The problems the Chargers have on offense reach well beyond a banged-up offensive line. Granted, Philip Rivers deserves to be anointed for sainthood having to play behind such a hot mess.
Let’s be real, kids. The offense is a complete mess and here’s why:
• Tom Telesco drafts kids who do not fit in this offensive “scheme”.
• Mike McCoy and Frank Reich refuse to change their “scheme” to fit the personnel Tom Telesco has given them.
• Frank Reich is clueless and predictable at the same time.
The first and second points go hand in hand. I give you Melvin Gordon as case in point. Melvin is a 21 or 22 personnel grouping back. This means two running backs, a tight end and two wide receivers (21 personnel) or two RBS, two TEs and a WR (22 personnel). He is not, nor ever has been, a spread formation back. He ran primarily out of 21, 22 or 12 personnel groupings (single setback two TEs on the line, not in pass formation). Sure, Melvin ran effectively out of other personnel groupings, but his strength is as an I-formation back.
When you move up in the draft to get the player you covet, you don’t make him fit your scheme. You adjust your scheme to his skill set. The Chargers don’t even possess a legitimate fullback on the roster. The closest thing to a fullback they have is tight end David Johnson. The last real fullback this team had was Lorenzo Neal. Once AJ Smith and Norv Turner kicked him to the curb, the fullback position has been an afterthought and the running game began its decline.
Gordon’s lack of production isn’t his fault alone. He doesn’t fit the scheme, rather the scheme doesn’t fit him. Blocking has been horrific, that’s on personnel and coaching. Injuries to D.J. Fluker, Orlando Franklin, King Dunlap and others hasn’t helped. Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris has to do a better job coaching up this line. Chris Watt gets destroyed on a regular basis at center. Move him to guard and he gets pushed back into Rivers’ face.
Make no mistake, the 2015 Chargers’ offensive front will never be mistaken for Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman, Nick Hardwick, Mike Goff and Shane Olivea. They just aren’t that good overall. I like the Orlando Franklin acquisition, but he’s hurt. Dunlap is solid and his return will help Rivers sleep a little easier. Moving Fluker inside was a positive and, by far, an upgrade over Johnnie Troutman. Barksdale at right tackle is an upgrade over Fluker playing the position. I said it before, but it bears repeating: Watt is horrible. Telesco and McCoy have failed miserably to assemble a line that is worth its salt.
Apparently, Dean Spanos needs to hire Bill Polian so that Telesco can be good again. He’s looking like the classic example of the master making the apprentice look better and smarter than he really is.
Nobody will ever mistake Frank Reich for Ken Wisenhunt — or even Cam Cameron. His idea of attempting to run the ball is give it to Melvin from the shotgun, up the gut behind the aforementioned Watt and the one-legged Fluker. In D.J.’s defense, on one leg he’s still better than Troutman. That run nets two yards, so it’s back to pass, pass, pass behind an O-line that can’t protect a ham sandwich, let alone an immobile Rivers.
I realize this is a pass-first league. To that, I say “so what?”
Newsflash, Frankie-boy, this line is not your Buffalo K-Gun line. This line couldn’t pass protect against a pee wee football team! You and Mike McNorv talk about balance, so do it! Don’t continue to be an idiot. All that will do is get you charged with murder when Philip finally can’t get up after being hit while trying to throw the ball.
The 2015 offseason was anything but enjoyable for Chargers fans. We here at BoltBlitz.com had covered all of the new stadium/relocation to Los Angeles talk, possible pre-draft trade of Philip Rivers, the unwillingness of the organization to work out a contract extension with Eric Weddle and the suspension of Antonio Gates.
It was all quite exhausting.
One of the things that bothered me the most, in addition to the aforementioned issues, was the fact that there are a large number of Chargers on the 2015 squad that are not under contract for next season, including Weddle, Gates, Floyd and Green.
After doing a little research, my fears were heightened when seeing the plethora of quality names who do not have deals for 2016.
Here are the explanations of each free-agent designation and other information you’ll need to understand about free agency.
Accrued season = Six or more regular-season games on a club’s active/inactive, reserved/injured or reserve/physically unable to perform lists.
Franchise player (exclusive or nonexclusive) = The salary offer by a player’s club determines what type of franchise player he is: exclusive or non-exclusive.
An “exclusive” Franchise Player — not free to sign with another club — is offered the greater of (i) the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year as of the end of the Restricted Free Agent Signing Period on April 19; or (ii) the amount of the Required Tender for a non-exclusive franchise player, as explained below.
Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA sets forth the methodology, known as the “Cap Percentage Average,” for calculating the Required Tender for such a player:
The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position . . . at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year, which average shall be calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the five preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the five preceding League Years…; and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year…(the “Cap Percentage Average”)…; or (B) 120 percent of his Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater.
If a club extends a Required Tender to a “non-exclusive” Franchise Player pursuant to this section, the player shall be permitted to negotiate a player contract with any club, except that draft choice compensation of two first-round draft selections shall be made in the event he signs with a new club.
Transition player = A transition player has received a minimum offer of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.
A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.
* Unrestricted free agent = A player with four or more Accrued Seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any club, with no draft choice compensation owed to his old club.
** Restricted free agent = He can negotiate with any club. If the Restricted Free Agent signs an offer sheet with a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because the qualifying offer entitles it to a “right of first refusal” on any offer sheet the player signs. If the old club does not match the offer, it may receive draft choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player’s negotiating rights revert exclusively to his old club. In addition, a player who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent may be designated by his old club as its Franchise Player or Transition Player.
*** Exclusive rights free agent = Such a player has no more than two accrued seasons in the NFL and may only sign with his prior team, provided, of course, that the team extends a minimum qualifying offer to the player.
Here is a look at all of the Bolts that are in the final year of their contracts with the team, according to spotrac.com.
*UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
- FS – Eric Weddle
- TE – Antonio Gates
- WR – Malcom Floyd
- RT – Joe Barksdale
- CB – Patrick Robinson
- QB – Kellen Clemens
- G – Johnnie Troutman
- DE – Kendall Reyes
- DL – Ricardo Mathews
- FB/TE – David Johnson
- TE – Ladarius Green
- OL – Chris Hairston
- TE – John Phillips
- C – J.D. Walton
**RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
- SS – Jahleel Addae
- OL – Kenny Wiggins
*** EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS:
- WR – Dontrelle Inman
- OLB – Cordarro Law
- OL – Tyreek Burwell
When looking at the offensive side of the ball, the entire tight end group is not under contract for 2016. Although it would make sense to bring back Green, his concussion problems may prevent the team from doing so. Phillips is primarily a blocking tight end, but he made a few plays during the four-week absence of Gates. Speaking of Gates, it is hard to say whether or not the Chargers will be able to find a team-friendly deal should he decide to continue his NFL career.
At the wideout spot, Floyd has already stated that he will not be back next season, announcing that this year will be his last. Inman looks to be a prime candidate for being re-signed by the club. He is gaining the trust of Philip Rivers in the passing game. His blocking as a wide receiver in the running game is improving with each snap he receives.
Offensive linemen Joe Barksdale and Chris Hairston have started multiple games in 2015, with Barksdale slotted as the team’s starting right tackle. He will most likely be brought back depending on the direction Tom Telesco decides to go in the early rounds of the 2016 draft. Hairston provides sold depth and versatility, making him a possibility for a return to the Chargers. Guys like Kenny Wiggins and Tyreek Burwell could be re-signed to fairly low-salary numbers. Burwell would still have another year of eligibility on the practice squad. Recently signed J.D. Walton will have to impress when called upon to receive consideration for an eventual re-signing.
The defensive side of the ball is obviously highlighted by the last year under contract for Eric Weddle. The team has made it clear that there will be no contract talks prior to the beginning of the 2016 league year. It doesn’t necessarily seem as though the team is willing to pony up and re-sign him to the money he believes he is worth. There is always the option of the organization applying the franchise tag to Weddle, paying him a top-five salary at his position on a one-year deal. Quite frankly, I don’t see that happening.
Fellow defensive back Patrick Robinson has looked to be a solid acquisition this offseason. Due to injuries, he has been asked to start on the outside although his position as the nickel corner is ideal for his skill-set. If he can continue to make an impact, he should be worth a look to remain with the team beyond 2015. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was offered a deal during the middle of this season.
Former second-round draft pick Kendall Reyes has been a bit of a disappoint save his rookie campaign. Depending on the desired contract of the defensive end, he may be hard-pressed to stay with the club past this year. He has not provided a viable solution opposite of Corey Liuget on the defensive line. Liuget needs help upfront, and Reyes does not seem like the guy for the job.
Ricardo Mathews is one of the most versatile defensive lineman on the team. He can line up at multiple spots and his high motor is impressive for a man his size. He comes back for at least one more season, in my opinion.
The situation surrounding strong safety Jahleel Addae is very interesting. Because of a nasty looking injury where his leg appeared to fold in half, he has missed the majority of the snaps through four weeks, allowing Jimmy Wilson to start in his place. If Addae were to come back and make an impact, would the team be willing to make him a long-term offer? It is difficult to say at this point. Similar to Barksdale, a lot of his future with the Bolts could depend on what Telesco plans to do in the draft.
I am not sure if you are as frightened by the number of free agents for 2016 as I am. But it looks like the 2016 Chargers have the chance of looking quite a bit different than this year’s squad.
Thank you very much for reading.
In a move that seems to be three weeks too late, the Chargers have placed offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman on reserve-injured, according to the team’s official website. Additionally, the Bolts have again waived tight end Kyle Miller.
The Chargers’ roster now sits at 51 players.
After suffering s litany of injuries along the offensive line in Week 3, it would make perfect sense that the team adds multiple pieces to the O-line.
Troutman, a former fifth-round draft choice, has struggled to make a positive impact when he has been healthy. Known more for his run-blocking ability, no one has ever confused him for being a decent pass-blocking guard. With his placement on reserve-injured, it could be that we have all seen the last of Troutman in a Chargers’ uniform.
When looking at the offensive lineman on the practice squad, it could be that the team will add Craig Watts Jr. or Michael Ola to the 53-man roster. Truth be told, both have the chance of being elevated to the game-day roster.
Watts Jr. joined the team last season as an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M. He spent all of 2014 season on the practice squad; minus games where he was suspended due to a violation of the league’s policy substance abuse policy.
Ola started 12 games for the Chicago Bears last year. He played every spot along the offensive line with the exception of center. His versatility most likely spurned the interest of general manager Tom Telesco.
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.
The Chargers announced the practice-participation levels of the team on Wednesday in the first injury report of the week.
Did not participate in practice:
- S Jahleel Addae – Ankle
- RG D.J. Fluker – Ankle
- WR/KR Jacoby Jones – Ankle
- OL Johnnie Troutman – Arm
- OLB Tourek Williams – Foot
Limited participation in practice:
- OLB Kyle Emanuel – Shoulder
- CB Brandon Flowers – Knee
Full participation in practice:
- OLB Jerry Attaochu – Hamstring
- CB Craig Mager – Hamstring
The injuries to Troutman and Williams have been known for quite sometime. The hope is that Troutman may be ready to return as soon as week 3. Suffering a broken foot in the middle of August, no timetable has been set for Williams to return.
With Addae, Fluker and Jones all sustaining ankle injuries, the team would be lacking three starters going into the week 2 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to Michael Gehlken of The San Diego Union-Tribune, Addae seems upbeat despite being in a walking boot on Monday. Should he miss this Sunday’s game, the defense would rely on Jimmy Wilson to start and Darrell Stuckey to provide depth at the strong safety spot.
The loss of Fluker on the offensive line is a big one. The team will need to shuffle around some parts, sliding Chris Watt over to right guard and starting Trevor Robinson at center, or plug in Chris Hairston in place of the injured Fluker. The former first-round draft pick suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Lions. He is expected to miss between four and six weeks.
The ankle injury for Jones means, if he is unable to play, that either Branden Oliver or Danny Woodhead will be returning kickoffs, while Keenan Allen will be returning punts. I am not a fan of any of those three players being involved in the return game. That’s not to say that they are incapable of making plays, I just don’t like the risk of injury involved for three players that will figure heavily into the offensive gameplan.
Leaving the game against the Lions in the fourth quarter, rookie Kyle Emanuel suffered a shoulder sprain. Reports are stating that the injury isn’t too serious, but the outside linebacking corps is already sans Williams, and Attaochu missed the season-opener with a hamstring injury.
Speaking of Attaochu, it is very encouraging that he was a full participant in practice. If both he and Emanuel are healthy and ready to go, which player will be inserted into the starting lineup? My thought is that both will be used in some fashion.
The injury bug decimated the Chargers all over the roster in 2014, especially the offensive line. It has already began to sneak into Chargers Park and leave its stink on the team.
Here’s to hoping it takes off to Oakland, Kansas City or Denver.
Thanks a lot for reading.
By now, the news has spread through the San Diego Chargers’ news wire that free agent offensive tackle Joe Barksdale has been signed by the Bolts. The offensive line has been an area that needs improvement this offseason. They have re-signed left tackle King Dunlap and reserve center Trevor Robinson. Offensive guard Orlando Franklin was added via free agency, as was Chris Hairston, former Buffalo Bill. The team also brought in guard Michael Huey for depth or as a camp body.
Barksdale, 26, was a third-round pick in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders. The St. Louis Rams claimed him off waivers prior to the 2012 season. Barksdale has played the last 29 consecutive games for the Rams at right tackle. Now at the end of his rookie contract, the Rams drafted Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, instead of re-signing Barksdale as an unrestricted free agent.
Until the Rams’ offensive line was beset by injuries midway through the season, particularly to Jake Long and Davin Joseph, Barksdale ranked as a top-15 tackle according to Pro Football Focus. As the injuries and losses mounted during the second half of the season, his ranking also plummeted. The Chargers signed the 6’5″, 325 lb. bruiser to a one-year deal.
With Barksdale in the fold, the projected starting offensive line looks to be King Dunlap at left tackle, Orlando Franklin at left guard, Chris Watt at center, Barksdale at right tackle with D.J. Fluker moving to right guard. Guard Johnnie Troutman would be the odd man out of the starting lineup.
Looking at Troutman’s body of work, his career to date has been marred by injuries and ineffective play. He was the Chargers fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Troutman missed his entire rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered two weeks before the draft. In 2013, he started nine games and missed seven as a result of injury, or ineffectiveness. Coach McCoy benched Troutman halfway through the season after picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The injured reserved list was where Troutman’s season would end in 2014 due to a knee injury. Though he played 15 games, his run and pass blocking were equally abysmal and contributing factors to the overall lack of offensive production that caused the Chargers to miss the postseason by one game.
All the offensive line woes can’t be blamed on Troutman, but it is easy to see why he will be on the hot seat this season. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and he’s not shown he’s worthy of a starting position, much less a new contract. Younger, hungrier and more talented lineman are coming in every season and Troutman has yet to prove himself.
Troutman will be in a battle just to make the roster, as he will have to show he belongs with Hairston, Huey and the host of UDFA linemen the Chargers brought in to create quality depth at all positions on the line. The Chargers lose nothing by keeping Troutman, but they can gain a more capable, reliable player with whom they already have and who will become available when final roster cuts occur.
In the end, I believe Johnnie Troutman will not play another down in a regular season game for the Chargers. Like letting Ryan Mathews walk, it’s addition by subtraction. One less injury-prone player on the roster makes the team better. Best of luck to Troutman elsewhere, but his time is up.
What do you think? Does Troutman deserve one more year to prove himself?
The Greg One
After Tom Telesco was brought in as the new general manager in 2013, one of his priorities was to improve the offensive line. That year he drafted right tackle, D.J. Fluker out of Alabama. Although it partially aided the right side, the addition wasn’t enough.
In 2014, injuries plagued the offensive unit into oblivion. Philip Rivers went without veteran center and longtime teammate, Nick Hardwick, after he spent almost the entire season on injured reserve. By the end of the year, Rivers was on his fifth center. According to Pro Football Focus, San Diego ranked 27th in pass blocking, and 26th in run blocking at the end of last season. If things are going to change in 2015, Telesco needs to make ascendant transactions.
As the team made its way into the offseason, Bolt fans questioned how the Chargers will find the talent needed to fix the offensive line. Telesco started off by re-signing left tackle, King Dunlap, this year’s respectively best free agent in his position. Shortly after locking up Rivers’ stud blocker, the young general made great strides by signing former Denver Bronco’s guard, Orlando Franklin to the roster. In addition to securing Dunlap and Franklin, Telesco also re-signed center Trevor Robinson. These transactions alone have brought the Chargers’ very mediocre line to a contending unit.
So, have the Bolts done enough to fix the offensive line? The answer is almost. According to Eric D. Williams of ESPN, Tom Telesco stated that Johnnie Troutman, as of right now, is the team’s starting right guard. Considering Troutman has been far from impressive, that’s extremely alarming. WalterFootball.com reported that Johnnie Troutman and Chad Reinhart were the worst guard duo in the league in 2014. Franklin replaces Rinehart, but that still leaves a frightening breach at right guard.
There has been a lot of talk about shifting Fluker from tackle to guard this offseason. He has no experience in the position. Not in high school, and not in college. Yet, let’s say he is moved, it still leaves a gap in the tackle position. A potentially effective way to address the matter would be to swing Fluker to the inside, and find a tackle in this year’s draft. Even though San Diego needs a running back after the departure of Ryan Mathews, this year’s draft class is loaded with talented running backs. It’s not an outrageous option to think about taking a offensive lineman like Ereck Flowers in the first round.
A solid offensive line has proven fruitful for some clubs in the NFL. Since 2011, the Dallas Cowboys have drafted three offensive linemen in the first-round: Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The other two, Ronald Leary and Doug Free, were undrafted free agents. Last season, the Cowboys finished with the 4th best pass blocking, and the 2nd best run blocking in the league. If the Chargers want those type of results, it would have to be from following Dallas’ blueprint.
As of today, the line lists as follows: LT King Dunlap, LG Orlando Franklin, C Chris Watt, RG Johnnie Troutman, and RT D.J. Fluker. Not bad, but not stellar. If the Bolts plan to contend for a playoff appearance in 2015, they will need a comprehensive offensive line. An upgraded line will upsurge Rivers’ productivity, plus adding some life to the lackluster run game. With less than five weeks left until the 2015 NFL Draft, fans will have to continue to wait and see what the Chargers organization plan to do with their six picks.
Should the Chargers draft a offensive lineman in the first round? Vote your opinion below:
Well, I think it has finally sunk in that what we all watched on Saturday actually happened. After being down by 21 points twice, and giving up 355 yards rushing, the Chargers did indeed leave San Francisco with a win over the 49ers.
Their hopes for the playoffs were kept alive and they now control their own destiny in the week 17 contest at Kansas City against the Chiefs.
But back to the game at Levi’s stadium.
In game that had a ridiculous amount of lows, the highs proved to be the deciding factor this past Saturday. For the fans that were ready to give up, I can’t really say I blame you. There were so many moments where it appeared as though the game would end in a loss for the Bolts.
After the game both, Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers stated the obvious that the first half was about as bad as it gets.
Going into the second half down 28-7, the Chargers were able to score two unanswered touchdowns. And then came another one of the lows. As Colin Kaepernick dropped back, he saw a running lane from the pocket. That running lane would lead him 90 yards down the field for a touchdown. Both Kaepernick and Frank Gore ran all over the San Diego defense.
Philip Rivers, as everyone knows, is playing with a bulging disc in his back. Not a bulging…. nevermind. Despite 3 interceptions on the night, he managed to tough it out, play through the pain and finished with four passing touchdowns; two of which were to his favorite target, Antonio Gates. There is no doubting the toughness of Rivers. The concern was whether the line could keep him upright due to another game with moving pieces in front of the man who rocks the bolo tie.
Chris Watt, rookie guard that has been forced to the center position due to injuries, went down in the game and in comes free agent pickup Trevor Robinson. He would mark the 5th center in 2014 that Rivers would play with this season. As if that wasn’t enough, Johnnie Troutman gets hurt and in comes undrafted free agent rookie Jeremiah Sirles. He is the third player to man the right guard position this year. Sirles actually played pretty darn well.
Danny Woodhead was placed on injured reserve in the week 2 victory over Buffalo. The running back ahead of him on the depth chart, Ryan Mathews, has missed significant time this year and neither played versus the 9ers. The theme of ‘Next Man up’ in 2014 is getting put to the test, to say the least. The reserve Charger ball carriers, Branden Oliver, Ronnie Brown and Donald Brown, managed to grind out 98 yards rushing as a group. This softened up the defense enough to where Rivers was able to atone for a poor first half and finish the day 356 yards passing.
After fighting through an ankle injury and broken collarbone against Denver, Keenan Allen expectedly missed the San Francisco game. As mentioned above, two of Philip’s touchdown strikes were to Gates. But Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd accounted for the other two scores. Royal came up huge with 10 receptions for 94 yards including a phenomenal catch on fourth down to keep the drive alive late in the fourth quarter. Floyd — 4 catches for 50 yards –had the game-tying score that would take the game into overtime. Talk about two receivers stepping up in the absence of Allen.
As Nick Novak kicked the game-winning field goal, the euphoria that initially started as lost hope and a sea of emotions took over. We were at La Bella’s in Chula Vista with a group of about 100 Charger fans. As I’m sure it did every single place where fans were watching the game, the room erupted and stayed loud for quite some time.
It goes without saying that this year’s Chargers have faced a ton of adversity. Though the injuries have piled up to insane numbers, they have found a way to get it done and now they control their own destiny when they travel to Arrowhead stadium.
This is all a team and NFL organization can hope for when going into a season. Earn a chance at the playoffs and then see what happens once you get there.
The journey continues this Sunday because of the collective effort of men that refused to give up last week despite all of the odds.
“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” – Seneca
Thanks a lot for reading.
The start of the 2014 season looked extremely promising for the offensive line. Veteran center Nick Hardwick was returning after questioning retirement, right tackle D.J Fluker was entering his sophomore season, and a healthy left tackle King Dunlap was set to make another impact. Adding to the mix was guard Chris Watt; a third round draft pick in this year’s draft. However, being past the halfway mark and into the bye week, the offensive line has crumbled into little football pieces; almost unrepairable.
Shortly after the one point loss to the Arizona Cardinals on a Monday Night Football showdown, Hardwick was placed on injured reserve; not returning for the rest of the year. Rich Ohrnberger was to fill the position, however injuries have inhibited him to be able to play effectively. He too has missed some games. The injury bug struck so hard that at one point it left Watt, not a true center, filling the void as the fourth backup to Hardwick. At that point, the offensive line started to disintegrate and show their true colors. The next man up motto almost seemed like a joke.
It should be no surprise that the Chargers are ranked almost last (30th) in the NFL for rushing yards. Yes, the void of Ryan Mathews has greatly impacted the run game, but the guards and center haven’t done a sufficient job at creating holes for the run. In week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, Donald Brown had 31 attempts, ran for 62 yards and only averaged 2.0 yards for the game. If you remember, the Bills have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The run game had no chance. As many know, Johnnie Troutman is the right guard on the line, but does it shock anyone that he isn’t performing well? I’m not at all. Scary enough, Watt hasn’t even been able to outperform him to snag the starting role — as predicted in the offseason. It wasn’t until the Miami where the entire offensive line hit rock bottom.
The Chargers were shut out a few Sundays ago by the Miami Dolphins. That hasn’t happened since 1999 (I was eleven years old). Philip Rivers had a total of three interceptions and one strip-sack fumble. Does it sound oddly familiar to the 2012 season? Before the three game losing streak, Rivers was said to be the league’s MVP contender, but he doesn’t look like that anymore. If you look below, Rivers’ poor play has been due to an extremely underperforming offensive line:
-Rivers sets up for a pass play on 2nd and 18. Eddie Royal to the lower right looks to be making a route in open coverage and the offensive line looks to be blocking correctly to allow Rivers sufficient time in the pocket.
-Notice Troutman, turned around, looking completely lost and confused while exposing Rivers to Miami player #79. Fluker is basically playing the right tackle and right guard position. But it’s becoming more evident that he might excel at the right guard position. As a result, the play ended in one of the three interceptions of the game.
Just as I mentioned, Fluker is being forced to play two positions at once. Do you miss Jeromey Clary yet? This type of play is a disgrace at the NFL level and absolutely needs to be address by the coaching staff sooner than later; if not, the next draft. Could it get any worse? Yes, and it does in the next example:
-A view of the offensive line setting up for a well needed 8 yards on 3rd down. Antonio Gates looks to be the receiver while lined up on the right side.
-In this view, Rivers appears to have pocket time to convert. However, the play never ended that way.
-Dunlap was horribly beaten on the edge. Keep in mind, this play only lasted roughly three seconds. That’s how little time it takes to disrupt an opposing offensive line and quarterback. The play ended in the games only strip-sack fumble.
Lastly, Watt was given an opportunity when Ohrnberger was removed from the game. The rookie’s inexperience was exposed horrendously:
-Rivers has a pretty decently protected pocket, however Watt starts to crumble under the pressure from Miami’s Dion Sims at the far right.
-Well, this doesn’t look great. Watt is easily manhandled and left looking behind him while #80 attacks up the middle for Rivers.
-A very painful looking sack occurred on the play while Watt looks like he is in complete disarray. Rookies will be rookies. However, with the mindset of “next man up”, Watt doesn’t look NFL ready.
An efficient guard and offensive lineman will protect the passer and open up the pocket for the quarterback to see an open receiver. At this point, the Chargers current linemen have allowed the pocket to collapse sooner than desired leaving Rivers to increase his release rate to 2.52 seconds in order to get the pass out quicker. If the line is collapsing in three seconds or less, that ultimately leaves Rivers forcing to throw and converting in .52 seconds or less. Even if you’re Peyton Manning, that is horrible protection for any quarterback.
Basically, the offensive line has looked like the former 2012 line; nonexistent pass protection, no open lanes/holes for the running back and players looking like a lost child in a grocery store. Not to mention, they have been hit by injuries. The sad part, this was just the Miami matchup and more horrendous play occurred well before this game. Tom Telesco and company have many issues to address, and the offensive line is the biggest one. Everyone is pretty excited to see Ryan Mathews return to the practice field, but can the line hold up? It’s going to take more than a bye week to clean up this train wreck.
It is getting pretty depressing writing about the Charger’s injury report. The team has been banged up from the start of the 2014 season and its backups have been forced into starting roles at an alarming frequency.
Next man up.
Tom Telesco has done a solid job adding depth in his first two years as general manager of the San Diego Chargers. That depth has been tested early and often. Reserves like Branden Oliver have been thrust into key roles and he has been a strong contributor to the Charger running game. No one expected to see Andrew Gachkar play so many snaps on defense as he has been splitting time with another reserve, Kavell Conner.
The defensive secondary has been reshuffled as well. Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett and Shareece Wright have all missed time due to injuries. Eric Weddle is a constant on the back-end, but it is difficult for him to quarterback the defense with so many different combinations of players on his side of the ball.
The San Diego offensive line has been marred by injuries. The center position has seen 4 different starters in the early portion of this year. That is not exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to building cohesion among the hogs upfront. The right guard spot has seen turnover too. Both Johnnie Troutman and rookie Chris Watt have played the position.
It is no secret that the running backs have been hit incredibly hard by the injury bug. Danny Woodhead is out for the year with a broken fibula while Ryan Mathews is still nursing an MCL sprain. The severity of Donald Brown’s concussion is unknown, but due to missing the last three weeks, the concern is mounting that he might not even make it back onto the field in 2014. Heck, Ronnie Brown has even returned to the Chargers to help supplement the mash unit that is the San Diego ball carrier group.
Below is the week 7 injury report for the Bolts.
RB – Donald Brown ( Concussion )
CB – Brandon Flowers ( Concussion )
RB – Ryan Mathews ( Knee )
ILB – Manti Te’o ( Foot )
OLB – Jerry Attaochu ( Hamstring )
CB – Jason Verrett ( Shoulder )
CB – Steve Williams ( Groin )
ILB – Kavell Conner ( Ankle )
RT – DJ Fluker ( Ankle )
OLB – Dwight Freeney ( Knee )
C/G – Rich Ohrnberger ( Back )
Mike McCoy and the coaching staff are going to have to find ways to put the players that are healthy into positions that accentuate their strengths. Having so many backups in can change the gameplan to a degree, but I would expect there to not be too much deviation from what the team does on offense and defense.
The Chargers are heading into Denver tomorrow to take on the Broncos. No one in the Denver organization feels sorry for the Bolts about their long injury list. It is up to San Diego to rise up and overcome this adversity and escape Mile High with a win. It will not be an easy task, but it can be done. The lead in the AFC West is up for grabs and this could be a huge statement game for the Chargers.
Regardless of all of the injuries, I cannot wait for tomorrow’s game.
Thanks a lot for reading.