As you all may now know, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco got a three-year extension right before the start of the 2015 season. But did he deserve it? Here I breakdown his three draft classes, free agent classes and contract extensions. I will be grading by a very easy criteria: Performance (worth the draft pick, money, etc), Value (starter or depth) and if they’re still on the team. It will be broke down by a number scale of 0-10, 0 being very bad and 10 being very good. At the end of each section I will give a percentage and a letter grade to that category by adding up the number I give to the player and divide it by 10 (max number a player/move can get). 90-100% = A, 89-80% = B 79-70% = C, and anything below that is an F. Lets get to it:
His Draft Classes
***Note: these rankings are how they have played since joining the Chargers. 2015 draft class is too early to judge, I get that, but it’s on how they have played as a Charger.
2013: #11 OL DJ Fluker, #38 MLB Manti Te’o (traded up), #76 WR Keenan Allen, #145 CB Steve Williams, #179 OLB Tourek Williams, #221 QB Brad Sorenson
DJ Fluker: Started off as a Right Tackle and played fairly well in 2013 before injuries in 2014 set in and he was recently moved to Right Guard in the offseason. He didn’t play as well as hoped, but it was his first time ever being there so it wasn’t really unexpected. Grade: 6
Manti Te’o: Trading up in the draft for anyone who isn’t a playmaker is a very big loss no matter what you gave up to get said player. Manti has been battling injuries most his career and is still having troubles wrapping up and tackling NFL sized players. He isn’t terrible like Donald Butler and did play better next to Perryman. Grade: 5
Keenan Allen: This was the best draft pick Telesco has had and Keenan is quickly developing into one of the best receivers in the AFC. He was on a torrid pace this season leading the league in catches and yards and was well on his way to breaking records until he got hurt. Again. Ended the season on IR with a lacerated Kidney. Grade: 9
Steve Williams: Keenan’s roommate at Cal, he hasn’t really done much before this season and even ended his rookie year before it started. He’s looking more and more like depth than he is a solid part of the team and wouldn’t be missed in terms of production if cut. Grade: 3
Tourek Williams: Tourek hasn’t done anything either since his rookie season. He was injured the entire year this season and even ended up finishing the year on IR. Grade: 1
Brad Sorenson: Has never been listed as more than the third-string quarterback, he spent 2014 on another team and 2015 between free agency and practice squad. Grade: 0
2014: #25 CB Jason Verrett, #50 Jerry Attaochu (traded up), #89 OL Chris Watt, #165 DT Ryan Carrethers, #201 RB Marion Grice, #240 WR Tevin Reese
Jason Verrett: Verrett is quickly becoming a lockdown cornerback, if only he can stay healthy. He had 3 picks this season, one for 6, and was ranked the fifth best CB this season according to pro football focus. Grade: 8
Jerry Attaochu: Again, trading up in the draft for players who aren’t playmakers hurt your team no matter what you gave up. Attaochu is one of those guys. Chargers moved up to get him and he has been getting better, but isn’t a playmaker who can bring it from week to week yet. Grade: 5
Chris Watt: Watt was a reach when drafted and a guy the coaches are hoping to be the heir to Hardwick at the center position. It hasn’t worked and he hasn’t stayed healthy. In fact, he has been graded as one of the worst offensive linemen in football. Grade: 3
Ryan Carrethers: Carrethers shows promise but for some reason, the coaches don’t play him. Whether it’s work ethic or attitude, we don’t know. But for him being a second year, 5th round pick, it’s not really uncommon. Grade: 5
Marion Grice: Got beat out by undrafted free agent Brandon Oliver and then swooped up by Arizona. Grade: 0
Tevin Reese: Never had a chance at the NFL level because he was way too small. His speed was for real but his size and catching were not. Never made the roster. Grade: 0
2015: #15 RB Melvin Gordon (Traded up), #48 MLB Denzel Perryman, #83 CB Craig Mager, #153 OLB Kyle Emanuel, #192 DE Darius Philon
Melvin Gordon: For trading up in the draft, see Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu. Yes, ANOTHER trade up and this time for a running back. Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin was most everyone’s pick that were Charger fans. But he has shown tremendous flaws in his game and hasn’t been anywhere close to the guy the Chargers had hoped for. The line was a problem as well, no doubt about it. Grade: 2
Denzel Perryman: Perryman looks promising and has quickly become a fan favorite. By the end of the year, he took the starting job from Butler (and deservedly so) and shined. He is by far the best linebacker we have on this team and he only started in about 5 games. Grade: 7
Craig Mager: Mager couldn’t find the field in 2015. He was a very big reach in the third round to begin with, but I understand why he did it. He has a lot to work on to become valuable and it’s going to take a few years to see that most likely. Grade: 3
Kyle Emanuel: Emanuel started strong. First game of the year vs the Lions he had a sack and an interception and then eventually was nowhere to be seen. He has tackling issues and doesn’t seem to set the edge like an OLB needs to do. He does come from a small school and was a 5th round pick so it is warranted and excusable. Grade: 4
Darius Philon: A guy I really liked coming out of Arkansas, Philon has shown some promise but overall looks to be a very good rotational player. He was put on the IR-designated to return list during the season but was playing well before that. Grade: 3
Final result: 64/170 = 37%, F
His free agent signings (major ones only)
***Note: these are how the players have played since joining the Chargers
2013: RB Danny Woodhead, OT King Dunlap, CB Derek Cox, OG Chad Rinehart, TE John Phillips
Danny Woodhead: Probably Telesco’s best signing and a big reason why we made the playoffs in 2013. Woodhead brings that “security blanket” the team had been missing since Sproles signed with New Orleans. He was versatile up until the Bills game last season where he ended it with a broken fibula. Other than that, he’s been a rock. Grade: 9
King Dunlap: Another strong signing by Telesco. Dunlap wasn’t much in Philly but Chargers brought him in on a very team friendly deal and he excelled and actually earned a pay raise this last offseason. Another solid signing by Telesco that year. Grade: 8
Derek Cox: The biggest miss by Telesco in 2013. He was toast everytime he touched the field and eventually was benched and ended his time with the Chargers. Cut after his first season. Grade: 2
Chad Rinehart: He was average at the guard position in 2013 and awful there in 2014. He was a fill in for the future and expecting anything other than below average was a pipe dream. Grade: 4
John Phillips: Nothing flashy but he was the blocking Tight End that the team needed. Being mostly used as that, he has caught a few passes and even a touchdown. He was eventually cut by the team this season and brought back as well. Grade: 4
2014: RB Donald Brown, CB Brandon Flowers, MLB Kavell Connor, TE David Johnson. Quick note: Kellen Clemens was also signed, but as a backup QB it is unfair to grade so I left him off for those purposes
Donald Brown: Terrible signing by Telesco as he was brought in for RB depth and got $5 million a year. He went inactive for most of this season as well. Grade: 3
Brandon Flowers: As bad as the Brown signing was, is how good of a signing the Flowers one was. He really boosted this secondary and his lockdown play earned him his new contract in this past offseason, something I will get to in a bit. Grade: 8
Kavell Connor: Brought in for LB depth, Kavell had a big workload in 2014 as he filled in for oft injured Manti Te’o and played fairly well when called upon. Grade: 6
David Johnson: Brought in to be the FB, David Johnson is brutal. He constantly looks lost and doesn’t know where he’s going and doesn’t seem to find the field that often now as well. Grade: 3
2015: WR Jacoby Jones, OG Orlando Franklin, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Patrick Robinson, DB Jimmy Wilson
Jacoby Jones: He was brought in to give us a feared return game. He never lived up to that and in fact, wasn’t even half of what we expected. Cut halfway through the season. Grade: 0
Orlando Franklin: Big money linemen signing, Franklin has been a HUGE disappointment as he isn’t even close to the guy who Telesco thought he was signing. System fit, as they ran a zone scheme could be a huge factor of why, but overall he was as bad as Rinehart. Grade: 3
Stevie Johnson: Started out strong, pulling in touchdowns in each of his first two games played for San Diego, but then seemed to check out and then eventually got hurt. Grade: 6
Patrick Robinson: The sneakiest of signings, PRob may have been the best signing of Telesco’s tenure. He graded as a very solid corner this season by Pro Football Focus and was a bright spot in a secondary that had high expectations going into the season. Grade: 7
Jimmy Wilson: Jimmy Wilson was brought in to be a Marcus Gilchrist type safety. One that could play safety and cornerback but actually do it well. Well, he couldn’t and eventually got cut at the end of the season. Grade: 2
Final Result: 65/140 = 46%, F
His contract extensions/re-signings (major one’s only)
2013: K Nick Novak, RB Ronnie Brown
Nick Novak: There wasn’t many re-signings his first year, which wasn’t bad. But Novak was solid here as he was very reliable. Grade: 8
Ronnie Brown: Ronnie Brown was brought in as a veteran backup and one who was very reliable with the rock. He had one big touchdown vs the Benagls that sealed the deal in our first playoff win since 2008. So for that, he gets a little extra love from me in his grade. Grade: 7
2014: MLB Donald Butler, S Darrell Stuckey, OG Chad Rinehart, CB Richard Marshall
Donald Butler: This couldn’t have gone any worse than it has. 2014 he was rated as one of the worst MLB’s in football and in 2015, rookie Denzel Perryman took his starting job and his time as a Charger may be over. Grade: 0
Darrell Stuckey: Solid as a special teamer, Stuckey was another sneaky good extension. He has made the pro bowl a few times as a special teamer but as a safety, he has been very limited in playing time. Grade: 6
Chad Rinehart: From an average 2013, to an awful 2014, Rinehart was below average for us. I understand the signing, but should have had a plan B. Grade: 3
Richard Marshall: Marshall had a knack at getting turnovers at the end of 2013, but most of that was due to him being in the right place at the right time. He was brought in for depth because he knew the system in 2014 but due to injuries, he played more than he should have. Grade: 3
2015: OT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers
King Dunlap: Dunlap was a rock for us since 2013, but after his extension, he was very concussion prone again. Missed a chunk of the season and hasn’t lived up to his extension quite yet. Grade: 4
Brandon Flowers: Another player hit by injuries and possibly even coaching, Flowers under performed big time and was even rated as a bottom third corner this season. He really needs to have a bounceback season for his contract to not look so bad. Grade: 2
Final Result: 33/80 = 41%, F
Final overall result: 162/390 = 41%, F
Using my grading scale, Tom Telesco has gotten an ‘F’ grade as a general manager hitting on only 4 of every 10 personnel decisions. This doesn’t even include an undersized defense he has put together and coaches that are not good at what they do.
We all have differences of opinion on the different players aforementioned, but we can all agree that most his decisions have been sub-par.
Agree or disagree with my assessment? Did Telesco deserve this extension? I don’t think so, as my grading scale has proved. Let me know below!
The San Diego Chargers emerge from their bye week with a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The 2-7 Bolts look to finish strong after a dismal 2-7 first half of the season. In the first two seasons of the Telesco/McCoy regime, San Diego finished with identical 9-7 records. In this third season they would have to run the table in the last seven games to finish with that mark.
The Chargers have five division games remaining, (they have lost one game to Oakland already), and two out of division games against Miami and Jacksonville. The odds of running the table are miniscule. Finishing with a .500 record is just as improbable. A top-10 selection in the NFL draft is more than likely barring a catastrophic turn of events.
A message will need to be sent if for no other reason than to show the fan base that such an outcome is not acceptable. Whether they stay in San Diego or move to Los Angeles, hope must be rekindled for this team and they way to do so will be with fresh faces calling the shots. Seats are getting hot in America’s Finest City. They will get hotter with each loss and hottest if the Chargers miss the playoffs. At this point, the playoffs are nothing more than a pipe dream.
Heads will roll. Here’s a look at the prime suspects and the temperature of their seat right now:
Dean Spanos. Rarely does the owner abandon ship on his team. He will point the finger of blame at his staff and remove the pieces he sees fit. Eyes do deserve to be on him for his frugality. If his miserly ways start to impact the NFL’s bottom line (dollars), he could be ‘nudged’ out the door. Spanos is well-liked among the other owners so the probability of that happening right now is less than zero.
Something radical would have to occur such as local fans boycotting the games to the point where it becomes painstakingly obvious when games are shown live. This approach was successful as recently as 2012 in Major League Baseball in the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers ex-owner Frank McCourt. Do Chargers fans care enough to band together on this course of action if they thought underspending is the chief cause of the Bolts failures? That is the million dollar question.
John Pagano. The defensive coordinator has not shown improvement since taking over the position in 2012. In his first year the Bolts finished 24th in the league in total defense. In 2013 they moved up to 10th. Last season the Chargers plummeted back to 24th. Nine games into this season San Diego is 9th in total defense but giving up 28 points per game. The next seven games could have a huge impact on whether Pags stays or goes.
Tom Telesco. The Chargers General Manager is on the hook for the Chargers failings as much as any member of the team. At the end of the day, Telesco is the decision-maker. The team is a reflection of his vision. It was Telesco’s choice to resurrect the philosophy he used in Indianapolis of jettisoning the veteran players and bringing in young, untested and hungry players who were capable of playing multiple positions. The GM is quickly finding out that what works in one place doesn’t automatically work elsewhere.
Telesco has done admirable work building the team through the draft. Cornerstones of the future have been unearthed with the drafting of WR Keenan Allen, RT D.J. Fluker, CB Jason Verrett and RB Melvin Gordon. A disturbing fact is of the 17 players Telesco has drafted, only one has played a complete season (Fluker). Gordon and Kyle Emanuel are on pace to do so this season.
Helping Telesco is his savvy with contracts and getting players to come in free agency and add impact. RB Danny Woodhead, RT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers and G Orlando Franklin have been key additions. His front office could have done better to keep revered veterans such as S Eric Weddle in the loop when it comes to contract issues as that could affect future free agent signings and keeping his own players down the road. If the Chargers finish with a losing record the pressure will be turned up on the GM to produce or he too will be looking for work elsewhere sooner than later.
Kevin Turner. The special teams coordinator of the Chargers is having a dreadful year. Through eight games the Bolts had one punt return yard with Jacoby Jones as the primary return man. Meanwhile, opponents have accumulated 276 punt return yards. For the ninth game Jones was cut and Javontee Herndon was promoted from the practice squad to assume the kick and punt return duties. Herndon had one kick return for 24 yards in the game, surpassing Jones’ kickoff return average of 21.4 through eight games. The special teams have been a weakness all season, giving a big field position advantage to the opposition and not gaining yards in the return game. Should this pattern continue, Turner will be cleaning out his office at Chargers Park.
Ninth Circle of Hell
Frank Reich. The Bolts offensive coordinator has definitely been offensive. The offense has been difficult to watch at times as the play calls get more and more predictable. We can all see the inside handoff coming from the pistol formation before it happens. The OC seems unwilling to vary from his game plan to accommodate his talent. The pistol formation and no-huddle offense has been advantageous for Philip Rivers at times. However, with a power running back who thrived running out of the I-formation with a fullback opening the first hole why not adapt that into the game plan?
Melvin Gordon set NCAA records and ran for over 2,500 yards at Wisconsin last season. Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates would be a matchup nightmare for defenses if they were to be deployed on the field at the same time. Injuries, suspension and Reich’s unwillingness to add new wrinkles have prevented this from happening on more than just random occasions. With Reich coordinating the offense, the Chargers are averaging 23 points per game, five fewer than they’re giving up. The window on Philip Rivers career is quickly closing and it’s the wrong time to be going the wrong way in the production department. If San Diego fails this season, Reich will be the first man shown the door.
Mike McCoy. The head coach was the marquee hire when the Chargers landed him as the successor to Norv Turner. The man lauded for his yeoman’s work adapting his coaching style to fit his quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow, Jake Delhomme and Peyton Manning. His teachings resulted in wins and playoff berths and the same was expected when he took over the reins in San Diego.
Instead, the team has underachieved. Many games have been lost in the final quarter or on the final drive. McCoy has been very conservative in his play-calling. Favoring a ball-control, short-passing, long scoring drive preference the Chargers have very little vertical offense. Rivers, an excellent deep ball passer, goes deep a couple of times per game if that. This team lacks a killer instinct. They lack an ability to finish games and that reflects coaching.
To boot, McCoy is in the third year of a four-year deal. He’s been paid most of what he signed for and it wouldn’t be a big financial hit to let him go a year early. San Diego hadn’t made the playoffs for three seasons before McCoy arrived. They made it to the playoffs the year McCoy arrived and won a wild card game that season. This season, barring a miracle, will be the second year in a row the playoffs have eluded the Chargers. This team is as talented as any in the league but they do not have the results to show for it. Unless they can rebound and finish at .500 someone has to take the fall for this season. Usually the head coach us that man.
In closing, injuries can’t be blamed for everything. Yes, injuries have derailed a very promising season. Keenan Allen was on a record-setting pace. Coaches are paid big bucks to get the most out of their talent regardless of who is on the field. Management is paid big bucks to find the best players to suit the team needs.
San Diego was sitting at 2-2 before they lost to Green Bay and Pittsburgh on the last play of the game. Same thing would happen in Baltimore two weeks later. Aside from the games against Minnesota and Oakland the Chargers have played as well or better than their opponent despite the end result. There are no moral victories in the NFL and when you don’t win, people lose. Don’t expect to see half the names on this list wearing lightning bolts next season.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Who’s to blame for the Bolts performance this season? Leave your thoughts below.
The Greg One
The Chargers announced that they have released return man Jacoby Jones on Tuesday.
Jones signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract this offseason with the team.
The former Raven was signed to provide the much-needed spark that the Bolts were missing in both the kick return and punt return departments. Jones totaled minus-four yards on five punt returns and 193 yards on nine kickoff returns.
Jones was not brought in to make an impact as a wide receiver, and he certainly did not, seeing as he did not have even one reception. You can count his offensive snaps on two fingers (maybe even one or none, so to speak).
I have no problem admitting that I was ecstatic when he was signed by general manager Tom Telesco. I expected him to do just what Telesco expected; provide a genuine threat in the return game that would help the Chargers win the field-position game against opposing teams.
In defense of Jones, the Chargers’ special teams units have been plain terrible at opening lanes for all of the San Diego returners in both the kick and punt return games. But seeing him watch a punt hit the ground on the 20-yard line — when he clearly could have caught it, calling for a fair catch — and it rolling down to the three-yard line at an incredibly crucial time of the game made it clear; he wasn’t the guy up to that point and he wasn’t going to be moving forward.
Now that Jones is gone, and the team has promoted Javontee Herndon to the 53-man roster, Herndon should take over duties at both kick returner and punt returner.
Though Jones was not used as a receiver, Herndon could provide some depth to the receiving units, as well.
So long, Jacoby. We wish you nothing but the best in all of your future endeavors.
This Sunday marks the official halfway mark for our beloved San Diego Chargers. The season that began with so much promise has given way to despair and a 2-5 season record heading into a road game against the also woebegone 1-6 Baltimore Ravens. For those who have missed it, here’s a quick look back at how the season has transpired.
The Good: Franchise quarterback Philip Rivers is once again proving to all the doubters that he is an elite NFL quarterback. Through seven weeks he leads the NFL in passing yards (2,452), completed passes (215), attempts (311), yards per game (350), first downs (116) and trails only Tom Brady and Carson Palmer in touchdowns (16 to 15).
As a result, Keenan Allen has thrived and is set to destroy his stat line from last season. Allen accumulated 77 receptions for 783 yards and four touchdowns with a 10.2 yards per catch average. This season, Allen leads the NFL in receptions with 62. He is third in the league in yards (690), yards per game (98.6) and has three touchdowns. With eight catches against the Ravens, Allen will set the record for most receptions through eight games. Keenan is also in reach of the NFL single season receptions record of 143 set by Marvin Harrison in 2002.
Despite only getting 85 carries to date, Melvin Gordon is fifth in rushing yards for a rookie with 386. We’ve already seen flashes of brilliance as Gordon already has five runs over twenty yards.
Danny Woodhead continues to be Mr. Reliable for the Chargers. Looking even better than the 2013 version, Woodhead is second on the team in rushing with 49 rushes for 188 yards and in receiving with 39 catches for 407 yards. Surprisingly, Woodhead is the only Chargers running back that has a touchdown. Gordon still hasn’t found pay dirt and trails Woodhead by two.
The Bad: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. The promise of a banner year headlined by the Gordon drafting, Rivers extension and excellent free agency signings is slowly slipping away. Before the season started the argument was what to do with the abundance of offensive line talent. Move Fluker to guard? Who starts at right tackle? Who is the second unit? Unfortunately, no sooner than the first game started did linemen start dropping like flies. As of this week, every offensive lineman has missed game action with the exception of Joe Barksdale. As a result, Philip Rivers has paid the price as he’s been sacked 18 times. That’s an average of almost three sacks a game. At that rate, not only the Chargers season but Rivers’ season is at risk.
The injuries are not limited to the offensive side of the ball. (By the way, the recently returned Antonio Gates is anticipated to miss games with a knee injury). The defensive side of the ball has been ravaged as well. Defensive captain Eric Weddle is out with a groin injury. NT Sean Lissemore, ILB’s Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman are all out. Cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers have missed game action throughout the season but are back on the field. OLB Tourek Williams will see his first regular season action after suffering a foot injury in the preseason.
As a result of the ongoing injuries, San Diego has not been able to stop the opposition. The Chargers rank 18th in total defense (31st vs. rush, 9th vs. pass), giving up an average of 28 points per game. The bolts have the top ranked offense in the league in terms of yards per game(430.7), but only average 23.6 points per game. That type of differential is not and will not win many games.
The Ugly: Special teams play has not been special at all. Special teams continually gives the opposition favorable field position and gains little for the San Diego offense. There’s only one fact you need to know to illustrate this point. The Chargers have played more games (7) than they have return yards (3).
Play calling has been a disappointment to put it kindly. Is there anyone that doesn’t see the first down inside handoff from their couch? The patchwork offensive line isn’t holding back defenders or opening running lanes for Gordon. We all expected a little more genius when the front office scooped the forward-thinking quarterback guru Mike McCoy from Denver. What we’ve seen is anything but progressive and forward-thinking.
Tackling has been atrocious. The bad tackling can’t be attributed to injuries but it can be attributed to bad coaching and a lack of fundamentals. Have the players tuned out the coaches? Are the players going into business for themselves and playing to add to their highlight reel when other teams begin calling their agents?
The Outlook: Over the last three weeks, the Chargers have lost two games on the last play of the game and were destroyed by the Raiders, of all teams. With the exception of the Raiders and Vikings games, they have played well enough to win despite all the inconsistency, injuries and lack of production from special teams and the running game. The reality of it all is they did lose. They are 2-5. You have to wonder how the morale in the locker room is right now. Something has to change if San Diego is to make the postseason and it has to happen NOW. My suggestions would go as follows:
Abandon the running-back-by-committee. Melvin Gordon has been ‘worked in slowly’ for long enough. It’s time to take the reins off the racehorse and give him twenty carries a game and let him show what he can do. I have already detailed my thoughts on this subject in my last column here. Get Melvin a fullback and watch him go!
Bring Javontee Herndon up from the practice squad. The special teams needs a boost and Jacoby Jones is not providing it. Fresh legs like Herndon could be just what the unit needs. The unit can’t get any worse.
Open up the playbook. There has to be more creative plays in the arsenal than an inside draw from the pistol formation. There are ways to get Melvin in space where he is dangerous. Run some reverses with the speed receivers. Mix in a flea flicker. Rivers is one of if not the best deep ball passer in the league and he doesn’t air it out nearly enough. Part of the reason for that is the Chargers don’t have a receiver with the straight line speed to take the top off a defense but the extra time generated from a gadget play can make up for that deficiency and open up the middle of the field for big gains with Green or Gates.
San Diego has a favorable schedule for the rest of the season. There’s five division games remaining and winning those alone puts them in the hunt to win the AFC West. Their non-division schedule includes Jacksonville, Miami, Chicago and Sunday’s Ravens game. The Chargers have a better team than any of their out-of-conference opposition talent-wise and are just as good or better than their in-division rivals. The bolts can go on a 8-1 or 7-2 run to finish the season in the playoffs.
The question is are the willing to make the changes needed to do so. There’s nothing left to do but go all-in and show the team and the fans that the team hasn’t thrown in the white flag on the season. What do you think Bolt Nation? Do you still believe? Post your comments below.
The Greg One
On April 21st NFL fans around the world rejoiced as the 2015 season schedule was released. Experts and fans alike went to work forecasting the record of their favorite team. The San Diego Chargers had an unusually tumultuous offseason headlined by contract disputes, trade rumors and one glaring suspension. However, the Philip Rivers contract extension, free agent signings and drafting of blue chip running back Melvin Gordon gave way to great expectations among the fan base.
Amidst the litany of injuries along the offensive line and lack of an advantage via special teams (only five return yards after four games), some Chargers fans are already beginning to write off this season’s edition of our favorite Southern California team.
To paraphrase infamous former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green, Are the 2015 San Diego Chargers who we thought they were?
Let’s put the season into a logical perspective.
After four games the bolts are one of ten teams sitting at 2-2. They are only one of four AFC teams with that record. No one expects the Chargers to go through the season undefeated. Only one team has completed the NFL season undefeated. This season will be no different. Losses are going to come. If the Bengals don’t intercept Rivers during the final two minutes of the game the Chargers may well be 3-1 at this point. All things considered, 2-2 is a good place to be.
Through four weeks:
Philip Rivers has thrown for the most yards in the NFL.
Keenan Allen is the NFL’s seventh-leading receiver in yards and tied for fourth in catches.
Melvin Gordon leads all rookie running backs with 228 yards on 56 carries, good for a 4.1-yard per carry average.
San Diego is averaging 31.5 points in their two games at home, both wins. They are tied for 13th in the league at 24 points per game.
Keep in mind this is with the all-too-familiar cornucopia of injuries along the offensive line. During their midwest road trip, the bolts lost four starters to injury during the Cincinnati game and were down two starters during the game against Minnesota. Last week against Cleveland, not only did the Chargers have the same reoccurring injuries to three offensive line starters but receivers Malcom Floyd and Stevie Johnson both were lost for the game. Despite finishing the game with only two able-bodied wideouts, the bolts persevered and churned out a come from behind win.
The record may be average, the play has been way above average. It’s no coincidence the games the Chargers lost were the games where offensive linemen were dropping like flies. Even then, the third game against Minnesota was the only game where San Diego had no chance to win in the fourth quarter.
The secondary is still banged up with Flowers, Verrett and Addae on the injury report as questionable for the Monday Night home game against Pittsburgh. On the wide receiver front, Stevie Johnson will not play. Malcom Floyd and Jacoby Jones are questionable for the game although they did practice during the week at varying capacities. Keenan Allen and Dontrelle Inman will be ready to go. Don’t be surprised to see Javontee Herndon brought up from the practice squad to complete three-receiver sets and return kicks if Floyd and Jones aren’t ready.
Despite their woes at receiver, the offense will get a huge boost in the form of All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates. Expect a big game from Gates as Rivers gets his favorite weapon back. With 99 touchdown catches over his career, Gates will be targeted a lot in the red zone so he can receive his landmark touchdown catch on prime time national TV. The presence of Gates will also serve to open the field for whomever is playing wideout for the Chargers on Monday night.
After four weeks, one-half of last years’ Super Bowl is 2-2. Indianapolis, picked by many to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season is 2-2. Do we wish the San Diego were better than 2-2? Of course. Are they holding serve and staying in the hunt for the AFC West title? Absolutely. That’s all we can ask of them right now. The injuries will eventually subside and this team will get even more potent.
A quarter of the way through the season, the Chargers are right where we need them to be. What do you think Bolt Nation? Encouraged or discouraged? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Due to the fact that the Chargers versus Pittsburgh game is on Monday night, the team did not have to release their Week 5 injury report until today. Although it looks a little better than it did last week, there are still some concerns on the offensive line and in the secondary.
- G – Orlando Franklin (Ankle)
- WR – Stevie Johnson (Hamstring)
- CB – Craig Mager (Hamstring)
- OLB – Tourek Williams (Foot)
- LT – King Dunlap (Concussion)
- SS – Jahleel Addae (Ankle)
- CB – Brandon Flowers (Concussion)
- WR – Malcom Floyd (Concussion)
- OL – D.J. Fluker (Ankle)
- WR/KR/PR – Jacoby Jones (Ankle)
- CB – Jason Verrett (Foot)
- OL – Chris Watt (Groin)
- OL – Chris Hairston (Ankle)
Obviously, as mentioned in the title, the offensive line is still banged up and expected to be without its starting left tackle (Dunlap) and starting left guard (Franklin).
Though Watt is listed as questionable, his groin injury was initially thought to be pretty serious. If he does play, he could see time at right guard, depending on the health of Fluker, as reserve center Trevor Robinson has done a fine job in place of Watt.
Fluker has been nursing an injured ankle for the better part of a month. He has gutted out some performances as of late, but one could wonder as to whether or not it would have been wise to rest him, allowing him to fully heal.
After finishing the win over the Browns with only two available wide receivers, the Bolts are again looking at slim pickings at the wideout spot.
Stevie Johnson will miss Monday’s game with a hamstring ailment. His numbers will be difficult to replace, especially considering that Rivers looked his way quite often.
Dontrelle Inman, 25, will be pressed into action again, helping to pick up the slack for the missing Johnson, and possibly Floyd should he not be cleared to play due to a concussion suffered in the second quarter last week.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see the team promote Javontee Herndon from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Herndon could also help in the return game should Jacoby Jones not be able to go again.
Speaking of Jones, he was a limited participant in practice for the second day in a row. The 2015 free-agent acquisition has not played in a game since injuring his ankle during the Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. If healthy, Jones would be a welcome addition at both kick returner and punt returner.
The Chargers’ special teams unit is averaging just over 20 yards per kickoff return, while they have totaled a league-worst five punt return yards.
To put it lightly, that is beyond pathetic.
Three of the team’s four starters in the secondary are listed as questionable. Flowers, Verrett and Addae being hurt leaves only Eric Weddle as a starter that is guaranteed to play on Monday.
In the last two weeks, first Flowers in Week 3 and then Verrett in Week 4, the team’s cornerbacks came into the week listed as probable, yet, neither ended up playing in those respective weeks. Verrett was on the club’s 46-man active roster last week, but he did not even suit up, as he was in street clothes for the game. Flowers left last week’s contest with a concussion.
It goes without saying that the Bolts would be far better off if they had both Flowers and Verrett healthy and in the starting lineup. It is going to be interesting to see if the extra day off helps ensure they get back into game action.
Nickel corner Patrick Robinson has done a solid job filling in for the injured starters, proving that he was a great pickup in free agency this offseason. One can only wonder how the defensive backfield would perform if all four starters were healthy, but Robinson has made his share of impact plays during their absence.
The Chargers may not be the most-injured NFL team, but it sure seems like it. The adversity they have had to overcome has already become a bit overwhelming. It is up to the coaching staff and the veteran players to keep this team focused, concentrating on improving and stacking up wins as the season progresses, regardless of who is out there on the field.
Missing the playoffs again is not an option.
Thank you very much for reading.
The Chargers’ Week 4 injury report has been released by the team.
Needless to say, it is not very encouraging.
*Note – This is the injury report that is listed on the team’s official website, Chargers.com. It slightly differs from what other media outlets are reporting.
Here it is.
OT – King Dunlap (concussion)
LG – Orlando Franklin (ankle)
WR/KR/PR – Jacoby Jones (ankle)
CB – Craig Mager (hamstring)
OLB – Tourek Williams (foot)
OL – Chris Watt (groin)
S – Jahleel Addae (ankle)
TE – Ladarius Green (concussion)
OL – D.J. Fluker (ankle/chest)
CB – Jason Verrett (foot)
CB – Brandon Flowers (knee)
OL – Chris Hairston (ankle/knee)
I’ll be breaking down what these injuries mean to the team in a separate article. It goes without saying that everyone has a right to be concerned.
To say that the Chargers’ return game has struggled through three weeks is an understatement. The special teams coverage has been mediocre at best, but for the sake of this article, we’ll stick with the return game.
In March of the 2015 offseason, general manager Tom Telesco believed that he found a weapon to return both kicks and punts that the San Diego fans had not seen since the likes of former Bolt Darren Sproles. Telesco signed free-agent return specialist/wideout Jacoby Jones, formerly of the Texans and Ravens, to a two-year contract.
“One of our off-season goals was to improve our special teams, specifically upgrading our return game,” said Chargers general manager Tom Telesco during an interview with Chargers.com. “We feel Jacoby brings a dynamic aspect to our kick and punt returns that we need and he also has solid experience playing wide receiver.”
Jones, 31, was coming off of a 2015 season that saw him finish second in the NFL with 30.6 yards per kick return. He also averaged a respectable 9.2 yards per punt return last year.
Despite all of the hype surrounding the signing and the impact it would have on the team, Jones managed to injure his ankle on the fair catch of a punt during the Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. He has yet to return to practice in more than a limited-participation capacity, and he has missed the last two games due to the ailment. He managed to return one kickoff for 24 yards early in the contest prior to the injury.
Since Jones exited the lineup, the duo of Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead have received four kickoffs for 90 yards with a long of 26 yards. Overall, the returners have five kickoffs returned for 114 yards, averaging 22.8 which places them 17th in the NFL in kickoff return average.
Although these numbers rank just below the middle of the league, they are nothing to write home to Mom about.
Entering Week 2 on the road against the Bengals, Chargers fans saw a sight that makes the majority of them immediately cringe: Keenan Allen back to receive the game’s first punt. It isn’t that Allen is not capable of making plays as a punt returner, it’s that the risk of injury as a punt returner far outweighs the reward; especially when it involves the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Then disaster struck on said punt return.
As Allen attempted to receive the high-flying punt, he muffed the ball and the Bengals would recover inside their own 20-yard line.
The miscue would lead to an Andy Dalton-to-A.J.Green touchdown pass a few plays later.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the punt return game for the Chargers.
As of Friday prior to the Week 4 game at home against the Cleveland Browns, San Diego is the only team in the NFL that has yet to log even one yard on punt returns. They currently sit with four more fair catches and one more fumble in that facet of the game than they do punt return yards.
Now, the season is still very young, and the third phase of the game is missing Jones, but the Chargers need to find a way to get this train headed in a positive direction. As much as we are not keen on seeing Allen back there, he has had some solid returns in limited duty as a punt returner throughout his short career.
Both the kickoff and punt return games are in need of work. Once Jacoby Jones returns hopefully we can all see why Telesco and company made signing him a priority this offseason.
Until then, average-to-mediocre results may be all that can be expected from the Chargers’ return teams.
The Chargers released their updated injury report on Chargers.com on Wednesday.
Prior to breaking down what it means to the team, here’s the report.
Did not participate:
- S Jahleel Addae – Ankle
- OL D.J. Fluker – Ankle
- WR/KR/PR Jacoby Jones – Ankle
- OL Johnnie Troutman – Arm
- OL Chris Watt – Groin
- OLB Tourek Williams – Foot
- TE Ladarius Green – Concussion
- OLB Kyle Emanuel – Shoulder
- OL Chris Hairston – Knee
The initial timetable on Fluker’s return made it seem as though he would miss a serious amount of time; as much as six weeks. But reports have come out that his time on the sideline will not be as long as expected. This is great news seeing as Hairston had a miserable game against the Bengals, being beaten multiple times and drawing a couple of flags. Hairston, despite a knee ailment, was a full-go at practice as mentioned above.
After watching the Chargers’ defense force Cincinnati to a punt due to a three-and-out on the game’s opening drive in Week 2, Keenan Allen muffed the punt, allowing the Bengals to recover inside the 20-yard line. Although Jacoby Jones hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire with his returns in the offseason and season opener, it would be great to have him back there, at least to secure the ball and get the Chargers’ offense on the field. Jones suffered an ankle injury against the Lions in Week 1. His return date has yet to be determined.
On paper, it appeared that safety Jimmy Wilson filled in admirably for the injured Addae. I am not, by any means, going to sit here and say that he had a bad game, but it looked as though defensive coordinator John Pagano changed up his strategy in the secondary. Could this have been due to the fact that Addae was not available? It is hard to say, but I sure would like to see Addae back on the field making plays.
Though he struggled against a stout Cincinnati defensive line, seeing that Watt is injured is troubling. The offensive line has already been banged up, and don’t get me started on the injury issues the hogs upfront faced in 2014. Watt is still learning his role as the team’s starting center. That being said, Mike McCoy and Frank Reich named him the starter for a reason. If for some reason Watt is unable to go this Sunday in Minnesota, reserve center Trevor Robinson is more than capable of stepping up and starting.
As expected, both Johnnie Troutman and Tourek Williams were non-participants in today’s practice. Troutman should be inching closer to health as his diagnosis has him being available to return by about the fourth week of the season. Williams is still a wait-and-see type of scenario. The outside linebacking corps surely could use him.
Finally, the news that tight end Ladarius Green showed up to Chargers Park with concussion-like symptoms is very alarming. If he does indeed have a concussion, this would be a third concussion-related report on Green since being blown up by former Patriots’ cornerback Brandon Browner last season in Week 14. Green laid on the field after taking the hit from Browner. The play drew a 15-yard penalty.
With Antonio Gates continuing to serve his four-game suspension due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the fourth-year tight end is crucial in the success of the San Diego offense. He has already made his mark through two games, catching 10 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. Green was shutout of the end zone in 2014. He is on pace for career highs in all receiving categories should he get back on the field.
On a bright note, it is good to see that rookie outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel was a full participant today. He played a major role in the team’s win over the Lions in Week 1. Allowing him to rotate with Jerry Attaochu keeps him fresh and should enable him to continue to make an impact.
Last week, Keenan Allen reintroduced himself to the NFL world by catching 15 passes for 166 yards in a Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. However, no one is talking about Allen’s herculean display of pass-catching proficiency. Like the Chargers themselves, Allen is getting little attention or respect from the league or national media.
Luckily, Bolt Nation, you have me.
Let the truth be known!
Such numbers might not get a second look if it’s elite receivers like Dez Bryant or Calvin Johnson. Actually, yeah, they would.
Let’s look at the facts for a moment.
In Week 1, Allen had more receiving yards and twice as many receptions as Bryant and Johnson combined.
Demaryius Thomas has 15 catches for 176 yards…after two games. Thomas is regarded by many as a top-five wideout in the NFL.
Keenan Allen is on pace for 240 receptions and 2,656 yards. Those would both be all-time receiving records. What’s even more improbable is Allen would have all those receptions and yardage but no touchdowns.
With Tyrell Williams getting released by the Chargers on Saturday, and Jacoby Jones being doubtful for Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, San Diego will play four wide receivers including the aforementioned Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman.
You know what that means? More targets for Allen.
After one week, San Diego has the league’s No. 1 offense, quarterback and wide receiver. Cincinnati may as well begin the game playing prevent defense. That would, however, amount to more catches and yards for Allen. The flaw with the prevent is it gives the offense more yards; making that option moot.
Throw in the under-the-radar yeoman’s work of tight end Ladarius Green last week (5 rec, 74 yards, 1 td), and with the running backs catching out of the backfield, Cincinnati would probably forfeit the game if they could get away with it. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m predicting a resounding win for the away team; somewhere in the 37-17 range.
Keenan Allen will add another double-digit catch game and stay on pace.
Dez Bryant and his broken foot will be somewhere watching Allen on an insanely big screen, tears short-circuiting his remote control.
Calvin Johnson wants to be Keenan Allen when he grows up.
Keenan Allen doesn’t catch balls, balls are sucked into his gravitational pull.
Chuck Norris wears Keenan Allen pajamas.
Donald Trump wants Keenan Allen to be his running mate.
If Tom Brady threw a pass to Keenan Allen, the ball would inflate.
Keenan Allen caught Halley’s Comet.
Keenan Allen deserves all of our support as he runs (and catches) toward NFL immortality. Cheers to you, Mr. Allen! The most interesting man in the world wants your phone number so he can learn how to be as interesting as you.
The Greg One
**Writers note: This column is for entertainment purposes only. Any rebroadcast, re-transmission or commenting on the absurdity of this column after only reading the title without the expressed written consent of the Chargers, the NFL, BoltBlitz.com and The Greg One is strictly prohibited.