Immediately after the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft the Los Angeles Chargers set to signing undrafted free agents. In all, 15 players were chosen to come into camp and compete for the opportunity of realizing their dream of making an NFL roster.
The names on this list are largely unfamiliar except to the devoutest college football fans. These are the underdog stories we’ll all root for in hopes they can join the ranks of the Chargers’ legacy of great undrafted free agent triumphs. Look no further than Hall Of Fame bound tight end Antonio Gates and the recently retired wide receiver Malcom Floyd for recent examples.
Here is the Los Angeles Chargers undrafted free agent class of 2017:
CB Brandon Stewart, Kansas
CB Brad Watson, Wake Forest
T Mason Zandi, South Carolina
K Younghoe Koo, Georgia Southern
LB Mike Moore, Kansas State
WR Artavis Scott, Clemson
LB James Onwualu, Notre Dame
WR Andre Patton, Rutgers
WR Dontre Wilson, Ohio State
QB Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State
LB Nigel Harris, South Florida
RB Austin Ecker, Western State
C Dillon Deboer. Florida Atlantic
CB Michael Davis, BYU
TE Sean Culkin, Missouri
There are a lot of great underdog stories among this group that will be brought to light in upcoming UDFA profiles. Kenkins is a dual-threat quarterback that threw for 2100 yards and eleven touchdowns. He also ran 175 times for 984 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Chargers have never started a ‘mobile’ quarterback. It’s an interesting thought that of all the free agent quarterbacks available, he’s the one they chose. Zandi is a 6″9′-inch, 315-lb. behemoth. Before we get too excited about that prospect, we have to look no further than the recently departed King Dunlap.
The most intriguing prospect and my lock to make the team is Clemson wide receiver Artavis Scott. Scott was the wideout lined up opposite the Chargers number one draft pick, WR Mike Williams for three seasons. The 5″10′-inch, 190-lb. Scott was a freshman All-American, first-team All-ACC his sophomore year and second-team All-ACC his junior year. Entering the draft after his junior year, he caught 76, 93 and 76 passes for a combined 2,480 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Chargers have made a conscious effort to foster a more collegiate atmosphere by selecting players that were teammates with existing core players. Cases in point, RB Melvin Gordon and FB Derek Watt (Wisconsin); DE Joey Bosa and LB Joshua Perry (Ohio State); K Josh Lambo and P Drew Kaser (Texas A&M). You’d figure taking such an approach helps the incoming player settle in a little quicker seeing a familiar face; a player they battled side-by-side with and won and lost together.
Now the two starting wide receivers from the reigning collegiate National Championship team arrive at the same time. They undoubtedly have chemistry together and will learn and grow together. The Chargers’ wide receivers room is already very crowded but the potential in bringing Williams and Scott through the ranks together and replicating the magic they had in Clemson is too good to pass up.
I, for one, can’t wait to see it!
Any UDFA’s you’re looking forward to seeing? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
“The only stat that matters is the final score.” – Chargers fans after the team’s 21-13 win over the Broncos, probably
The Chargers invited the Denver Broncos to San Diego for a Thursday Night Football game in San Diego this past Thursday.
The Bolts entered the game on the heels of a 10-game divisional losing streak which dates back to November of 2014. The game would mark their third divisional contest of the ’16 season, as the Chargers fell to the Chiefs in Week 1, allowing what would be one of the biggest comebacks in Chiefs’ history, and the Raiders in Week 5, falling flat on their faces in another game that they were in until the closing minute.
It was incredibly difficult to find anyone outside of the occasional die-hard Chargers fan that was picking the Chargers to upset the defending Super Champion Broncos. The scarce few I did find were using the game to gain leverage in Pick ‘Em via an upset pick, knowing that they could take the Chargers and hopefully get lucky with a San Diego win, while being fully aware that they would be one of the only selectors to do so.
As you all know by now, despite the usual late-game debacles, the Chargers held on to beat the Donkeys by a score of 21-13.
As expected, blunders late in the fourth quarter almost cost the Chargers a victory; for example, no one EVER wants to see Kenny Wiggins attempt to catch a punt, kickoff or anything else involving the game of football; unless there is an interception or fumble and he is “catching” the recovering defender, preventing them from making a bad play for the offense even worse.
The Chargers’ 2016 rookie draft class highlighted the victory for the team, as first-round pick Joey Bosa, second-round pick Hunter Henry, fifth-round pick Jatavis Brown and sixth-round pick Drew Kaser all had solid performances.
Though Bosa’s boxscore — one tackle — may lead the casual fan to think he was a non-factor, those of us who watched the game saw him wreak havoc all over the field, setting up a campsite on the Broncos’ side of the line of scrimmage.
Henry, albeit in only his sixth career game, set career-highs in receptions (six) and yards (83). He also scored a receiving touchdown for the third consecutive game.
Even the most clueless of football fans walked away from the Week 6 win knowing that Brown had a huge impact on Thursday. Notching 14 total tackles, one sack and a forced fumble, Brown showed that he certainly belongs in the NFL. The organization should be very pleased with the production of their fifth-round ‘backer. He is only going to get better with more playing time.
Punter Drew Kaser had a miserable Week 5, but we’re going to move past that for the sake of everyone’s sanity. In Week 6, Kaser was back to being the strong-legged punter he was during his Texas A&M days, booming multiple punts with solid hang-time, while placing multiple kicks inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line.
All in all, if we’re being completely honest, the Bolts most likely don’t win this game if it weren’t for the output of these four youngsters, and the future is bright for each of them.
Before moving on to PFF grading the Chargers, it is worth noting that cornerback Casey Hayward did a phenomenal job while covering Broncos’ wideout Demaryius Thomas.
Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian targeted Thomas four times while he was covered by Hayward on Thursday, completing just one pass for only six yards.
In short, Hayward added to what has already been an impressive season for the Chargers, locking down one of the league’s premier receivers in Thomas.
The former Packer has already managed to snag three picks in 2016, leading the team in interceptions.
Below is how ProFootballFocus.com graded the Chargers’ offense and defense.
Quarterback grade: Philip Rivers 67.9
Rivers calm under pressure
Philip Rivers wasn’t extremely productive, but he did have a mistake-free game in terms of turnover-worthy plays. He had some inaccurate throws and on passes outside the numbers and 10-plus yards downfield, he was just 1-for-5 for 18 yards. Rivers was actually at his best when he was under pressure. On his nine targeted throws, he completed eight of them including the Chargers’ lone touchdown of the game.
Top offensive grades:
T King Dunlap, 78.4
TE Hunter Henry, 73.1
T Joe Barksdale, 71.7
HB Melvin Gordon, 68.1
QB Philip Rivers, 67.9
Offense scores just enough in win
On several occasions the Chargers sustained long drives only to stall and have to settle for short field goals. Left guard Orlando Franklin threw Broncos’ DL Jared Crick to the ground on one play that helped spring HB Melvin Gordon for a 48-yard run, but otherwise the Chargers’ running game was largely ineffective. Gordon’s long run went for more yards than his 26 other carries combined (46) and he averaged less than 1.8 yards per carry on those 26 runs. Not a single Chargers player finished with an above-average run-blocking grade. While Hunter Henry struggled as a run-blocker, he had a solid game receiving, with six catches for 83 yards, both career-highs, and a touchdown for the third consecutive week.
Top defensive grades:
ILB Jatavis Brown, 85.5
ILB Korey Toomer, 84.6
OLB Melvin Ingram, 82.2
DE Joey Bosa, 82.0
NT Brandon Mebane, 80.7
San Diego rookies make big impact
This isn’t your 2015 Chargers run defense or anything close to resembling it. San Diego finally has the horses up front to not only limit a run game, but stop it in its tracks. Outside of a few runs late in the game, the Broncos running backs had nowhere to go for most of the game. A big reason for their defensive success was the rookie duo of Joey Bosa and Jatavis Brown. Brown had a huge sack and forced fumble down the stretch while Bosa was consistently applying pressure throughout the game with five hurries and a hit.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown
Dave Booga Peters
Offensive lineman King Dunlap joined the Chargers via free agency during the 2013 offseason.
After missing five games during his debut season with San Diego, Dunlap went on to play in and start all 16 games of the 2014 season, earning him a new four-year, $28 million deal with the organization during the 2015 offseason. The now 31-year-old was also awarded the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year Award for his work during the 2014 campaign.
Then comes the 2015 season.
Due to various injuries and ailments, including concussion problems, Dunlap only suited up for seven games in ’15, leaving the starting left tackle spot to be manned by players such as Tyreek Burwell and Chris Hairston, to name a couple.
The hope around Chargers Park was that the nine-year veteran would rebound health-wise and come into the 2016 season will a clean bill of health.
Everything seemed fine for Dunlap, that is until the day of their Week 3 contest against the Indianapolis Colts.
Reports from the team came out that Dunlap was suffering from an “illness” of some sort, relating, to at least some degree, to migraines.
Dunlap missed the Week 3 loss against the Colts and he would go on to miss the Week 4 loss to the Saints, too.
The Chargers have gone on the record stating that Dunlap’s illness issues do not have anything to do with a concussion, something that he has dealt with throughout portions of his football career.
When the Bolts released their Wednesday practice participation report, Dunlap was listed as a limited participant, meaning he probably did some stretching and individual work but did not participate in many, if any, team drills.
Last week against the Saints, the Chargers moved Joe Barksdale over to left tackle and shuffled around other portions of the offensive line, as well.
The team has also used Chris Hairston at left tackle in the absence of Dunlap.
It is very difficult to say when one should expect Dunlap to return to field. The Bolts, as usual, have been very tight-lipped on the issue, so it is safe to say that no one truly has any idea when King will be back on the gridiron.
Needless to say, we all hope he returns sooner rather than later.
Dave Booga Peters
After suffering their third loss of the season, another game in which the Chargers should have come out victorious, the Bolts enter their Week 5 contest against the Oakland Raiders very banged up.
But what’s new?
The team announced its practice participation report for Wednesday’s practice.
Did not participate:
- SS – Jahleel Addae Clavicle
- LB – Nick Dzubnar Knee
- CB – Brandon Flowers Concussion
- CB – Jason Verrett Knee (It was announced on Wednesday that he has a partially torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2016 season)
- OT – Joe Barksdale Foot
- OT – King Dunlap Illness
- OG – Orlando Franklin Knee
- TE – Antonio Gates Hamstring
- OT – Chris Hairston Groin
- ILB – Joshua Perry Knee
- ILB – Denzel Perryman Shoulder
- DL – Joey Bosa Hamstring
Well, I’ll be damned! Joey Bosa may play in his first NFL game since being drafted by the Chargers with the third overall pick in this year’s draft. Though the team will remain cautious regarding the hamstring ailment that the rookie has been dealing with since signing his rookie contract, Bosa may be added to the mix as a situational pass rusher come Sunday.
Again, the team has not decided whether or not he will indeed make his NFL debut, but it is nice to see that he is getting closer to suiting up in a regular season game for the Bolts.
Both starting offensive tackles (Joe Barksdale and King Dunlap) and the team’s starting left guard (Orlando Franklin) were all limited participants on Wednesday. Joining the injury-laden linemen is swing-tackle Chris Hairston.
After using 26 different offensive line combinations during the 2015 season, the Chargers are already having to mix and match their options along the offensive front.
In addition to the offensive line, the team’s inside linebacking corps is banged up (Dzubnar, Perry and Perryman all were limited), too. When you add in the loss of Manti Te’o for the season, a once promising group has been reduced to shambles. Hopefully the shoulder injury to Perryman is not too serious, and he’ll play on Sunday at close to 100 percent.
The only positive that comes from the maladies suffered by the inside linebackers is it forces the team to get rookie backer Jatavis Brown more involved on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite the fact that the defense was without cornerback Brandon Flowers this past Sunday, and he did not practice on Wednesday, that is not the worst news regarding the secondary this week. Stud cornerback Jason Verrett has been lost for the year due to a partially torn ACL.
Recovering from the loss of your best defensive player is never a small task.
The secondary has already been without starting strong safety Jahleel Addae, as he suffered a clavicle injury and is expected to miss more time.
As it stands right now, the cornerback group is down to Casey Hayward, Craig Mager, Pierre Desir and the recently re-signed Stevie Williams; that is, of course, if Flowers struggles to pass the concussion protocol tests as we approach Sunday.
Just like any other year in recent memory for Chargers fans, the team has been bombarded with injuries, forcing the club to play individuals that even some Chargers fans are not familiar with the names on the backs of their jerseys.
I mean, this was supposed to be “our year,” right, guys? (Every year is supposed to be our year, as long as the team stays healthy and the coaches find a way to remove their heads from their asses…..)
The injury report leading up to this week’s game is certainly something worth keeping your eyes on, folks.
Dave Booga Peters
In part one of my analysis of the San Diego Chargers offense I covered the quarterback, running back, fullback and tight end positions. Simply by using their stats and past history I gave a number of points per game I expect that group to get every week. Today I break down the rest of the offense, looking at the wide receivers, offensive line and coaching staff.
The most hard to read of all the skill position groups, the wide receiver position has been long on potential but short on production and consistency. Injuries have decimated the wide receiver corps year after year.
Keenan Allen is leader of the wide receiver group who have dubbed themselves the ‘Aliens’. Allen was off to an amazing start in 2015, hauling in 67 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns in his first eight games. In a game against the Baltimore Ravens, Allen lacerated his kidney when he landed on the ball while catching a touchdown, ending his season. He was on pace to shatter the Chargers’ single season record for receptions (100) held by Ladainian Tomlinson and the break the NFL record for receptions in a single season (143) held by former Indianapolis Colt Marvin Harrison.
Now armed with a brand new four-year extension in hand Allen is locked in through the 2020 season. Allen has established himself as a star on the rise and will be taking the field with a chip on his shoulder after the way his 2015 campaign ended. In 37 games he has caught 215 passes for 2,554 yards and 16 touchdowns.
However, the success of the receiving corps will be dependent on Allens’ supporting cast.
Getting Allen help was a priority heading into the offseason and the first splash the Chargers made into the free agency pool was acquiring former Cleveland Brown Travis Benjamin. The 5’10” speedster caught 68 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. Aside from a knee injury that caused him to miss the second half of the 2013 season, Benjamin has only missed the first two games of his NFL career with a tweaked hamstring.
In his four years in the NFL, he has established himself as a dangerous return specialist. At the 2012 NFL Combine he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and it has carried over into the pros. As a punt returner, Benjamin gained 324 yards on 28 attempts. Of those 28 attempts, four returns were over twenty yards and one was a 78-yard touchdown return. By comparison, the Chargers had 20 punt returns for 84 yards as a team last season. Their longest return was 18 yards.
Benjamin automatically legitimizes the punt return game and now gives the Chargers what they haven’t had in years, a wide receiver with the speed to take the top off the defense. At 26, Benjamin is just beginning to enter his prime. This signing could trumpet a revival of the vertical passing game that we haven’t seen since the height of the Tomlinson era.
In his first season with the team, Stevie Johnson showed excellent chemistry with Rivers. Johnson was second among wideouts catching 45 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns. Hamstring and groin injuries caused him to miss seven games, including the last five games of the 2015 season. The nine-year pro is a dynamic receiver who has shown he can make an immediate impact if he can stay healthy.
Dontrelle Inman started in seven of the 14 games he appeared in last season. The CFL import continues to improve as he caught 35 balls for 486 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. Heading into his third season he will become a bigger part of the offense, likely assuming the role formerly held by the now-retired Malcom Floyd. Moving off the bench into a full-time starting role should greatly increase his numbers across the board.
Tyrell Williams can be penciled in as fifth on the wide receiver depth chart at the moment. Williams made his presence felt in the final game of the 2015 season against the Denver Broncos with a two reception for 90-yard performance, highlighted by burning Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on a scintillating 80-yard touchdown catch. Those were his only stats of the 2015 regular season. Signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft he spent time on the active roster and practice squad. He has the size (6’3″, 205), speed (ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds) and agility (39.5-inch vertical jump) to be a dominant pro wide receiver. Will he live up to his potential going into his second season?
The rest of the receiver field is comprised of undrafted free agents and second-year pros. Unless a veteran is brought in, this is the group that will likely start the 2016 season.
Points-per-game expectation: 6
All the new additions to the skill positions mean nothing if the offensive line can’t provide continuity, open holes for the running backs and allow Rivers enough time in the pocket to throw the ball. That has been a large task that has fallen woefully short in those categories in the last number of seasons. In the last four seasons Rivers has been sacked 155 times, 40 times in 2015. The running game was dead last in touchdowns (4) and 31st in yards (1,358) last season.
Last season the offensive line had 25 different combinations due to injury. This season San Diego boasts the biggest projected starting offensive line in the league, but can they stay healthy? Veteran free agent Matt Slauson was brought over from the Chicago Bears to finally stop the turnstile at the center position. Lining up next to him will be guards Orlando Franklin, D.J. Fluker and tackles King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale. Concussions, knee and lower leg injuries were the downfall of this group last season. What will they do differently to stay on the field this season? The success of the season rides on it.
Points-per-game expectation: -4.
As frustrating to watch as the play on the field at times were the decisions of the coaches in key game situations. Last season the Chargers lost four games by three points. Eight of their twelve losses were by a touchdown or less. More often than not the staff played not to lose instead of playing to win. Head Coach Mike McCoy and then offensive coordinator Frank Reich called conservative games, focusing on short to intermediate routes in the passing game and running almost exclusively out of the Pistol formation.
The playcalling was predictable and did not attack downfield enough to make opposing defenses concerned about getting beat deep. Injuries played a big part but so did not having the personnel to execute that type of game plan. Blame can be laid at the feet of those in the front office for lack of quality depth once the injuries started mounting.
Thankfully, Reich is out and Ken Whisenhunt returns to take his place. Whisenhunt parlayed a successful 2013 season as the Chargers’ OC into a head coaching position with the Tennessee Titans. Not coincidentally, 2013 was the last season the Chargers made the playoffs.
Whisenhunt is intent on revamping the run game first and foremost. The Pistol formation will be scratched in favor of having Rivers back under center and using short drops. Expect to see a return of the power run game highlighted by Watt and Gordon in their familiar college roles. In 2013, Whisenhunts’ running attack averaged 122 yards per game and Rivers was fourth in the league in passing with 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns.
If McCoy trusts Whisenhunt with the playcalling duties the Chargers should be able to take advantage of a last-place schedule and return to the playoffs as long as the team can stay healthy at key positions. It is a positive sign that the front office reached out to Whisenhunt and bring back a system that worked with this group of players. His track record speaks for itself going back to his days in Pittsburgh, then leading the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII to coordinating the Chargers offense to its only payoff appearance in the last six years. Until McCoy steps away from the playbook, I remain skeptical.
Points-per-game expectation: -2
In all, my points per game expectation went like this: QB (14), WR (6), TE (4), RB (6), OL (-4) and coaching staff (-2) for a total of 24 points per game. Until the offensive line proves they can stay on the field and the offense is shown to be run through Whisenhunts’ headset instead of McCoys’ will I believe they won’t be a detriment to the team. Right now I believe those factors will cost the team one touchdown per game.
The 24-points per game are an improvement over the 20 points per game the Chargers averaged last season (26th in the NFL in 2015) and is on par with Philip Rivers’ lifetime average. Over his career, the Bolts average 25.6-points per Rivers start. That number has been as high as 27-points per game during the Tomlinson years.
This team has all the tools for a worst-to-first turnaround. The question is can they do it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers find themselves poised to take the most talented player in the draft from where they sit in the number three slot. The top two slots, held by the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns respectively, will be used on quarterbacks. While Carson Wentz and Jared Goff both grade out to be the top two quarterback prospects in the draft, neither are viewed as a plug-and-play franchise quarterbacks but from where they will be selected in the draft that will be the expectation.
While the jury will be out on the top two picks for the next four years, it put the Chargers in control of their own destiny. The top choice on their big board will be available when their number is called. The right pick can result in a stalwart player who is a day one starter, perennial All-Pro and Hall Of Fame worthy. The wrong pick can set your team back years.
Should the Chargers consider trading down?
It depends on how far down and what the Bolts receive in return. The short answer is no. There is an embarrassment of riches at the top of the draft then it devolves into a guessing game with each passing selection.
Which player is the Chargers golden ticket?
There are only three names that need to be considered with the number three selection. That’s it, three. Any other selection is an out-an-out fail. Those three players are (in my order of preference):
1. Jalen Ramsey CB/FS Florida State:
Standing at 6″1′ and 209 pounds, Ramsey ran an impressive 4.41 in the forty-yard dash and recorded the best vertical (41.5 inches) and broad jump (135-inches) at his position at the NFL Combine last month. The first freshman to start at cornerback at Florida State since Deion Sanders, Ramsey is an exceptional athlete. In 2015 he won the ACC indoor and outdoor long jump titles.
Ramsey split time between cornerback and free safety in his three seasons at FSU. Over his career he compiled 181 tackles, 22 passes defensed, 15.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
Adding Ramsey to the Chargers secondary fills the void left by the departure of Eric Weddle. The Bolts added Dwight Lowery through free agency to fill that position so using Ramsey as a press corner makes a lot more sense. With Jason Verrett and Ramsey covering the top two receivers, Flowers and free agent addition Casey Heyward can come in as slot and nickel corners. The Chargers would instantly have one of the top secondaries in the league.
2. Deforest Buckner, DL, Oregon
Standing an imposing 6″7′, 291 pounds, with 34 3/8-inch arms and the largest hands of anyone at the draft (11 3/4-inch), Buckner is the definition of a freak athlete. He was able to parlay his brute strength and raw athleticism into a successful four-year career at Oregon. As an interior defensive lineman he was able to consistently push the pocket, often able to beat double teams. When he lined up as a defensive end he showed a great nose for the ball as he racked up sacks, pressures and tackles for loss.
At the NFL Combine, Buckner registered a 116-inch broad jump, 32-inch vertical jump and ran the 40 in 5.05 seconds. Those are remarkable numbers when you consider his position and his size. Placing Buckner on the interior defensive line in San Diego alongside Corey Liuget and free agent addition Brandon Mebane would be a huge upgrade and solidify a defensive line that finished 18th against the pass and 6th against the run. Pass rushing has long been a weakness for the Chargers. Adding Buckner to the existing unit greatly improves the pass rush which allows the secondary more time to make plays.
Coming out of Oregon, you know Buckner has a high motor and it shows in his game tape. Over his career he logged 232 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 10 passes defensed and 2 forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Last season, Buckner had 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss on the way to being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
3. Laremy Tunsil, LT, Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil tips the scales at 6’5″, 310 pounds, 34 1/4-inch arms and 10″ hands. Largely considered to be the best tackle prospect in years, Tunsil has not seen his stock drop despite a tumultuous senior season. Tunsil missed time after suffering a broken leg and dislocated ankle in the 2014 Peach Bowl and ran into off-the-field trouble which caused the NCAA to suspend him for the first seven games of the season.
At the combine, Tunsil did not run or jump and stuck to doing positional drills. There, he wowed those in attendance with his size, fluidity and excellent footwork. At the Ole Miss Pro Day he improved his stock as he did 34 reps of 225-pounds, vertical jumped 28 1/2-inches and broad jumped 9’3″.
This isn’t a fast-forward effect.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 28, 2016
Tunsil is undoubtedly a franchise left tackle but it may raise more questions than it answers for San Diego. King Dunlap took less money to stay at left tackle, which includes playing time incentives due to his recent injury history. Joe Barksdale was re-signed to a four-year deal to stay at right tackle. They make too much money to come off the bench and fans will not be happy to see the Chargers number one selection sitting and waiting for his name to be called.
All three of these players have the potential to be Pro Bowl regulars and Hall Of Fame nominees if they can stay healthy. These are the three best at their position and arguably the three most gifted athletes on the board, period. These are the only three players the Chargers war room needs to be discussing and if any of these three are not the pick, personally, the draft itself was a failure.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Agree or disagree? What name would you add to this list? Remember, we’re talking about someone worthy of the third overall selection in the draft! Post your thoughts below.
The Greg One
Former Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is visiting with the Chargers on Monday, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 11, 2016
He is also scheduled to visit with the Titans on Tuesday.
Tunsil is regarded by many in the scouting world as the No. 1 prospect in the entire 2016 draft class.
Though the Chargers recently re-signed left tackle King Dunlap to a multi-year contract prior to the 2015 season, his inability to stay on the field for 16 games has caused a bit of fluctuation at the position.
Tunsil looks to be a future 10-year starter at the position, and if he remains on the board while the Chargers are on the clock with the No. 3 pick, he certainly should warrant some consideration with the selection.
As you all may now know, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco got a three-year extension right before the start of the 2015 season. But did he deserve it? Here I breakdown his three draft classes, free agent classes and contract extensions. I will be grading by a very easy criteria: Performance (worth the draft pick, money, etc), Value (starter or depth) and if they’re still on the team. It will be broke down by a number scale of 0-10, 0 being very bad and 10 being very good. At the end of each section I will give a percentage and a letter grade to that category by adding up the number I give to the player and divide it by 10 (max number a player/move can get). 90-100% = A, 89-80% = B 79-70% = C, and anything below that is an F. Lets get to it:
His Draft Classes
***Note: these rankings are how they have played since joining the Chargers. 2015 draft class is too early to judge, I get that, but it’s on how they have played as a Charger.
2013: #11 OL DJ Fluker, #38 MLB Manti Te’o (traded up), #76 WR Keenan Allen, #145 CB Steve Williams, #179 OLB Tourek Williams, #221 QB Brad Sorenson
DJ Fluker: Started off as a Right Tackle and played fairly well in 2013 before injuries in 2014 set in and he was recently moved to Right Guard in the offseason. He didn’t play as well as hoped, but it was his first time ever being there so it wasn’t really unexpected. Grade: 6
Manti Te’o: Trading up in the draft for anyone who isn’t a playmaker is a very big loss no matter what you gave up to get said player. Manti has been battling injuries most his career and is still having troubles wrapping up and tackling NFL sized players. He isn’t terrible like Donald Butler and did play better next to Perryman. Grade: 5
Keenan Allen: This was the best draft pick Telesco has had and Keenan is quickly developing into one of the best receivers in the AFC. He was on a torrid pace this season leading the league in catches and yards and was well on his way to breaking records until he got hurt. Again. Ended the season on IR with a lacerated Kidney. Grade: 9
Steve Williams: Keenan’s roommate at Cal, he hasn’t really done much before this season and even ended his rookie year before it started. He’s looking more and more like depth than he is a solid part of the team and wouldn’t be missed in terms of production if cut. Grade: 3
Tourek Williams: Tourek hasn’t done anything either since his rookie season. He was injured the entire year this season and even ended up finishing the year on IR. Grade: 1
Brad Sorenson: Has never been listed as more than the third-string quarterback, he spent 2014 on another team and 2015 between free agency and practice squad. Grade: 0
2014: #25 CB Jason Verrett, #50 Jerry Attaochu (traded up), #89 OL Chris Watt, #165 DT Ryan Carrethers, #201 RB Marion Grice, #240 WR Tevin Reese
Jason Verrett: Verrett is quickly becoming a lockdown cornerback, if only he can stay healthy. He had 3 picks this season, one for 6, and was ranked the fifth best CB this season according to pro football focus. Grade: 8
Jerry Attaochu: Again, trading up in the draft for players who aren’t playmakers hurt your team no matter what you gave up. Attaochu is one of those guys. Chargers moved up to get him and he has been getting better, but isn’t a playmaker who can bring it from week to week yet. Grade: 5
Chris Watt: Watt was a reach when drafted and a guy the coaches are hoping to be the heir to Hardwick at the center position. It hasn’t worked and he hasn’t stayed healthy. In fact, he has been graded as one of the worst offensive linemen in football. Grade: 3
Ryan Carrethers: Carrethers shows promise but for some reason, the coaches don’t play him. Whether it’s work ethic or attitude, we don’t know. But for him being a second year, 5th round pick, it’s not really uncommon. Grade: 5
Marion Grice: Got beat out by undrafted free agent Brandon Oliver and then swooped up by Arizona. Grade: 0
Tevin Reese: Never had a chance at the NFL level because he was way too small. His speed was for real but his size and catching were not. Never made the roster. Grade: 0
2015: #15 RB Melvin Gordon (Traded up), #48 MLB Denzel Perryman, #83 CB Craig Mager, #153 OLB Kyle Emanuel, #192 DE Darius Philon
Melvin Gordon: For trading up in the draft, see Manti Te’o and Jerry Attaochu. Yes, ANOTHER trade up and this time for a running back. Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin was most everyone’s pick that were Charger fans. But he has shown tremendous flaws in his game and hasn’t been anywhere close to the guy the Chargers had hoped for. The line was a problem as well, no doubt about it. Grade: 2
Denzel Perryman: Perryman looks promising and has quickly become a fan favorite. By the end of the year, he took the starting job from Butler (and deservedly so) and shined. He is by far the best linebacker we have on this team and he only started in about 5 games. Grade: 7
Craig Mager: Mager couldn’t find the field in 2015. He was a very big reach in the third round to begin with, but I understand why he did it. He has a lot to work on to become valuable and it’s going to take a few years to see that most likely. Grade: 3
Kyle Emanuel: Emanuel started strong. First game of the year vs the Lions he had a sack and an interception and then eventually was nowhere to be seen. He has tackling issues and doesn’t seem to set the edge like an OLB needs to do. He does come from a small school and was a 5th round pick so it is warranted and excusable. Grade: 4
Darius Philon: A guy I really liked coming out of Arkansas, Philon has shown some promise but overall looks to be a very good rotational player. He was put on the IR-designated to return list during the season but was playing well before that. Grade: 3
Final result: 64/170 = 37%, F
His free agent signings (major ones only)
***Note: these are how the players have played since joining the Chargers
2013: RB Danny Woodhead, OT King Dunlap, CB Derek Cox, OG Chad Rinehart, TE John Phillips
Danny Woodhead: Probably Telesco’s best signing and a big reason why we made the playoffs in 2013. Woodhead brings that “security blanket” the team had been missing since Sproles signed with New Orleans. He was versatile up until the Bills game last season where he ended it with a broken fibula. Other than that, he’s been a rock. Grade: 9
King Dunlap: Another strong signing by Telesco. Dunlap wasn’t much in Philly but Chargers brought him in on a very team friendly deal and he excelled and actually earned a pay raise this last offseason. Another solid signing by Telesco that year. Grade: 8
Derek Cox: The biggest miss by Telesco in 2013. He was toast everytime he touched the field and eventually was benched and ended his time with the Chargers. Cut after his first season. Grade: 2
Chad Rinehart: He was average at the guard position in 2013 and awful there in 2014. He was a fill in for the future and expecting anything other than below average was a pipe dream. Grade: 4
John Phillips: Nothing flashy but he was the blocking Tight End that the team needed. Being mostly used as that, he has caught a few passes and even a touchdown. He was eventually cut by the team this season and brought back as well. Grade: 4
2014: RB Donald Brown, CB Brandon Flowers, MLB Kavell Connor, TE David Johnson. Quick note: Kellen Clemens was also signed, but as a backup QB it is unfair to grade so I left him off for those purposes
Donald Brown: Terrible signing by Telesco as he was brought in for RB depth and got $5 million a year. He went inactive for most of this season as well. Grade: 3
Brandon Flowers: As bad as the Brown signing was, is how good of a signing the Flowers one was. He really boosted this secondary and his lockdown play earned him his new contract in this past offseason, something I will get to in a bit. Grade: 8
Kavell Connor: Brought in for LB depth, Kavell had a big workload in 2014 as he filled in for oft injured Manti Te’o and played fairly well when called upon. Grade: 6
David Johnson: Brought in to be the FB, David Johnson is brutal. He constantly looks lost and doesn’t know where he’s going and doesn’t seem to find the field that often now as well. Grade: 3
2015: WR Jacoby Jones, OG Orlando Franklin, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Patrick Robinson, DB Jimmy Wilson
Jacoby Jones: He was brought in to give us a feared return game. He never lived up to that and in fact, wasn’t even half of what we expected. Cut halfway through the season. Grade: 0
Orlando Franklin: Big money linemen signing, Franklin has been a HUGE disappointment as he isn’t even close to the guy who Telesco thought he was signing. System fit, as they ran a zone scheme could be a huge factor of why, but overall he was as bad as Rinehart. Grade: 3
Stevie Johnson: Started out strong, pulling in touchdowns in each of his first two games played for San Diego, but then seemed to check out and then eventually got hurt. Grade: 6
Patrick Robinson: The sneakiest of signings, PRob may have been the best signing of Telesco’s tenure. He graded as a very solid corner this season by Pro Football Focus and was a bright spot in a secondary that had high expectations going into the season. Grade: 7
Jimmy Wilson: Jimmy Wilson was brought in to be a Marcus Gilchrist type safety. One that could play safety and cornerback but actually do it well. Well, he couldn’t and eventually got cut at the end of the season. Grade: 2
Final Result: 65/140 = 46%, F
His contract extensions/re-signings (major one’s only)
2013: K Nick Novak, RB Ronnie Brown
Nick Novak: There wasn’t many re-signings his first year, which wasn’t bad. But Novak was solid here as he was very reliable. Grade: 8
Ronnie Brown: Ronnie Brown was brought in as a veteran backup and one who was very reliable with the rock. He had one big touchdown vs the Benagls that sealed the deal in our first playoff win since 2008. So for that, he gets a little extra love from me in his grade. Grade: 7
2014: MLB Donald Butler, S Darrell Stuckey, OG Chad Rinehart, CB Richard Marshall
Donald Butler: This couldn’t have gone any worse than it has. 2014 he was rated as one of the worst MLB’s in football and in 2015, rookie Denzel Perryman took his starting job and his time as a Charger may be over. Grade: 0
Darrell Stuckey: Solid as a special teamer, Stuckey was another sneaky good extension. He has made the pro bowl a few times as a special teamer but as a safety, he has been very limited in playing time. Grade: 6
Chad Rinehart: From an average 2013, to an awful 2014, Rinehart was below average for us. I understand the signing, but should have had a plan B. Grade: 3
Richard Marshall: Marshall had a knack at getting turnovers at the end of 2013, but most of that was due to him being in the right place at the right time. He was brought in for depth because he knew the system in 2014 but due to injuries, he played more than he should have. Grade: 3
2015: OT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers
King Dunlap: Dunlap was a rock for us since 2013, but after his extension, he was very concussion prone again. Missed a chunk of the season and hasn’t lived up to his extension quite yet. Grade: 4
Brandon Flowers: Another player hit by injuries and possibly even coaching, Flowers under performed big time and was even rated as a bottom third corner this season. He really needs to have a bounceback season for his contract to not look so bad. Grade: 2
Final Result: 33/80 = 41%, F
Final overall result: 162/390 = 41%, F
Using my grading scale, Tom Telesco has gotten an ‘F’ grade as a general manager hitting on only 4 of every 10 personnel decisions. This doesn’t even include an undersized defense he has put together and coaches that are not good at what they do.
We all have differences of opinion on the different players aforementioned, but we can all agree that most his decisions have been sub-par.
Agree or disagree with my assessment? Did Telesco deserve this extension? I don’t think so, as my grading scale has proved. Let me know below!
The Chargers have released the injury report for their Week 12 contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bolts are hoping to win their first game on the road in 2015. Although there are a couple of big names who won’t play or may not play, the team is getting relatively healthier.
- D.J. Fluker OG (Concussion)
- King Dunlap OT (Ankle)
- Sean Lissemore DL (Concussion)
- Corey Liuget DL (Foot)
- Jahleel Addae SS (Concussion)
- Antonio Gates TE (Hip)
- Ladarius Green TE (Ankle)
- Malcom Floyd WR (Shoulder)
- Manti Te’o ILB (Ankle)
- Eric Weddle FS (Groin)
For what seems like an every-week tradition, the Chargers will be without two starting offensive linemen (Fluker, Dunlap).
The Fluker situation is a bit scary, seeing as he suffered two concussions in only five days. The former first-round pick has had concussion problems in the past. The long-term ramifications of the most recent head trauma is unknown at this time.
Kenny Wiggins is expected to step in and replace Fluker at right guard.
Left tackle Dunlap is going to miss another game due to an ankle ailment. He has been off and on the injury list all of 2015. Though reserve lineman Chris Hairston has filled in admirably, he does not compare to healthy Dunlap.
Defensive end Corey Liuget is listed as questionable, and he may miss another game after leaving the loss against the Ravens in a walking boot. Due to the fact that he is the team’s best defensive lineman, the front seven has been struggling without Liuget in the lineup. Actually, fact of the matter is, the front seven has struggled even when he is in the lineup.
The fact that wide receiver Malcom Floyd is listed as probably goes a long way in showing how much this team means to the veteran.
After tearing his labrum against the Bears, Floyd has pushed through the injury, and it appears as though he’ll be ready to go. M-80 has been quoted as saying that he does have full range of motion, but he will need to be careful to not land on his injured shoulder.
Although the team is headed in the right direction health-wise, the same cannot be said for their performance on the field. The team is looking for its first victory in its last seven games.
The San Diego Chargers emerge from their bye week with a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The 2-7 Bolts look to finish strong after a dismal 2-7 first half of the season. In the first two seasons of the Telesco/McCoy regime, San Diego finished with identical 9-7 records. In this third season they would have to run the table in the last seven games to finish with that mark.
The Chargers have five division games remaining, (they have lost one game to Oakland already), and two out of division games against Miami and Jacksonville. The odds of running the table are miniscule. Finishing with a .500 record is just as improbable. A top-10 selection in the NFL draft is more than likely barring a catastrophic turn of events.
A message will need to be sent if for no other reason than to show the fan base that such an outcome is not acceptable. Whether they stay in San Diego or move to Los Angeles, hope must be rekindled for this team and they way to do so will be with fresh faces calling the shots. Seats are getting hot in America’s Finest City. They will get hotter with each loss and hottest if the Chargers miss the playoffs. At this point, the playoffs are nothing more than a pipe dream.
Heads will roll. Here’s a look at the prime suspects and the temperature of their seat right now:
Dean Spanos. Rarely does the owner abandon ship on his team. He will point the finger of blame at his staff and remove the pieces he sees fit. Eyes do deserve to be on him for his frugality. If his miserly ways start to impact the NFL’s bottom line (dollars), he could be ‘nudged’ out the door. Spanos is well-liked among the other owners so the probability of that happening right now is less than zero.
Something radical would have to occur such as local fans boycotting the games to the point where it becomes painstakingly obvious when games are shown live. This approach was successful as recently as 2012 in Major League Baseball in the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers ex-owner Frank McCourt. Do Chargers fans care enough to band together on this course of action if they thought underspending is the chief cause of the Bolts failures? That is the million dollar question.
John Pagano. The defensive coordinator has not shown improvement since taking over the position in 2012. In his first year the Bolts finished 24th in the league in total defense. In 2013 they moved up to 10th. Last season the Chargers plummeted back to 24th. Nine games into this season San Diego is 9th in total defense but giving up 28 points per game. The next seven games could have a huge impact on whether Pags stays or goes.
Tom Telesco. The Chargers General Manager is on the hook for the Chargers failings as much as any member of the team. At the end of the day, Telesco is the decision-maker. The team is a reflection of his vision. It was Telesco’s choice to resurrect the philosophy he used in Indianapolis of jettisoning the veteran players and bringing in young, untested and hungry players who were capable of playing multiple positions. The GM is quickly finding out that what works in one place doesn’t automatically work elsewhere.
Telesco has done admirable work building the team through the draft. Cornerstones of the future have been unearthed with the drafting of WR Keenan Allen, RT D.J. Fluker, CB Jason Verrett and RB Melvin Gordon. A disturbing fact is of the 17 players Telesco has drafted, only one has played a complete season (Fluker). Gordon and Kyle Emanuel are on pace to do so this season.
Helping Telesco is his savvy with contracts and getting players to come in free agency and add impact. RB Danny Woodhead, RT King Dunlap, CB Brandon Flowers and G Orlando Franklin have been key additions. His front office could have done better to keep revered veterans such as S Eric Weddle in the loop when it comes to contract issues as that could affect future free agent signings and keeping his own players down the road. If the Chargers finish with a losing record the pressure will be turned up on the GM to produce or he too will be looking for work elsewhere sooner than later.
Kevin Turner. The special teams coordinator of the Chargers is having a dreadful year. Through eight games the Bolts had one punt return yard with Jacoby Jones as the primary return man. Meanwhile, opponents have accumulated 276 punt return yards. For the ninth game Jones was cut and Javontee Herndon was promoted from the practice squad to assume the kick and punt return duties. Herndon had one kick return for 24 yards in the game, surpassing Jones’ kickoff return average of 21.4 through eight games. The special teams have been a weakness all season, giving a big field position advantage to the opposition and not gaining yards in the return game. Should this pattern continue, Turner will be cleaning out his office at Chargers Park.
Ninth Circle of Hell
Frank Reich. The Bolts offensive coordinator has definitely been offensive. The offense has been difficult to watch at times as the play calls get more and more predictable. We can all see the inside handoff coming from the pistol formation before it happens. The OC seems unwilling to vary from his game plan to accommodate his talent. The pistol formation and no-huddle offense has been advantageous for Philip Rivers at times. However, with a power running back who thrived running out of the I-formation with a fullback opening the first hole why not adapt that into the game plan?
Melvin Gordon set NCAA records and ran for over 2,500 yards at Wisconsin last season. Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates would be a matchup nightmare for defenses if they were to be deployed on the field at the same time. Injuries, suspension and Reich’s unwillingness to add new wrinkles have prevented this from happening on more than just random occasions. With Reich coordinating the offense, the Chargers are averaging 23 points per game, five fewer than they’re giving up. The window on Philip Rivers career is quickly closing and it’s the wrong time to be going the wrong way in the production department. If San Diego fails this season, Reich will be the first man shown the door.
Mike McCoy. The head coach was the marquee hire when the Chargers landed him as the successor to Norv Turner. The man lauded for his yeoman’s work adapting his coaching style to fit his quarterbacks such as Tim Tebow, Jake Delhomme and Peyton Manning. His teachings resulted in wins and playoff berths and the same was expected when he took over the reins in San Diego.
Instead, the team has underachieved. Many games have been lost in the final quarter or on the final drive. McCoy has been very conservative in his play-calling. Favoring a ball-control, short-passing, long scoring drive preference the Chargers have very little vertical offense. Rivers, an excellent deep ball passer, goes deep a couple of times per game if that. This team lacks a killer instinct. They lack an ability to finish games and that reflects coaching.
To boot, McCoy is in the third year of a four-year deal. He’s been paid most of what he signed for and it wouldn’t be a big financial hit to let him go a year early. San Diego hadn’t made the playoffs for three seasons before McCoy arrived. They made it to the playoffs the year McCoy arrived and won a wild card game that season. This season, barring a miracle, will be the second year in a row the playoffs have eluded the Chargers. This team is as talented as any in the league but they do not have the results to show for it. Unless they can rebound and finish at .500 someone has to take the fall for this season. Usually the head coach us that man.
In closing, injuries can’t be blamed for everything. Yes, injuries have derailed a very promising season. Keenan Allen was on a record-setting pace. Coaches are paid big bucks to get the most out of their talent regardless of who is on the field. Management is paid big bucks to find the best players to suit the team needs.
San Diego was sitting at 2-2 before they lost to Green Bay and Pittsburgh on the last play of the game. Same thing would happen in Baltimore two weeks later. Aside from the games against Minnesota and Oakland the Chargers have played as well or better than their opponent despite the end result. There are no moral victories in the NFL and when you don’t win, people lose. Don’t expect to see half the names on this list wearing lightning bolts next season.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Who’s to blame for the Bolts performance this season? Leave your thoughts below.
The Greg One