The Chargers defeated the Lions in Week 1 by a score of 33-28. The Chargers defense held the “Gold-atron” (Golden Tate/Calvin Johnson aka “Megatron”) combination to less than 100 combined receiving yards. That is very tough to do. That shows this secondary is very good and will be very good moving forward.
The secondary consisting of Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett, Eric Weddle, Jahleel Addae/Jimmy Wilson combination, looks to be one of the best that the Chargers have had in quite some time. But there is one player in that secondary who really stands out to me.
His name is Jason Verrett.
Verrett, the 2014 first-round draft pick out of Texas Christian (TCU), is getting better and better by the week. His assignment in Week 1 was shadowing Golden Tate, in which Tate went four catches on eight targets for 24 yards. Tate’s lowest totals last season, in terms of catches, targets and receiving yards, was Week 10 versus an elite secondary in Arizona. He finished with only two catches on two targets for 41 yards. On Sunday, he averaged a meager six yards per reception. In 2014, he averaged 13.4 yards per reception. In 2013, he averaged 14.0 yards per reception. In 2012, he averaged 15.3 yards per reception. I’m not going to go back any further, because I think you get the point. Tate is a very good runner with the ball in his hands and last season he was 3rd in the entire league with 691 yards after catch.
There was one play I want to focus on. In the second half of the game against Detroit, the Lions ran a wide receiver bubble in where they had Tate screened and with two blockers in front. Verrett weaved his way around the first blocker and made a fantastic solo, open-field tackle. The stop forced the Lions to punt.
These are the type of plays that only a few players in the league make on a guy of Tate’s caliber.
Jason Verrett is special. I do think if he stays healthy, he has all the tools and talent to become an elite, shutdown cornerback. His man-coverage ability is insane for his NFL experience. His instincts, which he was lauded for coming out of college, couldn’t be better and his open-field tackling might be the best on the team. Look for this guy to take his game to the next level this season, and prove to the NFL world that when they talk about top corners in the league, to not forget about No. 22, Jason Verrett.
The 2014 season finished in what can be accurately described as “disappointing” for the Chargers. The team started 6-1, were No. 1 and on top of multiple power rankings to start the season. Philip Rivers was getting consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player and they were being thrown around as a possible Superbowl team.
Then, injuries happened.
Danny Woodhead broke his leg. DJ Fluker played through half the year on a hurt ankle. Ryan Mathews played in six games. Keenan Allen missed the last two games with a broken collarbone. Rivers played with a back injury that limited his ability to throw and move. It goes without saying the playing five different centers makes it difficult to build cohesion on the offensive line.
As you can tell, the Chargers played beat up and with a lot of back ups and third stringers. But they finished the season 9-7, and one game shy of the playoffs.
Just how good are the Chargers when healthy?
As everyone knows, the Bolts added some playmakers this season. They upgraded many areas of their team and they are also coming off a very disappointing, yet not terrible season. The offseason has been a disaster, however, from the talks of relocating to Los Angeles, to Eric Weddle not being extended which then lead to a brief holdout and then the biggest bomb of them all, future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates being suspended for Performance Enhancing Drugs.
So why the optimism?
Well, the Chargers are good. REALLY good. Tom Telesco has altered the o-line as one of the best in the AFC, gave Rivers another weapon in Stevie Johnson, got more physical defensively with the signing of Patrick Robinson and Jimmy Wilson and made the return game something teams fear with the signing of Jacoby Jones.
Is it enough?
The schedule this season is very favorable. Early on in the year is the toughest stretch, with games in Cincinnati, Minnesota and Green Bay and games at home vs Pittsburgh and Detroit. I mention these five games because they seem to bring the toughest competition to the Bolts.
Early in the season, it is not that big of a deal to drop a game or two to a team of that caliber. Win two of those five and you’re set up perfectly for the stretch run. The notable games after the bye week (week 10): Home/away versus the Chiefs, home/away versus the Broncos and home against the Dolphins. These are very winnable games and with the depth and offensive line that Telesco has provided, the Chargers should be able to compete and win at least three of these five games mentioned.
That leaves you at 5-5 through the toughest stretches of the schedule. The remaining games are at home versus the Browns, Raiders, Bears and on the road against Raiders, Ravens and Jaguars. Five of the six just named are extremely winnable with the Baltimore game being winnable, but a difficult game, nonetheless (and Chargers have experience winning there as they did it this past season). That leaves the Chargers final record at 10-6 or 11-5 and should be enough for a wild card berth and a potential AFC West division title.
The key to the playoffs is health (also, having an elite QB in Philip Rivers doesn’t hurt either) and the Chargers have depth, but will they stay healthy? Head coach Mike McCoy has been doing a great job trying to keep everyone healthy during training camp. That won’t change during the regular season.
On paper, this is the most talented team the Chargers have had since 2009 where the Bolts went 13-3 and snatched up the second seed in their conference. The AFC doesn’t seem to have that one Superbowl favorite team that you know will dominate the conference. It is wide-open, and the way Telesco has built this roster, the Chargers very well could end the year in Santa Clara playing in Superbowl 50.
Do you think the Chargers have what it takes to reach the Super Bowl? Let me know in the comments!
Slow down, take a breath and try to look at the big picture. It is not time to panic if you are a San Diego Chargers fan. Should you be ecstatic? Certainly not! Should you feel like last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs was the end of the world? No way. Should you feel that is was a tough loss made even tougher due to having to play Denver on a short week? Of course you should. Personally, what is getting me through this difficult stretch is that this season started off strong and a loss or two will not cause the playoff vultures to start circling our Bolts anytime soon. The sky is not falling.
So what happened? How could the Chargers lose to what all experts believed was an inferior team? That answer is easy. Sometimes football is a war of attrition. Coaches can draw up the greatest game plans in the history of the league, but if they don’t have the players to carry out that plan out, they cannot win. It’s that simple. The Chargers ran out of quality starters and then ran out of gas. Does that mean that the Chargers backups are not quality NFL players? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that the guys on the field last Sunday were not as good as the guys who were on the field for the first six weeks of the season. That being said, let’s remember that the game was in question until the last 30 seconds, so even the backups competed and played hard.
Let’s move on to this week’s matchup with the Denver Broncos and beyond. Yes, the Chargers will be big underdogs versus their long-time division rival. That’s okay! They should be underdogs. The Broncos just finished dismantling the 49ers and the Chargers just lost a heart breaker to the Chiefs. The Broncos are not dealing with a seriously long list of injuries, but the Chargers are. The Broncos are led by Peyton Manning, who is arguably the best regular season quarterback in NFL history. The Chargers are led by Philip Rivers who would start for almost any other team in the NFL other than the Broncos and a few others. I could continue, but the point of this article is not to make you give up hope, but rather to help you understand a few things.
- Underdogs can certainly win football games. It doesn’t matter who the matchup is between, they play the game to find out who will be victorious. The Chargers beat a heavily favored Broncos team last season on a Thursday night in Denver. They could do it again.
- Fortunately, this season the Chargers started out 5-2, rather than some of the poor starts they were growing accustomed to under the previous regime. If the Bolts lose to the Broncos, not all is lost. Their record would be 5-3 going into a week 9 battle against the Dolphins. A game in which they will have a few extra days of rest to heal and prepare.
- Assuming a victory against the Fins (no sure thing), they will go into the bye week with a record no worse than 6-3. If this is the case, they are sitting pretty as far as the playoff picture is concerned. It is generally believed that 10 wins will be the magic number to make the playoffs. If they can enter the bye week 6-3, they will only have to go 4-3 in the remaining games. The bye week should mark the return of several players such as Melvin Ingram, Ryan Mathews, Manti Te’o, etc. For once, the Chargers may have more life in them than their opponents who have enjoyed earlier bye weeks.
You see? All is not lost; even if the Bolts can’t climb the mountain in Colorado Thursday night. Let’s not use terms like, “must win” and just keep the faith. If the Bolts can manage to beat Denver and Miami, they will be looking great going down the home stretch! Keep the faith. Bolt Up! It is our time! On Charge! Charge Harder! Feel free to add any other hoakie sayings that you want to use. Just don’t jump ship. This Chargers team can play and deserves to be believed in, win or lose. Enjoy the game!
Please leave your comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.