofficial estimations
Danny Shelton, AKA “Feast Mode”, often looked like a man amongst boys in his senior year at the University of Washington. The big man is a two gap plug that forces runners to look elsewhere to gain their yards. For a big man, he is extremely athletic and agile. He is able to control his blocker and quickly shed the block to make tackles. In fact, he recorded 88 tackles and nine sacks in 2014. His great strength, size, superior quickness, and speed enable him to get to quarterbacks as well as running backs.
Although comparisons are often unfair to young athletes, NFL.com has Vince Wilfork as the best comparison in the NFL for Shelton. A young Wilfork would fit in quite nicely in the Chargers’ defense, don’t you think?
I project Shelton to be a first round talent. He would be an outstanding pick for the Chargers at 17, but there is a good chance he will be gone long before as Chicago is switching to a 3-4 defense and would love a solid NT to build around.
Thanks for reading! Keep your eye out for many more Player Profiles on BoltBlitz.com!
(Thanks to sportsmockery.com and pigskinnerd.com for the pics)
Despite the NFL draft being months away, there are already hundreds of mock drafts all over the internet. A few times a year I take the time to check out the various mocks and look at which players the draftniks have pegged as draft selections for the Chargers.
This post will mark the first time I am doing that this offseason. I went through 75 different mock drafts and tallied up all of the prospects that were mocked to the Bolts in the first round.
Here are the names that came up after scanning the web.
Players receiving one vote:
SS – Landon Collins Alabama
RB – Todd Gurley Georgia
CB – Trae Waynes Michigan State
OLB – Vic Beasley Clemson
CB – Marcus Peters Washington
CB – PJ Williams Florida State
DE/LB – Shane Ray Missouri
CB – Ronald Darby Florida State
CB – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon
DT – Jordan Phillips Oklahoma
OT – Ty Sambrailo Colorado State
DE – Alvin Dupree Kentucky
CB – Kevin Johnson Wake Forest
Players receiving two votes:
DE – Arik Armstead Oregon
OT – Brandon Scherff Iowa
Players receiving four votes:
C/OT – Cam Erving Florida State
OT – Cedric Ogbuehi Texas A & M
Players receiving five votes:
OT – Ereck Flowers Miami
OT – Andrus Peat Stanford
DT – Eddie Goldman Florida State
Players receiving six votes:
OT – TJ Clemmings Pittsburgh
Players receiving eight votes:
NT – Danny Shelton Washington
Players receiving ten votes:
OT – La’El Collins LSU
And with the 17th pick in the 2015 NFL draft, receiving eleven votes, the San Diego Chargers select……
RB – Melvin Gordon Wisconsin
Although Melvin Gordon has a ton of potential to be a fantastic running back in the NFL, there are so many other needs that might need to be filled prior to drafting a ball carrier. Many draft experts have compared him to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles.
This offseason will be very interesting in San Diego. Tom Telesco has his work cut out for him and it should be fun to watch his plans unravel.
Thanks a lot for reading.