On April 18th, the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders announced they have cut nose tackle Dan Williams. The release comes two seasons after picking him up as a free agent from the Arizona Cardinals. The L.A. Chargers should be interested in this development as they sorely need depth along the defensive line, particularly at nose tackle. Williams would be a solid backup to starter to Brandon Mebane and give the Chargers two legitimate veteran run stoppers in the middle of the line.
Williams is currently listed at 6’2″, 330-pounds. In Arizona, he was a cornerstone of their defense, consistently occupying two blockers and plugging running lanes. As a result, pass rushers such as Karlos Dansby, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Bertrand Berry and Daryl Washington feasted on quarterbacks. With the uprising of young, hungry pass rushers and linebackers on defense, having wily veterans like Mebane and Williams is just the type of anchor needed to make the defensive line unstoppable.
Bringing in Williams also finally rectifies an egregious mistake that is seven years old.
I take you back to the 2010 NFL Draft.
The San Diego Chargers had closed a 13-3 season with a humiliating loss in the divisional round to the New York Jets. All-Everything running back Ladainian Tomlinson asked for and was granted a release. Seated at the 28th spot in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Chargers sacrificed their first- and second-round picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up 16 spots and select…
Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews…(insert rim shot here)….
The heir apparent to Tomlinson, like a bottle rocket, had a few flashes…and fizzled out. In five seasons, he had 24 touchdowns and 15 fumbles lost. Mathews missed 25% of the teams’ regular season games with injuries (20 out of 80). Mathews has logged a full 16-game season only once in his career (2013). That includes his current stint in Philadelphia.
And the injuries….soooo many injuries. Hamstring. Quadriceps. Groin. Thumb. Both collarbones. Concussion. Both ankles. And on and on and on….
Back to the 2010 NFL Draft. With the 26th pick in the draft the Arizona Cardinals selected Dan Williams and he became their keystone nose tackle. Aside from a broken arm in 2011 in which he missed the last six games he has only missed four games his entire career. Williams hasn’t missed a game in the last three seasons. The only reason he’s a free agent now is because of his salary cap number. Cutting Williams took $4.5-million off the Raiders’ ledger.
Perhaps the Chargers thought Mathews was the only worthy replacement in the draft. Jahvid Best, Dexter McCluster and Ben Tate were all selected after the Chargers’ original draft slot. Brain Westbrook, Thomas Jones, Willie Parker, Jamal Lewis and Pierre Thomas were all available in free agency.
What other names were missed in the first round? There was Safety Earl Thomas with the 14th pick. DE Jason Pierre-Paul (15), G Mike Iupati (17), C Maurkice Pouncey (18), WR’s Demaryius Thomas (22), Dez Bryant (24) and CB Devin McCourty (28).
As far as that second round pick goes, that was the year Rob Gronkowski was drafted. What’s Gronkowski up to these days? Dude has so much game he’s bodychecking pro wrestlers at Wrestlemania and cutting in on White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during an official press conference!
And that’s only this month…
Take a moment and envision a two-tight end set of Antonio Gates and Gronk! The Chargers wouldn’t have needed wide receivers and Philip Rivers would’ve been smashing passing records. DT Linval Joseph (46), LB Daryl Washington (47), DE Carlos Dunlap (54), LB Sean Lee (55) and WR Golden Tate (60) all heard their names called that round.
As much as that day in 2010 will live in infamy for me and many other Chargers fans, bringing Williams into the fold will add some salve to the wound. It makes sense and there’s history there. While Williams was in Arizona his head coach was current Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Don’t be surprised if a visit isn’t already in the works.
Moral of the story is do your homework. Stick to your board. Don’t let one great year of college football eclipse a checkered injury history coming into the draft. In short…
Don’t Mathews it up!
The Greg One
In a surprise move here in Phoenix, the Arizona Cardinals have decided to part ways with defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Dockett, 33, is 6’4 and 290 pounds. The first pick in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Dockett has been a model of consistency for the Cardinals. In ten seasons from 2004 to 2013, Dockett only missed two games. In that amount of time Dockett has amassed 462 tackles, 40.5 sacks for 271 yards lost, four interceptions, eight forced fumbles and 18 passes defensed.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Dockett quickly established himself as a team leader and has been a difference maker on defense. He has been a team captain for many seasons and disruptive force from the nose tackle position.
So why did the Cardinals cut him?
Dockett suffered a torn ACL that caused him to miss the 2014 season. He will be 34 when the season starts and probably most importantly, cutting Dockett frees 7.5 million in cap space for the Cardinals. After resigning Larry Fitzgerald to a 2-year/22 million deal, the Cardinals could use that space to sign other free agents.
Should the San Diego consider signing Dockett?
The Chargers could do a lot worse than Dockett. The responsibility of the nose tackle is to be a run-stuffer first and foremost. Being able to generate 41 sacks from that position is very impressive and a testament to his athleticism. The ACL injury is very worrisome. Will he return at 100%? Will he be as effective coming off his first major injury and rehab?
The Chargers owe it to themselves to give the man a workout and see for themselves what he still has in the tank. Living in Phoenix, i’ve seen a lot of Dockett and endorse his transition into lightning bolts if his health checks out. He was an emotional leader for the Cardinals and his experience will be useful to the up and coming defensive linemen like Attaochu, Ingram and Te’o.
Nose tackle has been a turnstile since Antonio Garay left town. The addition of Dockett provides a proven, solid, consistent playmaker at the position and allows depth as well. Sean Lissemore was a decent player at the position and we’re still waiting to see what Ryan Carrethers will be able to do once he returns from injury. The Chargers could also draft and have time to groom a blue chip nose tackle with Dockett in place anchoring the middle.
Keep in mind the Chargers finished 26th against the run last season. In the last five seasons the Chargers have finished in the top 20 against the rush once. The Cardinals finished in the top 20 four times, twice in the top 5 with Dockett manning the middle. Shoring up the nose tackle position goes a long way to achieving a stronger, run-stuffing defensive unit. In my view, Telesco should give Dockett an incentive rich two-year deal similar to what he gave Dwight Freeney. The deal would be cap friendly and allow the Chargers even more cap flexibility.
What do you think? Should the Chargers sign Darnell Dockett?
The Greg One
I sat in the rafters at University of Phoenix stadium, better known as the home of the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. The Chargers closed week one of the NFL regular season against the Cardinals. From my seat, parallel to the ten yard line three rows from the top of the stadium, I couldn’t be happier to see my guys in lightning bolts take the field.
The electricity filled the stadium long before kickoff and didn’t dissipate until after the stands had cleared over three hours later. Kurt Warner was on hand to initiate the coin flip. He would be inducted into the Cardinals Ring of Honor at halftime. The Chargers won the toss and chose to kick off. The regular season had finally begun for our beloved bolts. This wasn’t my first Chargers game, I started going to games two seasons ago. This was my first Chargers road game and first time at a Monday Night Football game. I could barely sit still as other members of Chargers Nation provided a great turnout for the road team.
The game started. When the Chargers finally took the field on offense I sat ready for fireworks. The whole half passed and I wasn’t getting what I came for. There were some excellent plays made by both teams. The Chargers forced an Andre Ellington turnover and the defensive line got penetration, harassing Carson Palmer most of the half. Rookie Jeremiah Attaochu blocked a punt. A Cardinals cornerback made a great diving interception of Rivers that led to a field goal as halftime descended with a score of 6-3, Cardinals.
I couldn’t help but shake my head. The whole team was out of sync. The running game was going nowhere. Rivers didn’t look as crisp with his passes as he usually does. Receivers dropped ball. Antonio Gates dropped a ball! Rivers overthrew Malcom Floyd who had gotten a good two steps behind the Cardinals defense and there was nothing but green between him and the end zone had that pass hit its target.
Where was this no-huddle offense that was supposed to be unveiled? I understand not showing it during preseason but now it’s game on! Wins and losses count. I watched each play and after each play was a normal huddle. No muddle huddle. No nothing. No one was more excited than yours truly to see Philip Rivers dissect a defense in the no-huddle offense OC Frank Reich spoke of implementing. It never happened. Ironically this would have been the perfect team to unveil it against. The Cardinals had lost the meat of their defense during the offseason. Daryl Washington is lost for the year after his second incident involving banned substances. Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland. Darrell Dockett was injured in camp and will be gone all year. Safety Tyrann Mathieu was not activated for the game. With the instability on the defensive line, it would have been a great idea to blitz all the unproven players with nonstop offense and light up the scoreboard like Times Square on New year’s Eve.
After halftime, it seemed like Warner’s speech fired up the Chargers instead of the Cardinals as the Chargers bolted out of the locker rooms and delivered two touchdowns in the second half as they shut down the Cardinals offense and went ahead to take the lead 17-6 going into the fourth quarter. The reverse happened in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals capitalized on Chargers errors and responded with two field goals and a touchdown to eek out a one point win.
Like the rest of us, I had a lot to cheer about in that game, especially in the third quarter. Similarly, there was a lot that left me scratching my head.
On the positive side, Malcom Floyd looked great on the field. He showed his speed, got behind the defense on a couple occasions and showed he is all the way back. Antonio Gates showed he is still the go-to guy in the clutch. Despite the drops, the Cardinals were forced to rotate coverage to him throughout the game. Jeremiah Attaochu showed he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Attaochu blocked a punt, forced a fumble sacking Carson Palmer and was in on a host of tackles. I heard Mantei Te’o name quite a bit it seemed. Te’o even caught Ellington on an open field tackle which is an achievement in itself. Hopefully this is a sign Te’o is okay and will be a key contributor on defense as well. The defense played great for three quarters, holding the Cardinals to two field goals despite giving up big plays. For a change, they managed to force turnovers and come through on third downs keeping the game close at hand.
Conversely, the defense fell apart when the Chargers needed it most. With a 11-point lead going into the final quarter, a playoff level team should be able to close the show, even on the road. All the key stops ceased in the fourth quarter. Carson Palmer, who would probably tie Rivers in a 40-yard dash, was allowed to leave the pocket and pick up first downs with his legs. The Chargers couldn’t produce anything in the run game against a patchwork Cardinals defensive line. Aside from Mathews’ touchdown run, the Chargers running backs barely advanced past the line of scrimmage on most attempts. On a related note, guess who was the second leading rusher for the Chargers: that’s right, Philip Rivers! Rivers 10-yard first down run put him second behind Mathews 40 yards rushing. Atrocious. The run defense also needs work. They allowed an injured Ellington to rush for 53 yards on 13 carries and the Cardinals as a team ran for over 100 yards including 29 from Palmer. Lastly, there were too many missed sacks. Not tackles, sacks. By my count, at least four times the pocket collapsed on Palmer and it looked like the sack was imminent. Lo and behold, out pops Palmer getting away and picking up positive yardage or at least getting back to the line of scrimmage.
By the way, Mike McCoy, please stop running Eddie Royal on end arounds. Thank you.
The Chargers and Monday Night openers don’t seem to mesh well as of late. Correction, the Chargers and the fourth quarter of Monday Night Football season openers don’t seem to mesh well. For the second straight year, the Chargers gave up a fourth quarter lead in the last three minutes of the game, and took the loss. The good news is last season, after taking that loss on the chin from the Texans, the Chargers faced the Eagles who had unveiled the Chip Kelly offense against the Washington Redskins and their blowout win was the talk of the league. The talking heads got on the bandwagon and some had the nerve to say they would post 50 on the Chargers in week 2.
The Chargers took the challenge, marched into Philadelphia and beat the Eagles at home to the shock of the league. This season the Chargers face a bigger task. The Chargers face the defending champion Seattle Seahawks sunday. David to the Seahawks Goliath, the Chargers will again shock the NFL world with a win. Seattle will be the opening home game for the Chargers. No one is expecting the home team to win, but I for one will not be shocked if they do. The Chargers have no weaknesses that can’t be fixed and there were plenty of missteps to be coached up on before the Seahawks arrive which is a good thing. Expect a better, more focus squad on gameday.
The Greg One