With the 35th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Chargers drafted University of Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. In doing so, they may have finally found the heir to the aging Antonio Gates throne. Coming out of Arkansas, the 6’5, 250-pound tight end has soft hands, great route running, and the ability to block. Henry was named the 2015 John Mackey Award winner, an award reserved for the nation’s top tight end. He also earned first-team All-SEC honors, finishing the 2015 season with 51 catches for 739 yards and reaching the end zone three times.
Other than Gates it seems as though the tight end position has been somewhat of a revolving door, being temporarily filled by one-dimensional players. Fan-favorite Ladarius Green was expected to take the reins from Gates, and showed flashes of greatness. However, after an ankle injury last season, concussion issues, Gates steady play, and a lucrative $20-million dollar contract later, Green inked a deal with the Pittsburg Steelers this offseason to join Ben Roethlisberger and their top-tier passing offense.
I like Green and think he will have a good career with Big Ben at the helm. However, I think it was a smart decision for the Chargers to part ways with Green. With injury concerns and his lack of size for the blocking game, he was just too much of a liability for the money. Drafting a well-rounded tight end like Hunter Henry has eased my concern surrounding the future of the tight end position.
Antonio Gates’ decline has been graceful. His production has been steady. At 35 years of age, one begins to question how much more he has in the tank. Many of his duties and roles have been slowly shifted to younger players like running back Danny Woodhead, and the security blanket he once provided Phillip Rivers has started to unravel.
Now is the perfect time to start grooming a potential heir to take over Gates throne, and Henry is the perfect candidate. Let’s be honest no one will ever be able to replace Gates, he is arguably one of the best tight ends to ever play the game! Hunter Henry will be able to contribute right away, and will be able to learn from one of the best to ever do it. Ultimately, he will become a long-term solution to the tight end position.
Henry has the potential to thrive in a Ken Whisenhunt offense. His system is a steady balance of short passes and physical runs, with an emphasis on clock management. Henry can shed defenders, and has secure hands to haul in passes, as shown in his Junior campaign at Arkansas, where he didn’t drop one pass. Henry also has the ability to stack up on the offensive line and offer blocking support to Rivers in the pocket, or open up holes for Melvin Gordon in the run game.
The rookie has already started to turn heads in rookie minicamp. With only a day to familiarize himself with the offense the rookie looked comfortable on the field. He showed why the Chargers targeted him with their second round pick. He was running smooth routes and making several highlight reel worthy catches, immediately becoming the break out star of the two-day event.
Realistically, Gates has another two or three good seasons left on his aging body, but I believe Gates might hang it up quicker if the Chargers can make a deep run into the playoffs sometime soon. This time frame provides Henry with the ability to learn the offense, his role and responsibilities, build chemistry with Rivers, and work on some of his weaknesses.
Henry has a tendency to get a little grabby at the offensive line and was flagged for holding three times in 2015, and struggles to get good body position against defenders, making it easier for defenders to bully the young rookie. However, he is still very young and growing into his body. By adding bulk, along with perfecting his technique he has the potential to be one of the better tight ends in the league.
Not only does Henry have the desired size and skill, he also possesses great work ethic and football IQ. I believe the Chargers have found the tight end for the future and can quit looking for help via free agency. I can see Henry easily amassing 400+ yards, and 3 TD’s in his rookie campaign. What are your predictions? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.
At the end of the 2015 season San Diego Chargers tight end was quoted as saying he wanted to play one more year. The sting of a dismal 4-12 season was too much to bear as the end of his future Hall-Of-Fame career. A week ago Chargers GM Tom Telesco told media he was going to the combine with the intention of speaking with the agents for Gates and Ladarius Green. Bringing back the master and apprentice would solidify the tight end position for years to come.
Half of that mission is now accomplished.
Antonio Gates has signed on the dotted line for two more seasons in lightning bolts. According NFL Insider Rand Getlin the deal is for two years at $12 million with $6 million guaranteed. The most prolific quarterback to tight end combination in NFL history is still intact, ready for one last playoff run.
Aside from the record, the season started on the wrong foot for Gates last season. Gates was suspended for four games for performance-enhancing drugs. Holistic medicines and supplements in his diet were the cause for his positive test according to Gates but his explanations were not enough to overturn his suspension.
Despite losing a quarter of the season, Gates was second on the team in receiving behind Keenan Allen with 630 yards on 56 catches. He also led all wide receivers and tight ends with five touchdown catches. Only Danny Woodhead had more yards and touchdowns, operating from the running back slot.
Gates told the media shortly after the season ‘I can’t go out like that.’ To that end, the groundbreaking tight end has honored his words and will once again assume his slot in the most prolific quarterback to tight end combination in NFL history.
There are still milestones to reach for Gates this season that are almost locks to come to fruition if he makes it through the season healthy:
With eight touchdown receptions, Gates will surpass Tony Gonzalez into first place for most touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history. Gates will have achieved the distinction in three fewer seasons than Gonzalez.
With 600 yards receiving Gates can vault from 38 to 32nd on the all-time receiving yardage list.
With 60 receptions Gates will move from 27th to 20th place on the All-time receptions list. Only two other tight ends are ahead of him on the list, Gonzalez and Jason Witten.
A key of the puzzle is now back in the fold with Gates’ signing. Green, long overdue to emerge from Gates’ shadow, will do well to learn all he can and work on ways to stay healthy in the process. Injuries have been the key cause of his stunted development.
One last time, let the Gates open and the Rivers flow.
The Greg One
The 2015 San Diego Chargers finished with a 4-12 record, earning them the third pick in the first round of the upcoming draft.
Due to many needs all over the roster, the organization needs to find ways to supplement their roster from within prior to exploring free-agent options and draft picks. The first position group they can do just that is at tight end.
Despite the preseason speculation about the desire of Antonio Gates wanting to return for the 2016 campaign, he has set the rumors to rest by making it clear that he indeed is interested in coming back for at least one more year.
To put it quite simply, it is a no-brainer that the future Hall of Famer should be re-signed to a one-year, team-friendly contract, allowing him to finish out his brilliant career in lightning bolts.
Gates, for as long as many of you can recall, has been the No. 1 read for quarterback Philip Rivers since proving that he is a force to be reckoned with in the league. Although he is no longer as fast as he once was, he is still more than capable of creating separation due to his knowledge of the game and route-running ability. Despite missing four games in 2015 due to a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the 13-year veteran was able to amass 56 receptions for 630 yards and five touchdowns.
The team — via upper management — has already stated that they are looking to retain Gates’ services for the 2016 season.
Because it seems as though the re-signing of Gates is inevitable, there is another tight end whom the team should re-sign. But, as opposed to the logical reasoning behind bringing back No. 85, the team would be re-signing this player with an eye toward the future at the position, as opposed to having the former back for one last hurrah.
Green set career highs during the 2015 season despite missing time. At 6-foot-6, he presents a match-up problem for opposing defenses. Though his height is an obvious asset when matched up against linebackers and safeties, his speed for his size it what sets him apart, even when singled up by cornerbacks.
At only 25 years old, Green still has a ton of room for growth within the nuances of the San Diego offense. Though the Bolts have a new offensive coordinator in Ken Whisenhunt, the responsibilities of the tight end position will not change drastically.
Realistically, Gates coming back is not in the best interest of Green, but his return does greatly benefit the team.
Does that make sense?
Green, who will turn 26 in May, has learned what he can under the tutelage of Antonio. But that doesn’t mean that I’m saying the two can’t be the best tight-end tandem in the NFL in 2016.
After achieving career-highs in receptions (37), receiving yards (429) and (four) touchdowns, Green is primed for a breakout campaign.
Will the proposed return of Gates limit the statistical gains of Green?
The long-term future at tight end for the San Diego Chargers is Ladarius Green. He has the ability to create headaches for opposing defenses due to his aforementioned traits. Having Gates in the fold for one more year accentuates his opportunity to take advantage of defenders with a player like Gates on the field.
Green is not an overly effective route runner, but he does a good job of leveraging his size against defenders to allow his speed to create the necessary window that Rivers trusts for a possible connection.
Fans should expect that the names on both the No. 85 and No. 89 jerseys will remain the same going into the 2016 season. Additionally, they should be very excited about it.
After suffering an embarrassing loss last week at home to Denver, the San Diego Chargers will have the daunting task of defeating the Kansas City Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are red-hot, riding a six-game winning streak and pushing for a playoff spot. San Diego is playing for pride in their last four games as their season has been derailed by a litany of injuries to key players on offense and defense.
Kansas City was also expected to fall into the AFC West cellar after losing their perennial Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles for the season eight weeks ago. Instead, they rallied around each other and have recovered from a 1-5 record to put themselves in playoff contention. Keying their turnaround has been an improved defense led by bookend defensive ends Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Add in an emotional boost from safety Eric Berry (after missing a year and successfully beating Cancer) and you have a defense that has forced multiple turnovers a team record seven weeks in a row.
San Diego has a tall mountain to climb but we all know the old adage about any given Sunday. Last week, the lowly Philadelphia Eagles beat the almighty New England Patriots. Anything can and will happen on an NFL Sunday. The Bolts stand the same punchers chance of winning that the Eagles did. How could if happen?
When the Chiefs have the ball
Kansas City handed the Chargers their worst home loss of the season, 33-3 in week 11. Unknown running back Spencer Ware lit up the Chargers defense for 96 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 52-yard run. Running backs Ware and Charcandrick West will look to ground out a victory as they have been doing during their current winning streak.
The passing game has also found life in Kansas City, led by offseason acquisition Jeremy Maclin. Maclin leads the receiving corps with 66 catches for 817 yards and five touchdowns. A close second is tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce has 56 catches for 731 yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Alex Smith is known as a game manager but a better adjective would be consistent. Smith doesn’t have gaudy numbers but he also does not turn the ball over. To date, Smith is 246-376 for 2843 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Smith is also dangerous with his legs. While is isn’t a speed demon, he is third on the team in rushing with 60 carries for 326 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he has run for 19 first downs on the season.
San Diego will have to find a way to generate a pass rush which has been easier said than done this season. For as great as their defensive line has been, the same can’t be said for their offensive line. KC’s offensive line has given up 38 sacks. The Chargers are not averaging two sacks a game as they have 22 sacks on the season. Liuget was third on the team with three sacks. Melvin Ingram (5 sacks) and Jeremiah Attaochu (4.5 sacks) lead the team rushing the passer and will be leaned on to continue to do so. The defense will also have to do a better job bottling the KC ground attack. In the last game the Chiefs had three ground touchdowns and one pick-6 by Justin Houston.
When the Chargers have the ball
Quarterback Philip Rivers is losing targets seemingly every week. Three wide receivers are gone with Keenan Allen, Dontrelle Inman and Stevie Johnson out. Malcolm Floyd is playing through a shoulder injury. During the week, the Chargers enlisted the services of former Charger wideout Vincent Brown. Brown will start in a thin receiving lineup currently consisting of Floyd, Javontee Herndon and Tyrell Williams. The load of a team and a city has rested heavily on the shoulders of Rivers. Somehow, Rivers is third in the league in passing with 3713 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Rivers is also playing through a foot injury and illness he contracted during the past week.
Tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are the most consistent options Rivers has at this point. The two have combined for 70 receptions for 784 yards and eight touchdowns. Using the underutilized option of playing the two together would open running lanes for Gordon and Danny Woodhead and allow the Chargers to move the ball down the field. In their first encounter, Rivers only managed to 178 yards on 30 attempts without a touchdown.
Rivers has had no help in the running game. Melvin Gordon has not been able to get going and carries the ignominious label of running back with the most carries without a touchdown. Gordon has 565 yards on 155 carries. The Chargers offensive line has had more combinations than an Rubik’s Cube and Rivers has paid for it. The line has given up 30 sacks.
Chargers O-line vs. Kansas City pass rush. Rivers was harassed throughout the first encounter by the stout Kansas City defensive front. Rivers was sacked three times, and gave up the pick six to Houston. Chiefs NT Dontari Poe generates significant pass rush up the middle. If the Bolts offensive line can keep those three in check, Rivers will have time do dissect the Chiefs’ formidable secondary led by Berry and rookie of the year candidate CB Marcus Peters. Peters has 50 tackles, 18 passes defensed, five interceptions, one forced fumble and one touchdown on the season.
This game does not look like winnable on the surface. San Diego has lost seven of their last eight games. Three of their last four games are against the AFC West where they are 0-3 to date. Will the Chiefs be looking past the Chargers? Having Rivers under center always gives the Bolts a chance to win. The Chargers know what to expect now that they have game tape on West and Ware. Rivers had his worst game of the season against the Chiefs. Look for the QB to bounce back and put yardage and touchdowns against the Chiefs. While I won’t go so far as to say the Bolts will win, they will give Kansas City a better battle than the 33-3 beatdown the Chargers suffered at home three weeks ago.
The Greg One
The Chargers (2-8) have all but checked out on head coach Mike McCoy as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6). The Jags look to stay on the winning trend, trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Here are my keys to victory.
1.) Contain Allen Robinson
The biggest threat on offense for the Jags is wide receiver Allen Robinson. Jason Verrett is going to have to bring his A-game to contain him and I mean like the game he had versus Alshon Jeffery, minus the injury. Robinson has recorded 100 yards receiving in two of his last three games and 90 yards or more in four of his last five. He is their clear No. 1 receiver and one that Bortles looks to more than anyone else.
2.) Pass the ball, Rivers
The Jaguars are ranked 25th in football against the pass and the Chargers rank 2nd in passing offense. The running game is nonexistent for San Diego, so don’t force it. Go right to your strength and air it out. Floyd was back at practice and you still have Stevie Johnson and Ladarius Green. On a lost season, let’s break that record for Rivers. He at least deserves that much.
3.) Play for a purpose
Play for a purpose and that’s the purpose of spoiler. If you don’t like your head coach, fine. But don’t go out there and play for a paycheck. Go out there with a purpose and don’t embarrass yourselves like you did last week. Make up for it by beating the Jaguars and pushing them off their playoff cliff.
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
The Chargers come into this Week 9 Monday night matchup dropping their last four in a row and currently sit in last place in the AFC West with a 2-6 record. Here are my keys to victory versus the Bears (2-5) this coming Monday.
1.) Score 6 instead of 3
One big thing that’s been wrong with the Chargers for quite some time is their redzone offense and the ability to score (well, to not score) six instead of three. Field goals don’t win games, unless it’s a walk-off 39-yard field goal as seen last week. Field goals are a consolation prize for being able to get into your opponents 20-yard line and are reasons why the Chargers haven’t been on the winning end of close games this season. They will need to find a way to put the ball in the end zone in order to come away with the Week 9 victory.
2.) Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd
The Bolts will be down two big-time offensive weapons this week in Ladarius Green and Keenan Allen. So the Bolts need players to step up and those players in particular need to be M80 and SJ11. Stevie has been fairly quiet since his breakout first two weeks, mostly due to injury and lack of usage. He is a guy that Rivers will need to go to for a big conversion, knowing Gates will be doubled and tripled. Malcom Floyd, coming off his best game in over 2 seasons, needs to be the deep threat that he has been during the earlier stages of his career. Floyd needs to sharpen his route-running ability and turn back the clock , making plays like he did like week due to the absence of Allen.
On top of not putting six up on the board, the Chargers have a hard time finishing games this season, and that is also a big reason why they are 2-6 instead of 6-2. They need to finish and seal the deal with a big win in a must-win game in front of their home crowd under the lights. It doesn’t get much better than this, so hopefully the boys come out ready to play and show us that they are better than their record indicates.
What do you think Bolt fam? Do you agree or disagree with my three keys? What are yours? Let me know below and go Bolts!
The now 2-6 San Diego Chargers are living out the meaning of the old cliché “backs against the wall”. This week alone, star receiver Keenan Allen, Branden Oliver and Tourek Williams were all placed on season-ending injured reserve. Corey Liuget and Ladarius Green left Baltimore in walking boots after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Thirteen players were injured during the Ravens game alone. Only 46 are allowed to play on Sundays. The Chargers literally lost over 25% of their active team on Sunday.
The offensive line is in shambles. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been sacked 19 times. Now the league’s top passer is down his best receiver, an emerging tight end (Green) and a running back that gained eight yards per reception in Oliver.
The defense is not faring much better. Team Captain Eric Weddle and Manti Te’o have missed multiple weeks. Both were entrusted with the ‘green dot’ helmet that receives the play transmission for the defense. Now that helmet resides in the locker of linebacker Donald Butler. Recent losses include rookie Denzel Perryman (biceps) and now Liuget. Unable to get pressure on the quarterback, the Bolts have only managed 15 sacks and four interceptions. To make matters worse, they’re allowing 28.4 points per game.
Coming into San Diego for a Monday Night Football showdown will be Jay Cutler and the 2-5 Chicago Bears. Like San Diego, the Bears lost their greatest weapon last week when Matt Forte was lost for the game and will miss time with a knee injury. On paper, the Chargers are more talented and should beat the lowly Bears rather easily.
The same thing was said when they went to the east coast to face the then 1-6 Ravens.
If the Bolts win, that will put them at 3-6 with a slim but still possible chance of challenging for a wild card spot in the playoffs. A loss makes a third straight 9-7 season nearly out of reach and a .500 season a daunting task. That being said…
Is it time to start tanking for a high draft pick?
We all want to see the Chargers go on a long winning streak that finishes in the playoffs. Realistically, they are five games behind the still undefeated Denver Broncos. The Broncos have been woeful offensively but their defense has been unstoppable and the main reason they have been able to stay undefeated. The fact that they have played weak opponents all the way up to last week’s impressive win over the then undefeated Green Bay Packers didn’t hurt either. The AFC West title is effectively out of reach barring Peyton Manning going down with injury.
By the way, the Chargers play the Broncos twice in the last five weeks.
That leaves the possible wild card. As of today, San Diego finds themselves two games behind the 4-3 Oakland Raiders, the 4-4 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 4-3 New York Jets. They have already lost to both Pittsburgh and Oakland and it would take massive collapses by those teams to give San Diego a chance of getting one of those two wild card spots.
At this point, it’s time to empty the playbook. It’s time to use every untested player, dust off every odd formation, gadget play and blitz strategy in hopes of getting a spark that will carry into next season. Unfortunately, the Chargers are playing for pride. They have dug a hole too deep to extract themselves from. I want them to go on a 8-0 run to finish the season in the playoffs like the rest of you. In the part of our brain that is responsible for rational thought, we know it isn’t going to happen.
Should the Chargers tank the season? No.
Should the Chargers play fast, loose and with a nothing-to-lose mentality for the rest of the season? Yes.
Go for it on every fourth-and-one. Mix up the play calling. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment with Gordon (Get the man a fullback). Experiment with the passing game (Green at WR? Yes, please). Experiment with movement. Boots, waggles, and bubble screens to get Gordon in space would be a nice start. Replace all those inside handoffs with toss sweeps to get the backs to the edge quicker. Go deep more. A LOT more. If you’re gonna go down, go down swinging.
At this point, the game with the Bears is the season. If the Bolts win, they maintain course as long as they continue to win. If they lose, time to blow up the formula, wing it and play for draft position. Get a top blue-chip prospect who can help the team immediately before Rivers’ window is closed forever. The top-ten picks are where game-changing, franchise-changing players can be found.
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, Oakland’s Amari Cooper, St. Louis’ Todd Gurley all have their respective teams on a trajectory to finish with a higher win total than last season. All were top-ten picks. The Chargers hope to have found the same fortune with Gordon but they had to trade up to 15th to get him, sacrificing a needed draft pick along the way. The jury is still out on Gordon, seeing as he only surpassed 100 carries for the season in the Ravens game.
San Diego needs a change of fortune and philosophy to get this uber-talented team over the top. As sad as it sounds, it’s going to take a step back, a change in coaching philosophy and a wise top-ten pick to finally move forward.
What do you think? Should the Chargers tank for a high-draft seeding? Leave your comments below.
The Greg One
As reported Monday by San Diego Union-Tribune beat writer Michael Gehlken, you can add Branden Oliver to the list of casualties from Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Oliver joins Corey Liuget, Ladarius Green and King Dunlap as players now sporting a walking boot.
The injury count from Sunday is at 13.
With Oliver injured, that leaves Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead and the seldom used Donald Brown as the three running backs left standing. The Chargers have no running backs on the practice squad.
Many fans and media alike wonder how Brown has survived on the roster this long. The habitually cost-cutting Chargers have left Brown and his $3 million salary alone, although he has only played in two games this season and has no stats to speak of. Brown has zero receptions, rushing attempts or yards to date.
Over the weekend it was reported that teams have contacted San Diego about possibly acquiring Brown. As much as fans would love to see the roster spot used to bring in a player that can help right away, with Oliver’s injury did that window now just close?
Is Brown going to log meaningful minutes starting Monday night?
San Diego gave Melvin Gordon his biggest workload of the season against Baltimore. Gordon logged 18 carries for 54 yards and 5 receptions for 7 yards. The clamor for Gordon to get more touches has been growing by the week, and it looks like now its going to happen. At this point, is it by game plan or out of attrition?
Letting Brown go leaves the Chargers with two healthy running backs. Unless Brown is swapped for another running back or the Bolts pick an out-of-work veteran from the bargain bin, it looks like Brown will finish the season in lightning bolts.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Trade deadline is Tuesday. Deal (Brown) or no deal?
The Greg One