There are always question marks surrounding all 32 NFL teams going into the regular season. I will have a piece coming out today or tomorrow regarding 20 questions regarding the 2014 San Diego Chargers.
Due to the importance of the question in the title, I felt it necessary to take this question to the next level and expound upon the subject at hand. Sure, San Diego has improved in multiple areas. The lack of depth going into 2013 has evolved into a situation where the 2014 Bolts will have some difficult decisions to make concerning the cuts of some players that fans will be surprised to hear their names on the waiver wire.
As mentioned on both this website and BoltBlitzLIVE on Mountain Country 107.9, having too much talent is a good problem to have. The level of competition throughout the offseason and preseason will turn to career-saving plays from the fringe players that are currently on the gigantic 90-man roster. There is very little room for error when looking at the players that are on the cusp of either winning a roster spot, or looking for a new residence come the final cuts on August 30th at 4:00 pm est.
Here is where I get back to the topic on hand and focus on the losers of last year’s Super bowl, the Denver Broncos. Let me make something clear, the offense in Denver last year not only followed the trend of being a part of confirming that today’s NFL is a pass-driven league, they blew records out of the water with ease.
That sound you just heard was Peyton Manning throwing for more yards and another touchdown.
The Bronco offense may have lost Eric Decker, but he was replaced with former Steeler wideout Emmanuel Sanders. More explosion, and, possibly, an even bigger threat for Manning and the Denver offense could have been found with the addition of Sanders.
I think what deserves more attention is what the Broncos did defensively. After losing players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Wesley Woodyard, Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers and long-time defensive back Champ Bailey, the Denver defense was in need of an overhaul. And they did just that.
Phillips led the Broncos in sacks last year and was replaced by the free agent signing of DeMarcus Ware. Is it truly an upgrade? Maybe? Be careful and think in terms of future production and do not allow yourself to be clouded by numbers that may not be replicated by either player moving forward. I would tend to agree with those of you that give the slight edge to Ware. But, the Broncos are not getting the guy that was once one of the best defensive players in the league.
The loss of Rodgers-Cromartie could have been a significant one. Well, except that, in my opinion, they upgraded the spot by signing Aquib Talib. Despite off-the-field issues, he is a force to be reckoned with as a cornerback. He is incredibly physical and he has the capability of shutting down the opposing team’s number one receiving option each and every week. They certainly improved there despite the athleticism that Rodgers-Cromartie flashed at times during his career.
Another addition to the Denver secondary was T.J. Ward. He is a bit of a liability in coverage but he will not hesitate to take an opposing player’s head off with a vicious, well-timed hit. He might be able to fill the void as the defensive enforcer on the back-end of the Bronco secondary.
When backtracking to the offensive side of the ball, Denver, in addition to Decker, also lost Knowshon Moreno and Zane Beadles. The loss of Moreno may not amount to much due to a running back tandem of Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. The offensive line returning Ryan Clady to the fold is one of the only reasons I have any fear regarding the Denver running game. Ball and Hillman are not serious threats without pristine blocking, in my opinion. Sorry, San Diego State fans ( regarding my lack of faith in Hillman being a factor.)
When looking at what the Broncos have done this offseason, what are your thoughts regarding the San Diego’s ability to match Denver on paper? For all Charger fans out there, you all know what the Bolts have done. Exciting additions of Brandon Flowers and Donald Brown added more depth and starter quality where it was needed. The most underrated signing of the Charger offseason might have been that of Kavell Conner. He will make an impact defensively in passing situations, at times, but mostly his presence will be felt as insurance behind both Donald Butler and Manti Te’o.
Another free agency add that has both the media and fans clamoring is that of David Johnson. The team has lined Johnson up all over the place including fullback, tight end and even in the slot. For a man his size, he can really move. He is not going to set any 40-yard dash records, but he will surprise defenders if they are only focused on his size. Yes, he’s a big boy.
Speaking of insurance, the Donald Brown signing proves that Tom Telesco realized during the playoff loss to the Broncos that there must be more quality depth in the Charger backfield. Running Danny Woodhead between the tackles can only get you so far. That’s not to say that he can’t be effective at times doing just that. But relying on that is not conducive to long-term success. After Ryan Mathews put up one of the most physical running years in recent Charger history, he was banged up near the end of the 2013 season. He played through it for the most part which is highly admirable. But, he was forced to leave the playoff game in Denver due to a season’s long ration of wear and tear.
In comes Donald Brown. Brown has been seen as a guy that could be considered to be a cross between Mathews and Woodhead. His feet are surprisingly quick when watching him in person. He is effective as a pass-blocker when asked to do so. He also has reliable hands as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He averaged over 5 yards per carry last year during his final campaign with Indianapolis. The fans in America’s Finest city, and all Charger fans everywhere, should be very pleased with the pickup of Brown.
The fact that Brandon Flowers has the Charger fans incredibly excited for the 2014 season, and this is now the second year of the reign in San Diego of Telesco and Mike McCoy, the sky may be the limit for the 2014 Chargers. When you add in the aforementioned moves above, there seem to be a lot of reasons to be excited in San Diego.
But, I’ll leave the answer of this question to you. Let’s go back to the title. Have the Chargers improved enough to keep up with Denver?
You all know the drill. There is a poll below. Place your vote and leave your justification for why you voted the way you did in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
I am really looking forward to reading what the fans have to say regarding this topic. It is going to be interesting, I’m sure of that.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting. I look forward to your comments below.
In the first year of the new regime in San Diego, the Charger offense came to life. It was clear that this was a team that was going to pound the rock in the running game and get the ball out quickly in the passing game. San Diego used its rushing attack to grind out the clock and wear down opposing defenses. Although the redzone scoring as a running offense was lacking, the team proved to be adequately efficient churning out yards on the ground.
The aforementioned ground-game was led by Ryan Mathews, who had a career-high in rushing yards in 2013 with 1,255 yards. Mathews managed to stay “mostly healthy” during the regular season but was banged up in the divisional round loss to Denver. His absence was a major factor in the Chargers losing that game. That and a weak offensive gameplan that tried to attack through the air far too late in the contest.
When watching Mathews last year, you saw a runner that was physical and tough. He managed to finish his runs with authority and bring the wood to deliver the blows as opposed to absorbing them. He still needs to work on his patience in finding the hole and making the last guy miss. Additionally, he has to find a way to become more effective in the redzone, as hinted at above.
Through four seasons, Mathews has yet to score more than 7 touchdowns in a single season. Look for Mathews to continue to improve in what is his contract year with the Bolts. But that’s not the only reason to expect Ryan to have continued success. He’s got help in last year’s big free agent addition in Danny Woodhead and the team’s only major free agent signing during this current offseason, Donald Brown.
The signing of Danny Woodhead paid major dividends for the Chargers in a lot of ways. One of his most underrated attributes is his ability in pass pro. Danny is very intelligent at scanning the defense before and during the play to find the man that he is responsible for picking up when Philip Rivers drops back to sling it. To say that he is a receiving-threat out of the backfield is an understatement. Woodhead’s speed, quickness and above average hands allow him to create mismatches against linebackers and other defenders. Despite only two rushing touchdowns as a Charger, Danny managed to haul in 6 receiving scores during his debut season in lightning bolts. Equally as impressive as his six scoring receptions, Woodhead managed to tally 76 receptions on the year. He is a great asset to the San Diego offense.
Here is where we talk about what was considered to be a controversial free agent signing in Donald Brown. I was very pleased with the add. But to say that it left many fans puzzled is an understatement. The supporters of the team were far more concerned about improving either the nose tackle, cornerback or wide receiver spots via free agency. And I understand that line of thinking as well. But, again, let us not forget what happened when Mathews went down in the Denver playoff game. The addition of Brown showed that Tom Telesco didn’t forget.
Donald Brown is a versatile back that one might say was misused in Indianapolis. Although he flashed some ability early on, the team decided to trade away a 2014 first round pick for the underwhelming/under-performing Trent Richardson. That move has initially looked incredibly poor at this point.
The Brown signing is also insurance for the expected departure of Ryan Mathews following the 2014 campaign. Although I believe that he should be re-signed if he has another showing like 2013, the team is rumored to be content with re-signing Woodhead and watching Brown fill out the last two years of his freshly inked free agent contract following the upcoming season.
To top off what may end up being a four-running back stable for the Bolts, Telesco selected Marion Grice in the sixth round of this year’s draft. Grice is an all-around threat out of Arizona State. His multitude of abilities must have been appealing to the organization considering the backs that were already on the roster. Marion is a serious threat down in the redzone having scored 39 touchdowns as a runner during his last two seasons at ASU. It is said that he has the best hands out of any running back taken in the 2014 draft class. He also has some ability to play special teams as the team might take a look at him as a kick returner.
The Chargers are a team on the rise. After a strong draft class in 2013, the team seems to have added speed and toughness during this year’s draft. Not having much room under the salary cap this offseason caused for Telesco to be very frugal. But the 2015 season should allow him to truly survey the available free agents and make a move or two that we have not seen in San Diego in quite some time.
I look forward to watching this stable of running backs grind out yards and help this team control the clock. More importantly than just controlling the clock, the offense must be completing these drives with touchdowns, as opposed to field goals. The current running game should be able to do just that.
Thanks a lot for reading.