Photo Credit: Jake Roth USA Today
One of the biggest questions Chargers fans may have as the team heads into the 2017 season is who will be the team’s No. 1 tight end.
Will it be future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates or second-year phenom Hunter Henry?
The reality is that this isn’t truly a question.
The team which formerly called San Diego home (and trust me, I know how much that still upsets the fanbase) has two stellar men at that position.
Do they switch roles this year? Many anticipate that Henry will become quarterback Philip Rivers’ primary tight end entering the 2017 season.
Antonio Gates has been the stalwart, quintessential and reliable man at tight end who Rivers has been tossing the pigskin to for the last 13 years. Gates signed a two-year contract extension in the 2015 offseason and this year, 2017, may just be the final one in which we will be able to enjoy watching those No. 17-to-No. 85 lobs downfield.
After all, Gates turned 37 years old in June. At age 22, Henry is 15 years his junior and considerably more limber than Gatesy. Both give Rivers big targets in the open field, as Gates is 6’4″ and 255 pounds while Henry is a bit taller at 6’6″ though not as heavy at 248 pounds.
Gates was two years older than Henry when he began his rookie campaign in 2003. Henry started at age 21 and didn’t turn 22 until this past December.
Gates’ rookie stats per NFL.com: 15 games with 24 receptions for 389 yards — 19 of those catches went for first downs while two were touchdowns. He averaged 25.9 yards per game.
Here are Henry’s rookie stats, also per NFL.com: throughout the same number of games, there were 36 grabs totaling 478 yards with the majority of those (30) going for first downs. He tallied eight touchdowns and his average yards per game was 31.9.
Despite a solid rookie campaign filled with the flashes of greatness Henry displayed while at Arkansas, the youngster did have one negative play that we’re all sure he will use to help avoid it happening again: the fumble.
That fumble came late in the Bolts’ final 1:02 against the Indianapolis Colts last September, as Rivers and the offense were battling back from a four-point deficit. At 2nd-and-11 from the Chargers’ own 24-yard line, No.17 throws to No.86. As Henry approaches the 40-yard line the ball is popped out of his grasp by Colts safety Clayton Geathers and fellow safety Mike Adams recovers, ultimately sealing the loss for the Chargers.
As mentor to Henry, the wily veteran Gates shared these words with the then-rookie as spoken to Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he told Henry. “You were making a play and trying to make a bigger play. You were trying. If you weren’t trying, I’d have a problem with that. You played a hell of a game. Don’t let that take anything away from the game that you had. You played a hell of a game.”
Personally, I don’t see that the continued presence of Antonio Gates hampers Hunter Henry in any way. So long as Gates is wearing lightning bolts on his shoulders, the wisdom he can impart to Henry (and the other tight ends on the roster) can only be seen as a positive for all involved.
After all, who wouldn’t want to learn from a future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame player, a teammate on the cusp of breaking the all-time record for touchdowns by a tight end? Absorb all that knowledge, put those tricks to practice. Because before you know it, the season will be over and that source could possibly be hanging up his cleats.
Looking forward to your thoughts!
EDITOR’S NOTE: The answer to the question in the title is no.
The Chargers broke countless hearts when they finally announced they would be relocating to Los Angeles, leaving the residents of San Diego in shock, confused and heartbroken.
Some fans decided to decided to follow them to their new locale, while others decided not to support such horrible ownership and what many believe to be an incredibly poor decision.
I have with me a good friend and fellow staff writer who’s made the decision of choosing a new team, Chris Hoke.
Chris: First off, thank you for conducting this interview. It’s been a long six months since greed and selfishness took my hometown team away from me, leaving me to wonder where the fuck do I go from here.
Charlie: No problem at all! I would like to briefly go over your time as a Chargers fan and ask you a couple of questions about the process of being a free agent fan, so to speak. How long were you a fan of the Bolts? Was it a born-to-now thing? This move must’ve really crushed you.
Chris: I was Chargers fan for 25 brutal seasons. Basically since I was a little kid I grew up watching them with my grandpa and my brother. It become a Sunday tradition in our household. No matter how bad the bolts were my brother and I stuck our team.
Hearing about the bolts was definitively soul crushing. I’ve seen the Chargers get killed in their only Super Bowl appearance. I was there for LT’s last game as a Charger. I was there when the Jets beat us in the playoffs in 2010. I thought those were soul crushing experiences. They pale in comparison to losing your hometown team. It’s like your brother died. I would never wish this kind of pain on any fan. It’s truly been one of hardest times in my life.
Charlie: I’m sure if we take the Spanos family out of the picture, were looking at a much different outcome in this whole process. So that being said, what was a couple of moments being a fan that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life? There’s got to be a part of you that wants to see the players still succeed and do great, right?
Chris: As much as I despise Dean, If you took the Spanos’ out of the picture maybe things would’ve worked out. It wasn’t just his fault though the city of San Diego needs to take some of the blame. For the last 15 years both sides did this dance. Dean would come up with plans to renovate Jack Murphy Stadium or build a multi-purpose center downtown, which would host a number of sporting events. Each time Dean would do this the city turned him down; finally capping it off last November when Proposition C failed miserably. The city and Mayor Faulconer basically left Dean no choice but move the Chargers. So no, I don’t believe the end would be better without Dean. San Diego losing the Chargers was inevitable.
I don’t know if you ever went to any Chargers home games in the Q Charlie, but when the Chargers were winning there was blue and gold everywhere. This city was buzzing. One of the things I will miss about home games was the calm before the storm. The music would start and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” would hit. Then smoke would filter out of the Chargers helmet then the cannon would fire and then the starting units would be introduced. You just got that electric nervous feeling almost like you were in the game. Those nerves would be turned up even more if it was a rivalry or a playoff game.
As far as moments I’ll cherish, every game I went to was with my brother. Win or lose we were always there next to each other for support. The shared experience of moments and memories like that were enough to last a lifetime.
If I had to go back and pick one game. It would be the Colts wildcard game in 2010 when Darren Sproles scored in overtime in one of the craziest overtime endings ever. Shocking the then Super Bowl Champion Colts.
Football and the Chargers were more to me than money or the games I went to. It was family. Not Dean, not Roger Goodell or anybody will ever take that from me. Family is forever and I will forever be a San DIego Chargers fan!
As far as the players, some have handled this in a way where they can put the true San Diego Chargers fan into their perspective. Take Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for example. They have both expressed how much San Diego meant to not only their careers but to their families as well. For those players I will cheer for them and hope they finish their careers on top.
Now for those players such as Keenan Allen, who by the way was caught wearing a Raiders hat after he was drafted; we know which team he gets soft against. Allen wasted no time burning his bridge with SD fans by tweeting how excited he was to play in LA only moments after news broke about the Bolts departing from San Diego. I would say that in my eyes those players don’t exist to me and that true Chargers fans should question those players loyalty to not only the team but to us the fans.
Charlie: Safe to say that Darren Sproles game winner has to be a top-3 moment in every Chargers’ fan memory. It was amazing. Still gives me goosebumps to this day watching it and seeing Peytons’ helpless face. *Devilish Laugh*. Now that you’re a free agent fan, have you narrowed it down to any teams in specific that you are gonna cheer for from here on out? if so, how did it come down to them? Whats the process on picking a new team? What plays a big role in attracting you to become a fan? I’m sure given this experience, a huge part has to be ownership.
Chris: I have narrowed it down to three teams. Those teams being the:
Green Bay Packers
For me it came down to several reasons,
First of all with the Packers, I’ve always loved the Packers and the history that comes with this franchise. Not to mention they are publicly owned. The team cares about its fan base. It would also be nice to be a fan of a franchise that knows what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and win.
Secondly, the Philadelphia Eagles. One of the oldest franchises in the league. Like my former team the Eagles have struggled to win a championship. They have had two Super Bowl appearances. One was in 1981 where they lost to the underdog Oakland Raiders. The second loss came in 2004 at the hands of the New England Patriots. Why the Eagles though? My best friend comes from Philly. So I’ve already become a secondary Eagles fan. Since I am now a free agent the idea of being a part of a fan base that is loyal to its team no matter what would be a breath of fresh air compared to the fair weather fan base of the San Diego/LA Chargers.
Lastly, the Chargers. I still can’t call them that disgusting cities name because really it makes me sick to my stomach. It’s like the New York Yankees moving to New Jersey and becoming the New Jersey Yankees. It would make a New Yorker sick. I digress though many may call me a hypocrite since I said “I would never cheer for a team in that city.” However, the Chargers have been all I have known for 25 years. I’ve grown up with this team. They are my blood. They are the bond that my brother and I have always shared. The Chargers are like family to me. If I were to pick them it would be not because of that shithead of an owner. Not because the Mayor of San Diego had a stick so far up his ass he refused to see the grander picture. It would be my heart. My heart has belonged to this team. Whether I like it or not it will always belong to this team.
Charlie: It truly sounds like you have limitless love for the Chargers even after this whole disaster. That’s why you and I connect in good ways. The Packers and Eagles are pretty fair choices as well. Both places can get very cold though, so if you plan on taking trips to see the teams, at Lambeau especially, make sure to bundle up. So before we get into the actual team that you’re rocking with, how has this decision affected relationships with fellow Chargers fans? Do they understand why you’re doing this? I’m sure people feel your pain to some degree. Have you lost any followers on social media?
Chris: I live in Missouri and just moved from Nebraska. I’ve adjusted to cold weather I actually prefer it as well. As far as the transition to being apart of the bolt family on social media to a free agent fan. Man, its been rough. In fact its been one hell of a past seven months. Some have accepted it and understand why I have done it. Some have chosen the same path. Such as former BoltBlitz writer Zak Darman. Others who I have considered close followers have shown anger towards myself and others saying “we were never true fans” which is preposterous. I believe as humans we all grieve in certain ways. Of course I haven’t helped my own cause when I have drunkenly mocked the bolts and L.A. For that I apologize. It was a part of the seven steps of grief anger. In fact after this interview I will no longer be talking about the move or how much I hate Dean Spanos. The subject on this matter is now officially closed!
Charlie: Hypothetical question here, lets say you pick a team that isn’t the Bolts and they end up over exceeding expectations and making playoffs, how would that make you feel? Would you consider coming back? I myself would welcome you back with open arms. Everybody makes mistakes right? All 3 teams are good this year so there should be no letdown where ever you choose to land.
Chris: If the Bolts finally exceed expectations that would be a shock. I mean every time this team is predicted to “take over” the AFC West this team falls flat on its face. So I would be shocked and happy for the players like Rivers, Gates and other veteran guys who deserve to go out on top. However I would not change my mind to be Chargers fan again. Though I’ve thought about trying to be a fan for just one year. Like a player does when he signs a one-year contract. That’s not for me though. When I pick my team this is gonna be the team I stand by till I die!
Charlie: Is everybody in the Hoke family going to be following you on this decision or will this be a solo mission? Somebody in your family had to have either helped with your decision or entice you to go a certain route? Joining a fan base alone can be like switching schools as a kid.
Chris: As I’ve stated in an earlier question. My brother will be remaining a Chargers fan. The rest of my family is either fans of different teams or they are not into football in general. So no, this is something I’ve done on my own unfortunately.
Charlie: Alright so by now, I’m pretty sure the people are on their toes. Everybody can feel your pain and love for the Chargers throughout the article. A lot of people understand you and share those same emotions. Hopefully, this article and your decision can help others and their futures as football fans. With all that being said Mr. Man-of-the-hour, what team are you going with? Who are you going to support going forward? This is a huge decision and it has me so ecstatic to find out! I just hope you’re choosing to stay with us!
Chris: Oh man, This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over for the past seven months. Its taken a lot of soul-searching to get to this point. Being that I’m the man of the hour and I’m a man of my word.
I’ve decided to take my fandom with the Chargers to LA. At the end of the day this is my team. No owner can strip that away from me. I’ve seen these players such as Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates come up from nowhere to be the NFL’s elite. More so than this the Chargers are family. As the line in “Fast and the Furious” series always says “You don’t turn your back on family.” As hard as it is to cheer for a team in a city I hate, things change and I will learn to love this team again. I would once again like to apologize to all the bolt family I’ve spurned for the past seven months. It was a part of the grieving process. I hope you all can forgive me and let me back into the bolt family once again.
Again, Charlie I would like to thank you for these wonderful questions and helping me to close a huge chapter in my life. I look forward to cheering with you on Sundays. Go Bolts!!
Charlie: Yesssssss!!! Words can’t describe how hyped I am to hear you say that. I sure as hell speak for the entire bolt family when I say “welcome back”. Something told me all along you were going to stay with the team. Your passion for this team stretches further than most. This would definitely would not be the best time to leave anyways. The talent on this squad has everybody hyped for the future and I’m truly happy that you are able to look past all the destruction and let downs over the years to stay with them. It’s only going to make winning that much better. I truly am grateful to have found out your great decision first! Next round is on me!
Charlie LaFurno and Chris Hoke
News out of Chargers Park is that ANOTHER player is lost for the year due to injury.
Monday we learned it is defensive end Caraun Reid. And as has been the sickening norm for this team, it was an ACL tear to the big end’s left knee.
Reid sustained his injury in the first quarter of the Atlanta game after being hit in his lower leg as he planted his foot. Linebacker Denzel Perryman was heading for the pile and just caught Reid’s knee.
Claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions roster, the 6’2, 302-pounder (Princeton, round five of 2014 draft) has been with the Chargers for about six weeks. Filling in while Joey Bosa (2016 draft first round #3) nursed his sore hamstring, Reid has been a contributor on the defense. In 103 snaps he collected five combined tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
That notable highlight occurred in the week three game at Indianapolis. Rookie linebacker Jatavis Brown strip-sacked Andrew Luck and Reid scooped up the ball, taking it to the house 61 yards and tying the game at 13 all.
While announcing Reid’s situation, McCoy said “Caraun came in on the very first day and did an outstanding job. He’s a smart player that picked our system up in a hurry and made some big plays for us.”
If anyone is counting, including Reid, that makes TEN – yes, I said TEN – players lost to season-ending injuries. Five of those ten are to the knee and have occurred in the last seven weeks. Here’s the long and incomprehensible list:
Keenan Allen – torn right ACL, week one vs the Chiefs
Danny Woodhead – torn right ACL, week two vs the Jaguars
Jason Verrett – torn left ACL possibly sustained in the Jaguars game
Nick Dzubnar – torn right ACL, week four vs the Saints
And of course, Caraun Reid from yesterday.
Though it was not his ACL, the Bolts lost Manti Te’o to a torn left Achilles’ tendon early in the Colts game.
On top of those, what about the non-contact injuries that besieged the team before the 2016 campaign even began:
wide-out Stevie Johnson tore his meniscus in training camp
tight end Jeff Cumberland was lost to a torn Achilles’ during the pre-season game against Arizona
rookie guard Donavon Clark tore his right ACL in the Arizona contest
change of pace back Branden Oliver had his right Achilles’ snap during the Minnesota game
It is ONLY Week 7 and that list is scary!! I don’t know if there is any other NFL team playing right now that has had the upheaval to their roster that San Diego has endured. There are still nine weeks to go to the end of the season.
I shudder to think what the “football gods” have in store for this group of men and the accursed injury phenomena as time rolls by. Every time a man goes down, I cringe and pray it is just a minor hiccup and they’ll be back quickly.
Time for the CBA to be re-evaluated. Some teams don’t lose any players, some one or two. But to have TEN is like looking at an emergency room full of wheelchairs!
Sorry to see your name added to that list, Caraun Reid. Your presence on defense will be sorely missed.
Everyone knew that the time to choose a “replacement” for the Chargers’ stellar tight end Antonio Gates was fast approaching. The 36-year-old Gates has been the go-to guy for the Bolts’ signal caller Philip Rivers for the last 10 years. The pair have set many franchise records and “Gatesy” has numerous individual statistics which have come via the arm of Rivers. The veteran TE has slowed just a bit, however, so finding a viable replacement — not in terms of production but in terms of playing time — was a focal point during the 2016 offseason.
Enter dynamic tight end Hunter Henry. As in the best tight end of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Yes, the BEST tight end of his class. The only one ranked by CBSSports.com above 70.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Check out any of his draft profiles. Many football analysts and draftniks dubbed Henry as such, the consensus stating that he had good hands, ran routes well and was a good blocker. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 235 pounds. His 40-yard dash time was 4.66 seconds. Sounds like just what the Chargers need at that position, right?
Henry declared his eligibility on January 4, 2016, after his junior season at Arkansas. And, why not? Just look at the former Razorback’s career stats: 1,661 receiving yards on 116 catches with nine touchdowns. Did you know that 93 of those 116 receptions went for first downs or touchdowns? Or that he had four 100-yard receiving games? His 2015 numbers of 51 grabs for 739 yards and three touchdowns plus NO DROPS culminated in Henry receiving the John Mackey Award, an honor annually bestowed upon the most outstanding collegiate tight end in the nation.
Though he has been active in all six games thus far, Henry’s debut versus the Kansas City Chiefs was quiet, as he had a lone catch for 20 yards. He came up empty in the boxscore for the Jacksonville game. The rookie finally busted out in Indianapolis to the tune of 72 receiving yards, as he caught each of the five passes tossed to him by Rivers. The only slight was that in the final minute of that game, he was stripped of the ball in what would most likely have led San Diego to a come-from-behind win.
Henry caught his first touchdown in the home game against New Orleans. It was a sweet pass caught in the middle of the field that he took to the house after 20 yards, just one of his four-catch, 61-yard day. No. 86 has scored a TD in each of the last three games. Six games into the season and he has already amassed 310 yards on 19 receptions (16.3 avg) with three scores and 16 first-down grabs.
Thursday’s game at Qualcomm had division rival Denver in town. How did Henry respond? He responded by scoring a 5-yard TD in front of Broncos’ corner Chris Harris, Jr. while the Bolts were at 2nd-and-goal in the first quarter. He finished the night with 83 yards on six catches in addition to his touchdown reception.
Having future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates as your mentor has to be right up there with being able to play in the NFL.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Gates told Ricky Henne of chargers.com: “From the time I met him, I could see he had all the intangibles.
I see him still growing. I jokingly told him, ‘If I met you before the Combine, you would have went first round! I would have showed you how to have some personality in your routes!’ Now you are seeing that personality in his routes. He already had it all, and now he is just building on it. He is a phenomenal blocker, which is rare to see coming into the league. He’s special. He really is.”
Those are TWO special tight ends that San Diego has on its roster; the master and the apprentice. Keep absorbing all the knowledge you can from No. 85, Henry. He will mold you in to a Hall of Famer, too.
“The sky’s the limit” might be a trite phrase. But in Henry’s case, there are no truer words. Whenever Gates hangs up his cleats, we all know that the team will be in good — make that great — hands!
Well, this time it wasn’t an offensive player that left a Chargers’ game with an injury.
It was their defensive signal-caller and captain, Manti Te’o.
In what is appearing to be an extremely freakish beginning to their 2016 campaign, the Bolts have suffered significant season-ending injuries to three of their starters in each of the first three games.
Keenan Allen – ACL tear to his right knee.
Danny Woodhead – ACL tear to his right knee.
Add Manti Te’o to the list, though it was his Achilles’ that gave out, not his ACL.
Even more disconcerting is that each man sustained his injury in a non-contact scenario. We’ll discuss that in another article soon.
Te’o left the game early in the first quarter of the game in Indianapolis with an immediate announcement that he was done for the day. Who was going to be “next man up” this time?
Enter rookie Jatavis Brown, a product from the University of Akron and a fifth-round pick by the Bolts in this year’s NFL draft.
While the former Zips’ linebacker was chosen for a number of reasons, his 4.47-second 40-yard dash was a primary one. His versatility and athleticism only add to his ability. Additionally, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), he was only called twice for penalties (1,629 snaps) over the last two years. PFF also stated that in 2015 when utilized as a blitzer, Brown had 15 sacks, 12 hits, and 22 hurries in 144 pass-rushing snaps. I have to say – just WOW! This from a guy who some considered to be on the small side at 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds. Looks to me like he can hold his own for sure!
Prior to his entering the game on Sunday, the only sighting of Brown was in the preseason game versus San Francisco. He started that game and made five tackles — three of which were solo stops. Since then, he has participated in all three regular season games, racking up 15 tackles (10 solo), four PDs (passes defensed) and collecting a sack and a forced fumble.
His Sunday stats were six tackles with two tackles for loss, defending two passes and adding a sack. His strip-sack of Andrew Luck should be part of a highlight reel, as it was scooped up by the recently signed Caraun Reid and run in for the score.
One of the bright spots of the afternoon in Indianapolis.
So, just who is this guy Jatavis Brown? The answer: he is a player that many scouts, teams and the like knocked due to his size, though his playmaking ability spoke for itself. It was thought that if he couldn’t perform at this level as a linebacker that he could be a hybrid-safety type defender.
In his four years at Akron, he amassed 340 tackles (193 solo), three forced fumbles, two passes defensed and an interception. The 40.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks were not only team-bests but also led the MAC while his total tackles gave him 7th best.
NFL Draft Scout had him ranked #13 out of 203 OLBs. Brown was not only chosen the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, he was also named to the All-MAC Conference 1st-team three consecutive years.
This is the rookie that after the draft Telesco told Chargers.com writer Ricky Henne, “This is the one guy in our draft room that if we didn’t draft, I think there would have been a revolt amongst everyone else in the room…There are certain guys sometimes that have a trigger for everybody. (Brown) was a guy who everybody wanted on our football team. He’s actually the one guy that (we got) so many different texts from across the league (about) saying ‘Great pick!’ ‘Good pick!’ Those are kind of fun text messages to get during the draft.”
Brown told Henne shortly after the draft, “I do think I’m flying under the radar, but I’ve been flying under the radar my whole life,” he said. “I guess that’s just me. I like to prove people wrong, and that’s how I (operate). I don’t like the spotlight. I’m a laid back, chill guy. So this fits me just fine. I like to do all the dirty work, do what I’m supposed to do and I don’t worry about getting the publicity.”
Well, Jatavis Brown…publicity or no, here is your opportunity to take the bull by the horns and show those detractors just who you are. You had a great start in an unfortunate situation, but it’s always “next man up” in the pros.
Yeah, my money is on this young man to get the job done. I’m looking forward to seeing him blitz Brees and blow up a few plays this Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm.
Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts.
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!
There comes a time when repeated tragedies occur, that you throw up your hands and bellow out a sarcastic laugh or bow your head and give it a good hearty shake.
Week 3 is now in the books and so is the third Charger player to be out for the season due to an injury in as many weeks.
Misery certainly does love company.
After an MRI on Monday, it was officially announced that Manti Te’o is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
The “Next Man Up” mantra that has been utilized by the Chargers for the past few seasons might need to be changed to “Next Man Down.”
Despite the loss of the defensive captain, the Chargers (1-2) also lost another game where they had a chance to win in the end.
Circling around social media last night and Monday morning, there are many that have blamed Philip Rivers, Hunter Henry, Mike McCoy, Melvin Gordon or Josh Lambo for Sunday’s 26-22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on the road.
Sorry, but I am not going to dignify a response for blaming a kicker whose job is to kick field goals and extra points – not to prevent a rusher from getting a chance to block a kick.
From the early onset of the game, the vibe and tone set by the team was extremely sluggish. The fire and passion that resonated through the first half of Week 1 against Kansas City and the entire Week 2 victory against Jacksonville seemed a distant memory.
Rivers was not the elite quarterback that fans have grown accustomed to watching, missing many targets with passes that were too high, too hard or simply off the mark. The fierce competitor that he is, after the game he admitted to the poor performance and execution of his game – even singling out his biggest mistake of the game. “Of all the plays I missed today, I wished I got the one to Travis (Benjamin) on 3rd-and-2 because we were running that thing down. We may end up with it in our hands at mid-field, and I just missed it…”
Indeed, it was one pass that if completed, the rest of his errant throws would have been forgotten. It was a crucial play that could have possibly secured the game, forcing Indianapolis to use their timeouts and dwindle the game clock down.
Chalk it up to a bad game for the offensive and team leader.
One player in particular took the loss solely on himself:
Gotta take this one on the Chin!!! I Loss the Game …..
— Jason Verrett (@Jfeeva_2) September 26, 2016
No, Jason, you alone did not lose this game. And might I add that your humility is a breath of fresh air and one of the reasons why you are a fan favorite.
It might be true that Jason Verrett was beat often against a very good wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton on Sunday. Equally important to note is that in no way shape or form is the loss all on his shoulders. Game after game the Pro Bowl cornerback has shut down the opposition’s best wideout. It was just a bad day for the talented corner – occurring on a day where others experienced lousy games, as well.
Moreover, it was not Feeva’s fault for being on the sidelines during a potential game-clinching 4th-and-7 play with less than two minutes left in the game. Brandon Flowers was covering Hilton and instead of playing him up close, Flowers gave T.Y. a four-yard cushion where he made the easy, wide-open catch at the first down marker, falling forward to ensure the call was a simple one. Flowers has been playing exceptionally better this year than last, and was one of three players that I mentioned on this site to have a great impact this season. It is unfortunate that this crucial play has his named associated with it.
Melvin Gordon was held in check by Indianapolis, who came into the game ranked as the worst rushing defense in the NFL. Clearly, the Colts knew about this dubious honor of theirs and studied a lot of film on the second-year starter. It was clear to them that “Flash” loves to run in between the tackles and does not improvise as much as an elite back would. Perhaps it is his style, or perhaps it’s his youth that explains why he runs the way the play is designed to, without recognizing other outlets.
Gordon did, however, hit pay dirt again for the fourth time in three games and continues to punish those would-be tacklers. The Chargers fans are very excited about his play thus far. His ability to get into the endzone, his potential, especially if he learns from his mistakes, and how high his ceiling is reinforce the fact that the excitement is justified.
The second-round draft pick of 2016, tight end Hunter Henry, received the starting nod to take the place of the future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Hunter had five catches for 76 yards and looked like he could be the heir apparent of Gates as he levied space between him and the defender, moving the chains on several occasions. Although, it is hard to remember those precise routes and great hands due to his late game fumble that ended any last-ditch efforts for a comeback.
Yes, the Bolts still had a chance to win the game. Yes, the fumble ended that hope. However, it should not have come down to that one play, nor is it the dubious “play that lost the game.” Hunter is a talented rookie and as you could see his reaction on the sidelines he was devastated.
As upsetting as it was to watch the game slip away, my heart went out to him and I wondered what encouragement he would receive. Then I saw Gates call him over and give him a veteran pep talk.
By now, most fans who watched the game or have seen the highlights know about all the following miscues: dropped punt, missed catches, missed throws, fumbles…etc. Let us not take too much time dwelling on those players, because it was not one single player nor single mistake that helped in the loss on Sunday. It was the collective faux pas of many.
McCoy expounded on my thoughts when he stated after the game, “There are a number of plays you look at; missed opportunities through the entire game. It’s not just one drive or one series. There were a number of opportunities we had, where we didn’t make the plays today.”
To further McCoy’s point, it was not just those mistakes, which during a loss are enhanced and nit-picked, but it was also the penalties. Those yellow flags are thrown often during NFL games, legitimately or otherwise, and this game would see 20 of them – 10 for each team. It has been instilled in many young athletes that a physical mistake is easier to forgive than a mental mistake. Having your named called out by the men in pinstripes is a mental mistake, showing a lack of discipline more often than not. That being said, at least two of those “phantom calls” would cost the Chargers points in the end.
Several times those penalties either killed a drive or allowed the Colts to continue theirs. Whether the call is obtuse or astute, it is difficult to gather momentum when the game stops for a penalty.
When all’s said and done, with massive blunders and penalties, San Diego still had a chance to win the game. Even with the defense unable to stop the aging wonder who is Frank Gore, collectively they were able to sack Andrew Luck twice, forced two fumbles (recovering one), scored a touchdown and had an interception. Thus far after three games, the defense has logged six total turnovers — four interceptions and two fumbles.
In 2015, the Chargers secured only 11 interceptions and nine fumbles for the entire season. Furthermore, Rivers has yet to throw an interception, which has contributed to San Diego being at plus-2 in the turnover department, ranking 5th in the AFC.
It was, without a doubt – a sloppy game but one that San Diego should have and could have won. As stated previously, with the poor play at key moments by positional players, and the horrid and massive amount of penalties, the game was still within reach in the waning moments. However, in order to take this team to the next level, a game like this is one that the Chargers needed. A victory would have given then team confidence to win close games and perhaps string a few victories together to gather momentum. After all, the Bolts have not won back-to-back games since November of 2014.
Let that last sentence sink in for a bit.
The Chargers will return home to Qualcomm Stadium in Week 4 to face the New Orleans Saints. This game will provide the Bolts a prime opportunity to get back on track, possibly evening out their record to 2-2 against a Saints’ team that struggles defensively.
Here is to hoping that the Chargers do NOT lose another key element to their roster for the fourth consecutive regular season week in a row.
Please comment below on what miscue, by players or non-players, was the main contributor to the loss in Indy.
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
In what appears to be an unfortunate yet ongoing theme, the Chargers lost yet another player for the season.
The team announced on its official website on Monday that Manti Te’o suffered a torn Achilles and that he will miss the remainder of the 2016 campaign
The few snaps that Te’o saw Sunday before being hurt may very well have been his last in lightning bolts. The inside linebacker is in the final year of his rookie contract which has yet to be extended.
Te’o exited Sunday’s nail-biter against the Colts with an obvious injury to his lower leg. No contact was made as he was clearly in the middle of the field and suddenly went down, grabbing at his calf. Initial reports shortly after were that it was his Achilles and he would not be returning to the game.
This is the third non-contact injury to a Bolts’ player in as many weeks. First to be lost in the regular season was Keenan Allen, who tore his ACL in the Week 1 game against Kansas City. Last week the team saw all-around back Danny Woodhead go out with an ACL injury, as well. Sunday it was Te’o. This trend brings up many questions but I’m not going to discuss them right now.
What is disconcerting is that this is the third player on the team to be lost for the year due to an Achilles’ tear. First up was tight end Jeff Cumberland, an offseason pickup. He had gone up to catch a deep ball from Kellen Clemens in the Week 2 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. The following week it was Branden Oliver. Everyone can recall with utmost clarity when BO’s Achilles’ snapped and rippled up his calf. Now Manti Te’o, the defensive captain and signal caller, has had the same thing happen to him.
Three players lost to an Achilles’ tendon tear in what, six weeks?! Each one coming in a situation where the individual is not being contacted by another player.
The Chargers may not be the only team to have the “injury curse” hit them this early in the 2016 campaign, but it’s damn freaky to have the SAME type of trauma effect three different players in the course of a season.
Let us all hope that this does not continue to be the theme over the course of the remaining games.
Thanks for reading!
The staff at boltblitz.com give their take on the Chargers week 3 matchup vs the Colts
Zak Darman: Chargers come out flat and the Colts come out guns ablazin’. Colts get a 17-10 lead going into halftime with Luck picking apart this defense for 200 first half yards and 2 Touchdowns. Philip gets one before half hooking up with Travis Benjamin. Second half starts and it is the opposite this time with the Chargers leaning on Melvin Gordon and the running game to take a lead late and the defense holds to win it. Chargers 24 Colts 20
Chris LaFurno: Last time these teams saw each other, Luck wasn’t hurt. He was good and that Colts team actually went 11-5. Chargers won that game 19-9 not allowing the Colts into the end zone once. Now they face Luck and Co. with a much improved run game and an emerging defense. I believe MG28 will get it going as early as the first drive and the Chargers won’t look back. They’ll open up a 14-0 lead and it will go score for score from there on out. I love Luck. He’s great but just doesn’t have enough help around him for this to be a trap game. Chargers are ready. Phil will go over the 300 yard mark with 3 Touchdowns. MG28 gets two Touchdowns one through the air and one on the ground. Luck will try to test Verrett often and Verrett will answer the call. 6 targets for 2 receptions for 20 yards, 2 PDs and an interception. Defense comes up with 3 turnovers. Chargers win 35-20
Laura Leech: Gordon has another strong game with a touchdown. Benjamin with 2. Hunter Henry gets his first. Colts keep it close but an interception seals the deal for the Chargers in a nail biter. 31-24 Chargers
Cheryl White: Defense harasses Luck & Co. all day. Verrett blankets Hilton so Luck really can’t get the ball to him. Defense gets at least 2 INT’s, M28 gets two TD’S, Philip surpasses 300 yds this week with 3 TD’S and zero INT’S.. #GoBolts 38-14 Chargers
Chris Hoke: The chargers and Indy trade points for most of the game leading to a game winning field goal by Josh Lambo 27-24 bolts
Mike Pisciotta: Despite McNorv’s inability to rally the team to play a 60 minute game, Philip Rivers and the offense take advantage of Indy’s depleted secondary to win. Melvin Gordon runs for a buck again and a score, Travis Benjamin hauls in two Rivers’ TD passes and Dexter McCluster runs the first kick off back for a score for the Chargers since 1857. Bolts win 31-17
Will McCafferty: I really wanted to predict 41 for the Bolts but I can too easily see McCoy’s sphincter tightening in the fourth quarter once more. He just can’t help himself. The Colts have been getting killed on the ground and no reason to believe that trend shouldn’t continue. Look for Gordon to have another big day….unless he gets pulled in the fourth. The Chargers will dominate the time of preseason, as well as the scoreboard. 31-24 Chargers
Greg Williams: The offense keeps rolling and the defense continues to force turnovers and get good pressure on the quarterback. Keep an eye out for Hunter Henry, who will record his first pro touchdown subbing in for an ailing Antonio Gates. 30-14 Chargers
Bolt fans, put your prediction down below in the comment section.
Thanks for Reading
It’s week three and the Chargers are on the road. Here are my three things they must do to have a happy flight home
1.) Get Hunter Henry involved
Antonio Gates is out this week due to his ankle so it is the Chargers second round pick time to step up. Henry has one catch on the season for 20 yards and that came in week one vs the Chiefs in the second half. Used mostly as a blocker, Henry will be a huge reason why the offense moves and needs to be implemented as a legitimate pass catching threat.
2.) All aboard the Gordon train
Weird coming from me, I know, but Melvin Gordon looks far better this season than he did a year ago. He is making quick decisions, holding onto the ball (simultaneously knocks on wood) and has cut down on the stutter stepping, although still does this at times. His vision has improved and he is fighting through arm tackles. He is, for the most part, what Telesco moved up to get a year ago. Keep his mojo going and hand him the rock and hopefully he continues his recent success.
3.) Contain Luck, contain the Colts
Andrew Luck has been turnover prone since joining the league in 2013 and taking over for Peyton Manning. Since then, the Chargers have faced him once, beat him, picked him off once and held him to less than 300 yards passing. Whatever worked then, do it again. The Colts are without Donte Moncrief and Jason Verrett is most likely going to be on T.Y. Hilton, unless Hilton goes in the slot. The Colts don’t have the playmakers they once have, but no NFL team should be taken lightly.
What do you guys think? Let me know below and go bolts!
Zak Darman (@WilMyersGOAT)