Danny Woodhead is wide open.
If someone were to have told me, that Philip Rivers would throw for 503 yards, two touchdowns with no interceptions – that Keenan Allen would pile on the 14 receptions for 157 yards AND the Chargers would dominate time of possession but still would lose the game??
I would have asked you to check yourself into rehab.
Leading up to Sunday’s game, there was hardly anybody that picked the Chargers to hang with the Packers. After all, Green Bay was 9-1 against San Diego, a 10-point favorite and had not lost at home since December 22, 2013. There were some sports pundits that made viewers feel that the Bolts were going to star in the 1974 movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” However, what was happening before our very eyes seemed to sway more towards the Biblical tale of “David vs. Goliath.”
With career days for Rivers and Allen, visions of a celebration that would be of epic proportion appeared to be a very strong possibility. The game plan implemented going into Lambeau, was planned perfectly. The “dink-and-dunk” theory had shown in the past that it would work against the Packers. And who is better to execute that philosophy than Rivers, Allen and Antonio Gates (9 receptions for 95 yards). The question during the game was not “Can the Chargers offense continue to move the ball?” It was rather, “Can they stop the Packers’ offense?”
Has anyone ever coined the phrase “Offense wins championships?”
It has been said that Paul “Bear” Bryant coined the phrase “Defense wins championships.” I am in total agreement with this statement. With an average offense at best, look at what Seattle has done over the last few seasons with their “Legion of Boom.” Like it or not, people remember great defenses more so than great offenses.
Let me check your football history. Raise your hand if you have heard of:
“The Steel Curtain.”
“Purple People Eaters”
“Monsters of the Midway”
Those teams dominated the defensive side of the ball and won Championships. Of course there are creative offenses that are a household names as well:
“Greatest Show on Turf”
However, outside the St. Louis Rams, no other offensive team listed won a Super Bowl. What does that tell you? What it tells me is that offenses sell tickets and win games, but defenses win Championships. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were two other Super Bowl winners who had league-leading defenses. The quarterbacks that lead those offenses? Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, respectively – neither of whom could hold a candle to Philip Rivers
Now back to my earlier question, “Can they stop the Packers’ offense?” The indisputable answer would be “No.”
The defense has improved with personnel, however they continue to struggle; injuries or not. In fact, this passage from ProFootballFocus.com sums it up perfectly:
“The Chargers front seven continues to be completely ineffective against both the run and pass. On the defensive line, not a single player had a pass rushing grade of +1.0 or above. One has to wonder how much more they have to see from Donald Butler (-3.8) until they decide to go with someone else at inside linebacker. On Sunday he was a complete non-factor, collecting one stop in 56 snaps. He has graded negatively overall in every single game this year.”
For a while, the defense showed life in the second half, as Aaron Rodgers could not move the ball; resulting in back to back three-and-outs. Unfortunately until San Diego can consistently stop good offenses from moving the ball, the Chargers will continue to lose in heartbreak fashion. It does not matter how amazing Rivers plays, or how many fumbles Melvin Gordon has coughed up, if they cannot disrupt the opposing team’s offense by mixing up their looks, theirr record will continue to be paltry at best.
There is no doubt in my mind, that this 2015 San Diego team can compete at a high level and go far into the playoffs. Even with a 2-4 record, even with the players being infected by the injury bug, San Diego was still one play away from beating Pittsburgh at home and one play away from going into overtime against the undefeated Packers in Green Bay.
By the way, for those still wondering…Woodhead is still wide open in the end zone.
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
The Chargers ended their season in Denver last year after a heartbreaking loss during the AFC Divisional Playoff game. Not long after, Offensive Coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, left San Diego to restart his head coaching career. He headed east to the Tennessee Titans; leaving the Chargers in need of a new OC. Having the most familiar knowledge of the current system, Frank Reich was promoted from Quarterbacks Coach to fill the position. At the time, this seemed to make the most sense. However, after a declining season and questionable play calls, fans should be concerned if this was the right choice.
Game time playcalls are the most important role of the OC and the root of success to a team’s offense. So far, Reich hasn’t been much more than mediocre. The offensive line is crumbling week by week, but the same plays are still being called. What about the screen pass plays that have been greatly successful for the Chargers in previous years? They are not even there. The absence of Danny Woodhead has been the biggest factor of all. In 2013, he averaged 8 yards a reception, 30 receiving 1st downs, and 483 yards after the the catch; ranking him 20th of all NFL players. Reich hasn’t been able to effectively utilize Branden Oliver to match these numbers; which has ultimately hurt the offense. Creative and unpredictable playcalling reflects a great OC, yet they seem to be missing every game so far.
Speaking of a hurting offense, Reich has been unable to make adequate halftime adjustments. The Chargers currently have four losses on the season. Of those four losses, three were when the team was trailing at halftime. As an OC, adjustments should be made to enable the team to finish with a win. But, Reich’s adjustments seem to be absent. Additionally, the OC should easily be able to see what offensive weaknesses were exposed in the first half and use those to prevent the same errors from occurring in the second. After the ugly and embarrassing loss to Miami on Sunday, the halftime adjustments require much needed attention.
The lackluster team downs are also an issue that Reich seems to be sweeping under the rug. Last year, the Chargers ended their season ranked 3rd in the NFL for third down conversions, this year they have dropped to 13th. In addition, the Chargers have only converted 25% (1 of 4) of their fourth down conversions thus far. When comparing that to last year, they converted 83% (5 of 6). Having a depleted offensive line will certainly contribute to poor down conversions, but the appropriate calls will get the job done and focus on each player’s strengths instead of weaknesses.
Focusing on a player’s strengths is key when injuries have affected the team like the bubonic plague, however, Reich doesn’t seem to be addressing this appropriately. With injuries to Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Nick Hardwick and many other offensive players, why are the same formations being utilized? Antonio Gates has been the most successful player this season for many reasons, but what happened to including Ladarius Green? Trying a two tight end formation will help the struggling backfield flourish and create great disruption in the opposing defense. The two-tight end attack works well against 3-4 defenses; which the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs currently run, but still lost to. Using Gates’ physical body and Green’s speed, the offense can easily get back on track.
Last year, Arizona blitzed the most in the NFL and Miami wasn’t too far behind; two teams that also defeated the Chargers this year. The third down option against the blitz is terrible. Instead of trying to throw for long on third down, a check to short, three-step pass will allow for a small yard gain and the chance to run for a first down. Additionally, the miscues from Rivers to Reich are preventing valuable points being placed on the board. I’m sure everyone was severely frustrated when a time out was called prior to the play clock expiring and Rivers turning his head to say “are you serious?” It was clear that Rivers saw something in the defensive formation but the poor communication caused the drive to end.
Clock management has also been an issue Reich seems to not have a grasp of. The Chargers have averaged 31:16 minutes of ball possession this year, but of the four losses only one team ranks higher than them with 31:56 minutes (Kansas City). What this means is that the offense is keeping the ball, but not doing much with it. They are struggling in red zone attempts per game; only 1.7 attempts in the last 3 games and of course zero in the most recent one. The Chargers are also only averaging 3.1 yards per carry, which implies that they are keeping possession of the ball, but not getting effective yards to set up scoring opportunities. Either way you cut it, Reich’s attempt at clock management isn’t as effective as we once thought.
The year is certainly not over just yet, and after a much-needed bye week, the Chargers can bounce back and sneak into the playoffs as they did last year. It’s safe to say that Frank Reich as the Chargers OC is questionable moving forward. Anything can happen, it’s football, but it’s going to take a lot of planning and adjustments to convince fans that he is the right one for the job.
Once again, Donald Brown is called upon to be the bell-cow of an NFL team. In 2013, due to porous production by Trent Richardson, Brown was given the starting nod beginning in week 13. With the three regular season games plus two post-season matchups, Brown averaged 4.5 yards per carry with four touchdowns. Donald added 16 receptions for 113 yards during this span. He does not have a stat-filled, overly productive career thus far. However, he has been mainly used as a third down/goal line back. Now with the Chargers, he is going to be asked to continue his success as a starter and pick up where Mathews left off.
The main difference between last year and this year, is that Donald is bumped up on the depth chart due to an injury of a lead back, rather than a poor effort from Ryan. Another difference he has with San Diego, is that in Indianapolis he was running behind a sub-par offensive line as well as an offense who was pass heavy. Here in America’s finest city, Donald is now on an offense who thrives on ball control and clock management along with an offensive line that is an upgrade from the Colts.
Through the first two games of this young 2014 season, it appears that the draw and trap play will be used often in Frank Reich’s scheme. This approach, plus the team’s strategy of controlling the clock, bodes very well for Brown and the Bolts. In reviewing Donald’s brief history, he excelled on the draw/trap play running between the guards. He is also best utilized in open space, one of the things that the Chargers are very good at. Once in open space, at his top speed, he is able to make defenders miss as well as run them over – evident by his 16 yard run versus the Seahawks last week. Standard run plays will be called for Donald and tackles Dunlap and Fluker will need to evolve their run blocking abilities.
With Mathews’ injury, Danny Woodhead’s value also rises. Like Darren Sproles in the past, placing the bell-cow tag on either one of them is/was unlikely and not smart. Both of these players are best utilized as a change-of-pace back. Their size and stature are not fit to be an every down back. Along with Woodhead, another back, in this writer’s opinion, will be brought in for more snaps. As an UDFA, Branden Oliver should be activated this week to be used in the same state where he excelled in college. Oliver showed great power and agility during training camp as well as preseason games. Branden is a hard worker and always wants to improve. One of the attributes he needs to improve on is his field vision; finding the holes where he can get more yards. Once he is able to find the hole, Oliver’s immense burst of speed will be revealed.
There were many questions with Telesco’s signing of Brown during the offseason. The complaints ranged from too big of a contract (10.4 million) for a backup, grabbing a RB in the draft (Bishop Sankey or Carlos Hyde) to fulfill the 3rd string role, or the less-than-staggering stats he has had thus far. All of those grumblings were valid, however in looking at the overall big picture, along with Telesco’s brilliance, it made perfect sense. Now Bolt Nation will be able to witness the value of the Brown signing first hand. Ryan could be back as early as week 7, although with San Diego’s bye in week 10. Perhaps a return in week 9 is more likely in an effort to ensure a full recovery.
In Telesco We Trust.
“PEACE…..and Boltness forever!” – BWK
Saying that Keenan Allen had an impressive rookie year is an understatement. It is not often that a first-year wideout surpasses the 1,000 yard receiving mark. He actually ended up breaking the Charger rookie receiving yards record that was formerly set by John Jefferson. Yeah, that is quite the feat for a guy taken in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Although Allen should have been selected earlier, it’s worth noting that he came in and built a solid rapport with Philip Rivers after being inserted into the starting lineup. Needless to say, he showed he belonged. He made his mark and cemented himself as a threat to be reckoned with for years to come.
When looking at Allen during training camp, he looks to be bigger, stronger and faster. This is not a good thing for opposing defenses. And, as mentioned above, he has only played one year in this league. The sky is, literally, the limit for number 13.
So, after confirming that Keenan’s first year numbers were a definite success, why is it that I believe he’ll exceed said numbers in 2014? He is bigger, stronger, and faster. More importantly, he now has another offseason working with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL under his belt. Those facts seem to support the idea behind my prognostication.
Keenan Allen is set to be a top-5 receiver this year.
His route running seems to have improved. And, quite honestly, it was already above average. He has solid hands and a knack for positioning his body in a way that shields out defenders. He is also very good at high-pointing the ball when the situation calls for it. Fans outside of the Charger fanbase may know his name and find him to be a solid threat, but I’m not sure the rest of the NFL world is ready for what Allen is about to do in his sophomore campaign.
The return of Malcom Floyd will certainly benefit Allen. Eddie Royal surprised some with hot streaks during 2013 despite not practicing hardly at all last season. Having a tight end such as future first-ballot Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, and a budding star in Ladarius Green, will only help dissuade teams from forcing too much double-coverage and/or a robber over the top for KA13. Sure, there will, without a doubt, be a defensive focus on containing Keenan. But at what price? A healthy Charger offense means that there are many options for Rivers if too much attention is paid to him. A guy that I have yet to mention, Danny Woodhead, comes to mind as a serious receiving threat out of the backfield.
If teams do spend what could be considered the “necessary” amount of coverage on Keenan, there are other weapons available for Rivers to exploit. In addition to Woodhead, both Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown are capable receivers as running backs, as well. Defenses will have to pick their poison and it should pay dividends for the Charger offense and its new offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
I see no reason as to why Keenan Allen won’t blow up in year number two with the San Diego Chargers. He is only going to continue to get better. I can’t wait to see what he can do knowing that he has the trust of Rivers going into a pivotal year for the Charger team as a whole.
What are your thoughts? Am I going too far out on a limb suggesting that Allen will better last year’s performance? Though I feel confident stating that he’ll surpass his rookie numbers, I’ll leave it to you.
Let me know what you think by leaving your comments below.
Thanks a lot for reading.