Any long-standing San Diego-now-Los Angeles Chargers fan can think of many failed attempts at clever marketing tactics. The latest, entitled #FightForLA is just as bad as the rest.
We get it. Now that there are two teams vying for the same fan dollars in Los Angeles it is seen as a ‘fight’ for Los Angeles. That sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth for two major reasons. First and most importantly, no one in Los Angeles wants either team to be there. Aside from the subsection of devout loyalists (such as myself) who grew up with the teams in their former homes and would watch them if they relocated to Mars; neither move has raised an eyebrow among the general NFL populous.
Secondly, if the #FightForLA is intended to pit the Chargers versus the Rams in a L.A. rivalry the same way the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are pretended to be, that too is a fallacy. The Clippers have always been the red-headed stepchild in the NBA version of this L.A. story and even though they are currently better than the current version of the Lakers, the Lakers will always be the alpha dogs because of the championship banners hanging from the rafters.
Head-to-head, the Chargers are hands-down better than the Los Angeles Rams. Don’t believe me? These rosters prove my point:
Quarterback: Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. (Quick, does anyone even know who the Rams starting quarterback is??) The answer is Case Keenum, Jared Goff and Sean Mannion all took snaps for the Rams last season to disastrous results and a 4-12 season. Altogether the Rams passed for 3,313 yards and that includes a 4-yard completion by their punter! By comparison, Rivers threw for over 1,000-yards more than the Rams quarterbacks combined (4,386).
Running Back: Rams Todd Gurley vs. Chargers Melvin Gordon. Part of a dying breed of bell-cow running backs, this is the most even matchup on the ledger. Gurley fell off from his breakout rookie season once teams figured the Rams couldn’t pass the ball and loaded the box to stop the run. Gurley managed 885 yards and 6 touchdowns on 287 attempts (3.2 yards per carry). Gordon did the opposite, rebounding from a disappointing rookie campaign to fall three yards short of a thousand yards on 254 attempts (3.9 yards per carry). Gordon went from zero touchdowns as a rookie to twelve (ten rushing, two receiving) in his sophomore year.
Wide Receiver: The Rams tried to run their offense through the speedy but diminutive (5″8′) Tavon Austin. Secondaries figured out the game plan early and rolled coverage to him. As a result he had only 509 yards and three touchdowns receiving. Running reverses and other gadget plays added another 159 yards and one touchdown to his 2016 resume. Kenny Britt, Brian Quick and Lance Kendricks provided the bulk of the punch from the receiving corps, accounting for 1,063 yards and ten touchdowns combined.
In San Diego, Tyrell Williams had a breakout season amassing 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns by himself. Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin combined for another 1,487 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad considering they lost their number one receiver, Keenan Allen, in the first week of the season.
Total offense: The Rams finished dead last in points per game (14) and yards per game (262.7). The Chargers finished ninth in points per game (25.6) and 14th in yards per game (356.8).
There’s no point into going over to the defensive side of the ball. Fans come out to see an exciting, dynamic offense and a good football game. While the argument can be made that neither team achieved that goal, the Chargers were able to put points on the board. The Rams were blown out (16 points or more) six times. They scored ten points or less nine times. The Chargers only had two games where they scored under 20 points (16 and 19) and of their 11 losses, eight were decided by a touchdown or less.
If this were a fight, the ref would’ve stopped it by now….
There is no question as to who is the best team in Los Angeles. Provided they can stay healthy, the Chargers will make the playoffs this season. Health is always the biggest problem with this team as they have not been able to keep their starters healthy for many seasons. The Rams will be living in the NFC West cellar for yet another year, healthy or not. They simply don’t have the talent.
Los Angeles is a notorious fair weather, bandwagon-jumping city. If you win, they will come and tell you they have been a fan for years. The only question is can the Chargers keep their weapons on the field and out of the trainers’ room and if so, how many games will it take before the Los Angeles public officially adopts them?
But retire the hashtag already…
Please and thank you.
The Greg One
The Chargers begin a brutal six-game stretch versus very formidable opponents. That run begins at Qualcomm this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Some may look at their 4-6 record and overlook the Jeff Fisher-led team. I can assure you, that is a big mistake.
The Rams are coming off a victory where they dismantled the Denver Broncos by a score of 22-7. There last three wins have come against the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks. Needless to say, St. Louis is capable of beating any team in the NFL.
Let’s start by looking at the Ram offense by position group and which players stand out.
After replacing Austin Davis, journeyman signal caller Shaun Hill came in and led his team to a victory over Denver. Hill has played for 4 different teams throughout his 13 years in the league. Considered to be a game manager of sorts, Hill isn’t going to set any records but he can do just enough to not be a detriment to his squad. The Chargers must put pressure on him and force him into making mistakes due to a fierce pass rush.
Coming into the 2014 season, hopes were high for Zac Stacy. He flashed some ability in 2013 and almost reached the 1,000 yard mark. This season has been a different story. He has been a bit ineffective and the Rams now employ the running back by committee approach. Bennie Cunningham is one of the backs that has seen his share of carries. He leads the team with three rushing scores. The ball carrier to keep an eye on is Tre Mason. The rookie runner, formerly of Auburn, has started to receive a lot of touches and he leads the squad in carries. He has been picking up steam and the team is starting to believe in him more and more.
The Rams have 2 wide receivers and 2 tight ends that are noteworthy players and strong contributors in one way or another. When looking at the wide receivers, they have Kenny Britt. He is a tall, big-bodied wideout with good speed for his size. Britt is revitalizing his career after burning out in Tennessee. He may only have 25 receptions, but he is averaging 17.6 yards per catch. The other receiver worth mentioning is Tavon Austin. It could be said that Austin is suffering from a sophomore slump. He proved to be an electric player last year as the season wore on. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. He has not seen much success this year in the explosive play department. Don’t let that fool and the Charger defense must have a gameplay to stop him from breaking the big one.
The leading receptions leader in St. Louis is starting tight end Jared Cook. Though he only has one touchdown, his 34 catches have been good for 446 yards. His is a big, athletic guy with great speed for his position. The other tight end is Lance Kendricks. He only has 21 receptions, but with a team-leading 4 touchdowns, he is scoring on almost 20% of those catches.
St. Louis used the second overall pick in this year’s draft on left tackle Greg Robinson. Ironically, he was college teammates with Tre Mason at Auburn. Robinson is a solid player already. He is only going to get better as he hones his craft. The San Diego pass rush will be left when facing him. He really stands out on tape, but he can be taken advantage of by rushers with multiple pass rush moves in their arsenal. Left guard Rodger Saffold is a big dude. He is much more suited to play his current position than when he was formerly a tackle. The fact that he plays next to Robinson only helps him out. There is a lot of beef on the Ram O-line.
In closing, the St. Louis Ram offense has not looked overwhelming when checking out the boxscore. But it does have the potential to burn opposing defenses in multiple ways. Getting pressure on Shaun Hill and making him second-guess himself during passing situations is paramount. John Pagano must be creative and the Charger third-down defense must play like they did against Oakland last week.
Tomorrow I’ll be writing about the St. Louis defense. Now that is where the major concern should be regarding Sunday’s matchup with the Rams.
Stay tuned to BoltBlitz.com and thanks a lot for reading.
The roster bubble is a constantly moving boundary. What little we do know about General Manager Tom Telesco’s methodology includes his noticeably “anti-that last GM that was in San Diego” style of tinkering up until the day the season starts. Late offseason additions of players like Reggie Walker and Lawrence Guy, as they were released by their respective squads, paid huge dividends for the Bolts’ roster in 2013. Telesco likes to keep a few rotational roster spots on the back-end and wait for final cuts to come throughout the league. Cut down day can become a day for wins as well as losses for an opportunistic GM.
Getting the roster to 75 in August isn’t terribly difficult as many of the camp bodies are easy to identify and likely knew their time would be a struggle and simply a learning experience for future endeavors. Getting down to the final 53 is a bit trickier.
Looking over the current Charger roster, it’s clear that the depth is stronger than it has been in quite some time. Keeping in mind that Telesco will more than likely seek to snag a couple of strong releases from various teams in the twelfth hour, that leaves about 50 or so roster spots guaranteed. Again, looking over the current roster, this process begins to show the difficulty of some of these decisions.
Once the team is down to 53, here are some thoughts on the last five current Chargers to stay on the back-end of the roster, and the last five difficult guys that could be cut before the 2014 campaign officially begins.
Potential Last Few In:
DT Tenny Palepoi or Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe:
It’s clear that after last season John Pagano needs space eaters in the middle of his 3-4 defense. Sean Lissemore does a nice job getting pressure on passing downs, and in this pass-happy league, he was able to make a noticeable impact. What became obvious toward the end of the season, is that as winter and playoffs set in, the Chargers couldn’t stuff the run when it really counted. The addition of Ryan Carrethers shows a step in the right direction, but rotation and competition will be necessary. One of these two undrafted behemoths (6’1″ 298, 6’2″ 309 respectively) will likely find a spot on the bench and possibly on the field.
WR Dontrelle Inman:
Tevin Reese looks to be a nice surprise for a late round pick, but he’s another smaller guy in the receiving corps. The Chargers will be on the look out for affordable targets for Philip Rivers for several years to come. Vincent Brown hasn’t yet panned out, and most of the rest of the gang are average to small route runners moving the chains. Along with Malcolm Floyd (and the tight ends of course) look for the Bolts to hang on to a couple of other receivers to both fill out the roster and potentially make a special teams impact. Inman is 6’3″, making him one of the three tallest receivers on the roster. Improvement in the red zone is an offseason focus for coaches McCoy and Reich, if Inman’s hands are good enough, his size could be enough reason to keep him around.
LB Cordarro Law:
A CFL pass rush standout last year, Law looks to follow in the footsteps of Cameron Wake and make an impact in the NFL. With his skill set and experience, Law shouldn’t have a difficult time making the roster, but the position is now stacked. With Telesco guys like Tourek Williams and Reggie Walker already in the fold, Law will have to work to maintain a spot. Jarrett Johnson is on the decline, and until second round pick Jerry Attaochu or future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney can prove accountable all season, Law should be kept on for talent sake.
CB Chris Davis:
The Chargers have a rich history of talented undrafted free agents. Davis was brought in along with many others in order to solidify a glaring area of need at cornerback. Now that Brandon Flowers has signed and Jason Verrett is cleared for practice, the depth is starting to show. Lucky for Davis, he’s known in the football world for one thing, and it happens to be another area of need for San Diego, the return game. Davis figures to be a near perfect special teamer. He’s played in plenty of big time situations, he is a stout hitter, and played starting corner at Auburn. Those skills mixed with the now fabled ability to return kicks, may land him a comfortable spot on the roster as a depth defensive back and Swiss Army knife special teams guy.
OT Nick Becton:
Another undrafted player Becton joined the Chargers out of Virginia Tech and spent 2013 on the practice squad. With Mike Harris nursing injuries, and the pure tackle position being thin, Nick could turn into a nice option for coach Joe D. At 6’6″ 323, Becton has hung around with the team long enough to say that he has something they like. Probably size and some athletic ability. King Dunlap is the only true left tackle to block the blind side from a year ago, and he certainly had his struggles with concision problems. Harris and Fluker both tried their hands on the left and both looked overmatched. Giving him more time with the line coaches this offseason, there may be a jump in production. He’s young and fits the size part well and could make his way into the future grooming role behind Dunlap.
Potential Last Few Out:
CB Marcus Cromartie:
The corner position is currently a crowded one. Aside from the clear top four, there’s Brandon Ghee and Steve Williams seeking nickel duties as well. Chris Davis may have an edge if he can be a contributor on special teams, and Crezdon Butler got to play some actual minutes last season, recording a very memorable goal line forced fumble against the Cowboys. Although talented and well liked by the team, it’ll be an uphill battle for Cromartie to make the final 53.
DT Kwame Geathers:
With his 6’6″ 335 frame and athleticism, any football fan would inherently want Kwame Geathers to work out for their team. Fact is, Geathers’ abilities never quite fit into Pagano’s scheme. Built like a young Albert Haynesworth doesn’t necessarily mean that he would have to play best as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but after seeing what he’s brought to the Chargers this far, it would appear that he may be better suited for it. The other DTs picked up this far in the Telesco era show a trend where Geathers doesn’t quite fit. Low to the ground and wide. Space eaters. Run stuffers. After drafting Ryan Carrethers out of Arkansas State and bringing in three others for a shot at the active roster, it would appear that Geathers is a man without a natural place on the line. If only he would be open to trying left tackle.
TE John Phillips:
Phillips is the perfect football player to have somewhere on your team. Well, he was. Having been injured most of last season, the mostly blocking tight end now has some competition for his spot. Veteran fullback Le’Ron McClain was let free in exchange for David Johnson, who can also be effective at tight end. Having the pleasure of choosing between Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green on any given down puts Phillips into a full-time backup role as it is. A versatile player like Johnson and some buzz around a young Michael Flacco could spell the impending end for an occasionally banged up veteran like Phillips.
RB Kerwynn Williams, Marion Grice, Branden Oliver:
One of these guys will stick, and the one that does will be well above the rest. The name of the game in this crowded backfield is versatility. Pass blocking, receiving, special teams, possibly returning, and oh yeah, running the ball. There will be a healthy competition until the last day for this fourth back roster spot, but it’ll likely go to the guy who can do the most to help the team in a variety of ways. All these guys are hard workers and show flashes, which is why I say they’ll be tougher to let go. But it looks like, in the end, Grice will likely fit the bill.
Honorable mention stiff competition:
Tourek Williams versus Thomas Keiser versus Jarrett Johnson
The team could feasibly hold all of these linebackers, as they did last year. All showed value on the field in 2013, and youth is certainly on the side of Williams and Keiser. Johnson is a valued team leader and mentor, but with Freeney healthy, Attaochu brought in, and Ingram eyeing a full season, the need for utility outside backers has hopefully gone down. Williams was drafted by Telesco which gives him a bit of an advantage, Keiser had off the field issues, and Johnson’s salary could be saved nicely. Johnson would be a surprise last out, but it could happen.
Looking over this roster, it’s difficult to want to envision releasing any further prospective Chargers. Due to Tom Telesco’s concept of how to build a roster, it must be stated that it will take quality work to stay on the back-end of this roster going into 2014. Here’s a sampling of roster bubble guys from around the league who could fit the bill on the bargain hunt:
WR Brandon Tate, Cincinnati Bengals:
Brandon has been in the league since 2009, and spent his first two years with the Patriots. He came out of North Carolina in a pair with fellow Tarheel Hakeem Nicks, although hasn’t had nearly the success. Tate has been a kick returner for the Bengals in recent years an is 6’1, 210 pounds. His experience in the league and special teams focus should net him a roster spot somewhere in the league in 2014.
WR Kenny Britt, St Louis Rams:
Britt has had a troubled NFL career after being selected in the first round of the ’09 draft by the Titans. A mix of behavior, attitude, and lack of elite play has him simply looking for a team to prove himself to these days. Britt has struggled through quarterback issues with Tennessee, and now is trying to stick with an up and down Sam Bradford. It’s possible that bringing him into a roster with a solidified quarterback and a well oiled offense could be a chance for him to finally shine. At 6’3″ 223, he has always had the physical tools.
G Cyril Richardson, Buffalo Bills:
Apparently this guy is not what he was thought to be coming out of college. Listed as one of the highest first round possibilities along the offensive line early in the draft process, he ended up being drafted in the fifth round, having been passed over by Telesco several times in an area of need. He’s big, as in huge (6’5″, 329) for a guard. If he doesn’t make the cut for some reason in Buffalo, Tom and Joe D may want to take a flier on the massive prospect.
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