Eddie Royal

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It has taken a few days to get over this last loss. As I sat there and cleaned my house after the Monday night game, I had categorized my emotions into one word: numb.

As Chargers fans, we’ve seen this before. We’ve seen it entirely too often.

Blown leads, missed field goals, late touchdowns and more. Chargers fans have experienced some excruciating losses outside of the most recent loss to Pittsburgh.

Let me caveat this by saying this, it’s not one play that loses the game for the team. There are usually several things that build up to losses like the one on Monday. For instance, the crossing route to Keenan Allen that would’ve been a walk-in touchdown that saw the pass from Philip Rivers batted down at the line.

That being said, I wanted to look back at a painful history of losses that happened either on the last play or that led to a direct sequence that caused the Chargers to lose.

They say misery loves company, so join me on this miserable look back at some painful losses.

September 7th, 2008 – Chargers vs. Panthers

This one, to me, was the most similar to the game against the Steelers.  The Chargers went up by five with just over two minutes left in the game. The Panthers drive down the field and with two seconds left, the ball at the 14-yard line, Jake Delhomme finds Dante Rosario in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.

Here’s a link to the game winning play.

September 15th, 2008 – Chargers vs. Broncos

Just eight days after the first loss listed in this piece, another painful loss the Chargers fans still haven’t gotten over. Quite frankly, I’m sure Ed Hochuli hasn’t forgotten this game. I guarantee that Chargers fans still remember it. Here’s the sequence of events:

  1. Cutler drops back and fumbles as he tries to throw the ball
  2. Ball is recovered by Tim Dobbins as Hochuli blows the whistle and signals incomplete pass
  3. Hochuli admits it should’ve been a fumble but by rule is incomplete
  4. Broncos score on the next play a touchdown to Eddie Royal and go for two to win the game (also complete to Royal)
  5. Chargers lose 39-38

An interesting note here, both Rosario and Royal went on to play for the Chargers after these game winners. Let’s also not forget Brandon Marshall had 18 catches in this game and was unstoppable.

January 17th, 2010 – Chargers vs. Jets – Playoffs

This one hurts. It’s where Nate Kaeding truly started to earn his nickname of wide right. THREE.  MISSED.  FIELD GOALS. If he makes one of those the game would’ve been tied. Two of them, and the Chargers have a lead. Brutal loss 17-14. This wasn’t a last second loss, but it was brutal. I remember covering my eyes after the first miss and it didn’t get any better on the next two tries.

There’s a reason we hate Mondays – Should we be surprised?

Monday night hasn’t been kind to the Chargers of late. There was the Texans game in 2013 (up 28-7 at one point) and the Broncos in 2012 (up 24-0 at halftime).  These both hurt, as it looked like the Chargers were in cruise control only to be beaten late.

James Jett – October 11th, 1998

I still remember listening to this call on the radio. The Chargers had the lead 6-0 in the 4th quarter. Sure, this was a losing team and they weren’t going anywhere, but this one hurt. James Jett goes 68 yards for a touchdown with just under a minute and a half left in the game for the win. That was just one of two long touchdowns Jett scored on us that year. The other a 45-yard grab in a December rematch.

Chargers vs. Patriots 2007 – Playoffs

Let’s just call this what it is…the Marlon McCree game. This was probably the best shot the Chargers had to win a championship and bring it to San Diego. This team finished the year winning 6th straight to go 11-5 and had the talent to go all the way. Then it happened. McCree makes a great read and picks the ball off and instead of falling begins to run with it, is stripped by Troy Brown and the Patriots throw a touchdown to Reche Caldwell and end up winning the game. Sure, a lot happened after the McCree fumble, but it feels like that would’ve sealed it for the Bolts.

Now, there are other games that come to mind, like the Redskins game in 2013 after the Chargers couldn’t punch it in from the one-yard line. I’m sure I’ve missed some games that are equally if not more painful, as well. But these are the ones that stuck out for me.

Comment below on any other games you remember that were excruciatingly painful.

Thanks for commiserating.

Justin Holmerud

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As the Chargers entered this year’s offseason, there was concern as to how Tom Telesco will address the lackluster receiving corps. Granted, injuries crippled the team last year, however, it was evident that there were not enough weapons or speed surrounding Philip Rivers.

Free agency opened this last February and top free-agent receivers were being signed at a rapid pace. Former Charger Eddie Royal was not re-signed and made his way to the Windy City. These factors alone triggered San Diego fans to grow anxious each week as Telesco took his time to lock up a game-changing wideout. Then there was Stevie Johnson, former Buffalo Bill, and most recently San Francisco 49er, who was signed to a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bolts.

There was no doubt that Johnson had some success in Buffalo. He proved to be a clutch receiver all while recording career numbers. From 2010 to 2012 he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, averaging over 13 yards per reception in each season. Yet, his decline in the last couple of seasons is very debatable. Some say it’s his age, however, it’s far from it; it certainly has been the personnel throwing to him.

Rivers is easily a top-five quarterback, so it’s only natural he makes those around him better. The twelve-year passer has been building a rapport with Johnson this offseason; which has subsequently elevated not only Johnson’s receiving ability, but the receiving unit as a whole.

Yes, the backfield struggled severely last season, but the receiving corps didn’t even break the top ten. This year will be different with what has been brewing at Chargers Park.

Johnson enters a new season, with a new team, but with an exceptionally seasoned quarterback. He has the tools and resources to make this his best year yet. The Rivers and Johnson duo will, without question, make strides in ’15.

 

Briana Soltis (@BrianaSoltis)

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Here in the middle of the free agency signing period, the San Diego Chargers brass find themselves having already made significant headway to improving the team. Offensive line has been an area of woe with all the injuries and quarterback Philip Rivers has paid the price for that instability with his body. The offensive line allowed 37 sacks and 75 quarterback hits last season, up from 30 sacks and 60 hits in 2013.

The Chargers started with signing left tackle King Dunlap to a four-year deal. A couple days ago the team signed hulking guard Orlando Franklin from the Denver Broncos to a five-year deal. Center Trevor Robinson was signed to a two-year deal.  The offensive line is already in a lot better shape than it was at the end of last season.

GM Tom Telesco is in the midst of addressing the wide receiver corps as of late. A few days ago, free agent Stevie Johnson agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the team. Johnsons’ former 49ers teammate Michael Crabtree is next up on the Chargers’ radar. A lot of attention is being focused on bringing in veteran wideouts. Johnson will be entering his eighth NFL season and Crabtree is entering his seventh season. Even if Crabtree does sign, it’s not going to keep the Chargers brain trust from choosing a prospect from the very deep wide receiver talent pool.

What the position does need is an upgrade and depth. Malcom Floyd is on the last year of his contract and in the twilight of his career. Eddie Royal bolted for Chicago. Keenan Allen was the focal point of opposing defense so his production decreased last season from the added attention. Veterans are going to help bridge the gap that is Allen’s ascension to a legitimate number one receiver and the draft picks that will benefit from their presence.

Crabtree was the tenth pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. At 6’1, 214 he is a great possession receiver. The 27-year old was a recipient of the Biletnikoff award given to the nation’s best college football receiver in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008. He also was the number one receiver during San Francisco’s march to the Super Bowl in 2012. Crabtree was the leader in touchdowns and yardage in the 2012 posteseason.

The biggest issue with Crabtree are injuries. An ACL injury took him out after only five games of the 2013 season. He returned last season and played all 16 games. The 49ers never got on track offensively and Crabtree suffered his worst season statistically, only averaging 10 yards per catch. A foot injury upon entering the league robbed him of five games during his rookie year. Otherwise, he’s only missed one other game.

Although he’s only finished with over 1000 yards receiving once, he’s the big body receiver Rivers prefers. Never a speed burner, he still exhibits sharp route running and possesses the ability to stretch the field vertically. He brings a toughness and a swagger to the team. As of this writing, Crabtree has garnered interest from the Chargers and Washington Redskins but has only visited the Dolphins. He still hasn’t signed a contract with the ‘Fins even though its been reported he’s spent the last two days in Miami. Perhaps new signee Johnson will help the Chargers recruit his former teammate to America’s Finest City.

 

DGB

 

Former Bills and 49ers wide receiver Stevie Johnson chose to sign with the Chargers on Tuesday for three years and about $10.5 million. That fills a much-needed veteran receiver spot after Eddie Royal signed with the Bears. So, are they done? Do the Bolts need to draft a receiver? Yes, they still need to draft a receiver.

Receivers currently on the active roster: Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and Dontrelle Inman.

Allen is the youngest at 22, and the one with the most upside. The second youngest is Inman. He played a total of two games last season and did fine, but seems to have little upside. Johnson, 28, has seen his production fall off since his last season in Buffalo (2013). Floyd and Jones are 33 and 30, respectively. M-80 is two seasons removed from what could have been a career-ending neck injury. In 2014, he played a 16-game season for the second time in his career. Jacoby seems to be more of a deep threat receiver than an every down receiver. So, with that being said, the depth on this team in the receiving corps is still thin.

Some receivers to watch for in this upcoming draft:

This year’s NFL draft is loaded with wide receivers. This is a perfect opportunity for the Bolts to draft one. Here’s a few that could be there for San Diego at pick #17:

DeVante Parker: Senior from Louisville 6’3″, 209 pounds.

He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 36 1/2 inches. His last season at Louisville he had 43 catches for 855 yards and five touchdowns. He leaves Louisville with 2,775 career receiving yards and 33 career touchdown catches, ranking him in the top-five in Louisville football history in those categories. Every time I watched him, he looked a lot like Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. He could come in right away and help out.

Jaelen Strong: Junior from Arizona State 6’2″, 217 pounds.

He ran a 4.4 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 42 inches. His last season at Arizona State he had 82 catches for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is a very good jump-ball receiver who is a crisp route runner. His hands are the best part about him. He has hands similar to those of Odell Beckham Jr, as in the ball sticks to him. He could have an impact day one.

Dorial Green-Beckham: 6’5″, 237 pounds.

He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 33 1/2. He transferred from Missouri to Oklahoma and was suspended for the 2014 season. But in the final season he played, he had 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has a big catching radius and quarterbacks can just throw the ball up to him, something Philip Rivers loves to do. He has been compared to Julio Jones, in terms of talent. His off-the-field trouble has him ranked as the fifth best receiver by many in this draft class. If it wasn’t for the off-the-field troubles, he could very well be battling Amari Cooper and Kevin White for the number one ranked receiver in the class.

The Chargers should take a look at all three of these options at #17 for receiver help. If this is the way general manager Tom Telesco wants to go, he will add an immediate starter and a future number one receiver to go along with Keenan Allen. What do you guys think? Who do you like in the draft? Let me know below!

Zak Darman
(@RealZakDarman)

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Today, the San Diego Chargers made news by signing free agent wide receiver Stevie Johnson. Last week Johnson visited Chargers Park and finished his recruitment tour in Foxboro with the Patriots. After taking the weekend to decide, the wideout signed a three-year deal, becoming the newest Charger.

Johnson played in San Francisco last season, the previous six seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He played in 13 games and had 35 catches for 435 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson’s career was trending upward during a three-year span from the 2010 to 2012 seasons. In each of those three seasons he had over 1000 yards receiving and averaged 79 catches.

The decline in his numbers could be attributed to poor quarterback play. Last season, Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a down season statistically and San Francisco was 20th in the league in total offense. In Buffalo he was catching balls from journeyman Kyle Orton and subpar rookie E.J. Manuel. In San Diego, he will easily have the best quarterback of his career throwing him the ball in Philip Rivers.

Johnson’s signing is the Chargers answer to losing receiver Eddie Royal to the Chicago Bears. Royal had a big year playing from the slot, catching 62 passes for 778 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson will be expected to take Royals’ spot in the offense and replace his production. In Buffalo, he played primarily from the slot and put up great numbers.

At 6’2, 207 he has shown the ability to use his frame to shake tackles and get yards after the catch. His presence will stretch the field as he and Antonio Gates patrol the middle of the field and Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd man the edges.

From the looks of things, the 28-year old Johnson has managed to stay healthy most of his career. The 49ers cut him as a salary cap move. The Bills traded him for a draft conditional fourth round draft pick that ultimately became a third round pick. He played every game of the aforementioned three-year stretch from 2010-2012. Aside from a rib injury in 2009, he’s been able to stay on the field and avoid the knee, ankle, hamstring and quad injuries that result in missed games and seemingly plague all receivers.

Will he return to his 2010-12 form with Rivers at the helm? Does he still have the ability to carve defenses and be a legitimate deep threat the way he was in Buffalo? The front office is hoping that is the case. During that time, he was a charismatic, fun-loving, free-spirited, celebration dancing, undershirt writing showboat in the mold of Terrell Owens and Chad Ocho Cinco. In San Diego, he will be a starter as long as he can produce. If he’s celebrating, that means he’s scoring and we’ll all be happy with that. Let’s hope that is the case.

What do you think Bolt Nation? Do you like this signing?

 

Bolt up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#TelescoMagic

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It’s only the seventh day since the start of free agency, and Tom Telesco hasn’t stopped conducting business just yet. Today, wide receiver Stevie Johnson has signed a three-year contract with the Chargers, according to source.

After Eddie Royal signed a 3-year contract with the Chicago Bears last week, the Bolts found the need to find a replacement. Johnson brings size to the team’s receiving unit, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 207 pounds.

Johnson was selected out of Kentucky by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He finished his Bills career with 499 receptions, 3,832 yards, and 47 touchdowns during his six seasons with the team. Last year, he caught 35 passes for 435 yards with three touchdowns during his one season stint with the San Francisco 49ers.

The veteran wide receiver adds the catch-and-go ability to the receiving corps. With Philip Rivers now throwing to him, look for a lot more productivity out of the 8th year player.

This marks the fourth transaction made by Tom Telesco in a week. Orlando Franklin, Jacoby Jones, and Jimmy Wilson have all been locked up, while retaining King Dunlap, Brandon Flowers, Trevor Robinson, and Ricardo Mathews.

 

Please welcome, Stevie Johnson to the San Diego Chargers.

 

Briana Soltis

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At this point in the free agency marathon, the Chargers have turned their focus to bringing in a veteran wide receiver. On Friday, San Francisco free agent Stevie Johnson came to Chargers Park but left without a contract. Johnson is a 6’2, 205 lb. wideout who is back to looking for work after one season with the Niners.

With the departure of Eddie Royal to the Bears the Chargers have a need for a slot receiver. Chargers GM Tom Telesco is searching for veterans and has already been spurned by Royal and Andre Johnson, formerly of the Texans. In both cases, Telesco offered more money but they decided to go elsewhere. Johnson has stated he is to make a decision on where to sign by Monday.

With the quality of available wide recievers dwindling, who else is there to choose from? The Kansas City Chiefs have cut Dwayne Bowe. Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree is also on the market and the Chargers are expected to make runs at both of them. There is one more name out there that can bring the Chargers some impact at the wide receiver position.

Reggie Wayne.

Wayne was there for Telesco’s tenure in Indianapolis and the Colts have made it clear they will not be bringing the veteran back. Wayne has had a long 14-year career with the Colts, entering the league in 2001. Now 36, he has had recent injury issues but in his 14 seasons he has only missed ten games. A model of durability and consistency, Wayne has repeatedly showed his ability to take the top off a defense with his speed and elusiveness. With the emergence of T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis, Wayne was no longer the number one receiver and the Colts viewed him as expendable.

There are concerns about his health due to his age. Others wonder whether he has anything left in the tank. In 2013, Wayne tore his ACL, causing him to miss the second half of that season. He returned and played 15 games last season, catching 64 balls for 779 yards and two touchdowns. Many want Wayne to retire a Colt but he has stated he wants to play another year with a contending team.

There is no doubt Telesco can make the deal happen and bring in Wayne. He will have the upper hand over any other GM who comes calling because of their history together.  Telesco has not denied his Indianapolis roots as we’ve seen Colts don lightning bolts such as Donald Brown and Dwight Freeney.

Like Freeney, Wayne will have multiple uses on the team. As a veteran receiver who has a Super Bowl ring and has managed to stay in the game for so long and play at a high level, he will have a lot of knowledge to share with the Chargers young receiver corps. His presence will help take the pressure off Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates.

A bigger role on a unit that needs a jolt like the Chargers will make Wayne a threat again. Only missing ten games in 14 seasons is a testament to his year-round conditioning and preparedness. As sure handed as they come, Philip Rivers will be excited to see Wayne on his side of the field instead of watching him from the visitors’ sideline.

Finally, it won’t cost the Chargers a lot to secure Wayne’s services. An incentive-laden, one-year deal with an option for a second year will suffice. Even at the end of his career, Wayne can still bring an impact to the team the same way Steve Smith Sr. did last season at the ripe old age of 35. In my opinion, it’s not a matter of if this signing will happen but when.

What do you think Bolt Nation? Would you like Wayne in powder blue this season?

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#TelescoMagic

 

KA13

 

 

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)

 

  • BWK

Ladarius3

 “It’s not easy being green.

 It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.

 And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky….”

Kermit the Frog put the color green on the map with this tune.  His gloomy disposition during this stanza made us all feel sorry for the little guy, and for the color green.  Well, out in San Diego, there might be a similar tune sung by a man who is anything but ordinary.

At 6’6”, Ladarius Green is one of the biggest tight ends in the NFL; 2 inches taller than the future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.  Selected in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft, Green was looked at to be the possible heir to the tight end throne occupied currently by one of the best in all of football.  During his rookie campaign, Green only hauled in 4 catches on 4 targets.  His very first NFL reception, however, showed San Diego and fans around the globe what talent he possesses.  Against the Titans, Ladarius caught a short crossing route and turned it into a 31-yard gain – showing off his 4.53 (40-yard dash) speed.

At the beginning of his second year with the Chargers, it looked like the output was going to be the same as 2012, not much action.  Now whether Eddie Royal’s toe injury or Mike McCoy’s realization that they needed to exploit the former Ragin Cajun, Green delivered in solid fashion.  Regardless of the reasoning for the heavy usage from week 10 through the playoffs in 2013, Ladarius was involved and displayed his immense talent.  More specifically in weeks 10-13, Green was targeted 16 times with 9 receptions, 206 yards and two touchdowns.  “Pee-Wee,” with only 17 regular seasons catches, led the league (of receivers who caught at least 15 balls) in yards per catch.

 

“But green’s the color of Spring.

And green can be cool and friendly like.

And green can be big like a mountain, or important like a river, or tall like a tree.”

 

Now one of the biggest weaknesses I hear a lot about Green is his blocking.  It is an important job that comes with the territory of a big Tight End/Receiver.  According to Pro Football Focus for run blocking, after the 2013 season, Green was graded out with a -.5 rating – which is average.  Is there room for improvement?  Of course.  Is this a liability?  Not even close.  Let’s also not forget that the elite TE’s in this league are not at the top of the grading scale as blockers.  This position has morphed from an extra blocker on the line who makes an occasional catch, to that of someone like Antonio Gates.  San Diego’s own Kellen Winslow started this trend, followed by Tony Gonzalez and then Gates, making that position more of a receiving position.

Is Green a “blocking” tight end?  More than likely he is not, but let me remind you all that for most of 2013 he was sent in to pass/run block.  As you know, Ryan Mathews had his best season that year.  Coincidence?  Adding in the destitute offensive line they had last year, and the fact that this man can catch anything that is thrown his way, I am not going to diminish his overall skills when he grades out being average for run blocking.

Naturally anyone who is a football fan, let alone a die-hard Chargers fan, loves watching Antonio continue to succeed and break records.  Heading into 2014 season, hopes were high with the combination of Gates and Green perhaps running multiple two tight-end sets.  Much like in 2001 with Gronkowski and Hernandez, a devastating duo playing during the same series, I felt Green and Gates playing as a tandem would make the Charger offense devastating and un-defendable.  Green’s playmaking ability at the end of 2013 was surely going to explode in 2014.  From the very beginning of last season and through week 6, the Chargers were one of the hottest teams; backing that up with a 5-1 record.  During that stretch, Ladarius was targeted 14 times for 156 yards.  Now beginning week 7 through the end of the season, a dismal 4-6 record, he was targeted only 11 times for 70 yards. What happened?  Where did he go?  Did someone forget what he did at the end of 2013?

According to Footballoutsiders.com, as of 12/29/14 Gates was ranked as the 2nd best TE and Green as the 17th.  In their rankings they use multiple equations and factors that go into their final marks.  One of their tools, DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), is defined by… “This number represents value, per play, over an average TE in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player’s performance.”  With this specific calculation, even with the lack of targets and receptions, Green is ranked as the 10th best TE in the league.

 

 

“When green is all there is to be

It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why

Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful

And I think it’s what I want to be”

 

Not a lot of people thought Gates was going to have the year that he did in 2014.  Sure, the future Hall of Famer might have lost a step, and his blocking is on the down-slide, but you can’t argue that he still has the talent as well as all of the intangibles.  To sum it up, he’s not fading away anytime soon.

Ladarius has the size, strength and speed to be the next best player at his position, but he is currently on the outside looking in.   There has to be a reason for the lack of snaps and targets; something I am clearly missing.  With that being said, how could last season be a “disappointment?”  It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he was not targeted often, used primarily as a blocker, and yet people want to state that he was a disappointment.  My disappointment is why he was not utilized more.

This is a special player with freakishly raw skills.  There is no perfect player and the only way to improve oneself is to always be learning.  Ladarius can fine tune some skills, i.e. better blocking and sharper routes, but there’s no denying what a unique treasure the Chargers have as a backup to a legendary TE.  San Diego needs to put Ladarius on the line with Gates and let defenses attempt to guard them.  This offense, that sputtered mightily down the stretch last year, could be unstoppable with those two on the field.  Perhaps then…Green, and the team, can be singing a different tune.  A song called…“We Are The Champions.”

 

Green’s rookie contract is up after the 2015 season….ironically so is the contract for Gates.  What are you thoughts on Ladarius’ past and future here in San Diego?

 

Thanks for reading.

 

  • BWK

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The 2014 version of the Chargers offense was not what San Diego fans have grown accustomed to watching. Chargers fans are used to dominant running backs and a high flying passing game that few teams can match. That was not the case in 2014. Last season’s offense scored less than 20 points on six different occasions, including a shutout in Miami, and a pathetic week 17 effort against Kansas City that only posted seven point, keeping the Bolts out of the playoffs. There were signs of greatness throughout the season, but no consistency to be found. Why is that? Well, the obvious answer was all of the personnel changes on the offensive line. The Chargers went through centers with the frequency that a doctor goes through rubber gloves. You just never knew who would be blocking for Rivers from week to week, or even play to play. That has to be it! Or does it? Will fixing the offensive line cure what ails the Chargers offense? I’m not so sure.

Not being a huge fan of history when I was in school, I have found in my old age that it truly is important to study the past when trying to predict the future. If you follow proven successful strategies, you tend to succeed. If you make the same mistakes that your predecessors make, you will most likely fail. I believe the Chargers have gotten away from what works. It may not be an intentional change, but there has been a change nonetheless. Let’s take a look back and see why previous Chargers offenses were so successful. There were two eras that stand out in my mind when I think of great Chargers offenses: “Air Coryell” and “Marty Ball”.

Air CoryellDespite the annual snubbing by the Hall of Fame toward Chargers coaching legend, Don Coryell, everyone agrees that when he was the Bolts coach, the offense took off! “Air Coryell” brought the passing game to the forefront and left the three yards and a cloud of dust offense far behind. Scoring points was rarely a problem for Coryell’s teams. But why were they so effective? Two reasons: A great offensive line and outstanding offense weapons at the skill positions.

Looking at the Chargers line from those days it is no wonder why Dan Fouts is in the Hall of Fame. Billy Shields holding down left tackle, Doug Wilkerson and left guard, Don Macek at center, big Ed White at right guard, and Russ Washington was at right tackle week in and week out. You could count on these behemoths to be there for you on a weekly basis protecting the star QB and opening holes for the running backs. They stayed together for many years and got to know what to expect from each other. That kind of talent and cohesiveness is huge for an offensive line. When you have to switch the lineup and put guys in positions they are not used to, it creates great challenges that are often nearly impossible to overcome in a short period of time.

chuck_muncie_1981_01_03Some would look at the formidable offensive line that Air Coryell possessed and figure that they were the reason that the offense was so great. I agree, to a point. I think without that line, the Chargers offense would have been above average, but not as devastating as they were. Give Dan Fouts time to throw and he will carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey. What they had that put them over the top was very talented weapons in the skill positions. Let’s take a look at some of the players who benefited from great O line play, a brilliant offensive coach in Don Coryell, and a lot of talent:

Quarterback:     Dan Fouts (HOF)

Wide Receiver: Charlie Joiner (HOF),  John “JJ” Jefferson, Wes Chandler

Tight End:           Kellen Winslow (HOF)

Running Back:  Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, Lionel “Little Train” James, James Brooks

If you were fortunate enough to watch these guys play, you know that this is not a list of average players who would not have had success without the help of the offensive line. These players were special talents who did benefit from the great line, but also helped the line look better by getting open faster, hitting holes faster and harder, and throwing with quickness and decisiveness. Air Coryell was truly a gifted and complete offense.

Okay, that was a long time ago and the game has continued to evolve. So let’s take a look at a more recent offense: “Marty Ball”

Marty Ball was different than Air Coryell as it was more of an old school approach to moving the ball. Coach Marty Schottenheimer loved to run the football and impose his will on opponents. Having a top-notch offensive line was a very large part of Marty Ball. As Chargers fans have witnessed in the last couple of years, if you can’t open a hole, backs are rarely successful. Schottenheimer’s line could open holes and the backs could certainly hit them. Of course it never hurts to have one of the best running backs of all time on your team.

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What did Schottenheimer’s offensive line have in common with Coryell’s? They were big, nasty, and reliable. They were there opening holes every Sunday for many years.  Shane Olivea at right tackle, Mike Goff at right guard, Nick Hardwick at Center, Kris Dielman at left guard, and Marcus McNeill at left tackle were a formidable bunch who were not intimidated by defenses. They knew if they did their job, the Chargers would score and score often.

But again, would the Bolts have put up the huge numbers they did with average skill players? I highly doubt it. Here are some of the skill position players that benefitted from the O-Line:

Quarterback:     Drew Brees (future HOF), Philip Rivers

Wide Receiver:  Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd (younger version), Eric Parker

Tight End:           Antonio Gates (younger version – future HOF)

Running Back:   LaDainian Tomlinson (future HOF), Lorenzo Neal, Michael Turner

As you can see, both of these exceptional offenses have one thing in common; they were both filled with talent. They did not just have a strong offensive line and average talent that was able to excel due to large holes and great protection. They were able to dominate defenses because they were able to take advantage of their great offensive line by using above average to great talent at the skill positions.

In 2014, the Chargers offense looked great at times and then dropped off to a shell of what people hoping to see. Injuries on the offensive line were a major reason for the decline in effectiveness, but was that the only reason? I don’t think so. To see the whole picture, we need to look at the season and take a very hard look at the roster.

Coach Mike McCoy did not have the luxury of sending out a dominant offensive line like some of his predecessors. Nick Hardwick was his center in week one, but failed to make it back to the lineup the remainder of the season. That was a big blow as the center is responsible for reading the defense and calling out the blocking assignments for the line. That is a skill that takes time to develop. Throughout the remainder of the season, four other players got to take a shot at center due to a plethora of injuries at that position. In fact, the player who ended the season looking like the front runner to be the starter in 2015, Chris Watt, had never played the position before.

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Along with Hardwick Et Al., at center, the  Chargers had DJ Fluker at right tackle, Johnny Troutman at right guard, Chad Rinehart and left guard, and King Dunlap at left tackle. With the exception of Dunlap, this was a very inexperienced line and injuries plagued them throughout the entire season. But who was there to help them out?

Quarterback:     Philip Rivers (Arguably future HOF)

Wide Receiver:  Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen (missed two games), Eddie Royal, Seyi Ajirotutu (special teams players forced to get snaps at WR), Dontrelle Inman (rookie discovered in last couple weeks)

Tight End:           Antonio Gates (aging, but still solid, Future HOF)

Running Back:   Ryan Mathews (6 games, 74 carries), Donald Brown (13 games, 85 carries), Danny Woodhead (3 games, 15 carries, 5 rec),  Branden Oliver (14 games, only 582 yards to lead team in rushing)

Comparing the 2014 Chargers offensive players to Air Coryell and Marty Ball makes it easy to see the problem with the current offense. Not only was the 2014 offensive line hampered by injury, it wasn’t great to start! Once Hardwick went down, there was little hope that the line would be able to work together like the lines of old. Too little experience and too many injuries really limited the offense and what plays they could run. That being said, would the 2014 Chargers offense have been one for the ages if the line had stayed healthy from week one? Honestly, I seriously doubt it.

Along with their inexperienced offensive line, the 2014 Chargers simply did not have the skill players needed to score points like Chargers teams of the past. They are lacking a deep threat at wide receiver. Malcom Floyd had a very nice season and can still get deep at times, but he does not strike fear in defenses like he did when he was younger and lined up opposite of Vincent Jackson, a deep threat in his own right. Keenan Allen is a nice route runner and makes a lot of catches, but only averages 10.2 yards per catch. The Chargers will need to add a true deep threat if they want Allen and Floyd to be dangerous weapons in 2015.

Running back is the most trouble for the Bolts moving forward. Most Chargers fans will argue that if the line could run block, the backs will gain yards. I have argued that myself! Looking back, I see where Ryan Mathews came back from injury and ran quite effectively behind a poor offensive line. He even put up over 100 yards (8.8 ypc) against a highly touted Rams front seven. So it can be done, if the back is good enough to make defenders miss or run through them.

One argument that I have not broached is that the 2014 offense did not compare favorably with the offenses of the past because Offensive Coordinator (OC) Frank Reich does not match up with Don Coryell, or Cam Cameron (OC under Schottenheimer). Perhaps we will tackle that topic another day.

Another argument is that you can’t load your offense up with three or four future Hall of Fame players anymore because of the salary cap. If you spend that kind of money on offense, your defense will suffer and your team will not be balanced enough to win championships. This argument has merit, but I say if you draft well, you will not have to pay the future stars big money for their first four years with the team. If they are worth big money for their second contract, there are many things that can be done to spread out the money over time and not kill your cap space. Other teams do it, why not the Chargers?

So, bringing this back to the original question, will fixing the offensive line fix the Chargers offense in 2015? My answer is no. That being said, I believe it will greatly improve the offense, just not get It to the elite level that we have seen in San Diego in the past. Until a deep threat and a true number one running back can be brought in, I don’t see this offense being any better than above average with occasional flashes of brilliance. Philip Rivers can only do so much at quarterback. The man needs talent around him.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below.

Go Chargers!

(Thanks to the following sites for the pics: thelandryhat.com, outdoor-wholesale-dropship.doba.com, spokeo.com, m.theepoctimes.com, and hillnholler.net)

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