The Chargers looked to move back to .500 in Week 10 as they faced the Dolphins at home before heading into the Bye Week. Unfortunately, huge mistakes in key situations lead to the Miami Dolphins stealing this game away from the Chargers.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of another heartbreaking Chargers’ loss.
Tyrell Williams– 5 REC, 126 YDS, TD
With Travis Benjamin out with a knee injury, Tyrell Williams stepped up in a big way, as he has done pretty much all season. You have to love Tyrell’s ability to find ways to get open and his desire to learn from his mistakes. After running the wrong route and getting chewed out by Philip Rivers and Mike McCoy, Williams made up for his error the very next play with a game/momentum changing 51 yard touchdown reception. You almost wonder if Tyrell would have come this far if this team still had Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. None the less, look for Tyrell to get even better after the bye week, sans any injury setback.
Chargers Defense– No Denzel Perryman or Jatavis Brown? No problem. With those key injuries, this rag-tag defensive unit did their job in key moments in the game, especially Korey Toomer who lead the way with ten tackles and one assist. In addition, this band of misfits was able to hold the NFL’s leading rusher, Jay Ajayi, to 79 yards on 19 carries. Even if I didn’t agree with John Pagano’s play calling at key moments, you can’t blame the defense for this loss. The defense kept the Chargers in it until the end and with the upcoming bye week, this defense should get even better; getting Brown and Perryman back from injury,
Worth a mention– Trevor Williams, Melvin Ingram and Melvin Gordon.
In four games with nine penalties on one player, there comes a time where you have to rethink who is out there. It would be okay if Joe was good at his job. The truth is he’s not. In those four games he has been consistently beat at the point of attack, allowing Rivers to be sacked on multiple occasions. With the present bye week, the coaching staff needs to see that just because he is healthy, Barksdale is just not getting it done. Can they please try Chris Hairston or DJ Fluker at the right tackle position?
Offensive Line Pass Protection
In addition to Barksdale, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how bad this line was as whole. For the second week in a row, Rivers continued to find himself looking up at a blue San Diego sky. Three times last Sunday, Rivers was probably wondering if his line would ever protect him. This has been a consistent problem that can only be fixed by a short, quick passing game and running the ball far more consistently.
Philip Rivers– 23/44 326 YDs, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
After the game Rivers took all the blame for the team losing on Sunday as he should have. This team lives and dies by his success and struggles. Rivers struggled a lot on Sunday throwing four interceptions; three of which were in key points of the game. The first one of those three came off of a rare Dolphins turnover, giving the Bolts a 1st and goal at the five yard line. Rivers looked like he just wasn’t paying attention to zone defense as he threw into double coverage for an easy interception. Tough to come out of that situation with no touchdown – let alone no points at all.
The second came as the Chargers were driving down the field late in the game – trying to get in field goal range for a game winning score. Philip was baited into thinking Kiko Alonso was blitzing, As the ball was snapped, Kiko instead backs out into zone stepping in front of the first read. Tyrell Williams. and took it back for the Dolphins go ahead score. Finally, on the game sealing interception, #17 is again looking for Tyrell who wasn’t even open on the play. He forced it, instead of looking elsewhere or taking the sack and live to fight another down.With the upcoming bye week, its time for Rivers to rest up. Get Travis Benjamin back and hoping Williams gets 100% healthy he will try to get this team back into the thick of things if it’s not too late.
Situational Play Calling- Too many times this season have we seen this team get bogged down in the redzone. Why? Because we run the same predictable plays every time we get to the opponents twenty yard line or closer. Where was the screen passes? Where was the quick slants? We ran a screen to Melvin Gordon on a crucial third down and he was able to gain a ton of yards. Yet we only ran the screen again with a failed screen to Antonio Gates. Lets be realistic for a moment: Screens are for speedy and shifty players in the open field. Gates is none of those at the back-end of his career. Quick slants were one of the factors in the Chargers victory against the Tennessee Titans the previous week. Yet against Miami, the offense went away from the bread and butter.
Most of the season, the question most asked is “Why didn’t the charger run the ball (in key situations)? I’m aware Gordon was getting stuffed for most of the game, however Ayaji was also getting stopped but the Dolphins had no problem running it in twice in the red-zone. So if San Diego fired Frank Reich last year for these same issues, why does this continue to happen? The answer is Mike McCoy who seems to have some sort of say in these situations. If this is the case, Mike has to go this week. He is holding this team back from being good or great. I for one have seen enough of this McNorv experiment and its time to move on. I hope that during this time off, the “powers that be” make the right decision and let McCoy go. A change is desperately needed, although I highly doubt this organization has any guts to do it.
Worth a mention– Dwight Lowery
Quarterback Philip Rivers has already set more than his fair share of team records since taking over the reins as the starting signal caller in San Diego. Rivers has passed up the legendary Dan Fouts in most statistical categories, but there are still a few more passing records which he has the opportunity to eclipse prior to hanging up his cleats.
The fact of the matter is, this will be the year that he overtakes Fouts in all major passing stats, make no mistake about it.
Perhaps if Ken Whisenhunt had remained with San Diego after the 2013 season rather than accepting the head coaching job for the Tennessee Titans, we would have already witnessed it. However, “Whiz” left in 2014 and Frank Reich was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
While a portion of the argument would have to include the dreaded injury bug to the offense, the majority of blame lies in the uninspired playcalling over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There was a flash here and there of going outside the box with the occasional reverse or two tight-end sets, but that was too infrequent. Reich may have been one of the better back-up quarterbacks in the NFL, yet play design was not his forte. His tendency to use and shotgun and pistol formations, inability to develop schemes that were more familiar to then-rookie Melvin Gordon and abysmal offensive line play led to a parting of the ways between Reich and the organization this past January.
Let’s not dwell on that, though. A new season is on the horizon. A great many positives can come out of this year’s campaign. It has been said many times that as Rivers goes, so does the team he leads.
Now, I recognize that when Dan Fouts led the Chargers, the rules for protecting the quarterback were a bit different. Quarterbacks might have been hit in the head or had their legs grabbed by a defender, and little came of it. The NFL rulebook has changed considerably, and a quote made in 2013 by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer pretty much says it all: “…we played a game where we had to stay in the pocket and get hit in the face…But part of the badge of honor of playing quarterback in the NFL was standing in there and taking shots in the face and throwing a 20-yard dig route. That’s what separated you from the other guys. Now that’s just not part of the game.”
Undeniably, the QB position is one of the most protected when it comes to the assessment of penalties. Blatant or not, it’s going to be costly for the defense (possibly for the defender in the form of a fine) in today’s environment.
Keep a couple of things in mind as you read this: First, when Fouts entered the league in 1973, the season was 14 games long. Five years later it was changed to the current 16-game format. Second, two strike-shortened seasons skew his statistics. In 1982, only nine games were played. In 1987, weeks four through six saw predominantly replacement players take the field. One last thing, Fouts only had three seasons (1979 through 1981) in which he played the entire game schedule, whereas Rivers has played every game since becoming the lead signal caller for the Bolts’ in 2006.
There are a few of Fouts’ records that Rivers will meet and exceed in 2016, and at least a couple that might go into next year. For now let’s just concentrate on what is waiting.
Obviously, the first item is the career passing yards record. At the end of 2015, Rivers had amassed 41,447 yards to the 43,040 that Fouts had at the end of his career. That 1,594 mark could be gone by the end of the Chargers versus Saints game on October 2. Brees and Rivers may put on a passing extravaganza that day!
Another record that should easily be surpassed will be the number of 300-yard games. To date, No. 17 has collected 46 (including one playoff contest) to the 56 — including five playoff appearances — that Fouts has. That’s a difference which is well within PR’s reach. He is also one game-winning drive away from tying Fouts (25 vs 26), plus three away (21) towards matching the 24 fourth-quarter comebacks of his contemporary.
Last up, the number of games these two have played. Fouts played in 181 contests while Rivers is at 164. The disparity is due to the fact that Rivers sat behind Drew Brees until the last two games of 2005, when Brees suffered that shoulder injury while diving to recover a fumble in a meaningless game against the Denver Broncos. The only way that 17-game differential gets broken during this year’s campaign is if the Chargers fight their way into the postseason.
The discussion about who is the better quarterback will never stop. Don’t forget, however, that despite never making it to the Super Bowl, Fouts was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Is that honor in Rivers’ future, as well? Only time will tell, but he is so far up the record books, how could it not?!
All in all, the 2016 football season is shaping up to be one to remember!
Thanks for reading!
In part one of my analysis of the San Diego Chargers offense I covered the quarterback, running back, fullback and tight end positions. Simply by using their stats and past history I gave a number of points per game I expect that group to get every week. Today I break down the rest of the offense, looking at the wide receivers, offensive line and coaching staff.
The most hard to read of all the skill position groups, the wide receiver position has been long on potential but short on production and consistency. Injuries have decimated the wide receiver corps year after year.
Keenan Allen is leader of the wide receiver group who have dubbed themselves the ‘Aliens’. Allen was off to an amazing start in 2015, hauling in 67 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns in his first eight games. In a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Allen lacerated his kidney when he landed on the ball while catching a touchdown, ending his season. He was on pace to shatter the Chargers’ single season record for receptions (100) held by Ladainian Tomlinson and the break the NFL record for receptions in a single season (143) held by former Indianapolis Colt Marvin Harrison.
Now armed with a brand new four-year extension in hand Allen is locked in through the 2020 season. Allen has established himself as a star on the rise and will be taking the field with a chip on his shoulder after the way his 2015 campaign ended. In 37 games he has caught 215 passes for 2,554 yards and 16 touchdowns.
However, the success of the receiving corps will be dependent on Allens’ supporting cast.
Getting Allen help was a priority heading into the offseason and the first splash the Chargers made into the free agency pool was acquiring former Cleveland Brown Travis Benjamin. The 5’10” speedster caught 68 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. Aside from a knee injury that caused him to miss the second half of the 2013 season, Benjamin has only missed the first two games of his NFL career with a tweaked hamstring.
In his four years in the NFL, he has established himself as a dangerous return specialist. At the 2012 NFL Combine he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and it has carried over into the pros. As a punt returner, Benjamin gained 324 yards on 28 attempts. Of those 28 attempts, four returns were over twenty yards and one was a 78-yard touchdown return. By comparison, the Chargers had 20 punt returns for 84 yards as a team last season. Their longest return was 18 yards.
Benjamin automatically legitimizes the punt return game and now gives the Chargers what they haven’t had in years, a wide receiver with the speed to take the top off the defense. At 26, Benjamin is just beginning to enter his prime. This signing could trumpet a revival of the vertical passing game that we haven’t seen since the height of the Tomlinson era.
In his first season with the team, Stevie Johnson showed excellent chemistry with Rivers. Johnson was second among wideouts catching 45 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns. Hamstring and groin injuries caused him to miss seven games, including the last five games of the 2015 season. The nine-year pro is a dynamic receiver who has shown he can make an immediate impact if he can stay healthy.
Dontrelle Inman started in seven of the 14 games he appeared in last season. The CFL import continues to improve as he caught 35 balls for 486 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. Heading into his third season he will become a bigger part of the offense, likely assuming the role formerly held by the now-retired Malcom Floyd. Moving off the bench into a full-time starting role should greatly increase his numbers across the board.
Tyrell Williams can be penciled in as fifth on the wide receiver depth chart at the moment. Williams made his presence felt in the final game of the 2015 season against the Denver Broncos with a two reception for 90-yard performance, highlighted by burning Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on a scintillating 80-yard touchdown catch. Those were his only stats of the 2015 regular season. Signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft he spent time on the active roster and practice squad. He has the size (6’3″, 205), speed (ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds) and agility (39.5-inch vertical jump) to be a dominant pro wide receiver. Will he live up to his potential going into his second season?
The rest of the receiver field is comprised of undrafted free agents and second-year pros. Unless a veteran is brought in, this is the group that will likely start the 2016 season.
Points-per-game expectation: 6
All the new additions to the skill positions mean nothing if the offensive line can’t provide continuity, open holes for the running backs and allow Rivers enough time in the pocket to throw the ball. That has been a large task that has fallen woefully short in those categories in the last number of seasons. In the last four seasons Rivers has been sacked 155 times, 40 times in 2015. The running game was dead last in touchdowns (4) and 31st in yards (1,358) last season.
Last season the offensive line had 25 different combinations due to injury. This season San Diego boasts the biggest projected starting offensive line in the league, but can they stay healthy? Veteran free agent Matt Slauson was brought over from the Chicago Bears to finally stop the turnstile at the center position. Lining up next to him will be guards Orlando Franklin, D.J. Fluker and tackles King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale. Concussions, knee and lower leg injuries were the downfall of this group last season. What will they do differently to stay on the field this season? The success of the season rides on it.
Points-per-game expectation: -4.
As frustrating to watch as the play on the field at times were the decisions of the coaches in key game situations. Last season the Chargers lost four games by three points. Eight of their twelve losses were by a touchdown or less. More often than not the staff played not to lose instead of playing to win. Head Coach Mike McCoy and then offensive coordinator Frank Reich called conservative games, focusing on short to intermediate routes in the passing game and running almost exclusively out of the Pistol formation.
The playcalling was predictable and did not attack downfield enough to make opposing defenses concerned about getting beat deep. Injuries played a big part but so did not having the personnel to execute that type of game plan. Blame can be laid at the feet of those in the front office for lack of quality depth once the injuries started mounting.
Thankfully, Reich is out and Ken Whisenhunt returns to take his place. Whisenhunt parlayed a successful 2013 season as the Chargers’ OC into a head coaching position with the Tennessee Titans. Not coincidentally, 2013 was the last season the Chargers made the playoffs.
Whisenhunt is intent on revamping the run game first and foremost. The Pistol formation will be scratched in favor of having Rivers back under center and using short drops. Expect to see a return of the power run game highlighted by Watt and Gordon in their familiar college roles. In 2013, Whisenhunts’ running attack averaged 122 yards per game and Rivers was fourth in the league in passing with 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns.
If McCoy trusts Whisenhunt with the playcalling duties the Chargers should be able to take advantage of a last-place schedule and return to the playoffs as long as the team can stay healthy at key positions. It is a positive sign that the front office reached out to Whisenhunt and bring back a system that worked with this group of players. His track record speaks for itself going back to his days in Pittsburgh, then leading the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII to coordinating the Chargers offense to its only payoff appearance in the last six years. Until McCoy steps away from the playbook, I remain skeptical.
Points-per-game expectation: -2
In all, my points per game expectation went like this: QB (14), WR (6), TE (4), RB (6), OL (-4) and coaching staff (-2) for a total of 24 points per game. Until the offensive line proves they can stay on the field and the offense is shown to be run through Whisenhunts’ headset instead of McCoys’ will I believe they won’t be a detriment to the team. Right now I believe those factors will cost the team one touchdown per game.
The 24-points per game are an improvement over the 20 points per game the Chargers averaged last season (26th in the NFL in 2015) and is on par with Philip Rivers’ lifetime average. Over his career, the Bolts average 25.6-points per Rivers start. That number has been as high as 27-points per game during the Tomlinson years.
This team has all the tools for a worst-to-first turnaround. The question is can they do it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
If you were to look up the word “dreadful” in the dictionary, this is what you might find:
- causing or involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness; extremely bad or serious.
“The San Diego Chargers’ running game has been dreadful over the past two years.”
In 2012, Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times, which was the 4th worst in the NFL. In that same year, the Bolts’ running backs combined for a dismal 3.6 yards per attempt — tied for 2nd worst — totaling 1,461 rushing yards and ranking them 27th out of 32 teams.
Change was needed to right the ship
Signing head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt gave Charger faithful something to look forward to; because let’s be honest, it could not get any worse.
With “The Wiz” working on Philip’s quick release and utilizing a fullback to pave way for the running game, things turned around nicely for the team from America’s finest city.
In 2013, Rivers was sacked only 30 times — 4th best in the NFL — and the running game amassed 1,965 total yards (13th best) with an average of four yards per carry. The three-year playoff drought had ended as San Diego went to the AFC Divisional Game, losing to the eventual AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
After Whisenhunt left to become the head coach for the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Frank Reich was promoted to take over the reins and continue improving the offense. As the 2014-15 season began to sink deep down into an abyss filled with injuries and blame, it was not a shock to see the final results. San Diego totaled only 1,367 total rushing yards, averaging only 3.4 yards per attempt.
The one shining star to emerge out of the 2014 season was an undrafted free agent named Branden Oliver.
The diehard fans remember him well when in Week 5 he ran all over the then No. 1 ranked rush defense of the New York Jets. Getting his chance due to injuries, Bo ran with quickness, tenacity and a toughness that the Chargers’ backfield had not seen in some time.
With Danny Woodhead back from injury for the 2015 season and the Chargers’ first-round draft pick of Melvin Gordon, the optimism of the running game spilled out of the mouths of the devoted. And with the overwhelming hope of anew, the ship was back on track.
Or….so people thought.
Watching the worst rushing attack in the NFL for the 2015 season come out of San Diego seemed synonymous to Thomas Andrews being aboard his mighty Titanic as it sank to the bottom of the ocean.
There were no words.
An inexplicable disappointment, the 4-12 Chargers needed another change. With talks of moving the team out of San Diego, righting the ship was more important than ever.
“Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
- John F. Kennedy
With Whisnehunt back in charge of the offense, things again seem promising. He was the last to utilize a fullback when the Chargers had Le’Ron McClain. Now, added via the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft, fullback Derek Watt adorns the lightning bolt dome. The hiring of Jeff Davidson, whose resume is quite impressive, should spring some new life into the veteran offensive linemen on the roster.
It is unknown how Watt will be used or how well Coach Davidson will adjust going from the NFC to the AFC, but make no mistake about it, there is hope in the Chargers’ backfield. Gordon is out to prove his touchdown-less campaign was a fluke. Woodhead is out to prove he is always a legitimate threat on every down. Oliver, who has yet to fumble the ball in 191 carries, is out to prove that he can excel in any role.
On paper, the ship seems to have been righted in the proper direction.
And it’s destination……Houston?
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
The San Diego Chargers’ coaching staff is hard at work coaching and evaluating their players in the classroom and on the field during OTAs. They have a very interesting camp battle going on in the fullback department. Though the competition is a two-man race, it’s going to be one of the most compelling to watch.
The Chargers drafted Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt (pictured above) with the second of their two sixth-round picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. The man he is hoisting in the air is the running back the Bolts tabbed to be their new franchise running back, Melvin Gordon. The Chargers traded up to select Gordon with their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Watt was the lead fullback for Gordon during his three seasons at Wisconsin. Gordon broke NCAA rushing records and finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist in his last season at Wisconsin.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 236 pounds, Watt is the favorite to win the job because the Chargers did use a draft pick on him and for his already established chemistry with Gordon. Watt is the younger brother of Texans’ superstar and 2014 NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Derek has a great template on how to be a great pro from one of the best players in the game today.
No player is guaranteed a roster spot and in this case it is no different. The Chargers signed Chris Swain of Navy as an undrafted free agent. Last week, the Department of Defense granted a deferral of his military service in order for him to play for the Chargers. With San Diego being the United States epicenter for the Navy, Swain is a fantastic success story. Swain will be an automatic fan favorite, one every fan will want to see make the cut.
Standing 6-foot and weighing 247 pounds, Swain ran for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Taking into account his stout frame, he’s the proverbial bowling ball rolling downhill. He was the perfect complement to Navy’s high-flying, triple-option offense. A perceived weakness could be his pass-catching skills, as he only caught two passes in his career at Navy. His running style and pass blocking have drawn criticism but those are all things a good coach can develop.
What works to the advantage of both players is the offense of new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Last season under Frank Reich, the Bolts ran 12 plays from a two-back formation. Reich was unwilling to adapt his “pistol-centric” offense to Gordon and the running game suffered. In Whisenhunt’s lone year as offensive coordinator in 2013, he ran 115 plays out of a two-back formation. The last time the Chargers made the playoffs? 2013. Whisenhunt parlayed that success into a head coaching position with the Tennessee Titans after that one season.
It is expected that Whisenhunt will be running more conventional two-back formations, so both fullbacks will get ample opportunities to succeed and make the roster.
My expectation is Watt will be the win the starting gig and Swain will be placed on the practice squad. We as Chargers fans know how often injuries happen. The practice squad is not a black hole, it’s an on-deck circle.
Good luck to both young men, and salute to you, Mr. Swain. You defend our Country so we can live out our dreams. Here’s to you getting to live out your dreams.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers will be keeping a watchful eye on many positions during camp over the next three months. Many perceived improvements have been made, but as with any team relying on an influx of high-upside yet inexperienced talent, the truth will be revealed once the helmet and pads are donned.
One of the most closely watched positions will be at running back. It was revealed two weeks ago that Melvin Gordon had microfracture surgery on his left knee in January. Gordon is expected to be a full participant when the Chargers begin their full training camp in July. A heavy weight sits on Gordon’s shoulders to be the franchise running back the Bolts traded up to acquire in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Behind a patchwork offensive line that endured 25 lineup changes throughout the course of the year due to injury and inconsistency, Gordon found little room to run. On the year, Gordon compiled 181 carries for 641 yards and 33 receptions for 192 yards. A concern that arose during the season was ball security as Gordon fumbled six times (five fumbles on runs, one fumbled reception). Mathematically, that translates to one fumble every 36 touches.
Almost equally as disturbing is the fact Gordon did not find the end zone once during his rookie season. That can be attributed to the offensive line woes and an offensive running scheme he was ill-equipped to excel in. Gordon set NCAA records at Wisconsin running in a traditional Power-I formation with a lead fullback opening the first hole. Last season, then Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich plugged Gordon into his pistol formation and ignored the recipe that made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
This season Reich is gone and in his place is Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator the last time San Diego made the playoffs in 2012. A return to a running scheme Gordon can thrive in has been a priority and it became very evident when the Chargers selected fullback Derek Watt with one of their sixth-round picks in last month’s NFL Draft. Watt was Gordon’s fullback at Wisconsin, leading the way for Gordon to lead the nation in rushing his senior season. The selection of Watt sends a message to Gordon and the Chargers’ faithful that a return to power football is at hand.
One more positive sign for Gordon is the fact that despite the offense’s constant state of flux, he still had six runs of 20 yards or more. His yards per game (45), yards per carry average (3.5) and touchdowns can be expected to improve significantly this season.
All eyes will be on Gordon’s knee in training camp but he is firmly entrenched as the starting running back barring any complications.
Danny Woodhead is next on the depth chart. Now two seasons removed from a broken leg, Woodhead is the swiss army knife of the Chargers backfield. Last season he was the leading receiver on the team in catches (80) and receiving yards (755). He was also the second leading running back on the roster with 336 yards on 98 carries. Woodhead led the team in touchdowns with nine, (six receiving, three rushing). He will resume his role as pass-catching specialist and third-down threat.
As for the third spot in the rotation, the coaching staff has indicated a desire to get Branden Oliver back into the mix. Oliver saw very little action in 2015 with 31 carries for 108 yards and 13 receptions for 112 yards. In 2014, with Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead out with injuries, Oliver stepped into the lead role and excelled immediately. The 5-foot-8, 208-pound bowling ball notched back-to-back 100-yard games, earned NFL Rookie of the Week honors and led the Chargers in rushing. If the staff is sincere in its plans to create a three-headed monster in the backfield, this will be a unit to be reckoned with.
The remaining contenders in the running back competition consists of Dreamius Smith and Kenneth Farrow. Smith spent last season on the Chargers’ practice squad after making the team as an undrafted free agent. Farrow is also an undrafted free agent from the University of Houston who signed with the team after the 2016 NFL Draft.
Barring injury the running back lineup is set. We’ll know the progress Gordon is making by the front office’s actions on the waiver wire. If another veteran is picked up, he’s not where they want him to be. Expect Telesco’s first call to go to former Texans four-time Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster if that is the case. Foster is the biggest named, most highly decorated running back still available. A litany of injuries have led to the unraveling of his career. If Gordon is on schedule, a running back acquisition won’t be made. There are many other areas that are bigger concerns than in the backfield, which looks to be stocked better than it has been in years with the running backs and fullbacks that will make the roster.
Do you like what you see in the backfield or should the Chargers make a move to add more depth? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Let me get right to the point: Mike McCoy should be on the hot seat this year.
The 2016 campaign begins his fourth year as the Chargers’ head coach and the team has steadily gone backwards under his watch. I really thought he was the antithesis of his predecessor, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
In 2013 (his rookie year as a head coach), we saw the Chargers (barely) make the postseason with a 9-7 record. They beat Cincinnati in the Wild Card round before falling to the Broncos in the Divisional Round. Frankly, the team exceeded my expectations.
Conversely, the Bolts failed to make the playoffs in 2014 and 2015. The 2014 season saw the Chargers mimic their 9-7 record. In 2015, the wheels fell off the bus and the Bolts finished with a pathetic 4-12 record.
A lot of people have given McCoy multiple passes. The destruction of the offensive lines because of injury. Every team sustains injuries. Nick Hardwick’s injury in ’14 was devastating, but good teams overcome those injuries. Add to that the fragility of Ryan Mathews and injuries to Jason Verrett, Jeromey Clary, and a host of other offensive linemen, Philip Rivers was running for his very life. The running game was largely ignored by the predictable and unimaginative play calling of Frank Reich. Even Norv Turner had a better imagination than Reich.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that Reich was let go after the 2015 campaign where the Chargers finished 4-12. The blame doesn’t rest there.
McCoy is a terrible clock manager. Several times during his three-year tenure, he has left points on the board by failing to properly manage the clock at the end of the first half. Normally, when confronted with his failure to use timeouts (you can’t bank ’em), his response was a cliché of some babble about doing what was in the team’s best interests.
Not scoring is in a team’s best interests?
And not overruling Reich on his play calling? Draw on third-and-18, anyone?
Yeah, yeah. Philip Rivers could have called out of said stupid play selection. That’s assuming you have a personnel package you can change out of a play with.
After the 2014 season, which many consider to be a renaissance for Philip Rivers, Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was hired away from the Chargers to be the Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans. Guess what, kids? The Whiz is back as the Chargers OC, so I look for improvement in many facets of the Bolts’ game. I also take this as a sign from heaven. McCoys days are numbered. Why else would they bring Whiz back after being dealt the short straw in Nashville?
If the Chargers falter, if McCoy continues his, dare I say, Belichickian arrogance and cliché-ridden, no-answer answers with the media, they have his replacement waiting in the wings. Mike McCoy should be feeling the heat this year. The last thing the Chargers need is a crappy team while they’re trying to rally support for a downtown stadium.
Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments!
Melvin Gordon performed well below expectations his rookie year. Appearing in 14 of 16 games, starting 12 of them, he ran for only 641 yards and never saw the end zone.
I expect bigger and better out of Melvin this year. He had microfracture surgery in January, which may have contributed to his pedestrian performance in 2015. The offensive line, at least on paper, is improved. The addition of center Max Tuerk should put Chris Watt at guard where he belongs. The additions of Gordon’s former blocking back at Wisconsin, Derek Watt, and Chris Swain should also help via competition at the fullback position. Gordon’s supporting cast looks deeper than last year’s and represents an upgrade over 2015 (at least on paper). The improvements up the middle should produce dividends for No. 28.
The departure of Frank Reich as offensive coordinator and the return of Ken Whisenhunt is definitely welcome among much of Charger Nation and could represent handwriting on the wall for Mike McCoy, as well, but that’s for another discussion. The Chargers’ offense showed more balance and far less predictability under Whiz than it did under Reich, which should definitely help the running game in general, and Gordon in particular.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold Gordon blameless for last year. He showed an inability to hold onto the football with six fumbles — four of them turned over to the other team. Gordon needs to learn to hold onto the ball and protect it with his life. Six fumbles in 184 touches is unacceptable. He ran tentatively much of the time. He needs to be decisive. He needs to hit the gaps created for him. He needs to run north and south with authority. He needs to earn Philip Rivers’ trust and confidence. He needs to prove to himself and to Rivers that he doesn’t need to audible out of running plays.
Whether or not Gordon can fulfill all of the needs bestowed upon him remains to be seen. That being said, I expect that he’ll take care of the majority of the aforementioned responsibilities in his second year.
Between Reich and a turnstile offensive line, there are plenty of responsibilities to spread around. Gordon has to step up this year and prove he was worthy of being traded up for in the first round of the 2015 draft.
I think he will. What do you think?
(My wife left me)
On Monday the San Diego Chargers announced that six assistant coaches have been released. Heading the list is Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich. Offensive Line coach Joe D’Alessandris, Tight Ends coach Pete Metzelaars, Wide Receivers coach Fred Graves, Defensive Line coach Don Johnson and Assistant Offensive Line coach Andrew Dees complete the list.
Head Coach Mike McCoy survived the coaching staff purge and received a one-year vote-of-confidence contract extension in the process.
Someone has to take the fall for this season and the injury excuse apparently does not extend to everyone on the Bolts coaching chain-of-command. Reich did add a welcome wrinkle with the pistol offense, intended to give QB Philip Rivers more time to scan the field and spare some of the punishing hits. With all the offensive line injuries Rivers took as much of a beating as he did when he played under center in the seasons before Reich’s arrival. The short-passing, ball-control offensive philosophy worked for one season and has died with the absence of an effective running game.
Personally, my biggest indictment of Reich was his steadfast belief in his system, unable or unwilling to make adjustments. Without a true feature back the running game needed to utilize space. Danny Woodhead led the team in receiving and had roughly half as many yards rushing (641 to 336) as feature back Melvin Gordon on half the carries (184 to 98).
Sweeps, bubble screens and misdirection plays would have made Woodhead a larger threat that could’ve actually created more running room for Gordon. Secondly, Gordon ran for 2,500 yards in his last season at Wisconsin out of a traditional I-formation behind a fullback. Why not at least experiment with that formula? If Gordon gets half that amount in yardage he wins the Rookie Of The Year award easily.
Lastly, using the short-range, timing-based, ball control offense is a good idea but also takes away a major weapon from Rivers. It’s known around the league that Rivers is one of if not the best deep ball passers in the league. The deep ball has been absent from the game plan in the last few seasons. It’s not all Reich’s fault. The Chargers do not have a receiver who can take the top off a defense with his speed the way a younger Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd did earlier in Rivers’ career.
Of all the names on the list, Reich’s is the most justified. Jackson and Metzelaars look to be collateral damage. When Gates and Green are on the field they were key elements in the offense and produced more often than not. Gates finished third on the team in receiving and Green finished fifth. The receiver corps was decimated with injuries starting with Keenan Allen and continued with Stevie Johnson, Floyd and Dontrelle Inman joining him on the sidelines at various times through the season.
The line coaches have to deal with the players they’re given. Both lines had a shaky year. Both lines underperformed but there was no consistency because of all the injuries. Notable by his absence on this list is Defensive Coordinator John Pagano. According to NFL.com the Chargers finished 27th in rushing defense, 14th in passing defense and Pagano stays on the team while the offense finished 9th in the league and the Offensive Coordinator is fired.
Just or not, there will be a lot of new faces in the Chargers locker room in 2016 on the staff and on the nameplates above those lockers. Let’s hope they’re good ones.
The Greg One
The Chargers (3-8) are coming off of their first win in six weeks after beating the Jaguars on the road (31-25). Sunday they take on the Broncos (9-2) who are coming off of their OT win vs the Patriots last Sunday Night.
Here are three things you should look for in order for the Chargers to come away victorious.
1.) Make Osweiler remember that he is a rookie starter
What this means is, put pressure on him at all costs. Make him move his feet, forcing him to make quick decisions. Pagano is going to have to “not play scared” and send the house, trusting that his secondary can cover the Broncos receivers one-on-one. If Pagano and the Chargers can do that, they should have no problem stopping Denver’s offense.
2.) Quick plays
We all know about Denver’s defense and their pass rush. One way to render their pass rush ineffective is by getting off quick plays. The Chargers have the personnel to do that with Danny Woodhead, Stevie Johnson, Antonio Gates and, yes, even Melvin Gordon. As Pagano needed to trust his secondary by blitzing, Reich needs to trust his QB and receivers by playing fast, up-tempo offense, getting the ball out quickly. Let Rivers get the ball out and have his receivers eat up chunk yardage.
3.) Touchdowns, not field goals
In order to beat elite teams in the NFL, you need to score touchdowns on drives, especially in the red zone, instead of field goals. Scoring three in the redzone should be considered a failure against a team like the Broncos. You need to score touchdowns, and you need to do it often to beat these guys.
Agree or disagree? Anything I missed that you think I should have mentioned? Let me know below!
– Zak Darman