If you were to look up the word “dreadful” in the dictionary, this is what you might find:
- causing or involving great suffering, fear, or unhappiness; extremely bad or serious.
“The San Diego Chargers’ running game has been dreadful over the past two years.”
In 2012, Philip Rivers was sacked 49 times, which was the 4th worst in the NFL. In that same year, the Bolts’ running backs combined for a dismal 3.6 yards per attempt — tied for 2nd worst — totaling 1,461 rushing yards and ranking them 27th out of 32 teams.
Change was needed to right the ship
Signing head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt gave Charger faithful something to look forward to; because let’s be honest, it could not get any worse.
With “The Wiz” working on Philip’s quick release and utilizing a fullback to pave way for the running game, things turned around nicely for the team from America’s finest city.
In 2013, Rivers was sacked only 30 times — 4th best in the NFL — and the running game amassed 1,965 total yards (13th best) with an average of four yards per carry. The three-year playoff drought had ended as San Diego went to the AFC Divisional Game, losing to the eventual AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
After Whisenhunt left to become the head coach for the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Frank Reich was promoted to take over the reins and continue improving the offense. As the 2014-15 season began to sink deep down into an abyss filled with injuries and blame, it was not a shock to see the final results. San Diego totaled only 1,367 total rushing yards, averaging only 3.4 yards per attempt.
The one shining star to emerge out of the 2014 season was an undrafted free agent named Branden Oliver.
The diehard fans remember him well when in Week 5 he ran all over the then No. 1 ranked rush defense of the New York Jets. Getting his chance due to injuries, Bo ran with quickness, tenacity and a toughness that the Chargers’ backfield had not seen in some time.
With Danny Woodhead back from injury for the 2015 season and the Chargers’ first-round draft pick of Melvin Gordon, the optimism of the running game spilled out of the mouths of the devoted. And with the overwhelming hope of anew, the ship was back on track.
Or….so people thought.
Watching the worst rushing attack in the NFL for the 2015 season come out of San Diego seemed synonymous to Thomas Andrews being aboard his mighty Titanic as it sank to the bottom of the ocean.
There were no words.
An inexplicable disappointment, the 4-12 Chargers needed another change. With talks of moving the team out of San Diego, righting the ship was more important than ever.
“Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
- John F. Kennedy
With Whisnehunt back in charge of the offense, things again seem promising. He was the last to utilize a fullback when the Chargers had Le’Ron McClain. Now, added via the sixth round of this year’s NFL draft, fullback Derek Watt adorns the lightning bolt dome. The hiring of Jeff Davidson, whose resume is quite impressive, should spring some new life into the veteran offensive linemen on the roster.
It is unknown how Watt will be used or how well Coach Davidson will adjust going from the NFC to the AFC, but make no mistake about it, there is hope in the Chargers’ backfield. Gordon is out to prove his touchdown-less campaign was a fluke. Woodhead is out to prove he is always a legitimate threat on every down. Oliver, who has yet to fumble the ball in 191 carries, is out to prove that he can excel in any role.
On paper, the ship seems to have been righted in the proper direction.
And it’s destination……Houston?
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
The fans of the blue and gold should be feeling pretty good about this year’s draft. Depending on your point of view, either Christmas came early or it came late. Glass half-full or half-empty? Mine is half-full.
The Chargers’ GM, Tom Telesco, addressed two of my biggest concerns for the upcoming football calendar. Those were center and fullback. Yes, I’m aware that there was a hole left in the secondary with the departure of Eric Weddle. However, the two most glaring chasms on the offensive side of the ball were the aforementioned spots.
We expected to see an electrified offense after Telesco moved up two spots in the 2015 draft to take running back Melvin Gordon (first round, 15th overall via trade with the 49ers).
To say that the Bolts’ offense was in tatters for the second year in a row is a fair assessment. They may not have had five centers in-and-out like 2014, but it they were still unable to provide much assistance to either help keep Philip Rivers from being pounded, or create seams for any of the Chargers’ ball carriers.
Whether you like all or a few of the choices the team’s general manager made last week, I hope that seeing Derek Watt lining up in front of Gordon in the Bolts’ backfield is one of them. The two played together at the University of Wisconsin, and both are excited to get that chemistry going once more.
Watt is 6’2″ and comes in at 236 pounds. He had 24 starts in 47 games for the Badgers, compiling 309 yards on 30 receptions and a lone touchdown. He was the 2012 Rookie of the Year for UW, as well as being named to the Academic All-Big 10 every year from 2012 thru 2015. On the down side, he missed five games in 2014 due to a foot fracture. In 13 games last season, he had 15 receptions for 139 yards to go along with 45 yards on nine rushes. It was his second best statistical year going back to his freshman days.
Whatever schemes offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt can put together for his newest two backs, I cannot help but look towards the future with excitement. There has not been a fullback on the roster since 2013 when Le’Ron McClain last played. Prior to McClain, San Diego had the likes of Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester (2008-2011), who blocked for Darren Sproles from 2005-2010. Let’s not forget that Lorenzo Neal (one of my favorites), who is considered to be one of the best blocking fullbacks in NFL history, spent five seasons here in front of good ol’ No. 21 himself, LaDainian Tomlinson!
Should Watt and Gordon be able to get into that groove they had going on at the University of Wisconsin, I think we will see a tremendous leap from ranking 31st in 2015 with a league average 84.9 rushing yards per game.
All in all, it is my fervent wish that the San Diego Chargers get their running game back on track with the one-two punch of Watt blocking for his former college teammate, Gordon.
Thank you, Tom Telesco, for that selection. You recognized that need for the offense to excel this year.
The situation with the stadium/convention center proposal being what it is right now, there is an onus on the team to not only come out strong, but to also stay strong as the season progresses.
Looking forward to minicamp followed by preseason!
Thanks for reading!!
When it comes to researching article topics, I tend to go back through the archives of my website and look at ideas that I have had in years past. This morning, at 2:00 am, I ran across a scathing article I wrote about the laziness of former Charger offensive tackle Jared Gaither. I then remembered that he is still being paid by the Bolts in 2014.
He is not the only one.
Dead money contracts are those that count against the team’s salary cap despite the fact that the players are no longer on the squad. When I list the players that are still getting paid, I guarantee your blood will boil when you look at some of the names. The amounts of their pay will elevate that level of frustration, as well.
For the sake of this article, I am only going to include the players that are being paid over $100,000 without providing any services to the Chargers at all at this time. They are no longer with the team; in fact, a couple haven’t been on the team for over a year or two.
Let’s start at the bottom — lowest paid non-Chargers — and work our way up to the top, the highest paid.
DL – Lawrence Guy $100,588
WR – Vincent Brown $146,517
S – Brandon Taylor $168,469
CB – Brandon Ghee $185,000
RB – Shaun Draughn $201,176
LB – Jonas Mouton $218,340
DB – Richard Marshall $570,000
FB – Le’Ron McClain $833,334
LB – Larry English $865,000
WR – Robert Meachem $ 3,750,000
CB – Derek Cox $3,900,000
OT – Jared Gaither $4,000,000
Total amount of dead money from the aforementioned NON-CHARGERS: $14,938,424
Go ahead and let that sink in as you look at a Charger team that has been decimated by injuries. The same organization that was completely unable to make any moves prior to the trade deadline to supplement a beat-up roster. Thanks a lot, that one guy who used to be the GM here.
The total amount of dead money, including players that are not listed above, is $15,436,212.
When it comes to getting rid of and cutting poor performers or bad contracts, it’s a very difficult decision. But when a player is unable to contribute at a serviceable or acceptable level, the time to cut ties is necessary. Three of the top-four highest paid non-Bolts have played for other teams in 2014; Meachem, Cox and English. Robert Meachem is the only one that is currently on an NFL roster of those four.
Talk about a kick in the pants.
The last General Manager left Tom Telesco in a rough spot when it comes to navigating the roster and its lack of cap space. The 2015 season brings Telesco a much better opportunity to make some moves and re-sign some of his marquee players to long-term extensions; namely Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle.
Every team in the NFL has to deal with matters such as what is listed above. But it goes without saying that the Chargers were forced to make some tough decisions when cutting the players listed. But, perhaps, cutting non-performing players like Gaither, Cox, Meachem and English were actually simple decisions that came at a heavy price. At least a few of the players noted actually played for San Diego in 2014. The same can’t be said for some of the bums that made the list.
Thanks a lot for reading. Which of these players frustrated you the most due to the money they made without having contributed to the cause in 2014? Let me know by leaving your thoughts below in the comment section.
In a move that will be considered as inevitable, the Chargers have released Le’Ron McClain per Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego. The fullback was set to count $2.5 million against the salary cap in 2014. McClain was only in on 12% of San Diego’s offensive snaps this past season.
Although I am a huge fan of the fullback position, McClain’s play leaves a lot to be desired as a blocker. When speaking with a former fullback, Nick Shepherd of Boltsfromtheblue.com, he had some of the most harsh criticism of McClain’s game. It was almost as you feel the anger in Shepherd’s tweets when tweeting about the former Alabama player.
When McClain was signed during the 2013 offseason, I had hopes that he might come in and be a big factor in the running game for the Bolts. That clearly was not the case. I didn’t find his play to be offensive, so to speak. I did, however, realize early on that he was being overpaid to hardly see time on the field.
As the NFL moves further and further away from the utilization of the fullback and the position altogether, I think it will be interesting to see what happens in goal line situations. As mentioned above, I am a fan of the position and I hope it does not become completely extinct.
The Chargers do have Zach Boren signed to a contract for the 2014 season. Boren is 6’0″ and 255 pounds of fullback. I’m curious to see if they end up keeping him or upgrading by adding another player at a reasonable price.
The 2013 season has come to a close and the off-season has begun. A nine win season, combined with a playoff victory at Cincinnati, has the Chargers fan base excited once again. Head Coach Mike McCoy and General Manager Tom Telesco have the Bolts franchise on the fast track to reopening a championship window that, under former Head Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith, seemed to have slammed shut. Looking back at the season, one could argue- with a little more maturity by the players and coaches- the Bolts could have finished with at least 12 wins. Some early season stumbles against Houston, Tennessee and Washington handed the Chargers some painful last minute losses. Conversely, the Bolts finished the season like studs by winning 5 of their last 6 games – beating the Chiefs twice and the Broncos in Denver during that stretch. To say things are on the upswing under McCoy and Telesco would be an understatement. With this in mind, I humbly submit the first article in my six part series documenting my thoughts and feelings regarding the state of the franchise.
The 10-year veteran had a rebirth under Mike McCoy in 2013. Recently departed Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s plan was to balance the offense and ask Philip to make quicker decisions in the passing game. “Take what the defense is giving us” was the mantra. Rivers seemed to flourish with this approach and his statistics dramatically improved across the board from the previous season. He completed 69.5% of his passes finishing with 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. There is no question that Rivers still has plenty of fire in his belly and strength in his arm to compete at an elite level through the remainder of his current contract, which expires in 2016. He remains the unquestioned leader of the team.
“Clipboard Jesus” as he is affectionately known by Bolts fans, has been Philip’s right hand man on the Chargers sideline throughout most of Rivers’ career. They bounce thoughts off of one another throughout games and it seems to help Rivers maintain his focus. The fact of the matter, however, is that Charlie’s contract is up and we have what appears to be a better back-up option in 1st year quarterback Brad Sorensen. Whitehurst’s only real game action occurs in the preseason, so Telesco will need to make a tough decision regarding Philip’s security blanket. Will Charlie accept a significantly lower contract offer to stay in San Diego? I have a feeling that’s what it will take for him to be in a Bolts uniform come this fall.
The rookie signal caller from Southern Utah opened a lot of eyes last preseason by making big play after big play with both his arm and his legs. Sorensen’s agility in the pocket and his ability to run when necessary was exciting. He made numerous throws downfield in the clutch under pressure, all with accuracy and zip. Sure, those throws were made against the opponent’s 2nd and 3rd stringers, but he had 3rd stringers blocking for him too. Charger fans haven’t seen this kind of mobility since a little guy named Doug Flutie donned lightning bolts. There is no question that Brad needs coaching up, but he seems to have that something that playmakers have to have. He’ll give McCoy and Telesco plenty to contemplate as they try to decide what they want to do in regards to Whitehurst.
There is no bigger question mark on the Chargers roster than Mathews. Coming into the season, many experts questioned if Ryan was the long-term answer at halfback for the Bolts. With a long history of fumbling and an inability to stay healthy, it seemed as though Mathews was on his way out of San Diego. Former Head Coach Norv Turner publicly questioned Ryan’s field vision and heart, while former General Manager A.J. Smith boldly stated he would be “somebody else’s fumbler” if his play didn’t improve. Those assessments may have been warranted at the time but I doubt they did much to help solidify a young back’s confidence in himself. 2013 presented Mathews with a fresh start. He embraced the new coaching style of Mike McCoy and had a very solid season in the Whisenhunt offense. Mathews ran for 1,255 yards and added another 189 yards as a receiver. He scored 7 total touchdowns and ran the ball with authority all season. He remained relatively healthy and showed toughness by trying to play through a high ankle sprain in the playoffs. It was a season that showed everyone what he is capable of. Is he the long-term answer after all? That is the million dollar question…
Ronnie’s contract is up this off-season. He has been a decent back-up over the past couple of seasons. His contribution this past season included 157 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. His value has dropped because of the stellar play of Danny Woodhead. The thought heading into the season was that the team ought to hang onto Brown due to questions regarding Woodhead’s small frame being able to take the pounding as a full-time starter if Mathews went down with an injury. As the season progressed, and Woodhead’s workload increased, it became apparent that those concerns were unfounded. Unless we can sign Brown cheaply, I doubt he’ll be on the roster next season.
Coming over from New England, Woodhead was pegged as “the guy who would fill the void left by Darren Sproles”. Sproles is a remarkable, multi-faceted threat out of the backfield. Rivers himself admitted being “depressed” when the Bolts let Sproles sign with New Orleans. Woodhead inherited these high expectations and accepted them from day one in San Diego. It didn’t take long for Danny to rise up and do Sproles-like things on the field. In addition to being small in size (he is listed at 5′ 8″ on the Chargers website), he has the same quickness and low center-of-gravity that Sproles possesses. Danny’s agility while running makes it difficult for defenders to lay a solid lick on him. Lastly, Woodhead has become as big a threat in the passing game as Sproles was as a Charger. Looking at Danny’s 2013 statistics, his dual-threat nature becomes very apparent. He rushed for 429 yards, averaging a respectable 4 yards per carry, and scored 2 rushing touchdowns. He hauled in 76 receptions for 605 yards and 6 touchdowns! He also contributed on special teams averaging 21.8 yards per kickoff return. He was the steal of last year’s free agency crop and a rather large feather in Tom Telesco’s hat.
McClain had another uneventful season. There are few “people-in-the-know” out there that would deny his blocking prowess. The fact of the matter is that most NFL offenses are going away from the traditional two-back set. Being the old-school football purist I am, I was really excited when we signed McClain a couple years back thinking that it would allow Mathews a real shot at becoming what we all envisioned he would be. In reality, his impact has been minimal to say the least. In 2013, Le’Ron carried the ball just 11 times, gaining 32 total yards. Does that level of production justify the 2.5 million dollars he is scheduled to make this upcoming season? If he is unwilling to restructure his deal in some way, I have a hard time visualizing him on our roster in the fall. His cap space will be too valuable as Telesco moves forward rebuilding the team.
Thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for part two of this series… Your comments are always welcomed!
Take heart Charger fans – the Bolt is back!!
At this point in time the Chargers currently have two fullbacks on the roster in Le’Ron McClain and Chris Gronkowski. McClain was one of the disappointing signings made by AJ Smith during the 2012 offseason. His play last year left a lot to be desired. Gronkowski has been a journeymen of sorts after going undrafted in the 2010 NFL draft. He has spent time in Dallas, Indianapolis, Denver and now San Diego.
It is hard to say whether or not either will be a success in 2013. It’s even more difficult to see which of the two will be the starting Fullback for the Chargers this season.
That leads us to the poll question listed above. The Chargers are very likely to feature a run-oriented offense this year. If you go back and look at the playcalling of both Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt you’ll see far more running plays than I think most would expect. Upon further examination of the offensive line, most of the projected starters are better run blockers than pass blockers.
As I was saying, the question is, should the Chargers become players in the Vonta Leach sweepstakes? Leach has been an all-pro fullback each of the last three years. Additionally, he has been named to the Pro bowl in those three years as well. The team would obviously have to free up some cap space to add the veteran. A solid start to that could be obtained by releasing McClain and, perhaps, even Gronkowski. There are some other players that could be axed to make room for Leach.
It has been reported that he is currently in Miami right now being looked at as a possible addition to the Dolphins. Must be nice to have so much money.
What do you think? Let us know by voting on the poll and leaving a comment as to why you voted the way that you did.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting.
Now that the June 1st deadline has passed, the Chargers have gained $4.5 million in salary cap room. It has been reported that roughly $2.5 million of that will be used to sign the team’s first round draft pick, DJ Fluker. It is looking like the Chargers will have a little over $2 million left to add depth to certain position groups on the team. This is prior to the anticipated cuts of a couple of players that are currently on the roster.
There have been rumors that both Eddie Royal and Le’Ron McClain could be shown the door in an effort to create some additional cap space. Not to mention the fact that they are no longer needed. The Chargers have a plethora of wide receivers. The Bolts signed Chris Gronkowski to play fullback for the team. Royal and McClain highlight a 2012 free agent class that leaves a lot to be desired. If the team were to cut them both it would free up a little over $3 million.
Those cuts, coupled with the already available space, provide the team with approximately $5 million to play with regarding the near and foreseeable future. You never want to strip the salary cap cupboard bare going into a regular season. You should play it safe and carry at least $2 million into the season in the case that there are injuries. This is the Chargers. There will be injuries.
There will be other cuts as well as the regular season draws closer and closer.
So that leaves us to the question. What position, or positions, still need to be addressed in free agency? Below is a poll for you to vote on this very subject. At this point, the team is most likely only trying to further our depth via free agency. There may be some camp battles but the starters for 2013 are most likely already on the team. Please feel free to state why you voted the way that you did by leaving a comment below the article at the bottom of this page.
Thanks a lot for voting and be sure to tell us why you voted the way that you did below in the comment section.