I was at the joint practice between our San Diego Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium Tuesday night. Just before it started, it was announced on social media that Cardinals’ head coach, Bruce Arians, had been taken to the hospital experiencing stomach pains. Best wishes to him in his recovery.
The practice started with special teams drills (yawn). Then it was time for 1-on-1 drills, consisting of wide receivers versus defensive backs that were much more exciting. Brandon Flowers was burned for several deep passes. His days as an outside cornerback are hopefully over. Jason Verrett also struggled early trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald.
After good coverage caused Philip Rivers to be unable to connect with Keenan Allen twice, the duo started lighting up the Cardinals secondary. First, with a deep bomb over coverage from Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals top defensive back. Allen looked unstoppable all night, catching nearly everything thrown his way, and getting open early and often.
Travis Benjamin made several nice and difficult catches where he used his quick twitch speed to change direction and come back to perfectly placed balls from PR17. Rivers later said that he and Benjamin “needed” that type of connection in practice. The duo looks to be gelling nicely.
During 11-on-11 drills the Chargers got the best of the exchanges on offense and defense. Melvin Gordon had several nice runs through the middle of the Cardinals’ defensive front seven. The Cardinals’ defense had trouble covering Tyrell Williams, because he is a beast.
Melvin Ingram looked like a man on a mission. He set the edge on back-to-back run plays to the outside with tackles for a loss or no gain. Early, Arizona was running almost every play to the outside, no doubt from watching the Chargers get gashed by the Titans on Saturday. With Ingram in the backfield on almost every run they changed the plays.
Casey Hayward looked very good; he had tight coverage on several plays resulting in pass breakups. In my opinion, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward need to be the starting outside cornerbacks this season. Dexter McCoil ran stride-for-stride with Arizona receivers and had a great pass break-up in the end-zone.
Something interesting I saw during linebacker interception drills; both Manti Te’o and Jeremiah Attaochu had balls clank off their hands and land on the ground. As soon as they got to the huddle they were told to bust out push-ups in front of everyone. I personally love this kind of accountability. I have heard that this has happened before in some practices this year. In those cases, the whole front seven had to do push-ups during a practice when the unit was not getting enough pressure on the quarterback.
Hunter Henry had a nice toe-tap touchdown, he looks to be a better red zone weapon than Ladarius Green was.
No major injuries to report. The “no-tackling” practice was competitive but not combative.
Quickly, I will give my thoughts on that sorry excuse for a preseason game that was played on Saturday between the Titans and Chargers:
Obviously it was great to see Ken Whisenhunt getting the Bolts’ offensive linemen coming forward on run plays instead of skating backwards. It was great to see Melvin Gordon finally get in the end-zone on a long catch-and-run. Gordon looked more confident and decisive. Not much bad to say about the first team offense. A low-light on offense was too many penalties on the line (coaching); hopefully they can get that cleaned up before they play Arizona on Friday.
The defense was terrible. They picked up right where they left off last season with not being able to tackle and giving up big plays in the run game. Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise because it’s been like this for five years now. John Pagano is still the defensive coordinator, and his defense still looks like they have no clue what they are doing with tons of missed assignments.
Now, I’ve heard people say it’s the first preseason game. Tackling across the league is bad right now since these players haven’t really tackled in 7-8 months. Okay, but this defense was missing it’s assignments, shooting the wrong gaps, and looked woefully unprepared. All of which is coaching. They have a lot to clean up.
One of the few bright spots on defense and special teams was Dexter McCoil. He blew up a Titans’ returner on a special teams play that caused him to lose about ten yards. He’s big, fast and can cover and tackle. He also had a fumble recovery. He needs to be one of the starting safeties. The kicking game and punt game both looked good. That’s all for now, thanks for reading.
With the 2015 NFL draft quickly approaching, Chargers fans are anxiously waiting to find out what General Manager (GM) Tom Telesco has up his sleeve. As usual, rumors are running rampant as fans, talking heads, writers, and so-called experts try to predict the future. Will Philip Rivers be traded? Will the Chargers look to bolster a weak defensive front, or will they look to add another play maker on offense? If the Chargers keep Rivers, will they draft an heir apparent? With all of these questions looming before the big day, Chargers fans have one thing in common. They have to place their trust in the hands of Tom Telesco.
Let us take a look at Telesco’s track record drafting players for the Bolts. The following is a list of all of the players that Telesco has drafted in the last two years, it they are a starter, and how each of them has done with the team. Take a look and decide for yourself if you think Telesco has an eye for talent.
Before you inspect Telesco’s acquisitions, remember that most people will tell you that it takes at least three years before you can truly assess the result of a draft. Some players are ready to start in their rookie season, others not until they have had a chance to learn. Still others just do not pan out. The word “bust” will not be used to describe any of the draft picks as the players who were drafted high have not had a long enough period of time to prove themselves. The players drafted in the later rounds were never expected to become stars in the first place so to label them a bust would be unfair to all involved.
Now, read the following list and let me know what you think of Telesco’ efforts so far.
Rd Player Position College
1 D.J. Fluker OL Alabama
Still on Team: Yes Starter: Yes Health Status: Played through injuries (started 31/32 games)
Notes: Fluker was an immediate impact player for the Chargers. His large body and nasty attitude was just what the battered offensive line needed. Fluker held down the starting right tackle position at a level rarely seen from a rookie. Fluker took what many would consider a step back in 2014. No one is sure whether his apparent regression was due to injury, or the rest of the league discovering that he struggles to cover the outside speed rush. There were even times last season when some of the stronger defenders in the league physically pushed Fluker around. That was not expected and leads one to believe that his injuries were greater than let on. Many have questioned if Fluker will be moved to right guard next season. At this point the Chargers say that they are happy with him at tackle. We will see what the draft brings.
2 Manti Te’o LB Notre Dame
Still on Team: Yes Starter: Yes Health Status: Missed much of rookie year (13 starts in ’14)
Notes: As a much heralded linebacker, coming out of college, hopes were high for Te’o. Some over-zealous Bolts fans even went so far as to hint that he may be the next coming of Junior Seau! Unfair expectations, a pre-draft scandal, and a serious injury combined to make his rookie season less than impressive, to say the least. In fact, those same fans that were calling him a savior were beginning to call him a bust. After so much time missed in his rookie season, Te’o came into 2014 as basically a red-shirt freshman. Throughout the season he continued to learn and grow as a player. He started 13 games in ’14 and recorded 80 tackles, one sack, and seven passes defended. He may not be the next coming of Junior, but there is every reason to be optimistic where Te’o is concerned.
3 Keenan Allan WR California
Still on Team: Yes Starter: Yes Health Status: Injured late in ’14 season (29 of 32 starts)
Notes: Tom Telesco had to be happily surprised to find that Allen had not left the board by the time the Charges third round pick came around. It didn’t take long for Allen to define his role on the team as an impact player. In his rookie season, Allen excited Chargers fans as he racked up 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. With an average of over 14 yards per catch, it appeared that Allen was ready to take over as the Chargers number one receiver in 2014. A sophomore slump of sorts was the reality for Allen in 2014. He did not have a bad season. In fact, his reception total went up from 71 to 77 catches. The problem was that even with more receptions, his total yards dropped to just 783 yards for an average of just over 10 yards per catch. It appears that Allen is becoming a very good possession receiver, rather than a down field threat. With some new additions at WR for 2015, we may see Allen move to the slot where he will not be lined up against the number one defensive back. He should see resurgence in 2015.
5 Steve Williams DB California
Still on Team: Yes Starter: No Health Status: Injured for entire rookie season (10 tackles in ’14)
Notes: Steve Williams went down to injury almost immediately in his rookie season, so in his sophomore year he was more like a “red-shirt” freshman. He still had a lot to learn and had to get ready physically for the daily grind of the NFL. Williams only appeared in 13 games last season with just 10 tackles. Hopes are still high for Williams, although his time to progress is now. If Williams expects to be a weekly contributor to the Chargers defense, he must be greatly improved in 2015.
6 Tourek Williams DE Florida International
Still on Team: Yes Starter: No Health Status: Healthy
Notes: Although Williams has not had any major injuries since joining the Chargers, he still has yet to show that he can be an impact player in the NFL. He did manage to rack up six starts his rookie season, but declined back to zero starts in 2014. Perhaps expecting more from a sixth round pick is unfair, but many Chargers fans are growing tired of having their front seven get pushed around in the trenches. Much like Steve Williams, if Tourek Williams wants to have a bright future in the NFL, he needs to step up his game now.
7 Brad Sorenson QB Southern Utah
Still on Team: Yes (PS) Starter: No Health Status: Healthy
Notes: The Chargers took a flyer on Sorenson in hopes that at the very least he could be a quality back-up for starter Philip Rivers. In his rookie season, Sorenson showed promise in the pre-season, but was only active on four game days. The Bolts let him go for part of the 2014 season as Tennessee snatched him off of their practice squad. After failing to impress in Tennessee, he found himself back on the Chargers practice squad later that season. This upcoming pre-season should be a make or break time for Sorenson’s career.
Rd Player Position College
1 Jason Verrett DB TCU
Still on Team: Yes Starter: Yes Health Status: Injured (6 games played in ’14)
Notes: It only took until week three of the 2014 season for Verrett to crack the starting lineup. His coverage skills along with his ability to tackle proved to Chargers fans that Chargers GM certainly got this pick right. Unfortunately, after only four starts, Verrett went down with a collar bone injury and was unable to return. If Verrett heals well and continues to show the skills he showed in his rookie season, he could be a huge asset for the Chargers defense. The only concern about Verrett is that at 5’9” and only 189 lbs, will his body be able to withstand the pounding of the NFL? Time will tell.
2 Jeremiah Attaochu LB Georgia Tech
Still on Team: Yes Starter: No Health Status: Healthy (11 appearances in ’14)
Notes: Although his rookie year with the Bolts was not exactly remarkable, he did show signs that perhaps there he is a diamond in the rough. He never cracked the starting lineup in ’14, but with the departure of several linebackers, 2015 looks like his time to shine. It is still way too early in Attaochu’s career to decide if this pick was a winner or a bust.
3 Chris Watt OL Notre Dame
Still on Team: Yes Starter: Yes Health Status: Healthy
Notes: Drafted for immediate depth and a future starting role, Watt found himself thrown right into the mix in his rookie season. So much for learning by watching, he was given a baptism of fire in 2014. Not only did he play in 11 games, he started five of them! Not only did he start five games, but he started them at a position his was unfamiliar with, center. Yes, the early injury of legendary Charger Nick Hardwick was key turning point for the Chargers last season. Four different players tried to fill Hardwick’s shoes, but honestly none were up to the task. Considering Watt was new to the position and the league. Chargers coaches seemed more impressed with Watt and his potential than the other would-be centers. Currently, Watt is projected to start at center in the upcoming 2015 season.
5 Ryan Carrethers DT Arkansas State
Still on Team: Yes Starter: No Health Status: Healthy
Notes: Carrethers had a tough time in his rookie season. Playing nose tackle (NT) is no easy task in the NFL and he found that out in a hurry. Carrethers appeared in six games for the Bolts in ’14 and had only one start. Unfortunately, the NT position proved to be an Achilles heel for the Chargers all season. Chargers NTs were being pushed around like they were on roller skates much of the season. Carrethers was no exception. Currently, the Chargers have not addressed their need at NT. It will be a battle between Carrethers and Sean Lissemore to see who starts next season.
6 Marion Grice RB Arizona State
Still on Team: No Starter: No Health Status: Healthy
Notes: Grice had a decent pre-season for the Bolts, but it was not enough to beat out fan favorite Brandon Oliver at running back (RB). It didn’t take long for Grice to find a new home as he was signed by Arizona and played for the Cardinals the remainder of the season. His rookie year was less than impressive as he gained a modest 41 yards on 15 carries, with just one touchdown.
7 Tevin Reese WR Baylor
Still on Team: No Starter: No Health Status: Healthy
Notes: Reese did not do enough to make the Chargers roster in the 2014 pre-season. He did however show enough talent to land a spot on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. He did not make the active roster at any time for the Bengals last season.
So, after two drafts and 12 picks, Tom Telesco has found five starters, a large number of games missed due to injury, and two players signed to other teams. Not a bad haul after just two drafts, but not exactly what legendary GMs are made of. Just like the players, it is only fair to not judge too harshly the effectiveness of Tom Telesco. He has done a nice job of filling holes as they have arisen. He also did not have much cap space to work with after inheriting the mess that former GM, A.J. Smith, left him. Telesco deserves at least one more draft before anyone should celebrate or condemn the job he has done. One thing for sure, Telesco and his staff are doing everything they can to find the best talent available.
How do you feel about the job Telesco has done so far? Are you still a believer? Has he lost his luster? Let me know below. I look forward to answering your comments.
Why am I so disappointed in the outcome of the 2014 season for the San Diego Chargers? Is it because I came into the season with true Super Bowl aspirations? No, because I thought that they were one more season away from a real shot at a ring. Is it because I thought their record would be much better? Not really. During the off-season, I had thoughts of their record being anywhere from 7-9 to 11-5, so 9-7 is right in the middle! Is it because of all of the injuries and how they took away any realistic chance to win that elusive championship? Yes, that has to be part of it. The Chargers certainly would have been more competitive with their best players on the field. Now that it is all said and done, I think I found the true reason why going 9-7 and missing out on the playoffs hurt so much this season: It’s because I found, “Fool’s Gold” and lost my realistic nature, despite all efforts to, “Stay Calm and Bolt-UP”.
As you know, “Fool’s Gold” is also known as pyrite. Pyrite is a mineral that is often found and mistaken for actual gold. All of a sudden, someone sees something gold and shiny and think they struck it rich! Only to be disappointed later when they find out that their gold strike is worthless. Such was the San Diego Chargers 2014 season.
In the beginning, most Chargers fans thought the Bolts would be 1-1 after week 2. Well what do you know? They were 1-1! The problem is, they did the exact opposite of expectations on the way to 1-1. Most fans thought they would beat Arizona and then lose to the reigning Super Bowl champion, Seattle Seahawks. Somehow, the Chargers managed to blow an 11 point fourth quarter lead and lose to the Cardinals by one lousy point. The next week, despite the growing number of Chargers fans already standing on the ledges of bridges all over town, the Bolts pulled the upset over Seattle and evened their record. Now what are we supposed to think? Just who are the Chargers? Are they the team that could only score 17 points against the Cards? Or, are they the team that put 30 on the Seahawks and looked like world beaters. The jury was still out, but optimism was growing.
I believe the week 3 match-up in Buffalo was the equivalent to finding that pyrite and thinking the future was bright. The Bills entered week 3 with a record of 2-0. They had not beaten anyone great (Chicago and Miami), but as a fan, you see what you want to see. All Chargers fans knew was the Bolts just beat the
champs and an undefeated team was on the horizon. To make this game even more challenging, the game was in Buffalo! That East coast time change certainly has taken its toll on all West coast teams over the years. If the Bolts win this game, they are for real! Sure enough…Bolts 22 Bills 10
At 2-1, the Chargers were poised to have a storybook season. One that just might carry on into early February and end with a parade in downtown San Diego! Fingers crossed, here comes week 4!
Week 4 came and went with a predicable victory over the Jaguars. The Jags are not a great team, but at least the Chargers can say that they did not allow a lesser team to upset them as in years past. This is another sign of great things to come. Also by week 4, injuries have really started to make the Bolts starting lineup unrecognizable. Yet, they keep on winning! We have depth! In Tom Telesco we trust!!! Week 5, here we come! For that matter, bring on the rest of the season! We are ready!!!
Week 5 had the lowly Jets coming to San Diego. The Jets were only 1-3, but Chargers fans remember losing to the Jets twice in the playoffs, so there were still a few nervous fans that could not get past recent history. When it was all said and done, history did not repeat itself. The Bolts sent the Jets packing with a crushing 31-0 loss! Now the Bolts must be for real…right? 4-1 heading into Raiders week! Who’s got it better than us? (Oh sorry, wrong team) But seriously though, the future was looking bright for the blue and pyrite…I mean gold.
Raiders week is upon us and life is good for Bolt fans. Oakland was bouncing around quarterbacks like ping pong balls in a good game of Beer Pong. They were 0-5 and showing no sign of life. The only thing they had going for them was that they were coming off of a bye and they had a young quarterback named Derek Carr that they were willing to give a try. Couldn’t hurt!
Well, the Chargers beat the Raiders, but they did it in a far less than impressive fashion then most Chargers fans would have preferred. A blow-out was expected by many, but the final score was Chargers 31 Raiders 28. The game was tied after three quarters and it was not until Jason Varrett came through with a fourth quarter interception that Chargers fans were able to exhale. Was this a sign of issues for the Bolts? Was this the game that should have told Bolt fans that trouble was on the horizon? Most fans would answer, “No” to those questions. After all, it was a rivalry game and a divisional game. In those games you can always throw out the records and expect a close game. No matter what your answer was, the next few games would be a serious test of the Chargers resolve.
At 5-1 and at the top of the NFL rankings, the Chargers were feeling ready for the challenge. Yes, the upcoming schedule was tough (KC at home, Denver away, and Miami away), but the Bolts were the best team in football and should either sweep them or walk away with two out of three. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to 8-1. The Chiefs came into San Diego and controlled the ball so well that the Chargers offense could do nothing but watch helplessly for the vast majority of the game. Yep, this game slipped away and now the upcoming game against the Broncos seemed crucial.
By now, the injuries were almost comical. Centers are dropping left and right and corner backs were also banged up and guys like Marcus Gilchrist were forced to change positions. That’s right, it was necessary to play backup corners and move a safety to corner to face….Peyton Manning. Of all people! As much as Chargers fans like to think the Bolts own Manning, the facts show differently. In fact, since joining the Broncos, he had only dropped one game to the Chargers. The San Diego monkey was definitely off of his back: Broncos 35 Chargers 21. Uh-oh.
With the team looking like a walking MASH unit, there was some solace in the fact that the bye was only one more game away and that game was against Miami. Now, Miami had a decent 4-3 record going into week 9. Also, the trip to Miami has not been a favorite of Chargers teams for decades. But let’s be honest. If the Bolts are the team that the fans thought they were, they will win this game and go into the bye at 6-3. Not what it looked like they would do, but still looking like a playoff team.
Well, hell. Blame it on the bye week looming. Blame it on the injuries. Blame it on Coach McCoy failing to read my “Chargers @ Dolphins: 5 & 5” (mostly joking about that one). Blame it on whatever you want! This game was the definition of ugly! Final score, Chargers 0 Dolphins 37! Yes, that is right…37-0. The Chargers limp into the bye with a very disillusioning 5-4 record. On the bright side, Ryan Mathews should be coming back along with a few others. Also, the schedule looks like it is taking a turn for the better. We shall see.
The bye week gave Chargers fans a chance to reflect on the first nine games. It had to be injuries. Yep, that’s it! Well, now the bye week has come and gone and several starters are coming back! Bring on the last seven games. We’ve got this!
The Chargers did not come off of the bye looking like world beaters. The football gods were kind and aloud the Chargers to play the Raiders in week 11. It wasn’t pretty, but the Bolts hung on to win, 13-6. Not a game that made anyone feel overly confident, but at least they got a “W” and maybe that is what it will take to turn things around.
That game was followed by a nice win against a game St. Louis team. Next up was Baltimore who at times looked as though they would beat the Chargers running away. But the Bolts hung around and somehow managed to comeback from the dead, scoring 21 fourth quarter points and sneaking out of Baltimore with a one point victory. No West coast team had ever gone to Baltimore before.
So what are the fans to think? The Chargers are up to a respectable 8-4 record and just beat a playoff quality team on the road. Are the Bolts back? Or are they the NFL’s version of the “Not Ready for Primetime Players”. The last four games will provide the answer.
Remember when I mentioned the football gods? Well, they seemed kind after the bye, but to end the season they were ruthless. The Chargers had to win two of the last four games to make it to the post season. Bring on the Patriots, Broncos, Niners, and Chiefs. Wow, that is brutal! It is even harder since the last two games were on the road. Oh well, if you have a playoff caliber team, these are games you can win, so bring it on!
I won’t bore you with the details, but you may have noticed that there was no wild card game to be played by the Chargers in 2014. The Bolts did muster one impressive win against San Francisco, but that was it. New England, Denver, and Kansas City shut down the Chargers offense and won comfortably. Chargers fans did not know what to think. It was time to grasp for straws.
In the ensuing weeks, fans have blamed Philip Rivers, the entire offensive line, injuries, Ryan Mathews, the defensive line, the defensive backs (with the exception of Weddle), Tom Telesco, Mike McCoy, Frank Reich, Dean Spanos and yes, their fellow fans. Could it be that there was no one to blame at all?
Personally, I blame myself for being so disappointed at the end of the season. At the beginning of the season, I did not think that the Chargers were ready to challenge the big boys of the NFL. I thought they were a year away. Then you add the injuries to a team that did not have all the spots filled with big time players and lacked some depth at key positions and there was only hope on your side. Yes, the team was 5-1 and it looked like everything was golden. The truth is that they were 5-1 during the part of the season when they were the healthiest and did not have the strongest opponents with only an exception or two. When the meat of the schedule hit (along with the injuries), reality struck and all that shiny stuff turned out to be nothing but Fool’s Gold. Maybe next year players will be able to stay on the field and Tom Telesco can work his magic in free agency and the draft. Maybe next season the Chargers will strike gold and make fools out of the rest of the league. I for one will be watching.
Keep your bolt up San Diego!
Note: “…I’m Just Sayin’”: will be a weekly series here on Boltblitz.com. It is an opinion piece that is geared toward starting conversation. Please leave your comments below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
This week, Mike McCoy and the San Diego Chargers find themselves in a relatively new position. The Chargers, after being the favorite for several weeks now, find themselves heavy underdogs going into Denver. Yes, Las Vegas “Wise Guys” have the Broncos favored by eight points in this game between long-time division rivals. Considering that it is a division game and that these two teams have a great history, that is a huge spread! Keeping this in mind, the spin that the coaching staff has to create is completely different than the way they motivated the team going into the last several games.
Let’s take a look at five angles that both head coaches can work while trying to get their teams mentally ready for this Thursday night matchup.
First, we’ll look at Coach John Fox of the Denver Broncos. He enters this game coming off of a big win against the Niners. The entire football world expects his quarterback, Peyton Manning, to carve up the Chargers second string corners like a Ginsu slices through a ripe tomato. Being a heavy favorite is not always a good thing for a coach. It is Fox’s job to build up his opponent to force his team to realize that they need to show up and play hard. He has to build up the Chargers, without demoralizing his team in the process.
- Wounded Animal – One of the popular topics when discussing the Chargers is the mind boggling number of injuries that they have endured. Although GM Tom Telesco has done a fine job filling in for injured players, the gold plating started to come off of the Chargers logo last week against the Chiefs, as the Bolts defense spent almost 40 minutes on the field while their high-powered offense stood helpless on the sidelines. Although the Chargers may have their top two corners out for this game (Flowers and Varrett), Coach Fox must not let the Broncos offense believe they are invincible. Remember, when you back a wounded animal into a corner, they usually come out fighting.
- The Best Must Beat Teams that they are Supposed to Beat – If the Broncos wish to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders, they must not only play well against other contenders, they must dominate teams that they are expected to dominate. Although San Diego may once again be considered a serious contender after their injured players come back, they are not feared right now. The Broncos are expected to win, and win easily. If they allow the Chargers to stick around, or heaven forbid win, the doubters will surface from outside and from within the locker room walls.
- Destroy Hopes – Football is a very emotional game. If a team goes into a game as a big underdog and comes out victorious, or almost victorious, the next time the two teams face each other the underdog will play with a new found confidence that can sometimes be enough to slay the dragon. Fox must find a way to motivate his team to keep the Chargers down and show true killer instinct. If they can do that, the Chargers will enter the next game almost expecting to lose and that is half the battle. The Broncos must score early and often if they want to demoralize the Bolts for next time.
- National TV – Thursday Night Football is the only game in town. The entire football world will be tuning in to watch these two proud franchises get it on. The majority of the nation will be preparing to see just how much damage Peyton Manning can do to the Chargers backups. With the country watching, the pressure is on the Broncos to show what they are really made of. It’s time to shave a little closer, check the tailoring of their jerseys, and brush their teeth a little longer. No mistake will go unnoticed. Blow this game and they will be crucified in the media.
- Rivalry – These two teams have been playing each other since October 16, 1960. On that date, the Los Angeles Chargers took down the Denver Broncos 23-19. Overall, the Broncos lead the series 59-49-1, with their last matchup being the 24-17 Broncos victory in last season’s playoffs. In that playoff game, the Broncos dominated the Chargers for three quarters, only to see Philip Rivers and company reel off 17 fourth quarter points to make a game of it. That shows that there is no quit in this Chargers team and Fox’s Broncos must be up to the challenge or for the second year in a row, Denver will be upset on their home turf and embarrassed on a Thursday night.
For the last four weeks, Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy has been giving speeches like Coach Fox has to give this week. He has been the favorite and has had to remind his team that they are playing NFL teams and that on any giving Sunday…. This week is a different story. He must address their weaknesses and try to turn them into advantages. He must acknowledge Denver’s strengths and show how they can be used against them. While doing all of this, he must find a way to let his band of battered warriors believe that this is a battlefield worth taking, because they have a chance to win. Here are five paths that Coach McCoy can go down to get his team ready.
- Next Man Up – This has been the philosophy of the Chargers all season long. As their players drop like flies, the next man up comes in and takes his place. The, “You’re in the NFL so go do what you get paid to do”, philosophy has certainly helped the Chargers stay confident up to now and is a large part of why they are 5-2 rather than 2-5. Everyone is expected to be a quality starter if they get the call, and everyone better be ready at all times. Yes, the Chargers are likely to face Peyton Manning without their two best corners. So what? They had injuries at the corner position last season when they met on Thursday night and left Denver with a W!
- Underdogs – Sometimes in life, and often in sports, it is nice to be the underdogs. All of the pressure is on the opponent. No one outside of San Diego (and some from within) believes that the Chargers can win this game. Even with a 5-2 record, the massive numbers of missing starters has the world turning their back on the Bolts and expecting a Hall of Fame performance out of Peyton and his crew. This should be quite a relief to the Chargers players and coaching staff. If no one expects you to win, you have nothing to lose! Leave it on the field. Go out there and try to shock the world! You did it last year, you can do it again.
- Denver has the 25th Rated Rushing Offense – As great as Peyton is, the running game of the Denver Broncos is lacking. Thus far, the Broncos are only averaging 95.2 yard rushing per game. Currently, backup Ronnie Hillman is taking the majority of the carries for the injured Montee Ball. This difficulty running the football should allow the Chargers defense to focus on getting to Manning and his passing game. If they can keep the pressure on Manning, they may be able to get him to rush some passes and make mistakes. It has worked in the past.
- Denver’s Defense is 18th Against the Pass – This is good news for Philip Rivers and his talented offense. Since the run game could find tough sledding against the league’s third rated rushing defense, the ball will be in Rivers hands to try and dink, dunk, and drive down the field. The short passing game may need to be utilized in place of the running game on short down situations. The Chargers must run enough to keep Denver’s talented pass rushers honest, but if they are going to win this game it will be with the arm of Philip Rivers. The short passing game will also consume the clock and keep Peyton on the sidelines where he cannot hurt anyone.
- Rivalry – Even though the Chargers have outscored the Broncos (2359 – 2306), Denver still holds the edge in head-to-head matchups by 10 games. Denver also has the edge in recent games, winning five of the last six. The Chargers must fight to show that they are not the whipping boy for any team, especially one that they have played twice a year since 1960. There is no love lost between these two proud franchises and no matter what the odds are, the Bolts must come out fighting and believing that they can win this game.
When it is all said and done, the players must go out there and execute. They cannot rely on the Broncos dropping passes like the Raiders and Chiefs did. They have to man-up and make plays. Once that ball gets kicked off, the coach doesn’t have much more to do as far as motivation goes. It’s time to leave all you have on the field and see which team goes home with their sixth win of the season.
Enjoy the game everyone! Please leave a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP! Go Chargers!!!
PHOTO CREDIT: tireball.com