Heisman Trophy

williamsandre

Photo Credit: Chargers.com (Official team website of the San Diego Chargers)

 

Andre Williams wasn’t left out in the cold too long, thankfully. Even better, no one tried to pick him up!

Williams re-joined the Bolts Tuesday. He was waived this past Saturday when the team had to promote tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad. The roster moves were necessary because Antonio Gates was not going to see the field against the Colts and there had to be another body out there in addition to Hunter Henry and Sean McGrath.

The third-year back was initially claimed off waivers by the Chargers earlier this month after being released by the New York Giants. That signing occurred after change-of-pace back Branden Oliver was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the preseason game in Minnesota.

Williams (6-foot, 220 lbs) was a fourth-round pick of the Giants in the 2014 draft. With the Giants having the likes of Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Bobby Rainey and a couple other guys on hand, Williams just didn’t make the final roster cut. This preseason he managed to gain only 91 yards on 25 carries in three games. He was one of 11 running backs on the depth chart in 2015, managing only 257 yards on 88 carries with a lone TD.

Since entering the league, Williams has played in 32 games. He has rushed for 978 yards on 305 carries and scored eight touchdowns — 41 of those carries went for first downs while five were over 20 yards and two were over 40. He also hauled in 19 passes for 137 yards.

Williams is a former Boston College standout. He set a BC school record in 2010 when he made 42 rushing attempts in a single game when the Eagles played Syracuse in that season’s final game. Williams was one of six finalists for the Heisman Trophy in 2013, finishing fourth. That same year he was named the recipient of the Doak Walker Award, an honor given to the nation’s best running back.

Since being in San Diego, Williams hasn’t been in the mix. Things may change this week.

We’ll all just have to play the wait-and-see game.

Thanks for reading!

Cheryl White

@BoltnUp

 

Manti8

 

The hype surrounding Manti Te’o prior to the San Diego Chargers selecting him in the 2013 draft was mountainous, to say the least. Then first-year general manager Tom Telesco moved up seven slots (from 45th to 38th) to take the former Fighting Irish linebacker.

After all, Te’o had received a plethora of awards and trophies at the end of the 2012 collegiate season: The Nagurski Award, the Lombardi Award, the Bednarik Award, the Maxwell Trophy (the nation’s most outstanding football player), the Walter Camp National Player of the Year and a two-time winner of The Butkus Award (once in high school and then again in 2012 with Notre Dame). There was also this one other little thing – Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Those are ALL spectacular acknowledgements. In 51 games at Notre Dame, he amassed a total of 437 tackles (212 solo/34 for loss), 12 quarterback hits, 8.5 sacks, seven interceptions, 10 pass break ups, 17 passes defensed with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Te’o has the distinction of being only the second linebacker of Polynesian descent drafted by the Bolts, the first, of course, being Junior Seau. Te’o was also the highest selected Fighting Irish linebacker drafted since Demetrius DuBose in 1993.

At this juncture in his young career, Te’o’s pro stats look like this through 35 games: 202 tackles with 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and nine passes defensed. He has missed 13 games due to injuries to both feet dating back to his rookie season.

Here is the list of his various ailments since entering the NFL:

August 8, 2013: Sprains his foot in a game against the Seattle Seahawks. He is seen in a walking boot two days later and ends up missing the next five games. Ultimately has surgery in the offseason to repair a bone in his right foot.

August 15, 2014:  Another preseason game versus the Seahawks has Te’o injuring his left foot. He sits out the next two weeks and is back in action for the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

September 21, 2014: In the road game versus the Buffalo Bills, he injures his right foot. It’s bad news for the Bolts when it is announced that Te’o suffered a fracture. He doesn’t take the field again until after the Week 10 bye when San Diego faced the Oakland Raiders.

Te’o stayed injury-free for the remainder of the 2014 season, compiling an additional 40 tackles over the last seven games. In that stretch, he managed to get his first NFL interception in a Sunday Night game against the New England Patriots on the Chargers’ own turf. The pass was intended for Rob Gronkowski. Two weeks later, he collected the first sack of his pro career, on 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

October 12, 2015: The Pittsburgh Steelers come to town for a Monday Night matchup. Unfortunately, the guy wearing No. 50 had to leave the game for a few snaps to get his ankle taped. While he did return to the contest, and finish with seven tackles, he again is out for over a month trying to get it strong once more.

The Chargers are in a bit of a pickle here. Right now the team is loaded at linebacker with the likes of Te’o (who will be calling the defensive plays), Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu and sophomore Denzel Perryman most likely the starters. Joining the mix are second-year men Kyle Emanuel and Nick Dzubnar; plus rookies Joshua Perry, Jatavis Brown and Dexter McCoil. There is also fourth-year player Tourek Williams, who returns after a limited 2015 due to breaking his foot in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Needless to say, linebackers coach Bob Babich and defensive coordinator John Pagano are going to be putting in plenty of observation and film study over the next couple of months to determine who potentially makes the roster, moves to the practice squad or ends up being released.

Whether Manti Te’o remains a Charger for the entirety of his career remains to be seen. However, Te’o staying injury-free might solidify his spot. The Chargers have always liked him for his leadership ability, strong work ethic, perseverance and instincts. He is an extremely smart player. His only downfall has been an inability to play an entire 16-game season.

Now, I know that there are many people out there who are not fans of Te’o for whatever reason(s). No, he doesn’t always wrap up and tackle his target. Yes, sometimes he runs a bit slow. He is, however, starting to become the tackling machine that had him landing on several top-ten college recruiting lists before he began his senior year of high school.

Te’o himself said it best in a December 2014 interview with Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune: “I’ve always been one to keep grinding, keep grinding, keep grinding, keep grinding. I’m going to continue to get better because I’m going to continue to work.”

Yet the question remains, is Te’o going to be part of San Diego’s plans beyond the ’16 campaign? When all is said and done, this is a business. There is going to be stiff competition at the inside linebacker spot next month from the rookie Perry. We could very well see a repeat of Butler versus Te’o, and that might not end well for Manti. He’s been put on notice. As much as I like No. 50, I don’t think he will be sporting blue and gold come the 2017 season.

I’m pulling for him to stay with the team and pick up where he left off in 2015.

What do you think? Share your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Cheryl White

#healthandhardwork

GordonWatt2The fans of the blue and gold should be feeling pretty good about this year’s draft. Depending on your point of view, either Christmas came early or it came late. Glass half-full or half-empty? Mine is half-full.

Here’s why.

The Chargers’ GM, Tom Telesco, addressed two of my biggest concerns for the upcoming football calendar. Those were center and fullback. Yes, I’m aware that there was a hole left in the secondary with the departure of Eric Weddle. However, the two most glaring chasms on the offensive side of the ball were the aforementioned spots.

We expected to see an electrified offense after Telesco moved up two spots in the 2015 draft to take running back Melvin Gordon (first round, 15th overall via trade with the 49ers).

To say that the Bolts’ offense was in tatters for the second year in a row is a fair assessment. They may not have had five centers in-and-out like 2014, but it they were still unable to provide much assistance to either help keep Philip Rivers from being pounded, or create seams for any of the Chargers’ ball carriers.

Whether you like all or a few of the choices the team’s general manager made last week, I hope that seeing Derek Watt lining up in front of Gordon in the Bolts’ backfield is one of them. The two played together at the University of Wisconsin, and both are excited to get that chemistry going once more.

Watt is 6’2″ and comes in at 236 pounds. He had 24 starts in 47 games for the Badgers, compiling 309 yards on 30 receptions and a lone touchdown. He was the 2012 Rookie of the Year for UW, as well as being named to the Academic All-Big 10 every year from 2012 thru 2015. On the down side, he missed five games in 2014 due to a foot fracture. In 13 games last season, he had 15 receptions for 139 yards to go along with 45 yards on nine rushes. It was his second best statistical year going back to his freshman days.

Whatever schemes offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt can put together for his newest two backs, I cannot help but look towards the future with excitement. There has not been a fullback on the roster since 2013 when Le’Ron McClain last played. Prior to McClain, San Diego had the likes of Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester (2008-2011), who blocked for Darren Sproles from 2005-2010. Let’s not forget that Lorenzo Neal (one of my favorites), who is considered to be one of the best blocking fullbacks in NFL history, spent five seasons here in front of good ol’ No. 21 himself, LaDainian Tomlinson!

Should Watt and Gordon be able to get into that groove they had going on at the University of Wisconsin, I think we will see a tremendous leap from ranking 31st in 2015 with a league average 84.9 rushing yards per game.

All in all, it is my fervent wish that the San Diego Chargers get their running game back on track with the one-two punch of Watt blocking for his former college teammate, Gordon.

Thank you, Tom Telesco, for that selection. You recognized that need for the offense to excel this year.

The situation with the stadium/convention center proposal being what it is right now, there is an onus on the team to not only come out strong, but to also stay strong as the season progresses.

Looking forward to minicamp followed by preseason!

Thanks for reading!!

Cheryl White

#BoltUp!

McCoy8

 

It is looking like the desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures scenario has arrived in San Diego this past Sunday.

The most-hated division rival, the Oakland Raiders and their fans, first took over Qualcomm Stadium, and then proceeded to deliver a knock-out punch to the Chargers that had not been seen in, well, maybe forever.

What ever game plan Mike McCoy and Frank Reich had in place, it went sideways very quickly.

How could that happen?!

The team was wearing its powder blue jerseys and, as superstition goes, that beat-down should not have happened!

What I and many other Bolts fans, witnessed, whether at the stadium or watching on television, was a thorough implosion.

I am not going to rehash this too much, it still makes me sick to think about the situation as a whole.

Mike McCoy became the Chargers head coach on January 25, 2013. He was 40 years old then, and the youngest head coach in the NFL.

At one of his initial interviews, after being named Norv Turner’s replacement, McCoy stated that he planned to hire an offensive coordinator.

Perhaps that seemed unusual since it was one of the reasons why he was being pursued. After all, this is the guy who everyone knew had worked with Tim Tebow, helping him to change his mechanics, ultimately leading the Broncos to a playoff win with the now-unemployed quarterback at the helm.

Let us not forget that under McCoy and former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt managed to help Philip Rivers get his mojo back after he appeared to be losing his touch.

What transpired that year for Rivers was him being named “NFL Comeback Player of the Year” in 2013; a distinction that the signal caller did not quite understand as he had not missed a game since becoming the starter in 2006.

Former offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos from 2008 until 2012, McCoy began his tenure there with journeyman quarterback Kyle Orton. Under McCoy’s direction, Denver’s offense ranked seventh in passing and Orton was fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2010.

McCoy revamped the offense for Tebow in 2011 by inserting more running plays into the game plan. The former Heisman Trophy winner (2007, the first to win as a sophomore) responded by rushing for 660 yards and scoring six touchdowns. At the end of the season, he had a passer rating of 72.5, based on an attempt/completion record of 126/271 (46.5%), seven TDs and was picked off once. Tebow led Denver to six straight wins and the team went into the postseason having won seven of their last eight games.

And then along came Peyton Manning in 2012.

McCoy and the playbook evolved once more to accommodate Manning’s potent hurry-up offense. With “The Sheriff” as their leader, the Broncos had a 13-3 record in spite of a 2-3 start. They won their second consecutive AFC West title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs. McCoy and Manning were defeated in double-overtime by the Baltimore Ravens, who went on to win the Super Bowl. Offensively, the team ranked fourth in total offense, fifth in passing offense and 16th in rushing. Manning was ranked sixth with a completion percentage of 68.6, a TD/INT ratio of 37/11 and threw for 4,659 yards on 583 attempts.

That same year, Rivers ranked No. 17 among QBs. He was 338 out of 527 for 3,606 yards (64.1%), had 26 passing scores with 15 picks. The Bolts were in the bottom offensively: 31st in total offense, No. 24 in passing and 27th in rushing.

Ironically, the 2015 season to date reflects a curiously unusual status between the two competitors and their teams: both have flip-flopped in most categories other than the penultimate: wins and losses.

Manning’s Broncos are 6-0 while Rivers and the Chargers are sitting at 2-5. Through the first seven games (Denver was on bye last week) the statistics look like this: San Diego is first in total offense with 430.7 yards per game versus 325.8 and the 29th slot for Denver. The Bolts also have first place honors in passing offense (343.6), while the Broncos are 18th (240.8). Both AFC West rivals rank in the bottom in rushing, back-to-back in fact. San Diego is 29th (87.1) with Denver at 30th (85).

As for the signal callers themselves?

Rivers is first in the NFL with 2,452 yards, adding TD/INT ratio of 15/7. Where is Manning? Well, his 1,524 yards, seven TDs and 10 INTs put him in 17th place.

There are many people who are trying to figure out why the future Hall of Famer is in such a predicament. Is it the new head coach, Elway’s old friend and teammate Gary Kubiak, who is also calling the plays this year who should be to blame?

I don’t think I heard “Omaha” when I watched the Broncos-Chiefs game.

Adam Gase, the offensive guru in Denver for the last little stretch, followed previous Broncos coach John Fox to Chicago. Or is the health and age of good ol’ boy no. 18 in the navy and orange truly declining? I mean, after all, Peyton is 39 years old. He’s been playing football for a long time!

Perhaps the bottom line is that McCoy is a better offensive coordinator than head coach. Maybe for now the short-term fix is for him to start carrying around a sheet, a couple of markers and starts calling the plays himself.

This might relegate Reich to QB coach again, essentially, but if that is what it takes to win, so be it. This team is better than its record reflects; there are many men on the roster who are fighters and can help lead this group on its course. We the fans need more than the same-old, same-old that McCoy reiterates each week because not only is that old news, it just truly sets my teeth on edge.

Whatever “it” may be, this pretty much says it all: “We got outplayed and outcoached in the first half,” McCoy said. “It’s very difficult to have success when you start the game like we did, whether it’s turnovers or giving up seven straight scores. That starts with me as the head coach. We’re not going to sit around and dwell on this.”

Yeah, we know, Coach. What we want to know is: what are you going to do about it?

Thanks for reading!

#BoltUp

Cheryl White

Gordon2

 

When the San Diego Chargers did not address the vacancy at running back during free agency, it was obvious that would become one of the top priorities in the 2015 draft. Most of the Chargers’ faithful cheered when the front office moved up two spots, selecting Wisconsin Badger Melvin Gordon with their No. 1 pick.

Telesco and company found it paramount to give up their fourth-round pick in ’15 (big surprise) and fifth-round selection in ’16 to ensure that no one received the right to signing the electrifying Gordon other than the Bolts.

At the University of Wisconsin Gordon rewrote the NCAA record books. In 2014, Gordon led the Nation in rushing (2,587 yards), yards from scrimmage (2,740 yards), rushing touchdowns (29), touchdowns from scrimmage (32), rushing attempts (343) and yards per attempt (7.8). Gordon was a unanimous selection for All-American and All-Big-Ten First-team honors, as well as winning the Doak Walker Award given to the Nation’s best running back.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gordon was the picture of durability during his days at Wisconsin. After receiving a medical redshirt for suffering a groin injury during his freshman year in 2011, Gordon did not miss a game due to injury the remaining three years he spent on campus. A stellar 2014 season was capped by an Outback Bowl MVP award, additionally earning him second place in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

All of the hype surrounding Gordon upon his drafting by San Diego was well-deserved and well-received among most Chargers fans. To anticipate big things from such an elite collegiate running back was to be expected.

The reality of his pro career through seven games has not been as rosy.

Contributing factors to Gordon’s limited success can be traced to multiple things; an ankle injury has limited his effectiveness in games. The Chargers have been slowly working Gordon into the offense with a running-back-by-committee approach alongside Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver. The Bolts’ offensive line has once again been decimated by injuries. Ball security has also affected his playing time. To date, Gordon has fumbled four times, losing three. In three years at Wisconsin, he fumbled 12 times, losing seven. Gordon had 631 carries during that time. In San Diego, he’s carried the ball 85 times, yet still putting the ball on the carpet at an alarming rate.

It goes without saying that the college game and the pro game are two completely different animals. The defenses are faster, the players hit harder and the game is played at a much higher level.

Nonetheless, fundamentals, like ball security, don’t change. In college, it equated to one fumble every 53 carries. In the pros, it’s an alarming one fumble per every 21 carries. Gordon’s recent fumble issues, and nagging ankle injury, are the most likely reasons why he didn’t enter Sunday’s Raiders’ game until midway through the third quarter.

Despite the growing pains of being a high-profile draft pick in the NFL, Gordon is fifth among rookies in rushing with 328 yards. The Chargers find themselves with a 2-5 record, clinging to slim playoff hopes after an embarrassing home loss to the Raiders.

How does San Diego right the ship and get Gordon on track?

Two simple changes can achieve both purposes.

Abandon the running-back-by-committee approach

Gordon has shown he is capable of being an every-down back at the collegiate level. Let him prove he is capable of being an every-down back in the pros. To achieve this, Mike McCoy and those responsible for the gameplan on Sundays must to be willing to give Gordon the ball. In the last two games, Gordon has carried the ball seven times each. He has averaged 14 carries over the five previous games.

Gordon has to do his job and step up his game in respects to ball security, pass protection and route running. McCoy and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have to fully commit to the running game, giving Gordon twenty-plus carries, allowing him to be the punishing running back that he was in college.

Any running back will tell you being in on every down allows them to get into a rhythm, which helps them run better. Woodhead and Oliver can still be inserted on passing downs to spell Gordon when he needs a rest.

The second solution is presented in the form of a question.

What did Gordon have during his record-breaking seasons as a Wisconsin Badger that he does not have in the pros?

Get Melvin a capable fullback

Gordon accomplished all the gaudy records mentioned above — and a lot more — playing in a traditional Big-Ten power-running scheme. The Badgers almost exclusively ran I-formation with a fullback leading the way, opening the first crack in the defensive line. Gordon was able to use his explosiveness to get through the crack and accumulate yardage at an astounding clip. No back in NCAA history has more than Gordon’s 7.9 yards per carry average over his career. Using that scheme, Gordon is the fastest running back in NCAA history to 2,000 yards. He did it in only 241 carries.

If it ain’t broke…

With the Chargers, Gordon has been the single back on most of his plays.

We’ve watched as he’s shuffled his feet at the line, waiting for that first crack to open. It has been tough sledding for the rookie behind a patchwork offensive line struggling to open running lanes. As a result, Gordon is only averaging slightly above 40 yards per game.

After three-plus years of not having to wait, he’s getting stopped at or behind the line because his downhill running style isn’t conducive to waiting for a lane.

We’ve also seen that when he’s able to turn the corner along the sidelines he has a phenomenal second gear, along with the ability to accelerate for huge gains. Sadly, those moments have been few and far between. It will remain that way until the offensive philosophy changes.

The fullback is a dying breed in the NFL. There are no great fullbacks left, but you don’t need a great fullback to achieve the desired result.

There are plenty of free agent fullbacks who would love nothing more than to sign for the veteran’s minimum (approximately 800-900k depending on years of service) and run into the defensive line looking for contact. Henry Hynoski, Frank Summers, John Conner, Zach Boren and Jed Collins are all experienced fullbacks who would welcome the opportunity for an NFL paycheck.

Establishing a running game takes pressure off of quarterback Philip Rivers.He has already taken a beating this year. Rivers has been sacked 18 times. The Chargers have the No. 1 passing offense and the 29th rushing offense in the NFL through seven weeks because the coaches won’t commit fully to Gordon. A solid running attack keeps Rivers healthy, opening opportunities down the field with play action. But the running game must first be established prior to play action making sense, much less being viable in tricking the defense into deciding whether or not to commit to one or the other.

Forcing Rivers to throw 123 times in the last two games is an indictment of the lack of a consistent, effective running game. Continuing to force Rivers to shoulder that heavy a load will result in fans seeing the same beaten, battered QB we saw limping around at the end of last season.

The Chargers need to do no more than look east of the Mississippi at Gordon’s draft-class counterpart, Todd Gurley, to see what the reward could be. Many considered Gordon better than Gurley. The difference is that in St. Louis, Gurley is getting 19 carries per game and has garnered 442 yards in the four games he’s played. The Rams trust their workhorse, and San Diego needs to do the same.

The window is still open for a turnaround and postseason run with an (on paper) easy remaining schedule, including five division games on tap. The window will shut fast if no change is made soon.

At this point, there is nothing left to lose.

It’s time to release the Kraken. Get Gordon a fullback, let him carry the rock, stacking wins.

What do you think Bolt Nation? Leave your thoughts below.

 

Bolt Up!!

 

The Greg One

 

#FreeMelvin

 

 

Mariota Heisman

 

Wondering whether or not Tom Telesco has the name “Marcus Mariota” inked on the white board for draft day? Let’s take a look at what his being on the Chargers roster could provide.

Measurables:

Height: 6’4″
Weight: 218 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds

Analysis:

Marcus Mariota is currently projected as one of the top-two quarterbacks entering the 2015 draft. While at the University of Oregon, he primarily worked out of the shotgun formation. The shotgun formation is one that Philip Rivers likes and the Bolts presently utilize most. Combined with his ability to run for yards, the former Oregon Ducks quarterback could be a dual-threat in San Diego’s offense for many years to come. His speed will be something that defenses will need to take into account, as it helps him escape from the pocket.

In his 41-game college career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 105:14. For his final season, he had 4,454 yards passing with four picks and 42 touchdowns (a 68.3 completion percentage), while leading the Ducks to a 12-1 record in 2014. Additionally, he rushed 117 times for 669 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Summary:

Regardless of what team drafts Mariota, he will most likely need to sit behind a veteran QB for a bit while he learns to better read defensive schemes, identify pre-snap blitzes and recognize when he should step up into the pocket rather than attempt to escape from it.

The NFL comparison for Mariota is Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback. They are of similar stature, though at 233 pounds and almost 6’5″, Kaepernick is a bit bigger. Even their college statistics are comparable, despite the Niners’ signal caller having more rushes (600), yards (4,112), and touchdowns (59) over four years of collegiate play versus Mariota, who is entering the draft as a junior.

Three of Mariota’s many awards in 2014 were the Heisman Trophy, the PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year and being chosen as the Offensive MVP of the 2015 Rose Bowl. He was the first player from the University of Oregon to win the Heisman trophy.

 

 

It will be interesting to learn if or when he fits into the big picture for Telesco and company. What do you want to see happen? Please leave your comment below.

Thanks for reading!

#BoltUp!

Cheryl White

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