With wide receiver Stevie Johnson going under the knife today, the San Diego Chargers moved quickly in signing a wide receiver to fill his spot. Moments ago, San Diego signed former-Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones. Terms of the deal are yet to be disclosed.
According to reports, the Chargers’ had also worked out Brian Hartline and Lance Moore.
Jones, 32, surprisingly was not brought back to Green Bay after he stepped in last season following the injury to star wideout Jordy Nelson. All Jones did was lead the Packers with 50 receptions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. This year, Jones finds himself in the same position; called out of the free agent void to replace a starting wide receiver that went down to injury.
Hopefully, 2016 will yield similar results. The 6’1″-inch, 200-pound Jones joins Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin as the top-three wideouts on the Chargers’ depth chart.
Take a look at the highlight reel above from his 2015-16 Packers’ season and you see while he’s not the fastest man on the field Jones shows great hands, crisp route running, veteran awareness of his feet in relation to the sidelines and ability to get yards after the catch. This is a great signing by San Diego in my opinion.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers look to improve a defense that ranked 10th in total defense (4th vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Of the Chargers’ five draft picks, four were made on defense. Today we’ll take a look at the cornerback position and how the Bolts will look to improve on a pass defense that received little support in the form of a pass rush from the front-seven. Here’s a look at who the Chargers have in camp at the present time:
Brandon Flowers: The 29-year-old made an instant impact after he signed last offseason after being released by Kansas City in a cost-cutting move. He made the most of his one-year ‘prove it’ contract, and re-signed with the Chargers on a four-year, $36 million deal.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was the number one cornerback in the NFL for the first eight weeks of the season before he missed games with numerous injuries including concussion, groin and ankle maladies. He managed to perform in 14 of the Chargers 16 games despite being banged up, recording 52 tackles (48 solo), three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Now entering his eighth season, Flowers looks forward to continuing his ‘big brother’ role to the Bolts’ young group of cornerbacks.
Jason Verrett: The 2014 first-round draft pick was having an excellent season opposite Flowers until his year was cut short by a torn labrum in week six. The resilient rookie tried to return in week eight against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but only succeeded in aggravating the injury. The Chargers placed him on IR after week 10.
Flowers and Verrett ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pro Football Focus cornerback ratings while they played together. Losing both, at times, forced others to step up and fill some “large shoes.” Verrett compiled 19 tackles (18 solo), one dramatic, game-saving, late fourth quarter interception versus Oakland and four passes defensed in six games. A healthy Verrett is going to greatly improve the secondary and he is most likely to man the right corner position opposite Flowers.
Patrick Robinson: A 2010 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson signed a one-year contract with San Diego in March. In five seasons, he’s logged 180 tackles (150 solo), one sack, nine interceptions with one forced fumble and 46 passes defensed. Robinson bounced back strong in 2014 after rupturing his patellar tendon in week 2 and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
Last season, Robinson defensed 11 passes with two interceptions and 39 tackles. Robinson also found his way into New Orleans head coach Sean Paytons’ doghouse as he was benched repeatedly. Hopefully, his tenure in San Diego can mirror the second chance Brandon Flowers received. He will be the leading candidate for the number three cornerback in the rotation at this point. It is worth noting that after struggling on the outside, he picked up his play once given the opportunity to play the nickel-spot in the New Orleans’ defense. Robinson may end up be a sleeper signing for the Charger defense.
Steve Williams: Looking to get his career on track, Williams finally found the field in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury. He played in 13 games, recording 10 tackles with two passes defensed. Drafted by the Chargers alongside his college teammate Keenan Allen, the Cal Bear got onto the Chargers radar after exhibiting freakish athleticism at the combine with 4.25 speed in the 40, 10’8″ broad jump and 40.5 inch vertical jump. The Chargers still hold out hope that their 2013 fifth-round choice can fully apply his skills and stay on the field. He should see an opportunity to compete with Robinson for the nickel role, and continue to see snaps on special teams. His speed makes him an asset on both defense and special teams.
Chris Davis: Entering his second year out of Auburn, Davis played in 12 games for the Chargers, contributing mostly on special teams. The team found value in Davis in the kickoff return game, where he averaged 25.1 yards on 19 returns. After assuming those duties in the November 2nd Dolphins’ game, Davis may have found his role as the team’s return specialist. Known for what will arguably stand as the greatest return in college football history in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Davis looks to repeat his success in San Diego while also playing more on defense. Davis has shown flashes of playmaking capability, and he can be an important piece to a championship team if he can sustain his health and continue to improve in 2015.
Craig Mager: When the team’s 2015 third-round draft pick name was announced on day two of the draft, it came with a collective chorus of “Craig Who” on social media and team message boards. But fans, and the league, will soon know his name. The Chargers are very high on the Texas State cornerback. At the combine, Mager ran a 4.44 in the 40, broad-jumped 10’10” and had a 38-inch vertical jump. Mager developed a reputation as an aggressive tackler in the secondary while in college, as he was named to the second team All-Sun Belt Conference for 2014. If he can adjust to the immense jump in talent from a mid-major conference in college football to the elite level of the NFL, Mager will pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Richard Crawford: A new face that will be ready for action, Oceanside native Richard Crawford is a third-year pro. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford had a successful season culminating with an interception of Tony Romo in week 17; one that clinched the Redskins a playoff spot. His momentum came to an abrupt halt, as he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in the 2013 preseason that caused him to miss the entire season.
Crawford was eventually cut by the Redskins, and then added to the Chargers’ practice squad in week nine of last season. In his one season in Washington, Crawford recorded 18 tackles (13 solo), two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one interception and also contributed on special teams. His 64-yard punt return against Baltimore secured the field position needed to kick a game-winning field goal. As a result, the ‘Skins got the overtime win over their in-state rival. Crawford will provide healthy competition for cornerback and punt return duties.
Greg Ducre: Still looking to make an impact, Ducre is a second-year pro out of Washington. Last season, Ducre signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was signed off the practice squad by the Washington Redskins. In a two-month span, he played one regular season game and was then released by Washington the next day. The Chargers then re-signed Ducre to the active roster where he has remained ever since.
Ducre adds a much-needed speed element to the Chargers secondary. At Washington’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 and 4.34 seconds. He recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and 10’6″ broad jump. In the one game he played for Washington against San Francisco, he recorded an interception of Colin Kaepernick. His athleticism speaks for itself. But can he do it if called upon to do so in San Diego? Ducre faces an uphill battle to find his way onto the roster.
Manuel Asprilla: The undrafted free agent out of Boston College did not miss a game after getting to play three games into his freshman season at BC. A tackling machine, gathering 201 tackles (142 solo) and 15 tackles for loss. Asprilla had four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 23 passes defensed over his collegiate career. It will be a long shot for Asprilla to make the 53-man roster, but the Chargers have a long history of finding undrafted free agent gems. Practice squad is always a possibility.
This crop of cornerbacks has a boom-or-bust feel to them. If Flowers and Verrett can stay healthy all season, they can again be an upper top-10 tandem that could give the Chargers a legitimate top-10 defense. With a year of experience in the system, it stands to reason, that both will be even better than last season. San Diego missed the playoffs by one game last season. That tandem could have made up that one game.
Robinson was a great signing and will contribute right away. The rest of the field are all athletic freaks with speed to burn and off-the-charts leaping ability. When you consider the fact the Bolts don’t have a single member of the secondary that stands six-feet-tall or better, physically gifted athletes are a necessity when you look around the league at the tall, fast wideouts in the league now.
This is a group that will be charged with facing the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson, in week one. In week two, they will have to cover A. J. Green. They stand 6’5″ and 6’4″ and run 4.35 & 4.5 respectively. Add in a double shot of Demaryius Thomas, plus Jordy Nelson (both 6’3″), and it’s easy to see the Chargers’ secondary will be tested all season. Paired with Eric Weddle and the group of safeties he leads, the Bolts will boast a formidable secondary; if they can stay healthy and improve on their woeful takeaway totals (seven interceptions, one safety, 11 fumble recoveries).
This is a group that is full of promise, but can they deliver? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
Among the throngs of Chargers fans, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has anything negative to say about Tom Telesco. The General Manager, now heading into his second year as the team’s front office leader, has done an amazing job with very little cap space.
Telesco hit a grand slam in his first draft last season, netting offensive tackle DJ Fluker, linebacker Mantei Te’o and wide receiver Keenan Allen got the Chargers an A grade. More importantly, on the field Fluker and Allen proved themselves as starters and Te’o played well despite playing the entire season with a broken foot. I will still say Allen was robbed of the NFL Rookie Of The Year award.
Telesco’s approach of overhauling the roster, dumping overpriced and underperforming veterans in favor of younger, hungrier albeit less experienced players worked. His approach worked with the his previous team, the Indianapolis Colts. In conjunction with the drafting of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts went from worst to first in the AFC South. Telesco did the same thing in San Diego and last season the Chargers saw their four-year playoff drought end.
By forcing draft picks and unproven talent to step up and prove themselves on the field, Telesco has created something they haven’t had since they were the team that ruled the AFC West from 2000 to 2007, depth. The Chargers will be a force to be reckoned with on defense with the full strength returns of defensive end Dwight Freeney, last year’s fifth round draft pick in cornerback Steve Williams, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, a finally healthy and full speed Manti Te’o and wide receiver Malcom Floyd. Add newly signed corner Brandon Flowers to what had been a weak secondary and the team is set to make another splash in the NFL postseason.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Chargers 2014 draft class in that equation…
The first two seasons have been about fixing the holes on the offensive line and improving the quality of the defense which has ranked in the bottom of the league the past few years. Now the defense is as stacked as its ever been. Barring injuries, the Chargers should have a defense in the top ten of the league. The offensive line has depth and as we saw last season, with time to throw Philip Rivers is a top five quarterback in the league. That’s not hyperbole, Rivers finished fifth in the NFL last season with 4478 yards passing and 32 touchdowns.
With the matters of depth and stability on both lines in hand, time to look forward to what aspect Telesco will tackle next. The bad contracts from the previous administration finally come off the books this season and in the next offseason the team will find themselves with more cap space than they have had since the turn of the century. The Chargers will have over 30 million to spend in free agency. The reins will be off and Telesco will finally be released from shopping in the bargain basement and now he’ll have the ability to shop in Beverly Hills.
One position which will be in desperate need of new blood will be wide receiver. Floyd, 32, is on the last year of his deal and even if he stays he will be a depth play, not a starter. This will be Floyd’s 11th season. I expect Floyd to retire after this season. Vincent Brown is at the end of his injury-marred rookie contract. Brown had a disappointing 2013 given his opportunity to step up and fill Floyd’s shoes after Floyd went down with a severe neck injury. Another lackluster season will have Brown looking for work elsewhere. Eddie Royal and Seyi Ajirotutu will also be a free agents after this season. That’s four expiring contracts at the same position. That would leave Keenan Allen and a couple of roster fillers at a critical position. Telesco has proven himself adept at filling positions of need. Here’s a look at the top free agent wide receivers in 2015:
None of these players have signed extensions. Aside from Welker, these are legitimate deep threats that will allow the Chargers to stretch the field vertically. Add in some older talents who would not require top dollar like Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Jeremy Maclin, Sidney Rice, Kenny Britt, Josh Morgan and you have a great field of talent to choose from. Adding two players from these names would give the Chargers one of the top receiving corps in the league. It’s not unfathomable to see Thomas and Bryant both in lightning bolts. Telesco covets speed and those two have it in spades. However, that’s also two big contracts. More likely one of the two (Bryant or Thomas) coupled with Smith, Shorts, Welker or another vet on the list would be more like it. San Diego will have the resources to make that happen.
Adding two of those names along side Keenan Allen would give defensive coordinators nightmares, would extend Philip Rivers’ shelf life with an improved offensive line AND legitimate deep threats on both sides of the field (less rushing the passer) and amount to deep playoff runs. The Chargers are an up and coming franchise and with a great front office in place, money to spend and they’re already a playoff team.
Free agents will go to San Diego, as we have already seen. We all know wide receivers are divas. The key things are who’s throwing them the ball, is it a contending team and money. There’s not a receiver in the league who wouldn’t love to catch balls from Philip Rivers. The Bolts can afford to pay and they’re already pushing Denver for the top of the AFC West and making the playoffs. The team already averages 24 points per game without marquee wideouts (aside from Allen). Imagine what they will be able to do with them!
Who would you like to see the Chargers sign next season?
The Greg One