Hopefully all those people – those would be the voices of last season which were scathing at times – are eating their words this season with regard to Melvin Gordon. Bust, you say? Maybe that was a bit premature.
Why? First a little bit of Gordon’s background.
There was speculation aplenty when Chargers’ GM Tom Telesco and the San Francisco 49ers swapped spots in the 2015 NFL Draft. Telesco moved from 17th position to 15th and took Gordon. Many fans were disconcerted, some even loudly outraged, that the running back pick was Gordon and not Todd Gurley. Personally, I felt that with the Bolts needing a better running back than Ryan Mathews had been, plus the fact that Gurley was still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, it was a good choice.
What wasn’t there to like? Gordon finished his career at University of Wisconsin-Madison having played in 45 games where he had 631 carries for 4,915 yards and 45 TDs. As a receiver out of the backfield there were 22 catches for 228 yards and four TDs. In his senior year, the former Badger hauled in 19 receptions for 153 yards and three TDs while also accumulating 343 carries and 29 TDs for 2,587 yards (second most in the FBS). He also had six games of 200+ yards, a school record.
Being chosen as a first rounder is a huge responsibility coupled with as much, if not more, expectation. Not just the expectation of teammates and coaches, but also what the individual places on themselves. As a rookie the playbook is just one part of the whole; the speed of the game is vastly quicker and the majority of guys you suit up with are playing at a level considerably higher than your own.
Contributing factors to Gordon’s lower-than-anticipated numbers were the woes of the offensive line play of the Chargers. The team went through 24 O-line combinations. Play-calling was WAY too predictable. The line could not create holes on a consistent basis for the rookie to run through. Perhaps the biggest disservice to Gordon was the fact that his entire career at Wisconsin he had a fullback in front of him, yet there was no such position on his new team.
It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
This year saw a change at offensive coordinator as Frank Reich exited San Diego for Philadelphia. Ken Whisenhunt returned and brought with him the hope for a more productive running game. At the end of his 2013-14 stint as OC, San Diego had the No. 5 offense overall and was 13th in rushing. In 2015, the team was ranked ninth in total offense and they were 31st in rushing. Gordon was ranked 37th amongst all running backs.
With Whisenhunt, Gordon seems to have flourished. Through eight games (no update to include week nine yet), NFL.com has him ranked twelfth amongst running backs with 572 rushing yards (161 carries) and 219 receiving yards (24 catches). Including week nine stats, Footballdb.com has Gordon listed in the No. 3 slot behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (891 yds) and Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray (807 yds). Gordon has logged four games with over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards: Jacksonville 120 yards, Atlanta 121 yards, Denver 155 yards and last week at home against Tennessee he racked up a whopping 261 yards.
Even better is the fact that after nine games, Gordon is leading the league with 11 touchdowns. After not crossing the goal line once last year, the guy that many called a “bust” is number one in touchdowns scored!
The early season loss of Danny Woodhead, one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield, is part of the reason for the uptick in Gordon’s numbers. When Woodhead went down, and Branden Oliver out for the year since pre-season, it meant that Gordon had to step up his own game. It had been stated several times from OTA’s through training camp that he appeared more confident and sure of himself. Now, HE is the one taking the hand-off from Rivers in those 3rd down conversion scenarios when the call is for a run. HE catches some of those 3rd and long passes, and HE is the guy scampering in when they are in the red zone. Except of course for the Broncos game when he should have been given at least ONE shot from the 2-yard line to tie the game and Whisenhunt called for four straight pass plays.
Gordon has the vision this year that he was lacking throughout his rookie campaign. Having Derek Watt, his fullback from Wisconsin, blocking in front of him in games has helped. Less turnover along the offensive line has also made it easier to get off the line of scrimmage. He has fumbled twice this year versus the six from a year ago. The frenzy of 2015 has slowed a bit in his second year.
Gordon has been running so well that after last week’s Titans game in which he accumulated 196 rushing yards, 65 receiving yards and darted in for another rushing TD, the second-year back was nominated for, and won, both the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and the Castrol Clutch Performer of the Week!! Take that, all those Melvin Gordon haters of 2015! Not so much of a bust, after all, is he?!
My prediction is that Gordon will be the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Chargers since LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 1,110 in 2008; LT had 11 TDs that year and 154 receiving yards. Gordon needs only 232 yards to hit the 1,000 mark in rushing. If he continues at the pace he is on now, he will exceed that number. As of this writing he has already reached 1,032 yards combined. I anticipate he will score a total of 18 touchdowns and amass 1,300 rushing yards by season’s end. Bold? Perhaps. But I think he is up to the task.
Now if only he can continue to get the ball put in his hands in those short red zone TD situations!
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!
Before you get out the torches and pitchforks and start hunting me down, allow me to explain how Danny Woodhead’s knee injury could actually be used as a positive from this point on. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Danny. He is a very good running back; extremely valuable as a runner, a receiver, and a blocker for Philip Rivers. He has had a fine career with the Chargers and I am sad to see him lost for the season. I know what you are thinking. “If he is so good, how can his injury be a positive for the team?” Allow me to explain.
With losing Woodhead for the season, Head Coach Mike McCoy and Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will be forced to become better, more aggressive coaches. If you watched the week one game against the Chiefs, you saw that the play calling was completely differently in the second half than in the first. In the first half, the 2015 first round draft pick Melvin Gordon was given the bulk of the load and pounded the ball down the field. Twice he even got into the end zone. He looked like a completely different back than he was last year.
In the second half, Gordon’s role essentially vanished. Woodhead’s number was called upon for almost the entire second half. Why Woodhead? Because he is trustworthy. Coach McCoy remembers the fumble issues that Gordon had last season and did not want to risk a turnover in a game where the Chargers had a big lead. So, Gordon to the bench and Woodhead on the field; playing a role that does not suit him — the “every down back”.
Delayed draws out of the shotgun formation became the play of the half as they went with it time and time again. Although Woodhead was able to move the ball fairly successfully for much of the half, he was unable to punch it into the end zone. His presence did not make the defense fear the run, so pass coverage tightened up and pressure on Rivers picked up as well – a bad combination to say the least. We all know how that game turned out. McCoy and Whisenhunt played timid, cautious offense in an attempt not to lose. This plan did not work and KC made it all the way back to win the game in overtime.
Let’s move to last week’s game against what most people consider a team going in the right direction, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Again, Gordon started out getting the majority of the carries and punished the Jaguars’ defense play after play. Woodhead was doing what he does best. He was basically a third down back who can protect the quarterback and catch outlet passes out of the backfield. Unfortunately, one of those passes lead to his knee giving out, tragically ending his season.
Melvin Gordon, that’s what! McCoy and Whisenhunt had no real choice but to keep Gordon in the game, even with a big lead, and letting him pound the rock. He continued his effective play and actually tallied his first 100 yard rushing game in his short NFL career. Oh, and by the way, he hasn’t fumbled yet! That second half should go far as to gaining trust from the coaches moving forward.
As long as Gordon stays healthy, there is no reason to believe that he cannot be trusted to keep defenses honest and take a lot of pressure off of Rivers. If Melvin continues to be as effective as he has started out, this could be a classic story of someone going from goat to hero in one season. A story that might never have been told if Woodhead was still there to allow McCoy and company to play it safe.
Of course this goes without saying, but Gordon can’t play every snap for the entire game. That would be asking to get him hurt. So who else can step in to give Gordon a breather? Let’s take a look:
Kenneth Farrow: Farrow had a very nice preseason and earned his way on the roster. With Woodhead’s injury forcing him on the field against Jacksonville, Farrow carried the ball four times for a total of 13 yards. Not an earth shattering debut, but it is a very small sample size. What fans need to remember is that the impressive numbers he put up in the preseason were against second and third string defenders; running vanilla game plans. If he gets the call, he would be facing the best of every opponent. The sledding will be a lot more difficult. Time will tell if the Bolts have a player in Farrow.
Andre Williams: Personally, I’m excited to see what this kid can do. He is a strong, bruising back who can get the short yards that are so important on third downs and late in the game. Last season his production tailed off significantly which is why the Giants let him go. Before that, however, he had a good rookie campaign. The team from America’s finest city is hoping that the Giants made a mistake and will catch lightning in a bottle.
Dexter McCluster: McCluster is the guy the Chargers brought in to replace Woodhead; capable as a runner and receiver. He is also a solid kickoff and punt returner. He is fast on his feet and so quick that he often makes people miss. Obviously, he has not played at the level of a Danny Woodhead, or he would not have been cut by the Chiefs and the Titans. My hope is that he will play as a full-time kick returner so that starting wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, can give up that position and avoid unnecessary collisions. With Keenan Allen out for the season, it is vital that Benjamin stays healthy.
This week, the Chargers play the league’s 32nd ranked defense against the run – the Indianapolis Colts. This is another golden opportunity for Gordon and company to get many carries and gain even more confidence. We have to face the facts: Danny Woodhead is done for the year. He is also on the last year of his contract, which means that there is a very good possibility he will not be back with the team next season. The Bolts need to learn how to call plays and win games without the trustworthy, scrappy Woodhead. If they can do that, his injury will go down as the reason San Diego left the ranks of pretenders and became true contenders.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below, I’ll get back to you ASAP. Go Bolts!!
During this past Sunday’s game against Jacksonville, a recurring epidemic reared its ugly head. No, I am not referring to Danny Woodhead’s injury, whom is now officially, like Keenan Allen, lost for the season. Nor was I referring to Jahleel Addae’s collarbone injury.
I am alluding to the fact that San Diego had another 21-point lead against their opponent.
Football followers and diehard Chargers fans should not have to hold their breath when their team holds that big of lead. As it were, and with a very recent history of an epic collapse in Week 1, the football Gods will have to accept the Bolt faithful for not being as blissful as they should have been.
Near the end of the first half in Sunday’s 38-14 victory over the Jaguars, a distasteful nostalgia filled my lungs. Fear flushed my pale demeanor as I sensed the shoe might again fall off the other foot. Proof was needed for many to believe that the Chargers were not going to fall complacent again, and with the clock running out, and generic play calls being made on offense, doubt crept into my nightmare like Freddie Krueger.
Watching Coach Mike McCoy and the team come galloping out of the tunnel to begin the second half, confidence swooned and I no longer believed in Freddie; thus killing him and the pessimism inside me.
After Melvin Gordon’s name was not called in the second half of last week’s loss to the Chiefs, this time around, his bruising style was not letting the Jags defense rest for a moment. Gordon continued to find openings, fight for those extra yards and punish those would-be tacklers, bouncing off of them like a pinball wizard.
The incredible ebb and flow of the game was as serene as watching the sunset from the La Jolla Cove, falling gracefully on the ocean’s skin; radiating hope for all those who are lost. The offense was masterfully unapologetic as Ken Whisenhunt commanded the troops, picking up big yards and scoring at will. John Pagano’s defense pillaged and tormented the Jaguars offense, forcing three turnovers and impeding any type of momentum Jacksonville had.
It was as if they actually learned from their mistakes in Week 1.
There was no three-man rush with a four-touchdown lead late in the third quarter. There was no conservative three-and-outs from the offense. This orchestrated masterpiece was to Charger fans as the classical music enthusiasts gets while listening to Frederic Chopin; the easement of the strings floating in an organized chaos – followed by a force of controlled havoc.
All the while McCoy, the maestro, led this band of eccentric players in perfect unison.
There were too many impact players of this game to list them all. As a well-trained orchestra knows, every instrument is vital to it success of the orchestra as a whole. There was the haunting presence of Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward. The elegant Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams played their roles to perfection, but they would not have been so exemplified if it were not for the rhythmical beating from the ground game.
This is what San Diego has been needing. To destroy and show no mercy while playing this passionately for a full 60 minutes. Every player mattered and contributed to the melodious sound of victory.
During the week leading up to Sunday’s showdown, players admitted to losing focus when Keenan went down against Kansas City. When Danny was being carted off the field this past Sunday, an eerie hush covered the White Out in San Diego.
Yet, lessons were learned, and the band marched on.
Let us hope that the perfect pitch of this harmonious triumph against the Jaguars, continues on its symphony of destruction tour.
Next stop: Indianapolis
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
It is Week 2 and the Bolts are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs. Here are three things they must do in order to avoid being 0-2.
1.) If something is working, don’t stop doing it
Even writing that makes me feel weird because this should be an easy one to follow. Not to this coaching staff. The reason why they lost last week was because they did the exact opposite of what worked in the first half. They quit blitzing and running and started slinging it and playing “bend-but-don’t-break defense,” or as I like to call it, no-win defense. Stick to what works, whether it be onside kicks all game, throwing on every down or doing the wildcat. These are all extreme examples but I think you get the point.
2.) Don’t let up at any point
Again, another one that should be obvious but the Chargers are known to give up big-time leads late in the 4th quarter. I am one who hates to see teams let off the pedal. That does nothing for your team. In case the other team comes back, well the momentum is on their side and it’s not exactly easy to just automatically flip it back into high gear. If you are up 21 points, make it 28; especially against the Jaguars. They have a numerous amount of weapons on their offense that includes Julius Thomas, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, TJ Yeldon and, of course, Blake Bortles. They are vastly underrated and they aren’t a team to mess around with at all.
Who is going to step up for Keenan Allen?
Probably a key for the rest of the season after losing Slayer to a season-ending knee injury. Who will step up and take over his role? I want to think it will be Tyrell Williams. He brings the size and speed that teams dream of and can be a huge mismatch for any opposing defense. He had a decent game last week versus the Chiefs, hauling in two passes but getting 71 yards receiving. Both plays exceeded 20 yards total and he was targeted five times. If Tyrell can step up and be the man, the Chargers’ offense will be okay.
What do you guys think is a key to victory? Let me know down below and go Bolts!
Zak Darman (@WilMyersGOAT)
The staff at BoltBlitz.com gives their picks and analysis of Sunday’s home opener
Zak Darman: Chargers start out hot and get out to a two-score lead going into halftime, giving the fans thoughts of last game. They come out sluggish once again, as Jacksonville, behind Bortles and Julius Thomas, tie it up but Rivers executes a beautiful two-minute drill to get into field-goal range where Lambo nails a 48-yarder to give the Bolts their first win of the season. 27-24 Bolts
Charles LaFurno: McCoy lets Gordon run wild and it pays off. 100+ yards on 20 touches for two touchdowns. Defense comes up huge with a turnover late in the fourth to secure the win. Henry gets his first touchdown. Philip throws for 300 yards but will be under pressure for at least 70% of the game. Luckily, he’s great when doing that. Chargers 24 Jaguars 20
Travis Blake: The pregame strategy meeting between McCoy/Pagano/Wiz goes like this: McCoy starts off by saying “we’re really going to shake things up this game, boys. Since we have to limit Melvin Gordon to 20 carries, I want him to get 19 of them in the second half this week instead of the 1st half like last week. The Jags won’t know what hit em!” Pags chimes in with, “that’s great, Mike! I want my guys to blitz/get pressure only in the second half this game instead of the first half like last week, they won’t be able to handle it!” Wiz looks at both of them and thinks, “at least the weather is nice here, and this job pays good.” So after the best game plan meeting in 4 seasons, and an excellent week of “salty” practice the team comes out to shit the bed in the first half of the game. Every other play is a delay draw to Danny up the middle for little or no gain leaving 3rd and a mile to go, perfect time to throw a bubble screen to Travis Benjamin behind the line of scrimmage. Rivers throws a frustration pick to end the first half and the defense bends to the tune of 250 total yards but only gives up 13 points to a Jax offense that looks sluggish. The second half sees the Bolts come roaring back with Melvin Gordon leading the charge for two more touchdowns. The Bolts win only due to the fact Jax is not quite there yet and the two teams don’t play each other very often. Charger fans complain for another week because we didn’t blow out the hapless Jags and the #FireMcCoy hashtag goes in popularity. 24 to 19 Bolts
Corey Decker: The bolts are looking to make a statement in front of their home crowd. Not just for the team, but for the city as well. The chargers must bounce back and not take their foot off the gas like what happened last week. Chargers 24-10
Cheryl White: Whiz continues to feed Gordon all game and Tyrell Williams uses that big body to his advantage. Isiah Burse sees some playing time. Scores by Gordon, Williams, Woodhead. And of course #85! 27-21 Chargers
Chris Hoke: In a high scoring affair the bolts break out to a 14-0 lead only for the jags to come charging back. Trading points for points. The Chargers lose another heartbreaker. 31-28 Jaguars
Mike Pisciotta: Jacksonville is Jacksonville. Chargers will get out to a resounding 28-10 lead on 2 TDs each from Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon. Jacksonville will make a valiant effort to make McNorv pay for sitting on another lead, but the Bolts hold on to win on a late field goal by Josh Lambo and a comeback drive thwarted by a Jason Verrett pick six. 37-31 Chargers
Will McCafferty: I’m going to assume that the Chargers are going to play a complete game and not pump the breaks in the second half. Chargers 28 Jags 20
Greg Williams: Chargers learn their lesson from last week and show up for BOTH halves. Gordon runs for 80 and a touchdown and Rivers throws three touchdowns (two to Gates). Chargers beat the Jags 30-20.
Dave “Booga” Peters: Gordon scores twice, again. Manti Te’o provides an encore performance of last year’s Jags-Bolts contest, picking off Bortles (and missing several tackles). Chargers rack up almost 200 yards on the ground and Rivers passes the 300-yard mark in an offensive explosion. Jalen Ramsey picks off Rivers and does “the Bosa shrug,” reminding fans who the team should have taken (I’m kidding, folks…. kinda). Chargers 31 Jaguars 30
Right now across the country, there are scores and scores of people working hard at setting their fantasy football lineup. These people are watching highlights, calculating and comparing statistics, reading injury reports and new reports and comparing their bench players to their starters. Many of these people have Chargers on their roster. You may not be impressed by the lengths that some will go to field the best team possible each week, and that’s okay. Impressed or not, I believe that deciding whether or not to start a Charger became extremely difficult thanks to last week’s schizophrenic season opener against the Chiefs.
For the average fantasy player it is not that difficult to make decisions on who should play and who should sit on your bench. Big named players generally start no matter how much they stunk the week before. Guys who had breakout games will normally start to see if one can catch lightning in a bottle. Players who are going up against a team that struggles against a certain position will also get a chance. The problem is that when considering what Chargers to start, one must look at last Sunday’s game as the proverbial tale of two halves.
You see, if the first half of the game, the Chargers looked like world beaters. They ran the ball with authority. They passed the ball down the field with relative ease. They scored at a pace that should have landed them in the 40’s by the final gun. Even the defense stepped up and was shutting down the Chiefs offense. Everything was great in Charger Country! You could not go wrong picking most players to start for your fantasy team. Heck, owners who had the courage to start Melvin Gordon were thinking they were going to be fantasy legends! Then it happened. Star wide receiver Keenan Allen blew out his knee and the Chargers lost their will to live.
Yes, it was shortly after the devastating injury to Allen that his team stopped being productive. Honestly, the second half was the polar opposite of the first. In fact, the loss to Allen seemed to affect everyone, including the coaching staff! It was like a completely different team. Players who dominated in the first half, laid down in the second half, or were effectively benched (see Melvin Gordon). Coaches who were aggressive in the first half were passive in the second. It was as if it were Week 5 of the preseason and the starters only played half of the game. The strange thing was that the replacements were wearing the same numbers as the starters! So how is one supposed to know who to start for their fantasy team? Let’s take a look at some key players and see how last week’s games will impact your decision.
Philip Rivers (QB): I would think that Rivers gets a pass (no pun intended). He put up very good numbers in the first half, with a touchdown and approximately 150 yards in the air. Two things about Rivers’ game that are somewhat disconcerting to fantasy owners are that two of the Chargers touchdowns were on the ground and that the offense completely shut down in the second half. The rushing touchdowns are a concern to fantasy owners because they showed that this perceived commitment to the run, that came to the team with the signing of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, seems to be reality. That means fewer touchdowns for Rivers. He also lost his second favorite target when Allen went down, so the run should have been used even more. The Bolts did try to throw the ball in the second half, but you could see that Rivers had lost his poise and had “happy feet” in the pocket. His accuracy was off as well as he missed a couple of key passes that would have moved the chains, and even more importantly, ran the clock. Now, fantasy owners have to wonder which Rivers they will get? The Rivers who throws the ball all over the field, or the Rivers who hands it off inside the 10-yard line? If you have a stud QB on the bench, you may want to start him until the Chargers figure out how they want to use their best asset.
Melvin Gordon (RB): I was one of the risky fantasy owners who chose to believe that Flash Gordon was back! In the first half, he knocked out around 50 yards and had two touchdowns! The Chargers built a nice lead and it was obvious that Gordon would pound the rock all day and rack up the yards and fantasy points. Then halftime came and apparently the adjustment that the Chargers brain-trust came up with was to sit Gordon on the bench, put Rivers in the shotgun and hand it off to Woodhead. I could not believe what I was seeing, despite having been a long-time Chargers fan. So what are we going to get from Gordon going forward? Will coach McCoy trust him for all four quarters? Hard to start a guy who may vanish at any time.
Danny Woodhead (RB): Always a solid player who can get you rushing yards as well as receiving yards. He is supposed to be the third-down back, but seemed to be the number one guy in the second half. You may want to give him a start, but beware that McCoy and Whisenhunt may learn from the past and actually use Gordon more this week. Tough call.
Antonio Gates (TE): Not a real exciting game for San Diego’s future Hall of Famer. Only targeted four times and he came down with three receptions for 20 yards. Basically a possession receiver who normally gets a shot in the endzone. No touchdowns last week. Maybe they are setting up the Jaguars for a big day for Gates.
Hunter Henry (TE): This kid has great hands and runs well. He appears to be the heir apparent to his mentor, Antonio Gates. In Week 1, he was only targeted two times and had one reception for 20 yards. Hopefully, he will become a larger part of the offense going forward. But again, there is no certainty for when he will break out.
Tyrell Williams (WR): Here is an interesting situation. With Allen out, Williams could become a larger part of the Chargers’ offensive plans. He was targeted five time but only had two receptions. Although his receptions per target numbers are down, he did gain 71 yards! Yes, both of his receptions were big plays that ate up large chunks of the field. The Chargers desperately need a big play option down the field. Will Williams fill the role?
Dontrelle Inman (WR): Another wide receiver who has had some big catches in his young career. He seems to be an obvious pick to become a replacement for Allen. That being said, he only had one catch on three targets for a grand total of six yards. Hardly encouraging. You could take a shot and pick this kid up, but I would sit him on your bench until he proves he can put up some points.
Defense/Special Teams (DEF/ST): Again, if the defense that came out in the first half shows up for four quarters, they will be worth a fantasy start. They held their opponent to three points and completely shut down the run. They even managed to get to the quarterback. Then came the second half where they allowed Alex Smith, a noted game manager, to throw for a total of 330 yards and gave up a respectable 83 on the ground. Running backs catching passes out of the backfield was the Achilles Heal for the Chargers all day. They simply could not stop the backs from getting key first downs through the air. As for special teams, they weren’t that special. The return game was non-existent. Place kicker Josh Lambo had a respectable game, but did miss one huge field goal that could be considered the difference in the game. I’ll cut him some slack though since that field goal was 54 yards. He had the distance, he just left it out to the right. It happens from that distance all the time. But what all this shows is that even the Def/ST can’t be trusted to perform for an entire game.
To be completely honest, and take away all fan loyalty away, there are no Chargers who should be a lock to start for your fantasy football team this week. Philip Rivers is probably your best bet as he routinely scores in the high teens to low twenties. Then again, the Jaguars defense only gave up 199 yards passing to Aaron Rodgers last week. Anything is possible, but unless the Chargers coaching staff decides to stay aggressive for all four quarters, fantasy dream games could turn into fantasy nightmares.
Good luck with your matchups this week. I hope you have a deep bench and didn’t rely on our Bolts to make the difference for you this week!
Please leave your comments below. I will answer all questions and reply to all comments.
The NFL regular season starts in just under two months. The 2016 schedule has the Chargers facing the AFC South, NFC South, the Miami Dolphins (AFC East) and the Cleveland Browns (AFC North).
Below is a breakdown of their 2016 opponents.
Week 1: @Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Record: 11-5, 2nd AFC West
Offense: 27th overall
Defense: 7th overall
The Chiefs started 2015 slow, losing five straight games. They ended the season winning 10 straight and won their first playoff game in 20 years. The running game should be solid for the Chiefs in 2016. Jamaal Charles is coming back from an ACL injury. Along with his fellow running backs, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, KC sports one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Week 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Record: 5-11, 3rd AFC South
Offense: 18th overall
Defense: 24th overall
The Jaguars had a less than stellar season, placing third in the worst division in the NFL in 2015. Jacksonville only won one road game last year. The Jags took to the draft to help beef up their defense by signing defensive players with their first five picks, including DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and LB Myles Jack from UCLA.
Week 3: @Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 28th overall
Defense: 26th overall
The Colts had a 3-5 record in the first half of the 2015 season, losing starting quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 8. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and journeyman signal caller Josh Freeman went 5-3 in the second half, but it still was not enough to win the division. If Andrew Luck can stay healthy in 2016, the Colts could make improvements on offense. They drafted a much-needed center, Ryan Kelly from Alabama, with the 18th pick overall.
Week 4: New Orleans Saints
2015 Record: 7-9, 3rd NFC South
Offense: 2nd overall
Defense: 31st overall
The Saints were a very lopsided team in 2015. Their offense averaged 403.8 yards and 25.5 points per game, but their defense allowed an average of 413.8 yards and 29.8 points per game. That is clearly not a recipe for success. The Saints should continue to have a stellar offense with veteran Drew Brees at quarterback.
Week 5: @Oakland Raiders
2015 Season: 7-9, 3rd AFC West
Offense: 24th overall
Defense: 22nd overall
The Raiders made some improvements last year in an attempt to have their first winning season since losing the Super Bowl in 2003, but fell short, again. Their 7-9 record was an improvement considering they have averaged only 4.9 wins a season in the last 13 years. The Raiders will probably continue to improve in 2016. They have a young team lead by third-year quarterback Derek Carr. Don’t sleep on the Raiders in 2016.
Week 6: Denver Broncos
2015 Season: 12-4, 1st AFC West
Offense: 16th overall
Defense: 1st overall
The Broncos won the division — again — for the fifth consecutive season and went on to win Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning had his worst season, finishing with only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games. The stellar Broncos’ defense allowed an average of only 283.1 yards and 18.5 points per game. The Broncos are bringing back pretty much the same defense in 2016. The retirement of Manning brings veteran Mark Sanchez, back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch fighting for the starting position. Rumor has it that Sanchez and Siemian are neck-and-neck in the fight to win the job.
Week 7: @Atlanta Falcons
2015 Season: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 7th overall
Defense: 16th overall
The Falcons started out the 2015 season hot, winning six of their first eight games. The second half was the exact opposite, as they went 2-6. One of the two wins in the second half was against their division rival, and eventual Super Bowl runner-up, the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons drafted strong safety Keanu Neal from Florida with the 17th overall pick to boost their struggling defense.
Week 8: @Denver Broncos
See week six.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC South
Offense: 30th overall
Defense: 12th overall
The Titans looked like a sleeper team in Week 1 of the 2015 season, when they won 42-14 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, led by 2nd overall pick, Marcus Mariota, who had 209 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Despite Mariota’s success in Week 1, the Titans ended up with the worst record in 2015, averaging only 311.8 yards and 18.7 points per game. It will be hard to do much worse in 2016, but anything is possible.
Week 10: Miami Dolphins
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th AFC East
Offense: 26th overall
Defense: 25th overall
The Dolphins were led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who averaged 263 passing yards per game and had 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. While those numbers aren’t terrible, his offensive line could not keep him standing up, as he was sacked 45 times. The Titans could fare better in 2016 when it comes to sacks with the signing of offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @Houston Texans
2015 Season: 9-7, 1st AFC South
Offense: 19th overall
Defense: 3rd overall
The Texans started the season off rocky, going 3-5 in the first half of the season but turned it around in the second half, only losing two games. The third ranked defense allowed only an average of 19.6 points for game and even had five games where their opponent only scored six points. The Texans liked what they saw when Brock Osweiler took over the quarterback duties for the Broncos and signed him to be their starter in 2016. This move could either make them or break them.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th NFC South
Offense: 5th overall
Defense: 10th overall
The Buccaneers should have had a better record in 2015 since they had a top-10 overall offense and defense. Stats don’t always show the big picture, especially considering their offense averaged 375.9 yards per game, but only 21.4 points per game. The defense allowed an average of 340.4 yards per and 26.4 points per game. The Bucs took to their coaching staff to bring change, naming Dirk Koetter as the new head coach, replacing Lovie Smith, along with Mike Smith as the new defensive coordinator and Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator.
Week 14: @Carolina Panthers
2015 Season: 15-1, 1st NFC South
Offense: 11th overall
Defense: 6th overall
The Panthers had an explosive offense in 2015, leading the league with 500 total points and an average of 31.3 points per game. Their offense, lead by quarterback Cam Newton, was not able to fare well against the best defense in the league and lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos, scoring only 10 points. The Panthers will be without DB Charles Tillman, who recently announced his retirement after 13 years in the league. They signed former Chargers punter Mike Scifres to a one-year deal.
Week 15: Oakland Raiders
See week five.
Week 16: @ Cleveland Browns
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC North
Offense: 25th overall
Defense: 27th overall
For the fourth straight year, the Browns were in last place in their division. The quarterback situation in Cleveland was their biggest downfall in 2015. The off-field antics of quarterback Johnny Manziel had the Browns switching the starting positions between the former first-round draft pick and Josh McCown. The Browns lost their best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, to the Chargers during free agency. They went to the draft in hopes of replacing him, drafting five wide receivers, including Corey Coleman from Baylor with the 15th overall pick.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
See week one.
The Chargers only face four teams with a winning record last year, but two of the four of those teams are the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. They will face two teams with a .500 season and seven teams with a losing season in 2015, including the Oakland Raiders.
The schedule seems pretty easy — on paper — and I predict that they will definitely win more than four games this season. The Chargers play in a tough division and will need to win some of those games to be contenders in 2016.
Thanks for reading!
Let me begin by saying that the fan-boy in me is in its usual form regarding the excitement I have about the upcoming NFL season and your San Diego Chargers.
This is the time of the year where all 32 teams are sporting a 0-0 record, and the sky is the limit for every NFL team — well, except the Cleveland Browns.
This is also the time of the year where finding things to write about is difficult but not impossible.
Forgive me in advance for the fluff pieces that will come out until the beginning of training camp.
Below is a look at the Chargers’ 2016 schedule:
Week 1 – @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2 – versus Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 – @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 4 – versus New Orleans Saints
Week 5 – @ Oakland Raiders
Week 6 – versus Denver Broncos
Week 7 – @ Atlanta Falcons
Week 8 – @ Denver Broncos
Week 9 – versus Tennessee Titans
Week 10 – versus Miami Dolphins
Week 11 – BYE WEEK
Week 12 – @ Houston Texans
Week 13 – versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 14 – @ Carolina Panthers
Week 15 – versus Oakland Raiders
Week 16 – @ Cleveland Browns
Week 17 – versus Kansas City Chiefs
In addition to what I mentioned above about this time of the offseason, this is also when you look at the Chargers’ schedule on paper and decide where the team will finish up this year’s campaign.
Quite frankly, the slate of opponents this season does not seem to be daunting.
Obviously, the team cannot go 0-6 in the division this year like they did in 2015 — not if they have any hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season.
Below is a poll. You know the drill: place your vote and leave a comment stating why you voted the way you did.
Thanks in advance for reading, voting and commenting.
I am really looking forward to your responses.
Dave Booga Peters