The San Diego Chargers’ secondary has been tested early and often through the first five games of the season. Though their 2-3 record suggests otherwise, the banged-up unit led by Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett has fared extremely well against the NFL’s top receiving talent.
The Chargers began the season at home against the Detroit Lions and their All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson finished third in the NFL in receiving in 2013 and fell out of the top ten in 2014 despite recording over 1,077 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. San Diego allowed Johnson one catch on the first drive of the game and one catch on the last drive of the game. At the end of the day:
Calvin Johnson: 2 catches for 39 yards.
The very next week, the Chargers traveled to Cincinnati to face the Bengals and their All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green. Green is currently fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 495, adding three touchdowns. He did have a touchdown reception on a perfectly thrown ball in the back of the end zone. Aside from that score, Green only touched the ball three other times. At the end of the day:
A.J. Green: 4 catches for 45 yards and one touchdown.
In Week 5 before a prime-time audience on Monday Night Football, San Diego welcomed Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The All-Pro Brown finished 2014 as the number one receiver in the NFL with over 1,600 yards, and is third in the league this season with 523 receiving yards after five games. In the prime-time tilt, Brown was held to three receptions for a paltry 45 yards. At the end of the day:
Antonio Brown: 3 catches for 45 yards.
This is a great sign for a team that is once again beset by injuries in the secondary and the offensive line. Both Flowers and Verrett have missed critical game action. When they’re on the field, they have proven to be exceptional at shadowing the best wide receivers the game has to offer.
At the present time, San Diego owns the ninth-ranked passing defense in the league at 218 yards passing allowed per contest. Through three weeks, Green had been allowed the most catches with four and Bengals wideout Marvin Jones had the most receiving yards with 48. In the Week 4 overtime thriller against Cleveland, the Chargers allowed six passes for 79 yards to the Browns best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin.
In the soul-crushing Monday Night Chargers loss, Steelers’ wideout Marcus Wheaton caught only one pass. Wheaton shook off Flowers with a double move that resulted in a 72-yard touchdown. No Steelers’ wide receiver caught any more than three balls. At the end of the day:
Most yards allowed to a wide receiver: 79
Most catches allowed to a wide receiver: 6
Most receiving yards allowed regardless of position: 85 (RB Duke Johnson, Cleveland)
No player has had a 100-yard receiving day against San Diego.
Only one quarterback, Cleveland’s Josh McCown, has thrown for over 300 yards against the Bolts.
The Chargers three losses can be attributed to many things. Injuries, turnovers, clock management and play calling can be named among the various reasons. A weak secondary is not one of those reasons. Dropped interceptions can definitely be added to the list. In the Pittsburgh game alone, three interceptions were dropped, two of which had a clear path to the end zone. Dropped picks were among a list of other missed opportunities that cost San Diego a win against Cincinnati as well.
This bodes well for a team that has more elite receivers on the horizon. San Diego will travel to Green Bay (Randall Cobb) in Week 6 and still has two games against Denver (Demaryius Thomas) remaining.
There is also a trio of rising stars the Chargers secondary will face with Jacksonville (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) and two games against Oakland (Amari Cooper). If the Bolts can continue to keep bottling the opposition’s best weapons, the Chargers will win more games and be in prime position to challenge for the AFC West title.
Keep in mind, the remainder of the schedule after the game against the Packers is very favorable for the Chargers.
It is not over yet, BoltFam.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Encouraged or discouraged?
Leave your thoughts in the remarks below.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers look to improve a defense that ranked 10th in total defense (4th vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Of the Chargers’ five draft picks, four were made on defense. Today we’ll take a look at the cornerback position and how the Bolts will look to improve on a pass defense that received little support in the form of a pass rush from the front-seven. Here’s a look at who the Chargers have in camp at the present time:
Brandon Flowers: The 29-year-old made an instant impact after he signed last offseason after being released by Kansas City in a cost-cutting move. He made the most of his one-year ‘prove it’ contract, and re-signed with the Chargers on a four-year, $36 million deal.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was the number one cornerback in the NFL for the first eight weeks of the season before he missed games with numerous injuries including concussion, groin and ankle maladies. He managed to perform in 14 of the Chargers 16 games despite being banged up, recording 52 tackles (48 solo), three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Now entering his eighth season, Flowers looks forward to continuing his ‘big brother’ role to the Bolts’ young group of cornerbacks.
Jason Verrett: The 2014 first-round draft pick was having an excellent season opposite Flowers until his year was cut short by a torn labrum in week six. The resilient rookie tried to return in week eight against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but only succeeded in aggravating the injury. The Chargers placed him on IR after week 10.
Flowers and Verrett ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pro Football Focus cornerback ratings while they played together. Losing both, at times, forced others to step up and fill some “large shoes.” Verrett compiled 19 tackles (18 solo), one dramatic, game-saving, late fourth quarter interception versus Oakland and four passes defensed in six games. A healthy Verrett is going to greatly improve the secondary and he is most likely to man the right corner position opposite Flowers.
Patrick Robinson: A 2010 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson signed a one-year contract with San Diego in March. In five seasons, he’s logged 180 tackles (150 solo), one sack, nine interceptions with one forced fumble and 46 passes defensed. Robinson bounced back strong in 2014 after rupturing his patellar tendon in week 2 and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
Last season, Robinson defensed 11 passes with two interceptions and 39 tackles. Robinson also found his way into New Orleans head coach Sean Paytons’ doghouse as he was benched repeatedly. Hopefully, his tenure in San Diego can mirror the second chance Brandon Flowers received. He will be the leading candidate for the number three cornerback in the rotation at this point. It is worth noting that after struggling on the outside, he picked up his play once given the opportunity to play the nickel-spot in the New Orleans’ defense. Robinson may end up be a sleeper signing for the Charger defense.
Steve Williams: Looking to get his career on track, Williams finally found the field in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury. He played in 13 games, recording 10 tackles with two passes defensed. Drafted by the Chargers alongside his college teammate Keenan Allen, the Cal Bear got onto the Chargers radar after exhibiting freakish athleticism at the combine with 4.25 speed in the 40, 10’8″ broad jump and 40.5 inch vertical jump. The Chargers still hold out hope that their 2013 fifth-round choice can fully apply his skills and stay on the field. He should see an opportunity to compete with Robinson for the nickel role, and continue to see snaps on special teams. His speed makes him an asset on both defense and special teams.
Chris Davis: Entering his second year out of Auburn, Davis played in 12 games for the Chargers, contributing mostly on special teams. The team found value in Davis in the kickoff return game, where he averaged 25.1 yards on 19 returns. After assuming those duties in the November 2nd Dolphins’ game, Davis may have found his role as the team’s return specialist. Known for what will arguably stand as the greatest return in college football history in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Davis looks to repeat his success in San Diego while also playing more on defense. Davis has shown flashes of playmaking capability, and he can be an important piece to a championship team if he can sustain his health and continue to improve in 2015.
Craig Mager: When the team’s 2015 third-round draft pick name was announced on day two of the draft, it came with a collective chorus of “Craig Who” on social media and team message boards. But fans, and the league, will soon know his name. The Chargers are very high on the Texas State cornerback. At the combine, Mager ran a 4.44 in the 40, broad-jumped 10’10” and had a 38-inch vertical jump. Mager developed a reputation as an aggressive tackler in the secondary while in college, as he was named to the second team All-Sun Belt Conference for 2014. If he can adjust to the immense jump in talent from a mid-major conference in college football to the elite level of the NFL, Mager will pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Richard Crawford: A new face that will be ready for action, Oceanside native Richard Crawford is a third-year pro. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford had a successful season culminating with an interception of Tony Romo in week 17; one that clinched the Redskins a playoff spot. His momentum came to an abrupt halt, as he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in the 2013 preseason that caused him to miss the entire season.
Crawford was eventually cut by the Redskins, and then added to the Chargers’ practice squad in week nine of last season. In his one season in Washington, Crawford recorded 18 tackles (13 solo), two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one interception and also contributed on special teams. His 64-yard punt return against Baltimore secured the field position needed to kick a game-winning field goal. As a result, the ‘Skins got the overtime win over their in-state rival. Crawford will provide healthy competition for cornerback and punt return duties.
Greg Ducre: Still looking to make an impact, Ducre is a second-year pro out of Washington. Last season, Ducre signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was signed off the practice squad by the Washington Redskins. In a two-month span, he played one regular season game and was then released by Washington the next day. The Chargers then re-signed Ducre to the active roster where he has remained ever since.
Ducre adds a much-needed speed element to the Chargers secondary. At Washington’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 and 4.34 seconds. He recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and 10’6″ broad jump. In the one game he played for Washington against San Francisco, he recorded an interception of Colin Kaepernick. His athleticism speaks for itself. But can he do it if called upon to do so in San Diego? Ducre faces an uphill battle to find his way onto the roster.
Manuel Asprilla: The undrafted free agent out of Boston College did not miss a game after getting to play three games into his freshman season at BC. A tackling machine, gathering 201 tackles (142 solo) and 15 tackles for loss. Asprilla had four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 23 passes defensed over his collegiate career. It will be a long shot for Asprilla to make the 53-man roster, but the Chargers have a long history of finding undrafted free agent gems. Practice squad is always a possibility.
This crop of cornerbacks has a boom-or-bust feel to them. If Flowers and Verrett can stay healthy all season, they can again be an upper top-10 tandem that could give the Chargers a legitimate top-10 defense. With a year of experience in the system, it stands to reason, that both will be even better than last season. San Diego missed the playoffs by one game last season. That tandem could have made up that one game.
Robinson was a great signing and will contribute right away. The rest of the field are all athletic freaks with speed to burn and off-the-charts leaping ability. When you consider the fact the Bolts don’t have a single member of the secondary that stands six-feet-tall or better, physically gifted athletes are a necessity when you look around the league at the tall, fast wideouts in the league now.
This is a group that will be charged with facing the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson, in week one. In week two, they will have to cover A. J. Green. They stand 6’5″ and 6’4″ and run 4.35 & 4.5 respectively. Add in a double shot of Demaryius Thomas, plus Jordy Nelson (both 6’3″), and it’s easy to see the Chargers’ secondary will be tested all season. Paired with Eric Weddle and the group of safeties he leads, the Bolts will boast a formidable secondary; if they can stay healthy and improve on their woeful takeaway totals (seven interceptions, one safety, 11 fumble recoveries).
This is a group that is full of promise, but can they deliver? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
What do you mean, Keenan Allen playing slot receiver? Just bear with me while I attempt to persuade you.
A slot receiver, by definition, is a player in the offensive formation between the offensive line and the player closest to the sideline and at least a yard off of the line of scrimmage. That space can be occupied by a wide receiver, tight end or running back. It is often used when the offense wants to confuse the defense by having more than one receiver on the same side of the field. Utilizing this tactic generally forces the opposing team to adjust their coverage scheme by making alignment changes or adding extra defensive backs to ensure that the player in that “slot” has someone on him.
While at University of California – Berkeley (UCB), Allen was used in several different formations: split wide at receiver, in the slot and in the backfield. He primarily played the slot position while at UCB, so the role would be nothing new to him. Being quick off the line of scrimmage whether the ball is coming his way or if he is being a decoy can only help Philip Rivers in the long run. Although Allen may not have top speed, he does have the ability to change speed quickly. Prior to the draft, NFL analyst Charles Davis stated “…he didn’t run very fast at his pro day, but the comparisons for him: he plays the game a lot like Anquan Boldin and has hands like Larry Fitzgerald”. Current players also known as slot receivers are: Jeremy Maclin (Kansas City Chiefs), Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos), Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys), Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers) and free agent Wes Welker.
Allen has played 29 games in his two years with the Bolts and has 148 receptions of which 95 went for first down. Other than his receiving yardage, there are only punt return statistics for him: 26 attempts for 224 yards with 24 fair catch calls and zero touchdowns. In comparison, here is what newly-signed Jacoby Jones amassed during his first two years (2007-2008 and 30 games) in the league. As a receiver, Jones recorded 18 receptions and 11 of those were for first down. His punt return numbers: 672 yards on 62 attempts, 24 fair catches made, two TDs. On kick offs, 17 attempts for 358 yards (zero touchdowns, zero fair catches made).
Perhaps the argument can be made to move Keenan Allen to the slot since he is considerably younger than Jacoby Jones and Jones has more NFL experience overall in that position. So you are aware, though he is also on the team now, Stevie Johnson was not included in this comparison because he was only used in the return game his initial season (2008).
I know what I would do if the decision was left up to me…however, where do you think Allen lines up this season?
Thanks and Bolt Up!
More often than not, the will of a person to achieve success comes from their inner desire to be the best. By nature people want to win, to be the first to do…anything. Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd showed everyone their will and crushed all the doubters with their performances last season. Keenan Allen, many of whom labeled him to be the Chargers number one receiver, did not have the type of season most thought he would have. Is he able to be the frontman of the Bolts receiving core or are the Chargers in dire need to bring in a receiver who would be the clear-cut number one guy? Perhaps the more realistic explanation for Allen’s shortcomings, was primarily due to his inability to get separation in the milliseconds that Philip Rivers had in the pocket. With Eddie Royal’s future not yet known, fans have been voicing for San Diego to bring in a super star receiver.
In theory, adding a young and/or established top wide out to play along with our current receivers, might provide a boost to an offense that sputtered in the second half of last season. However, do the Bolts really need to spend a big chunk of change on a free agent wide out – or a top draft pick – that potentially could not live up to expectations, i.e. Robert Meachem, or perchance spend time on the injured reserve?
Around the NFL there are unequivocal wide receivers who are their teams #1. Here are a few of them in no particular ranking order:
Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions
Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Brandon Marshall – Chicago Bears
Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Looking at this list, it would be phenomenal if one of those players bore the lightning bolt insignia. What magic could happen when any one of these players was on the receiving end of a Rivers pass!! Now awaken from the dream of pairing Rivers to any of those, and wipe away the drool thinking about them on any fantasy football team. Let’s look at reality and what those players’ teams have done.
Over the past three seasons, Detroit has a combined record of 22-26 with one playoff appearance; losing to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round last year. Atlanta had gone 23-25 in that span with one playoff appearance; making it to the Conference Championship in 2012. The Bears showcase a record of 25-25 with no playoff games.
Conversely, those with winning records in the past three seasons are the Cowboys, Steelers and Bengals. Dallas sported a 28-20 record and went to the playoffs once; last season losing to the Packers in the Divisional Playoff game. Pittsburgh’s mark is 28-21 with a lone playoff entrance – last season in which they lost to Baltimore in the Wild Card round. Cincinnati, on the other hand, exhibited a 31-16 record and played in the playoffs in all three seasons; losing in the Wild Card round each time. If you noticed, not one of those teams played for the NFL title.
“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.” – Joe Paterno
Here is a list of the Super Bowl participants over the last three seasons: Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. Outside of Demaryius Thomas of Denver, do you see any teams that have that clear-cut, top 10 wide receiver on those rosters?
Specifically looking at the New England Patriots, and recent Super Bowl Champion team, they don’t have a top-tier receiver. Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are good receivers, but would you take any of them over Allen, Floyd or Royal? What the Patriots have vested in is a solid front line unit that is there to not only create lanes for their running backs, but to protect Tom Brady and give him the time to pick apart defenses. In my opinion, it does not matter who is out there catching passes from Brady, because he is given enough time to watch the receivers run their routes and hit them in stride. Of course in addition to that, they have a solid defensive unit; put those two things together and you win championships.
“A bridge is not built from one piece of wood” – Chinese Proverb
Perhaps instead of vesting in a large salaried receiver to pair up with Allen, Floyd, and others, the money would be better spent on fixing the structure of the bridge; not just slap an expensive band-aid on it. More specifically, enhancing the o-line will allow Philip to breathe and be comfortable in the pocket. Once he is in that space and is able to step up and follow through on his throws, he will make all of our receivers into top-tier players. In turn, the offense will once again flourish all because we started acknowledging the infrastructure’s demise and built that bridge to a championship caliber level.
(Thanks to www.zimbio.com for the pictures)
The Chargers are in Denver tonight to battle the division leading Broncos. This is a statement game for the Bolts and one that the entire nation will be tuned into waiting to see who will reign supreme in the AFC West.
Tonight’s game is a battle for the lead of the division. San Diego comes in after a tough loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos are on top of the standings and they embarrassed the 49ers last Sunday night. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning secured the all-time touchdown pass record passing Brett Favre and he now has 510 scoring passes for his career.
The Chargers have been decimated by injuries and come into the game with a patchwork secondary and running back corps. No one, including the Bolts, is going to feel sorry for San Diego; especially the Broncos. Injuries happen to all 32 teams in the NFL, and the “Next man up” mantra is in full effect. The team must come out and find ways to utilize all of the players that will be on the field. There cannot be any thoughts toward those players that are not available to play.
There are many ways for the San Diego Chargers to beat the Denver Broncos. Below I’ll highlight my five keys to obtaining a victory on the road at Sports Authority field this evening.
1) John Pagano must call an aggressive, attacking defensive gameplan.
This is not a game where the corners can play ten yards off the ball. Getting hands on receivers and disrupting routes is paramount to defensive success for the Bolts. Exotic-like blitzes and disguising coverages should be the focal point of the Charger defense. When watching the game against the Chiefs, the Chargers went vanilla far too often. In the defense’s defense, they were exhausted toward the end of the game due to being on the field for 39 minutes when all was said and done. Pagano cannot call that soft-shell cover two or cover three defense where there cornerbacks are playing far off of the Denver wide receivers. Peyton will slice and dice the San Diego defense if that is the case. The outcome of this game will be determined by many factors. But much of the emphasis toward winning lies on the shoulders of defensive coordinator John Pagano and his gameplan.
2) Philip Rivers must utilize and trust Branden Oliver in the passing game.
One of the major things that stuck out to me during the KC game was Rivers had the opportunity to check down to Oliver in the flat and he still forced the ball into tight windows and covered receivers. At least two of the plays where Philip was sacked he had Branden open in the flat. Give your playmakers a chance to make plays. And, by the way, if you haven’t noticed it yet, Oliver makes plays. Rivers must trust him to make the first guy miss – which he does more often than not – and see what happens from there. Although I refuse to compare Oliver to former Charger Darren Sproles, Philip must find a way to trust Oliver the same way he did Sproles as an outlet/safety valve.
3) Hit Peyton Manning in the mouth early and often.
Manning is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer. But like all quarterbacks in the league, putting pressure and disrupting his throws will force him to make mistakes or throw errant passes. His arm is not what it once was earlier in his career. Quite honestly, it is obvious when watching tape on Peyton. That being said, give him time and he’ll tear you apart. The weapons that Manning has at his disposal provide him with an arsenal that could make most signal callers look like a HOFer.
4) The Chargers, despite a depleted and banged up backfield, must run the ball and control time of possession.
Here I go talking about the importance of an undrafted free-agent out of Buffalo. Branden Oliver is quite possibly the x-factor in this game. Oliver must carry the ball at least twenty times for the Bolts to secure a victory. Draw plays that force players like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller into the backfield will allow the Chargers to take advantage of the Bronco’s speed rushers. Although he needs no added pressure, Branden must have a career game – though he is in the infantile stages of his time in the NFL – in order for San Diego to come out victorious. We all saw it in last year’s win over Denver on Thursday night. Ryan Mathews’ ability to chew up clock and wear out the Bronco defense proved to be the main reason San Diego was able to pull off a 27-20 victory. Oliver must have a similar performance to what Mathews put up last year.
5) Find a way to slow down the Thomas brothers.
When examining the Bronco offense, tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas are tearing up the league. Their dominance of the NFL is well documented. Add in Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker, and there is no reason to not give the Broncos the title of the team with the best offensive weapons in the league. Neutralizing and slowing down Julius and Demaryius is crucial to achieving the W in Denver. This is a tall task for any defense, much less a Charger D that has been devastated by injuries. Whether it’s a robber over the top or a bracket to ensure neither player has much running room, Pagano has to draw up his best coverage schemes of his short career as a defensive coordinator.
There are many other keys to defeating the Broncos tonight. But those are the five that stand out to me when looking at a way for the Bolts to fly home from Denver with the lead in the AFC West.
We’re a little over three hours from the beginning of the game. Can you feel it? Are you hyped? Are you ready to get loud, regardless of where you are, when the Chargers get that much-needed win? I know I am.
The San Diego Super Chargers win this contest on a late-game field goal by kicker extraordinaire, Nick Novak, 33-31. This game will be the best Thursday night football game of the entire season. Book it.
Thanks a lot for reading.
If there’s one silver lining considering it is a short week and the Chargers-Broncos tilt is the main event Thursday, it’s this: I can slam the last nail in the coffin.
However, after taking a few days to decompress and avoid social media, I have a few observations (and questions) before tying a bow on the Oct. 19th game:
1. Philip Rivers cannot help the team win when he isn’t on the field.
2. Coach John Pagano did not attempt to knock Jamaal Charles into next week, nor did he hit Alex Smith in the back with the crown of his helmet. The result: a roughing the passer penalty that extended the series that resulted in a touchdown that gave the Chiefs a lead. Also, Brandon Flowers suffered a concussion and will miss Thursday’s game.
3. Coach Pagano also doesn’t play defensive line which somehow didn’t pressure Alex Smith enough. Yes, Smith was sacked three times for a total loss of 10 yards. However, he wasn’t sacked once in the second half. Check the box score if you don’t believe me. Pagano also didn’t miss tackles on key plays.
It’s a little premature for me to think it’s time to send Coach Pagano to the unemployment office. As was often the cry during my time in the U.S. Navy, the team needed to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Yes, I think the injuries are starting to leave the Chargers exposed. Yet, is it really necessary to start the impending doom scenario with half the season yet to be played?
Fan forums on the San Diego Union-Tribune are already talking mediocrity going forward with predictions of 8-8 or 9-7 at best. Chances are these are same people who are against using tax money to build a new stadium or expand the convention center.
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As the Chargers get ready for Thursday’s game in Denver, the team will have center stage meaning all football eyes will be on them. What team will show up? Based on Wednesday’s injury report (click here), key defensive members will still be out or doubtful. Will the higher altitude have any effect on the team or will Peyton Manning, after breaking Brett Favre’s all-time touchdown passing mark, still be on Cloud Nine?
What will the Chargers need to do to win on Thursday in a hostile environment at the current leaders of the AFC West?
My five keys to victory:
1. Play keep away: It was the Chargers strength through the first five games. Control the ball and keep Manning off the field.
2. Defense must get into Manning’s face: Manning is not known for his mobility (like Rivers). The defensive line must be disruptive enough to force Manning into forcing passes and/or make bad decisions which could lead to more three-and-outs or turnovers.
3. Play smart: Nothing drove more fans to drink than the bad penalties members of the defense took during key moments against the Chiefs. The secondary has to know that contact beyond five years will be called and the quarterback is almost untouchable once the ball leaves his hands. Manning is a record-holding QB, officials will be watching.
4. Capitalize on red zone chances: The Chargers converted one out of two opportunities against the Chiefs. Rivers must drive the offense into more “goal” situations. Nick Novak’s foot will guarantee points, but I think the team needs more than field goals to defeat the Broncos.
5. Double team Thomas: Believe me, I think Julius Thomas has become the modern day Kellen Winslow, but does he merit double teaming? Perhaps or should the Chargers worry about the other Thomas, Demaryius? It’s hard to say. Somehow, if Pagano doesn’t blitz and plays conservative, double teaming may be a necessary risk if the Chargers want to win.
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I read with great interest Steve Fryer’s column in the Orange County Register that concludes that 63% oppose public funds for a new stadium. Two problems: the poll was conducted two months ago (before the regular season started) and two, San Diego County’s population is 3.2 million people (as of 2013). Does a poll of 375 really speak for the majority? Do I need to retake statistics if I missed something?
As always, your questions and comments are welcomed. The staff and I will respond as quickly as possible.
The Chargers face a run of three straight divisional opponents in weeks 6 through 8. They begin in Oakland, return home to face Kansas City and then fly out to Denver to take on the Broncos. This might be the most important stretch of games during the 2014 season.
Having three games against division foes can make or break a season regardless of a current record of 4-1. When it comes down to tie-breakers late in the season toward a push for a playoff spot, the record against the division is incredibly important. The AFC West is one of the better divisions in all of the NFL. When you face teams like Denver and Kansas City, a split with both teams is welcomed in the scheme of things. The Broncos are a formidable opponent and Arrowhead is a very tough place to go to and leave with a win.
And then there’s the week 6 rival in the form of the Oakland Raiders.
I have no problem admitting that the Raider game causes some concern for me. A recently fired head coach replaced by an interim one and they are coming off of their bye. The fact that they are winless provides an even bigger threat, in my opinion. They are looking at each game as though it is their Super bowl. They will, without a doubt, be fighting tooth and nail to obtain their first win of the 2014 campaign.
The Raiders look to have rookie quarterback, Derek Carr, returning from injury and he’ll eventually be a solid signal caller in the NFL. The running game in Oakland has been abysmal. Their offense is ranked 32nd overall and the San Diego defense must find a way to keep them at that ranking. James Jones is a threat at wideout and Denarius Moore can fly. The defensive backfield for the Bolts will have to shut them down to avoid giving up explosive plays.
Although the Raider offense has been inept to this point, their defensive backs have been impressive. Oakland boasts the 4th rated pass defense in the league. The same can’t be said about their run defense. Their defensive unit is currently ranked 31st at stopping the run. Branden Oliver might be set up to top his career day that he had versus the New York Jets.
Every division game is a battle. The Bolts will need to take this game very seriously and they should fly home from Oakland with the very much-needed divisional win.
In week 7 the Bolts come home to face the Chiefs. Alex Smith is known around the league for being a game manager, but he has a few weapons at his disposal that would suggest otherwise. The running game in KC is stout; featuring running back stud Jamaal Charles and newcomer Knile Davis. Defending the run against Kansas City will be paramount in achieving a home win. The defense is highlighted by players like Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe. Houston and Hali form one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. Poe is a serious force to be reckoned with in the middle of the Chief defensive line. Having a safety that is as athletic as Eric Berry doesn’t hurt their chances. That being said, Antonio Gate has owned Berry and made him look silly in coverage on multiple occasions.
And then there is the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. Regardless of how tough the game against the Seahawks was in week 2, this is the true test for the team. With San Diego having faced two straight divisional opponents in a row, Denver is ready to do what they can to build on the fact that they beat San Diego two out of three times last season. Manning has weapons all over the offense including Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. Yikes. Those are a “host” of players that the San Diego defense will be held accountable for limiting in their production. ( That “host” portion was for you, Dad. )
The Bronco defense added pieces such as DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward in the offseason during free agency. Minus Ware, the other two players have not contributed as expected. But it is safe to say that Denver upgraded those positions due to those acquisitions.
Peyton is stacked when it comes to options in the receiving game. Lord knows he still has some lead left in that cannon. But his ability to throw deep down the field is no longer like it used to be. John Pagano’s gameplan must be aggressive and he must find a way to rattle Manning and make him nervous.
Now that I’ve run my mouth about the next three games, I’ll leave it to you to provide you thoughts via voting and the comment section. The poll below gives you and opportunity to put in your two cents regarding the 3-game divisional foe stretch the Chargers are about to embark on.
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Among the throngs of Chargers fans, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has anything negative to say about Tom Telesco. The General Manager, now heading into his second year as the team’s front office leader, has done an amazing job with very little cap space.
Telesco hit a grand slam in his first draft last season, netting offensive tackle DJ Fluker, linebacker Mantei Te’o and wide receiver Keenan Allen got the Chargers an A grade. More importantly, on the field Fluker and Allen proved themselves as starters and Te’o played well despite playing the entire season with a broken foot. I will still say Allen was robbed of the NFL Rookie Of The Year award.
Telesco’s approach of overhauling the roster, dumping overpriced and underperforming veterans in favor of younger, hungrier albeit less experienced players worked. His approach worked with the his previous team, the Indianapolis Colts. In conjunction with the drafting of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts went from worst to first in the AFC South. Telesco did the same thing in San Diego and last season the Chargers saw their four-year playoff drought end.
By forcing draft picks and unproven talent to step up and prove themselves on the field, Telesco has created something they haven’t had since they were the team that ruled the AFC West from 2000 to 2007, depth. The Chargers will be a force to be reckoned with on defense with the full strength returns of defensive end Dwight Freeney, last year’s fifth round draft pick in cornerback Steve Williams, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, a finally healthy and full speed Manti Te’o and wide receiver Malcom Floyd. Add newly signed corner Brandon Flowers to what had been a weak secondary and the team is set to make another splash in the NFL postseason.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Chargers 2014 draft class in that equation…
The first two seasons have been about fixing the holes on the offensive line and improving the quality of the defense which has ranked in the bottom of the league the past few years. Now the defense is as stacked as its ever been. Barring injuries, the Chargers should have a defense in the top ten of the league. The offensive line has depth and as we saw last season, with time to throw Philip Rivers is a top five quarterback in the league. That’s not hyperbole, Rivers finished fifth in the NFL last season with 4478 yards passing and 32 touchdowns.
With the matters of depth and stability on both lines in hand, time to look forward to what aspect Telesco will tackle next. The bad contracts from the previous administration finally come off the books this season and in the next offseason the team will find themselves with more cap space than they have had since the turn of the century. The Chargers will have over 30 million to spend in free agency. The reins will be off and Telesco will finally be released from shopping in the bargain basement and now he’ll have the ability to shop in Beverly Hills.
One position which will be in desperate need of new blood will be wide receiver. Floyd, 32, is on the last year of his deal and even if he stays he will be a depth play, not a starter. This will be Floyd’s 11th season. I expect Floyd to retire after this season. Vincent Brown is at the end of his injury-marred rookie contract. Brown had a disappointing 2013 given his opportunity to step up and fill Floyd’s shoes after Floyd went down with a severe neck injury. Another lackluster season will have Brown looking for work elsewhere. Eddie Royal and Seyi Ajirotutu will also be a free agents after this season. That’s four expiring contracts at the same position. That would leave Keenan Allen and a couple of roster fillers at a critical position. Telesco has proven himself adept at filling positions of need. Here’s a look at the top free agent wide receivers in 2015:
None of these players have signed extensions. Aside from Welker, these are legitimate deep threats that will allow the Chargers to stretch the field vertically. Add in some older talents who would not require top dollar like Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Jeremy Maclin, Sidney Rice, Kenny Britt, Josh Morgan and you have a great field of talent to choose from. Adding two players from these names would give the Chargers one of the top receiving corps in the league. It’s not unfathomable to see Thomas and Bryant both in lightning bolts. Telesco covets speed and those two have it in spades. However, that’s also two big contracts. More likely one of the two (Bryant or Thomas) coupled with Smith, Shorts, Welker or another vet on the list would be more like it. San Diego will have the resources to make that happen.
Adding two of those names along side Keenan Allen would give defensive coordinators nightmares, would extend Philip Rivers’ shelf life with an improved offensive line AND legitimate deep threats on both sides of the field (less rushing the passer) and amount to deep playoff runs. The Chargers are an up and coming franchise and with a great front office in place, money to spend and they’re already a playoff team.
Free agents will go to San Diego, as we have already seen. We all know wide receivers are divas. The key things are who’s throwing them the ball, is it a contending team and money. There’s not a receiver in the league who wouldn’t love to catch balls from Philip Rivers. The Bolts can afford to pay and they’re already pushing Denver for the top of the AFC West and making the playoffs. The team already averages 24 points per game without marquee wideouts (aside from Allen). Imagine what they will be able to do with them!
Who would you like to see the Chargers sign next season?
The Greg One