The staff here at BoltBlitz.com gives their takes and predictions as to what they think will happen come kickoff on the road versus the Broncos.
Zak Darman: The Chargers beat the Broncos only two weeks ago, showing off their beautiful looking color rush jerseys, 21-13 in a game in which the Chargers fully outplayed the Broncos, whether the team stats show it or not. Joey Bosa was a monster in that game defensively and Gordon finally had a long run in the regular season. Siemian was coming off a left shoulder injury and couldn’t find rhythm all game. BUT, it’s two games in three weeks for each team versus each other and beating a team twice in three weeks is tough no matter the opponent. I think this game is close and a turnover by either side determines the game. The offensive line looked baaaaad last week vs a front seven that is weaker than the one they are about to face off against and Kubiak being back is also a plus for Denver. Broncos 24-Chargers 20
Chris LaFurno: Chargers win on a late 4th quarter drive ending in a touchdown by MG28. Jatavis and Bosa combined for 3 sacks. Flowers comes back and gets an interception. Chargers 24 Broncos 21.
Michael Brazeel: Chargers travel to Mile high, trying to win their 3rd in a row. This will definitely be a defensive struggle, with the score being tied 17-17 in the 4th. Broncos will get the ball with a minute left and will kick a field goal with no time left. This will send the Bolts to 3-5, setting up a must win game against the Titans at home next week. Broncos 20-17
Travis Blake: I’ll really be looking at 94 in this game, he was losing snaps to Caraun Reid before Reid was placed on IR. With Joey Bosa drawing double teams, Liuget needs to start winning more often, so far he hasn’t performed to the big contract extension he signed recently (normal). I’m really nervous about both Flowers and Addae possibly playing in this game. Flowers is old and Addae has never been very good. Hopefully the fact that Trevor Siemian sucks will help these two boat anchors out. Pressure all day is they main key for the Bolts defense. Chargers win definitively, 34-17
Laura Leech: A second away game for the Chargers, this one in Mile High. The defense continues to play with an arrogance not seen in a few years. They stop the Broncos from going down the field a lot. They get 3 sacks and one interception. Chargers offense still struggles against a powerful pass defense and end up running the ball a lot. They score more than one touchdown but still settle with a few field goals. A battle of defenses, the Chargers pull off the biggest upset of the year, sweeping the Broncos. 31-17 Chargers
Brian Scott: San Diego faces another uphill battle as they travel to Denver to face the 5-2 Broncos. Two weeks ago, the Chargers dominated the game against the Donkeys, only to still have to worry about an onside kick and a Hail Mary. After beating Atlanta last week, and winning the first back-to-back games since Nov of 2014, confidence is rising in the Bolts locker room, even with players dropping like flies onto the IR. CJ Anderson is out, however Booker is a talented back who thrives between the tackles. Trevor Siemian is beginning to look like the 7th round draft pick that he was as of late, and faces another hungry Charger defense. Rumors also have it that Siemian has been given the green light to change plays at the line of scrimmage as he sees fit. San Diego has lost the last 3 in Denver and has not swept the Broncos since the 2010 season. However, with the balanced attack offensively and Bosa, Liuget and Ingram playing lights out defense, the Chargers will win their third in a row, and finally sweep the team that has given them fits for years. 24-17 bolts
Brian Krich: I believe the Chargers will get the inside run game going this week as Denver has shown they are vulnerable there. I’d feel better if Denzel Perryman hadn’t had to pull off a Kellen Winslow impression circa 1982 in Miami as he’s the key to corralling the suddenly resurgent Denver run game. I think he’s pretty dinged up at this point and probably needs a week or two off. Given its in Denver and I think the Broncos are deeper and a little more healthy. I have Denver winning in a 23-17 type game.
Chris Hoke: Flowers makes his return to the defense and has a big day with a pick. Bosa continues his tear and gets another Strip Sack. Gordon gets going on the ground and in the air 150 total scrimmage yards. Rivers has a solid day passing 18/28 250 yards 2 TDs. It’s the one pick he will want back as his costly turnover will turn this one. Chargers drop a close one 24-21.
Cheryl White: Chargers get scores from Gordon, Henry & Williams. Bosa gets a sack. Ingram & Perryman continue to wreak havoc. Side note: The Broncos Center, Matt Paradis, is questionable. Maybe Siemian has a few errant snaps? 27-20 Chargers.
Mike Pisciotta: Does the other shoe drop or does McNorv do enough to stay out of the way? Lately, Trevor Siemian has looked like a seventh round pick. Joey Bosa continues his tear and channels his inner Von Miller, strip sacking Siemian in the closing minutes to preserve the win. Bolts 28 – Broncos 24
Will McCafferty: I’m worried because I actually feel really good about the Bolts chances on Sunday. The last two weeks, I picked the Bolts to win (I always do), but I didn’t feel good about it. In both cases, they won! Now, I feel like they should win, so I have to worry about being let down AGAIN! The final score of this game could greatly depend on the injury report. If Marshall, Talib, Anderson and Ware are actually “out”, I think we run the score up on them. The problem is that they could just be resting Marshall and Talib due to a short week. Well, I am betting that these guys will at least be slowed down by injuries. Chargers 31 Broncos 13
Greg Williams: The Chargers continue to build momentum and confidence this week in Denver. Mile High Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Chargers but this year it’s San Diego that will hand out the Halloween Eve frights. The defensive line tees of on Trevor Siemian to the tune of eight sacks. The multitude of sacks will result in fumbles, interceptions and short fields for Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Gordon will add two more touchdowns to his ledger. Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry will have red zone touchdowns and Rivers will post 350 and 4 touchdowns on the vaunted Denver defense. Chargers win 41-13.
Dave Peters: The Bolts travel to Mile High to take on the Broncos in a game that could provide the Chargers with their first sweep of the Broncos since 2010. After beating Denver at home and then Atlanta on the road, San Diego is primed to win their third game in a row. Sophomore Melvin Gordon does his usual: over 100 yards from scrimmage and reaches pay dirt twice. Rivers is efficient but doesn’t pass for a ton of yards, finding both Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry for scoring tosses. Rookie Joey Bosa wreaks havoc throughout the game, but it barely shows in the box score. He still manages to add a sack to his season total. The special teams units go unnoticed, which is good thing as there won’t be any glaring mistakes in this one. Chargers win, sweeping the Broncos for the first time since my son, Kayden, was born. 34-24 bolts
It all came about because of a neighbor, who happened to be a diehard Chargers fan.
Initially, I was never a gal who liked to watch football. I went to a couple of games in high school but that was it. I grew up in this little place in Rhode Island, which is about a 90-minute drive outside of Boston. The closest NFL team was the Patriots. (I know, boo-hiss!) The only thing I could tell you then about the New England Patriots was that their quarterback was Jim Plunkett and they played at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, MA.
My dad was a baseball guy, a fan of the good ol’ Boston Red Sox. The BoSox were his team, and Luis Tiant was his favorite player; probably more so than either Carl Yazstremski (“Yaz” was my favorite) or Tony Conigliaro.
We never watched football!
No, not even Super Bowls!
Fast forward to moving from the East Coast to the West Coast in 1980. I was still pretty uneducated about football at that time, but not for much longer!
I believe it was that fall when we began going to our neighbor’s home to watch San Diego Chargers football on Sunday afternoons. The Chargers’ Air Coryell offense was flying high with Fouts at QB. He had Charlie Joiner and John Jefferson at wideout, along with Chuck Muncie and John Cappelletti as his running backs. Additionally, No. 14 had Kellen Winslow at the tight-end spot. Remember that defense? Willie Buchanon, Louie Kelcher, Woody Lowe, Don Macek, Jim Laslavic and Ed White. Beasts!
That was a great year to start being a fan. The Chargers ended the season with an 11-5 record, finishing in 1st place in the AFC West. They went on to face the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round and won. Unfortunately, they ran into the Oakland Raiders at the AFC Championship level and lost. Disappointed, but my interest was piqued.
The following year the Chargers won their division again, in no small part due to the guys who returned from the previous year, but also additions like Wes Chandler, James Brooks, Eric Sievers and Pete Holohan.
Then came the “Epic in Miami.” What a game! Once you hear it, all football fans immediately associate it with the image of an exhausted and drained Kellen Winslow being helped off the field by a couple of teammates. Chargers won the hard-fought, see-saw contest, 41-38 in overtime. It was quite a battle.
These are the types of games that get fans fired up! I was no different. By that point, I was becoming a fan, although my understanding of the sport was still miniscule.
After the heat and humidity of Miami a week later, Fouts and Company found themselves in Cincinnati. This game gets a nickname, too: the “Freezer Bowl.” From the heat and humidity of Miami to the sub-zero temperatures in Cincy, where the wind chill at game time was minus-59 degrees! The Chargers would have the fight of their football lives on the line. Sadly, they lost to the Bengals 27-7.
Of course, there were other games and players that helped solidify my enjoyment – and frustration – of Chargers’ football, just like many other people who root for them. As a “transplant” to California in 1980, there were four football teams here: the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, the LA Rams and the San Diego Chargers.
I chose to represent San Diego then as I do now. My understanding of the game is better because of family and friends, plus a little bit of reading. I still have a long way to go and every year is a learning experience.
Thanks for some awesome memories over the years, San Diego Chargers! Now let’s bring on 2016!
Thank you for reading!
Well, this is certainly a difficult challenge!
Try naming just five of YOUR favorite men to suit up in lightning bolts! Can you do it?!
Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes one say “Yeah, I like him!” Does it matter if it is an “old school” guy where they played more smashmouth football? Or one from the “new” era where it seems like statistics seem to be the norm?
Either way, we all have our favorites for whatever reason. Maybe it’s how they seemingly just fly down the field as if on wings. Perhaps it’s how that one guy is just ALWAYS busting through the offensive line. Could it be the brashness or confidence that reaches us? You all know what you appreciate about the players you can’t wait to see take the field.
Here’s my list of my top five “old school” Chargers, though there were many choices!
Punter for the Chargers from 1994 to 2003, Bennett was formerly an Australian Rules football player. One always knew two things about him: he had the BIGGEST kicking leg and he did not shy away from hitting an opponent if need be. You just knew that Bennett was going to give his team the best field position possible! It was something to see when that ball left his foot and caught air!
Lionel “Little Train” James:
Gosh, this guy was special! He was only in the league for five short years, but he left his mark! Small in stature at 5’6″ and 171 pounds, James was THE smallest running back when he came into the NFL in 1984. His best season was in 1985 when he established three records for a running back.
James led the AFC with 86 receptions and set the bar at 2,583 all-purpose yards including 1,027 receiving yards. I remember watching him squirt through holes and run along the sideline. He had so much power in those legs and he was quick; defenders had difficulty stopping him. Sadly, his stellar career ended due to a degenerative hip injury.
Ha, gotcha on this one! Who could forget the Tongan TE who literally was responsible for scoring the go-ahead touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers to get the Bolts into the 1994 playoffs?! Yes, I know that Dennis Gibson broke up a Neil O’Donnell pass with mere seconds on the clock.
Pupunu had two stints in San Diego (1992-97, 1999). One of the other reasons I and other fans liked him was because of his touchdown celebration: he would pretend that he was opening a coconut and then hoisted it skyward as if drinking from it. I’d venture to say that some folks might have thought he was opening and drinking a beer!
Undoubtedly, the BEST nose tackle to ever suit up for the Blue and Gold. “Ja-mal” was a big, hulking man at 6’3′ and 348 pounds. He was a tackling machine and one of my favorite guys to watch on defense not named Junior Seau. Eleven seasons in San Diego saw the huge but quick man wreak havoc against opposing offenses by collecting 240 tackles, defend 18 passes, force three fumbles plus a lone touchdown and interception apiece.
He was not only an outstanding defensive lineman for the Chargers, he was also considered one of the most elite nose tackles in the NFL in his day. I would always get a kick out of watching that huge body shove it’s way into the middle. Jamal meant business!
As a defensive end, O’Neal was another adept tackler for the Bolts. Voted Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986 he racked up 12.5 sacks prior to losing almost two years due to a knee injury. It was week seven of the ’88 season before he took the field again. His stats weren’t great that year (four sacks/28 tackles) but he was on his way. His performance that season made it possible for him to make his first Pro Bowl appearance.
By the time his career in San Diego was completed, per Pro Football Reference his numbers were: six Pro Bowl selections, 572 tackles, 105.5 sacks which made him the team leader in that category; forced 18 fumbles while recovering nine, two interceptions and a touchdown. O’ Neal is currently tied with Lawrence Taylor at 13th all-time as they both have 132.5 sacks in their careers. Yet another great defenseman for the Chargers.
Gill Byrd – Safety 1983-1992; played every position in the secondary (LCB/SS/FS/RCB), 42 INTs (4x in Top 10)
Stan Humphries – Quarterback 1992-1997; only QB to lead team to Super Bowl (’94), he also guided them to 10 fourth quarter comebacks to go with 12 game-winning drives. He retired as a result of sustaining four concussions in 22 months.
Charlie Joiner – Wide Receiver 1976-1986; aged 39 when he hung up his cleats, Joiner was one of Fouts’ favorite targets to the tune of 586 receptions, 9,203 yards and 47 TDs.
Kellen Winslow – Tight End 1979-1987; in addition to his memorable “Epic in Miami” performance, Winslow was a five-time Pro Bowler. He also placed in the Top 10 in these categories: receptions (4x), receiver (3x), and receiving TDs (4x). He had some gaudy numbers for a guy who only played in 109 games: 6,741 yards on 541 catches with 45 of those being TDs. After just eight years in the NFL, he, too, was forced to retire due to injury.
Keep an eye out for a list of my current players!
Thank you for reading!
My girlfriend, Megan, and I had the opportunity to travel to Canton, Ohio and visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame and attend the Class of 2015 Enshrinement Ceremony last year. Personally, I was excited to attend as a diehard Charger fan and show support of Junior Seau, who was to be enshrined that day.
Another player to be inducted that day was Steelers halfback, Jerome Bettis, evidenced by the foam school buses on many people’s heads. Canton, Ohio is only about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Needless to say there were Steelers fans everywhere. Some of them complimented us on coming so far to support Junior, saying he was a great player, or said it was sad he had left us so soon. The respect Steelers Nation showed to him and to us will be with me for a long time.
We eventually met a group of Seau fans from Oceanside, Junior’s hometown. We talked about our favorite memories of Junior and took pictures together. A great moment was shared when the group was asked to cheer in front of the Hall of Fame for the NFL Network broadcast, all in our Charger gear.
The day of the Enshrinement Ceremony is the busiest day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, something to keep in mind if you are ever planning to visit. The line to enter the Hall of Fame Gallery, where the bronze busts of each inductee are on display, was very long. We were told by an employee that they couldn’t guarantee we would get in to see the busts because they were closing the museum early so the Packers and Vikings players could have a private tour before the Hall of Fame Game the next day.
We risked it, and about two hours later, made it in to see the great Charger players already enshrined: Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts, Sid Gillman, Charlie Joiner, Ron Mix, Kellen Winslow and Fred Dean. Junior’s bust would be revealed to the whole world in a few short hours. It was worth the wait.
Soon it was time to leave the Hall of Fame and enter Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium next door. It’s a 22,000 seat, outdoor football venue, perfect for the Enshrinement Ceremony. The Hall of Fame stadium plays host to many high school and college football games during their seasons as well as the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies, and Hall of Fame Games, played the the day after the ceremony to kick off the NFL preseason each year.
We made it to our seats and I started to reflect. I thought about Junior as his transcendent smile would flash on the jumbotron every few minutes. The jumbotron started to show career highlights of the other members of the Class of 2015. When Bettis’ highlights came on about 20,000 Terrible Towels would go up in the air accompanied by loud cheers and chants. Ironically, many of Junior’s highlights were of him tackling The Bus in the backfield for a loss, effectively quieting the crowd, if only for a moment.
It was finally time for Junior’s bust to be revealed. Master of Ceremonies, Chris Berman, introduced a short tribute video to Junior. Next, Junior’s children were allowed on stage to reveal his bust to the world. Due to a controversial NFL policy on posthumous inductions, none were allowed to speak. Junior’s daughter, Sydney, was then taken off stage and interviewed by an NFL Network reporter. Despite the NFL-induced oddity of the whole situation, Sydney spoke with the poise, bravery and the heart of a true champion. The emotion permeated all in attendance.
During her interview, I thought about Junior’s career with the Chargers, his legend, what he meant to the fans and to the City of San Diego. I thought about what he still means to us all. Men who give their hearts and souls to their community, never truly leave us. They live on in all of us, in our memories, in what we say and do every day.
San Diego had lost it’s two favorite sons, Junior and then Tony Gwynn. At the time of this ceremony it was all but certain, we would lose the Chargers as well. For me, that’s when the tears came. At some point I looked up to the sky and imagined Junior and Tony, shoulder to shoulder, smiling down on us.
This experience has given me the determination to follow the exceptional example set by these two great San Diego men; to do what I can to make my community a better place. I won’t be able to be the best player on the field, or donate millions to local charities, but I can treat everyone I meet with respect and love, as these two did. I can take the time to educate people on the downtown stadium proposal, or at the very least, talk with them about it. I think that’s what Junior would have wanted. If we all do a mere fraction of what these two men did over their lives, we can make this town a better place, maybe even keep our beloved Bolts!
Thanks for reading!
A little about me: First off, this was tough because I’m really don’t like talking about myself and tend to avoid attention. I’m a San Diego native and bleed Charger POWDER Blue and Padre BROWN (yes, kids. #bringbackthebrown & #firebuddy!) My passion for the Chargers is only equaled by my passion for the Padres.
I’m single (hint hint, ladies) with a grown son who serves our country in the US Air Force. I’ve lived in Nevada since 1993, but get to San Diego whenever I can.
I’ve been on the Boltblitz staff since the 2013 season. I am now a Senior Writer and Assistant Editor for the site. As Assistant Editor, I get an advanced look at the work the other staff members are posting and get to publish it on Facebook and Twitter.
On Facebook, I’m 99% about the Chargers and Padres, though I will take time to hassle “real” friends and Facebook friends. I may even troll people who’s posts are just too outrageous to pass up!
On Twitter, I go by the handle @hawk_pie. I chose this after my all-time favorite TV series character, M*A*S*H’s own Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda.
If I had to pick only one player as my favorite current Charger, that would have to be Eric Weddle. He embodies playing with passion and love of the game. I also respect and admire his leadership, both on and off the field. My all-time favorite Charger is Dan Fouts. He had game. He had guts. Most of all, he was the undisputed team leader during the Air Coryell days.
It was during the Air Coryell days that my passion for the Chargers was truly ignited. Watching the likes of Fouts, John Jefferson, Wes Chandler, Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow, James Brooks and Lydell Mitchell was truly watching a stacked team.
My all-time favorite moment in Charger history was the day LT broke the single season touchdown record. Man, he could do it all!
Believe it or not, the lowest moment for me as a fan was losing to the Patriots in the Divisional Round of the 2006 playoffs. To go 14-2 and see players self destruct was horrible, not to mention seeing LT taken out of the second half game plan. Compound that with the firing of Marty Schottenheimer and the rest is history. I hated that Dean Spanos allowed this to happen. They were on the verge until that other guy came long.
Thank you all for reading not only my articles, but the work from the other Boltblitz members! This is all about you, the loyal fans of the SAN DIEGO CHARGERS!
“It’s not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky….”
Kermit the Frog put the color green on the map with this tune. His gloomy disposition during this stanza made us all feel sorry for the little guy, and for the color green. Well, out in San Diego, there might be a similar tune sung by a man who is anything but ordinary.
At 6’6”, Ladarius Green is one of the biggest tight ends in the NFL; 2 inches taller than the future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Selected in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL draft, Green was looked at to be the possible heir to the tight end throne occupied currently by one of the best in all of football. During his rookie campaign, Green only hauled in 4 catches on 4 targets. His very first NFL reception, however, showed San Diego and fans around the globe what talent he possesses. Against the Titans, Ladarius caught a short crossing route and turned it into a 31-yard gain – showing off his 4.53 (40-yard dash) speed.
At the beginning of his second year with the Chargers, it looked like the output was going to be the same as 2012, not much action. Now whether Eddie Royal’s toe injury or Mike McCoy’s realization that they needed to exploit the former Ragin Cajun, Green delivered in solid fashion. Regardless of the reasoning for the heavy usage from week 10 through the playoffs in 2013, Ladarius was involved and displayed his immense talent. More specifically in weeks 10-13, Green was targeted 16 times with 9 receptions, 206 yards and two touchdowns. “Pee-Wee,” with only 17 regular seasons catches, led the league (of receivers who caught at least 15 balls) in yards per catch.
“But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly like.
And green can be big like a mountain, or important like a river, or tall like a tree.”
Now one of the biggest weaknesses I hear a lot about Green is his blocking. It is an important job that comes with the territory of a big Tight End/Receiver. According to Pro Football Focus for run blocking, after the 2013 season, Green was graded out with a -.5 rating – which is average. Is there room for improvement? Of course. Is this a liability? Not even close. Let’s also not forget that the elite TE’s in this league are not at the top of the grading scale as blockers. This position has morphed from an extra blocker on the line who makes an occasional catch, to that of someone like Antonio Gates. San Diego’s own Kellen Winslow started this trend, followed by Tony Gonzalez and then Gates, making that position more of a receiving position.
Is Green a “blocking” tight end? More than likely he is not, but let me remind you all that for most of 2013 he was sent in to pass/run block. As you know, Ryan Mathews had his best season that year. Coincidence? Adding in the destitute offensive line they had last year, and the fact that this man can catch anything that is thrown his way, I am not going to diminish his overall skills when he grades out being average for run blocking.
Naturally anyone who is a football fan, let alone a die-hard Chargers fan, loves watching Antonio continue to succeed and break records. Heading into 2014 season, hopes were high with the combination of Gates and Green perhaps running multiple two tight-end sets. Much like in 2001 with Gronkowski and Hernandez, a devastating duo playing during the same series, I felt Green and Gates playing as a tandem would make the Charger offense devastating and un-defendable. Green’s playmaking ability at the end of 2013 was surely going to explode in 2014. From the very beginning of last season and through week 6, the Chargers were one of the hottest teams; backing that up with a 5-1 record. During that stretch, Ladarius was targeted 14 times for 156 yards. Now beginning week 7 through the end of the season, a dismal 4-6 record, he was targeted only 11 times for 70 yards. What happened? Where did he go? Did someone forget what he did at the end of 2013?
According to Footballoutsiders.com, as of 12/29/14 Gates was ranked as the 2nd best TE and Green as the 17th. In their rankings they use multiple equations and factors that go into their final marks. One of their tools, DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), is defined by… “This number represents value, per play, over an average TE in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player’s performance.” With this specific calculation, even with the lack of targets and receptions, Green is ranked as the 10th best TE in the league.
“When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be”
Not a lot of people thought Gates was going to have the year that he did in 2014. Sure, the future Hall of Famer might have lost a step, and his blocking is on the down-slide, but you can’t argue that he still has the talent as well as all of the intangibles. To sum it up, he’s not fading away anytime soon.
Ladarius has the size, strength and speed to be the next best player at his position, but he is currently on the outside looking in. There has to be a reason for the lack of snaps and targets; something I am clearly missing. With that being said, how could last season be a “disappointment?” It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that he was not targeted often, used primarily as a blocker, and yet people want to state that he was a disappointment. My disappointment is why he was not utilized more.
This is a special player with freakishly raw skills. There is no perfect player and the only way to improve oneself is to always be learning. Ladarius can fine tune some skills, i.e. better blocking and sharper routes, but there’s no denying what a unique treasure the Chargers have as a backup to a legendary TE. San Diego needs to put Ladarius on the line with Gates and let defenses attempt to guard them. This offense, that sputtered mightily down the stretch last year, could be unstoppable with those two on the field. Perhaps then…Green, and the team, can be singing a different tune. A song called…“We Are The Champions.”
Green’s rookie contract is up after the 2015 season….ironically so is the contract for Gates. What are you thoughts on Ladarius’ past and future here in San Diego?
Thanks for reading.
The 2014 version of the Chargers offense was not what San Diego fans have grown accustomed to watching. Chargers fans are used to dominant running backs and a high flying passing game that few teams can match. That was not the case in 2014. Last season’s offense scored less than 20 points on six different occasions, including a shutout in Miami, and a pathetic week 17 effort against Kansas City that only posted seven point, keeping the Bolts out of the playoffs. There were signs of greatness throughout the season, but no consistency to be found. Why is that? Well, the obvious answer was all of the personnel changes on the offensive line. The Chargers went through centers with the frequency that a doctor goes through rubber gloves. You just never knew who would be blocking for Rivers from week to week, or even play to play. That has to be it! Or does it? Will fixing the offensive line cure what ails the Chargers offense? I’m not so sure.
Not being a huge fan of history when I was in school, I have found in my old age that it truly is important to study the past when trying to predict the future. If you follow proven successful strategies, you tend to succeed. If you make the same mistakes that your predecessors make, you will most likely fail. I believe the Chargers have gotten away from what works. It may not be an intentional change, but there has been a change nonetheless. Let’s take a look back and see why previous Chargers offenses were so successful. There were two eras that stand out in my mind when I think of great Chargers offenses: “Air Coryell” and “Marty Ball”.
Despite the annual snubbing by the Hall of Fame toward Chargers coaching legend, Don Coryell, everyone agrees that when he was the Bolts coach, the offense took off! “Air Coryell” brought the passing game to the forefront and left the three yards and a cloud of dust offense far behind. Scoring points was rarely a problem for Coryell’s teams. But why were they so effective? Two reasons: A great offensive line and outstanding offense weapons at the skill positions.
Looking at the Chargers line from those days it is no wonder why Dan Fouts is in the Hall of Fame. Billy Shields holding down left tackle, Doug Wilkerson and left guard, Don Macek at center, big Ed White at right guard, and Russ Washington was at right tackle week in and week out. You could count on these behemoths to be there for you on a weekly basis protecting the star QB and opening holes for the running backs. They stayed together for many years and got to know what to expect from each other. That kind of talent and cohesiveness is huge for an offensive line. When you have to switch the lineup and put guys in positions they are not used to, it creates great challenges that are often nearly impossible to overcome in a short period of time.
Some would look at the formidable offensive line that Air Coryell possessed and figure that they were the reason that the offense was so great. I agree, to a point. I think without that line, the Chargers offense would have been above average, but not as devastating as they were. Give Dan Fouts time to throw and he will carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey. What they had that put them over the top was very talented weapons in the skill positions. Let’s take a look at some of the players who benefited from great O line play, a brilliant offensive coach in Don Coryell, and a lot of talent:
Quarterback: Dan Fouts (HOF)
Wide Receiver: Charlie Joiner (HOF), John “JJ” Jefferson, Wes Chandler
Tight End: Kellen Winslow (HOF)
Running Back: Chuck Muncie, Gary Anderson, Lionel “Little Train” James, James Brooks
If you were fortunate enough to watch these guys play, you know that this is not a list of average players who would not have had success without the help of the offensive line. These players were special talents who did benefit from the great line, but also helped the line look better by getting open faster, hitting holes faster and harder, and throwing with quickness and decisiveness. Air Coryell was truly a gifted and complete offense.
Okay, that was a long time ago and the game has continued to evolve. So let’s take a look at a more recent offense: “Marty Ball”
Marty Ball was different than Air Coryell as it was more of an old school approach to moving the ball. Coach Marty Schottenheimer loved to run the football and impose his will on opponents. Having a top-notch offensive line was a very large part of Marty Ball. As Chargers fans have witnessed in the last couple of years, if you can’t open a hole, backs are rarely successful. Schottenheimer’s line could open holes and the backs could certainly hit them. Of course it never hurts to have one of the best running backs of all time on your team.
What did Schottenheimer’s offensive line have in common with Coryell’s? They were big, nasty, and reliable. They were there opening holes every Sunday for many years. Shane Olivea at right tackle, Mike Goff at right guard, Nick Hardwick at Center, Kris Dielman at left guard, and Marcus McNeill at left tackle were a formidable bunch who were not intimidated by defenses. They knew if they did their job, the Chargers would score and score often.
But again, would the Bolts have put up the huge numbers they did with average skill players? I highly doubt it. Here are some of the skill position players that benefitted from the O-Line:
Quarterback: Drew Brees (future HOF), Philip Rivers
Wide Receiver: Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd (younger version), Eric Parker
Tight End: Antonio Gates (younger version – future HOF)
Running Back: LaDainian Tomlinson (future HOF), Lorenzo Neal, Michael Turner
As you can see, both of these exceptional offenses have one thing in common; they were both filled with talent. They did not just have a strong offensive line and average talent that was able to excel due to large holes and great protection. They were able to dominate defenses because they were able to take advantage of their great offensive line by using above average to great talent at the skill positions.
In 2014, the Chargers offense looked great at times and then dropped off to a shell of what people hoping to see. Injuries on the offensive line were a major reason for the decline in effectiveness, but was that the only reason? I don’t think so. To see the whole picture, we need to look at the season and take a very hard look at the roster.
Coach Mike McCoy did not have the luxury of sending out a dominant offensive line like some of his predecessors. Nick Hardwick was his center in week one, but failed to make it back to the lineup the remainder of the season. That was a big blow as the center is responsible for reading the defense and calling out the blocking assignments for the line. That is a skill that takes time to develop. Throughout the remainder of the season, four other players got to take a shot at center due to a plethora of injuries at that position. In fact, the player who ended the season looking like the front runner to be the starter in 2015, Chris Watt, had never played the position before.
Along with Hardwick Et Al., at center, the Chargers had DJ Fluker at right tackle, Johnny Troutman at right guard, Chad Rinehart and left guard, and King Dunlap at left tackle. With the exception of Dunlap, this was a very inexperienced line and injuries plagued them throughout the entire season. But who was there to help them out?
Quarterback: Philip Rivers (Arguably future HOF)
Wide Receiver: Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen (missed two games), Eddie Royal, Seyi Ajirotutu (special teams players forced to get snaps at WR), Dontrelle Inman (rookie discovered in last couple weeks)
Tight End: Antonio Gates (aging, but still solid, Future HOF)
Running Back: Ryan Mathews (6 games, 74 carries), Donald Brown (13 games, 85 carries), Danny Woodhead (3 games, 15 carries, 5 rec), Branden Oliver (14 games, only 582 yards to lead team in rushing)
Comparing the 2014 Chargers offensive players to Air Coryell and Marty Ball makes it easy to see the problem with the current offense. Not only was the 2014 offensive line hampered by injury, it wasn’t great to start! Once Hardwick went down, there was little hope that the line would be able to work together like the lines of old. Too little experience and too many injuries really limited the offense and what plays they could run. That being said, would the 2014 Chargers offense have been one for the ages if the line had stayed healthy from week one? Honestly, I seriously doubt it.
Along with their inexperienced offensive line, the 2014 Chargers simply did not have the skill players needed to score points like Chargers teams of the past. They are lacking a deep threat at wide receiver. Malcom Floyd had a very nice season and can still get deep at times, but he does not strike fear in defenses like he did when he was younger and lined up opposite of Vincent Jackson, a deep threat in his own right. Keenan Allen is a nice route runner and makes a lot of catches, but only averages 10.2 yards per catch. The Chargers will need to add a true deep threat if they want Allen and Floyd to be dangerous weapons in 2015.
Running back is the most trouble for the Bolts moving forward. Most Chargers fans will argue that if the line could run block, the backs will gain yards. I have argued that myself! Looking back, I see where Ryan Mathews came back from injury and ran quite effectively behind a poor offensive line. He even put up over 100 yards (8.8 ypc) against a highly touted Rams front seven. So it can be done, if the back is good enough to make defenders miss or run through them.
One argument that I have not broached is that the 2014 offense did not compare favorably with the offenses of the past because Offensive Coordinator (OC) Frank Reich does not match up with Don Coryell, or Cam Cameron (OC under Schottenheimer). Perhaps we will tackle that topic another day.
Another argument is that you can’t load your offense up with three or four future Hall of Fame players anymore because of the salary cap. If you spend that kind of money on offense, your defense will suffer and your team will not be balanced enough to win championships. This argument has merit, but I say if you draft well, you will not have to pay the future stars big money for their first four years with the team. If they are worth big money for their second contract, there are many things that can be done to spread out the money over time and not kill your cap space. Other teams do it, why not the Chargers?
So, bringing this back to the original question, will fixing the offensive line fix the Chargers offense in 2015? My answer is no. That being said, I believe it will greatly improve the offense, just not get It to the elite level that we have seen in San Diego in the past. Until a deep threat and a true number one running back can be brought in, I don’t see this offense being any better than above average with occasional flashes of brilliance. Philip Rivers can only do so much at quarterback. The man needs talent around him.
Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below.
(Thanks to the following sites for the pics: thelandryhat.com, outdoor-wholesale-dropship.doba.com, spokeo.com, m.theepoctimes.com, and hillnholler.net)
The NFL draft is still about seven weeks away. The league and its teams have been participating in this year’s free agent frenzy for the better part of a week. Most of the big names have changed teams, or re-signed with their respective teams.
The Chargers have added some much-needed depth at multiple positions. Tom Telesco has done a great job bringing in guys that help add to a team that finished last season in the second round of the playoffs. The questions now turn to the draft.
As the draft order currently sits, San Diego has the 25th pick in the first round. The importance of the Bolts hitting on that pick is crucial in building on last year’s performance. It’s no secret that Telesco had one of the best draft classes in the NFL. John Clayton of ESPN has been on the record of saying it was THE best.
The first round should give the Chargers some options on how and where to improve the team. Like many of you, I’ve been doing my homework trying to see who I would select if I were in Tom’s position. While doing so, I wondered how many first round draft picks the Chargers have made that panned out to be superstars. Which then led me to this post. After spending some time doing some research, I came up with who I would consider to be the top 5 first round draft selections by your San Diego Chargers. As per any post that is purely based on one’s opinion, there will be those of you that will have a completely different list. But, read on and you can see who I have decided are in my top-5.
5. Leslie O’Neal DE Oklahoma State 6’4″ 275 pounds
O’Neal was drafted with the 8th pick in the first round of the 1986 draft. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker for San Diego. O’Neal earned his way into 6 Pro bowl nods and finished his career with 132.5 sacks. After 9 years in America’s finest city, O’Neal spent two years a piece in both St. Louis and Kansas City.
4. Walt Sweeney OG Syracuse 6’4″ 256 pounds
Obviously Walt Sweeney and his tenure with the Chargers is far before my time. But it is impossible to not include him on this list after looking him up and then speaking with my father about him. He was the 2nd overall pick in the 1963 draft. Sweeney started 181 games during his career. Like O’Neal, he had a stint at the end of his playing days – two years in Washington – before retiring. He was a two-time 1st team All-pro selection and made the Pro bowl and impressive 9 times. Hopefully you can see why he had to be on this list.
3. Kellen Winslow TE Missouri 6’5″ 251 pounds
The image of Kellen Winslow being helped off the field after the triple-overtime victory over the Dolphins is one of the most iconic pictures in all of professional sports. Winslow revolutionized the tight end position in the NFL. His athleticism at the position was not common in those days. He was the 13th player chosen in the 1979 draft after the Bolts traded with the Browns to move up to select him. By the time Winslow decided to hang up his cleats, he had amassed 541 receptions for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns. Additionally, he was selected as a 1st team All-pro 3 times and made the Pro bowl 5 times in his career. Winslow was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995 after being a finalist in 1993 and 1994.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson RB TCU 5’11” 221 pounds
To put it quite simply, LaDainian Tomlinson is one of the greatest running backs of all-time. His production over his career guarantee him a spot in Canton on the first ballot. Nicknamed LT, he was involved in one of the biggest draft day trades ever. The Chargers held the 1st pick in the 2001 draft and the Atlanta Falcons wanted to move up from the 5th pick to draft Michael Vick. We all know how that worked out. Tomlinson earned his way to 1st team All-pro 3 times while going to the Pro bowl 5 times. His career numbers are as follows:
Rushing – 3174 rushes 13,684 yards 145 touchdowns
Receiving – 624 receptions 4,772 yards 17 touchdowns
Passing – 8/12 143 yards 7 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Not too shabby, eh? In fact, I think I’ll just put a bow on this part of the article now.
1. Junior Seau LB USC 6’3″ 255 pounds
Buddy. Seau was taken with the 5th pick in the first round of the 1990 draft. He would go on to be the heart and soul of the Chargers for 13 seasons. He also played 3 years in Miami and 4 years in New England to finish up his career. By the time it was all said and done, Seau totaled 12 Pro bowls, all of which were with the Chargers and achieved consecutively, and was named a 1st team All-pro 6 times. A tackling machine, he had over 1,400 tackles during his time in the NFL. He also managed to snag 18 interceptions and 56.5 sacks. Seau was a force to be reckoned with at all times. He had a knack for timing snaps and was always around the ball. Opposing offenses, especially quarterbacks, had to know where Seau was at all times. Seau is eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year. That will be an emotional day for countless fans all over the world.
Honorable Mentions: Russ Washington, John Jefferson, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, Billy Ray Smith, Quentin Jammer, Jim Lachey and Earl Faison
That was a fun post to research and to write. I hope everyone enjoys reading it. Feel free to leave me a comment on what you think. Thanks a lot for reading.
Sid Gillman, the father of the “West Coast Offense” is also the father of one of the richest coaching trees in the NFL, including the Chargers’ own Don Coryell. This year, Coach Coryell was again snubbed by the writers who vote players and coaches into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Why isn’t Coryell in Canton? Only one remotely justifiable reason comes to mind. He never won a title. There was always the criticism that he was too focused on offense and neglected the defensive side of the ball. There is far more justification for his induction into Canton if you look at who IS in the Hall BECAUSE of him.
Among his disciples, understudies, former assistants Joe Gibbs and John Madden are both in Canton. Gibbs played and coached under Coryell at San Diego State University, and was an assistant twice with Coryell in the NFL: from 1973-77 as running backs coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and 1979-80 as offensive coordinator of the Chargers.
Madden was an assistant on Coryell’s staff at San Diego State in the mid-1960s. Both men were heavily influenced by Sid Gillman. Madden went on to a stellar career as Head Coach in Oakland.
Among the players who played under Coryell who are enshrined in Canton are OL Dan Dierdorf, QB Dan Fouts, WR Charlie Joiner and TE Kellen Winslow. Fouts once said that if it wasn’t for Coryell, he wouldn’t be in Canton.
Just what impact did Coryell have on the NFL? He revolutionized the passing game. He was a master at creating mismatches in coverage. He took player’s skill sets and built his game plans around what his players were best at doing. Closer to home, he turned around a franchise that had been awful since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970. In 1978, his first year as Head Coach, he led the Chargers to their first winning season in almost a decade.
From 1978 to 1983, the Chargers led the league in passing every year, and then again in 1985. They led the league in total offense 1980-83 and again in ’85.
Madden, Gibbs and Fouts all have lobbied on his behalf for enshrinement, but that honor continues to elude. Named to the 50th anniversary coaching staff, Coryell passed away in 2010, never reaching the one recognition he truly deserved: enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.