As if the secondary didn’t already look poised heading into the 2015 season, San Diego has added depth to the unit by signing former Miami Dolphin, defensive back Jimmy Wilson.
A native to San Diego and a Point Loma High School graduate, Wilson officially comes home to play for the team he grew up watching. In a recent interview with Chargers’ own Ricky Henne, Wilson stated “To have my name on the back of that Chargers’ jersey is a dream for every San Diego kid”.
He played his first four years in the NFL for the Dolphins before joining the Bolts. Wilson signed a 2-year, $4.85 million dollar contract with the team.
The team makes the transaction in the wake of former Charger, defensive back Marcus Gilchrist who recently signed a 4-year deal with the New York Jets.
Wilson has recorded a total of 153 combined tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 interceptions since entering the league in 2011. Last season, he started thirteen games with 58 combined tackles, a career high.
This marks the Chargers’ seventh free agent transaction in the free agency contest. The team so far has added guard Orlando Franklin (Denver) and return specialist Jacoby Jones (Baltimore). In addition, Tom Telesco has re-signed left tackle King Dunlap and defensive back Brandon Flowers, along with center Trevor Robinson and defensive end Ricardo Mathews.
Please welcome, Jimmy Wilson to the San Diego Chargers!
Next Tuesday, the NFL free agency period will officially begin and we will watch the flurry of defections and signings like a wreck on the highway, unable to avert our eyes. The Chargers have a lot of holes to fill and there are many attractive names out there with more becoming available every day. Unlike previous seasons, the Chargers have a commodity they’re not used to; money.
Before accounting for cutting their own free agents, the Chargers already have in excess of 25 million in cap space to sign free agents. With the raising of the salary cap by another two million and recent retirements of favorites Nick Hardwick and Jarrett Johnson, the Chargers will have over 30 million to spend before the wheeling and dealing begins. This is a very exciting time to be a Chargers fan. We’re used to the front office having to shop out of the bargain basement for players. This offseason they get to pick from the brand names.
One of the pressing areas of need will be the secondary. The Chargers need to re-sign cornerback Brandon Flowers to solidify one side of the field. Flowers was the highest rated cornerback in the league before he was injured, cutting his season short after 14 games with a groin injury and a concussion. Chargers 2014 first round draft pick Jason Verrett served as an excellent complimentary corner until he was injured and lost for the season after five games with a torn labrum.
The depth chart is pretty thin when you consider cornerbacks Shareece Wright and Marcus Gilchrist are also free agents who could be lost as well. With that in mind, I submit a very attractive option, Byron Maxwell of the Seattle Seahawks.
A member of the vaunted ‘Legion Of Boom’ secondary, Maxwell is a few days from being up for grabs and the Chargers would significantly upgrade their secondary with his addition. Maxwell (6’1, 207) is a longer, taller option at cornerback than the Chargers have on their roster right now. Whether by design or by coincidence, the bolts don’t have a single player in their secondary over six feet tall. Maxwell excels in press coverage and would give defensive coordinator John Pagano a lot more options with the game plan.
General Manager Tom Telesco will like the intangibles Maxwell brings to the table. A sixth round pick in 2011, the 27-year old Maxwell has many more years in the tank playing at a high level, barring injury. Paired with Verrett and Flowers, the Chargers would suddenly have one of the most formidable secondaries in the league with perennial All-Pro Eric Weddle holding down the safety position.
Although the market for Maxwell will be fierce, his price may not be as high as some expect. Being part of the Legion Of Boom may hurt his value as he was seen as a part of the whole, not exactly an individual standout. This will be his first big money contract and he will be eager to show that he is not just a ‘system’ cornerback. There’s no doubt Telesco can give him a deal that satisfies his percieved worth and is good for the team cap-wise. The Chargers should definitely apply the full court press to get Maxell out of Seattle and into lightning bolts.
The Greg One
¿Qué se puede decir? Casi nos da un ataque! Un partido que estuvo muy reñido y donde se vio que ambos equipos tenían esperanzas de llevarse la victoria. Es exactamente lo que se vio el domingo pasado en el Estadio Qualcomm, en la hermosa ciudad de San Diego, donde mas de 66,000 aficionados apreciaron un partido que, simplemente, se puede describir en una sola palabra: Cardiaco.
Desde el primer minuto se veía que iba a ser un encuentro que iba a dar mucho de que platicar, y mucho de que disfrutar. La escuadra relámpago se veía con mucha energía, mucho espíritu y seguridad como equipo en general, algo que no se había visto en los encuentros contra Miami y Oakland. Y a pesar de grandes errores que hubo en varios momentos del juego, los Chargers, con trabajo en equipo, buenas estrategias y un buen de suerte, lograron llevarse la victoria 27-24 contra San Luis.
Ahora a recapitular, como en cada semana, algunas notas importantes sobre el juego:
Ryan Mathews Está De Vuelta!
Vaya que se nota como un jugador lesionado afecta el juego terrestre. La ausencia de Ryan Mathews se vio por varias semanas, y ahora con su regreso, parece ser que está en sus mejores momentos. Tuvo un total de 102 yardas, un promedio de 8.8 yardas por carrera, la más larga de 32 yardas, la cuál culminó en un touchdown. El #24 esta de vuelta y con muchas ganas de dar su todo durante el juego, solo esperemos que no se vuelva a lesionar.
“El Capitán” Mostró Vida Durante Todo el Juego
Excluyendo la decepcionante intercepción por parte de Janoris Jenkins de los Rams, Philip Rivers estuvo espectacular durante el encuentro. Mostraba energía, utilizó una buena estrategia durante el juego, y tuvo control de los pases que quería hacer (otra vez, excluyendo la intercepción) Con un total de 35 intentos, de esos, 29 completados, 291 yardas y un rating de 98.9, nuestro capitán no mostraba ninguna señal de demora o lesión.
¿Problemas Al Recibir Balones Pateados?
A la mejor estoy exagerando, pero creo que los Chargers son el único equipo en la NFL ahorita que no puede correr el balón después de recibirlo, ya sea por despeje o después de una anotación del otro equipo. Un total de 3 touchbacks durante el partido, incluyendo varias capturas libres. La única esperanza de posibles corridas fue por parte de Chris Davis, quien intentó correr el balón en 2 ocasiones, y en ambas logró más de 20 yardas. Sin embargo, Davis fue participe de un grave error, al chocar con Keenan Allen en el recibimiento del balón, y dejando que los Rams recuperaran el balón. El error se corrigió por parte de Allen jugadas después con un touchdown, sin embargo, son errores que pudieron haber modificado el resultado del juego de forma drástica.
Mike Scifres y Nick Novak = Estelar!
Ya hemos comentado en varias ocasiones que el dúo dinámico de Scifres y Novak, a quien yo llamo por buen gusto “S&N”, son dos jugadores clave de la escuadra relámpago. Scifres hizo cuatro patadas de despeje, por un total de 197 yardas, un promedio de 38.3 yardas por patada, y la más larga de 55. Novak, por su parte, demostró otra vez que el toma ventaja de cada momento para patear, con dos goles de campo exitosos, uno de 23 yardas, y el segundo 48 para cerrar la primera mitad. Interesante como la diferencia en el resultado final fue un gol de campo (3 puntos), entonces debemos agradecer que tenemos un pateador estelar como Novak.
Un Mejor Desempeño Por Parte de La Defensiva
Sigue habiendo detalles como en cualquier línea defensiva, pero se debe aplaudir la estupenda participación y desempeño de los jugadores. Aprovecharon cada oportunidad dada para hacer una jugada, y vaya que dieron varios momentos de alegría para la afición relámpago. Brandon Flowers se lució nuevamente con una gran intercepción en el primer cuarto, a pesar de perder el balón, que fue recuperado por Melvin Ingram. Otra gran jugada fue por parte Corey Liuget que forzó un fumble, recuperado por Andrew Gachkar, quien corrió para sumar 6 puntos al marcador de los Chargers. Darrell Stuckey también tomó ventaja al bloquear un gol de campo por parte de los Rams. Pero sin embargo, la jugada más inesperada, y una que dejó a casi, si no a todo aficionado con la boca abierta, fue la intercepción por parte de Marcus Gilchrist, a un minuto de terminar el juego. Sin duda se vio un buen trabajo en equipo por parte de la defensiva.
Sin duda un partido cardiaco, pero deja las esperanzas de que nuestro gran equipo logre llegar a los Playoffs, o como le decimos acá en México, la “liguilla de la NFL”…quiero pensar que si le dicen así.
Bueno, en conclusión, para mi percepción fue un partido muy intenso, pero entretenido. La adrenalina estuvo a todo dar por parte de ambos equipos y ambas aficiones, y los Chargers lograron la victoria. Considerando que mi cumpleaños fue el día siguiente del partido, fue un buen regalo de cumpleaños. Ahora los Chargers se enfrentan el próximo domingo contra Baltimore, lo que será un encuentro muy interesante y contra un fuerte rival, sin embargo, en el juego del fútbol americano, todo puede suceder.
– José “Joe” Martinez
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
In what turned out to be a game of redemption for multiple Chargers, the ebb and flow of San Diego’s win over St. Louis seemed to have it all; positive and negative, that is.
I can honestly say that it took every second of three hours after the game for my heart to return to what could be considered a normal beat pattern. It is hard to imagine what it was like for the players, coaches and the entire organization.
While standing a few yards from Dean, AG and John Spanos at the end of the game, it was clear to see that they were just as concerned as to what the final outcome would be, and then their elation when the game was sealed by an interception with under a minute to go proved to be a flood of emotions as well. Tom Telesco was there near the west endzone as well. He ran down the sideline and along the way gave me a huge high-five in celebration of the win.
That last pass was picked off by safety Marcus Gilchrist. By all measures, he had a tough game up to that point. Mike McCoy even commented during the post-game press conference that “Gilly” was beat on a touchdown to Stedman Bailey in the game. Marcus then came back and redeemed himself by making what was the biggest play of his career.
Gilchrist was not alone in trading in early blunders for success that later helped seal a much-needed win. Keenan Allen immediately comes to mind. If one only looks at his receiving numbers — 6 receptions for 104 yards and a huge 35-yard touchdown reception — you might conclude that he had an excellent game. Although the “muffed” punt was credited to Allen as a fumble, it turned out that rookie Chris Davis interfered with Keenan’s ability to field the ball. One can expect that Davis probably received a stern talking to about the situation.
The former Cal wideout also had a hand in what would be another mishap. With the Chargers marching down the field and in scoring position, he slipped at the top of his cut on a route and the ball was intercepted and returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Rivers also could be at fault as it appeared that even had Keenan not slipped the throw may have still been picked off. Later in the game, after catching a pass from Philip Rivers, Allen sped down the field making moves and gaining as many yards after the catch as possible. Unfortunately, Keenan would then fumble the ball as he was tackled to the ground, giving the ball back to the Rams.
The second-year wide receiver would eventually redeem himself, similar to Gilchrist, when he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass with a little over 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. I would think that he let out a huge sigh of relief upon reaching pay dirt.
In that same Dickens’ novel, it is also written, “Keep where you are because, if I should make a mistake, it could never be set right in your lifetime.” This was said by a guard in the novel pertaining to his protection of a character in the book. There was no guard in Sunday’s game and these were not plays that would have lasted for a lifetime. But if the team had lost, the two men would be consumed with thoughts of plays that changed the game for the worse.
Both Gilchrist and Allen made mistakes. But they kept at it and found individual ways to set them right. They found their redemption and both Chargers were able to atone for their errors. Their shining moments are what will be remembered by most.
The worst times may have come first, but the best times of yesterday’s game led San Diego to a big win over the Rams.
Thanks a lot for reading.
San Diego is locked and loaded after resting through their bye week. League-mandated days off allowed them to travel or just stay home and rest. Because it was the bye week, I began to think about the current team and who would remain in 2015. I figured I would check out who was in the last year of their contract and who was extended beyond the 2015 season.
The list of players in the final year of their contracts, otherwise known as their contract year, was a bit longer than I had anticipated. Below is a list of those players.
WR – Seyi Ajirotutu
RB – Ronnie Brown
OT – King Dunlap
CB – Brandon Flowers
OLB – Dwight Freeney
ILB – Andrew Gachkar
CB – Marcus Gilchrist
C – Nick Hardwick
OLB – Cordarro Law
C/G – Doug Legursky
DL – Ricardo Mathews
C/G – Rich Ohrnberger
WR – Eddie Royal
CB – Shareece Wright
RB – Ryan Mathews
There are some major players on this list that would leave major holes in the team if they were not re-signed.
Brandon Flowers was one of the best free agent signings in the entire NFL after he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs. He has made a huge impact in the secondary for John Pagano’s defense. I would imagine that Tom Telesco would make a serious effort to sign him to a contract once the time comes in 2015.
King Dunlap has been playing pretty darn well at left tackle. The only problem with keeping him is that he may be looking to be rewarded with a big contract due to his performance since coming to San Diego. Telesco will have the most money he’s had since accepting the role of General Manager when the 2015 offseason begins. If Dunlap keeps playing at a high level, there’s a good chance that he will remain a Charger.
Can you imagine the special teams units without Seyi Ajirotutu and Andrew Gachkar? Darrell Stuckey may be the captain of the third phase of the game, but both Tutu and Gachkar are key cogs in the coverage phases of special teams. Andrew has seen a big increase in playing time at inside linebacker due to the fractured foot of Manti Te’o. He has been playing his heart out.
The sorting out of the center position next year is very interesting. With Nick Hardwick on injured-reserve, Rich Ohrnberger fighting back problems, Chris Watt has seen some time at center. Both Nick and Rich will be free agents at the beginning of the 2015 league year. Hardwick has already contemplated retirement in years past. It is hard to say if we have seen the last of him in lightning bolts. Or maybe it isn’t. Many people do not expect him to come back. Watt may be the future at either center or right guard. The center spot will be something to keep an eye on following 2014.
Eddie Royal has proven to be a playmaker and solid weapon for Philip Rivers. He also sees a lot of time as the team’s punt returner. He has a solid relationship with Rivers and he helped in the recruiting of Flowers to the Bolts. He is good in the slot and he provides a contrasting style to that of starting wideouts Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd. I have a feeling that he may be re-signed.
Marcus Gilchrist is currently San Diego’s starting strong safety. After moving from cornerback to his current position, Gilchrist has made some plays but he isn’t necessarily irreplaceable. Some media members expected him to be a possible cut during the 2014 offseason. If the play of Jahleel Addae continues on the upswing, and he gets fully healthy, the chances of Marcus being re-signed may decrease exponentially.
While examining the corner situation, Shareece Wright is another starter that is in his contract year. He has improved quite a bit since coming into the league. If the Chargers are unable to keep Brandon Flowers, Wright is almost guaranteed to remain a Charger in 2015 and beyond. But if both Flowers and Jason Verrett are other available options, I’m not so sure that Shareece stays in America’s finest city. I hope that he does as I enjoy watching his physicality in the running game and his coverage skills continue to get better as he becomes more experienced in the NFL.
This next one is the toughest one for me. I don’t even like writing about this subject when it comes to this player.
Let me begin by saying that I hope Ryan Mathews remains a Charger for life. He is, without a doubt, the best back on the current roster and his hard-charging, physical running style makes the San Diego offense better. He had a fantastic 2013 year in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing yardage. His MCL sprain in week 2 against Seattle has really affected the Charger offense. He is about to return and do everything in his power to help earn a future contract with the Bolts. He is a threat as a receiving option out of the backfield and he has improved as a pass blocker when called upon to do so in effort to keep Rivers clean and safe while in the pocket.
There are a lot of questions surrounding which players will be re-signed for 2015 and beyond. It goes without saying that the extra cap space Telesco will have should help in retaining the guys that he believes deserve to stay. The question is, who does he want to keep? He has quite some time to think this over. But there are going to be a lot of difficult decisions.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Back in May, I put out my game by game predictions for this season (http://boltblitz.com/?p=9723). I’m holding myself accountable to those predictions. Each week, I’ll go back and look at what I said and report back. Here goes Week 1:
“NFC West isn’t the toughest division in the league just because of San Francisco and Seattle. Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald. Secondary has their work cut out for them. Philip Rivers against a Cards’ secondary including Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers and Antonio Cromartie. Cards’ weakness is probably in their pass rush and running game. 27-24 Bolts. (1-0)”
I was wrong on the outcome and on the final score. The Bolts looked like they were walking in their sleep in the first half. 6-3 Cardinals at the half? Really? Arizona’s secondary played up to their billing, though our boys dropped way too many passes. Eddie Royal dropped three passes then gave up on a crossing route that caused a turnover. Even the reliable Antonio Gates dropped a few. Keenan Allen dropped a critical fourth and two pass to seal the come from ahead defeat.
What went wrong?
- The dropped passes I just mentioned.
- Mental errors like Royal giving up on the crossing route.
- Blown opportunities. Dropped interceptions by both Eric Weddle and Marcus Gilchrist. Offense failed, yes FAILED to capitalize on Jerry Attaochu’s blocked punt.
- The fourth quarter from start to finish
- It looked like the offense was playing its own version of prevent. I really have no idea what Frank Reich and Philip Rivers were trying to accomplish. For one thing, Philip spent way too much time at the line calling out signals or decoys. Arizona’s defense was reeling and it was time to stomp on their throats. There were times the defensive front was standing instead of getting down in their stances. Why not go on a quick count? They’re on their heels! Put the game away!
- And the defense. John Pagano, what were you thinking? Drop deep and keep everything in front? Give up yards in 10-15 yard chunks? Let the back slip out of the backfield with nobody within miles of him? Let Carson Palmer run like he’s 20? Love your prevent defense bud. It definitely help prevent a win.
- Ryan Mathews
- Finding Mathews on the field was like trying to find Waldo. 12 carries. 12. As in one less than a baker’s dozen. This was your leading rusher last year. He ran for over 100 yards in five of last year’s nine victories. The offense needs him as much as it needs Rivers. This game was a seriously unbalanced attack with a 3:2 pass to run ratio. I don’t care how much clock Rivers eats at the line, if the ball doesn’t move, if the team doesn’t score it means nothing.
What went right?
There were a number of players and plays that were encouraging.
- The previously mentioned Jerry Attaochu in his NFL debut not only blocked a punt, but forced a Carson Palmer fumble that was recovered by Dwight Freeney, who also recovered one himself.
- Jason Verrett also looked good in his NFL debut. He played a lot of press coverage, showing no fear of the NFL receiver. He also knocked a couple of passes away from would-be receivers.
- Malcom Floyd. Welcome back M80! He had four catches for 50 yards in his return to the field after almost a year. He and Rivers nearly connected on a couple of deep balls.
- Shareece Wright. He got flagged a couple of times, but he showed the ability to turn the page and make a great play just moments later. He didn’t let his mistakes mess his head up.
- The defense played very well for 75% of the game. Unfortunately, the last 25% proved fatal.
And it gets worse.
We learn Wednesday that Nick Hardwick is done for the year. Already contemplating retirement, this may be the last we see of #61.
There’s obviously a ton of clean up be done. Rivers should be more varied in the snap count at the line and Mathews needs to be a bigger part of the game plan. Receivers have to catch the ball. Dropped passes can’t continue. Prevent the prevent! No more milking leads. Develop a killer instinct and put the game away. Put an end to this keep everything in front of the defense stuff. Play the last 15 minutes just like the first 45. Seattle’s coming to town, kids. Chargers have their work cut out for them.
The night that all Charger fans had been waiting for has come and gone. Sadly, the evening ended with San Diego beginning the season in the loss column.
Although the Cardinals left the field with the victory , and they deserve credit for walking away with the win, an argument could be made that the Chargers beat themselves. That argument could easily be won by the side that stands behind the fact that San Diego’s self-inflicted mistakes cost them the game.
Below I’ll list some of the major mistakes that led the Bolts to their first loss of the 2014 season.
– Rivers missed Floyd on a deep post ( overthrow )
– Offensive line play was poor for the most part
– 8 total drops
Royal 3 drops
Gates 3 drops
Floyd 1 drop
Allen 1 drop ( on the 4th down play at the end of the game that would have kept the drive alive )
– Freeney whiffed on two sack opportunities
– Ingram missed one sack, and had opportunities for two others
– Mathews was not utilized enough ( only 12 carries )
– Weddle dropped an interception
– Gilchrist dropped an interception ( Overall he had a bad game )
– Richard Marshall is….. Richard Marshall
– Rivers and Ohrnberger combined on a missed shotgun snap while in field goal range
– Reich seemed tentative and scared in his playcalling
– Ladarius Green only played 24 snaps ( only two catches )
– Multiple penalties and poor play in the secondary plagued the defense ( secondary is still improved from last year )
All of the aforementioned mistakes equal a true recipe for disaster and a loss. An optimist would say that the silver lining is that the Chargers can eliminate this multitude of mistakes. A pessimist will expect more of the same.
This game is only one of sixteen regular season contests. Everyone can stow away their inner Chicken Little feelings. There is still a ton of football left to be played. The expectation around Chargers Park is that these errors will be corrected going forward.
The next test coming up happens to be the defending Super bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. It goes without saying, the Bolts need a near flawless gameplan on offense and defense to come away with a victory on “White hot Sunday.”
There is a lot for Charger fans to be excited about going into the 2014 NFL season. Now that it’s the second year under both Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy, there is a solid foundation in San Diego that the team has not had for quite some time. To be quite honest, these two gentlemen were left with quite the mess to clean up. And at this point, the Bolts are not only heading in the right direction, they are set to make some noise for the foreseeable future with Telesco and McCoy leading the way.
Despite all of the optimism surrounding Chargers Park, there are some questions going into the season that will help determine if this year ends up being another successful campaign.
Everyone knows the game 20 questions.
Below I’ll listing 20 intriguing questions that the answers will help provide the blueprint for what the 2014 season could be hinging upon for your San Diego Chargers.
1) Can this team stay healthy?
Like all NFL teams, so much of the success during the season depends on the health of the squad. Last season the Bolts lost both of their starting wideouts and starting outside linebackers in the early stages of the process. Injuries on the offensive line were overcome by the versatility that has been taught by coach Joe D’Alessandris. Despite losing a few key reserves, San Diego approaches the year healthy; minus a hamstring injury to Jahleel Addae.
2) Will Sean Lissemore play well enough at nose tackle to anchor John Pagano’s 3-4 defense?
Let me start this out by reminding fans that the Chargers were only in their base defense for roughly 40% of the time last year. That being said, Lissemore is not exactly built like a 3-4 NT. Look for teams to test the middle of the defense early and often. It won’t take too long to see how this position will be as far as being one that makes a solid impact, or becomes a question mark in 2014.
3) Can Ryan Mathews improve on his career year from 2013?
I truly believe he can and will. The team and Tom Telesco have been on record stating that Mathews will be the bell cow of the running back stable. The addition of Donald Brown seems to be more of an insurance policy than one that will eat into too many of Ryan’s touches. After finishing seventh in the NFL in rushing yards, he seems primed to carry the load as one of the main focuses of the offense.
4) Will Danny Woodhead continue to produce at such a high level as a receiver out of the backfield?
It will be difficult for Woodhead to put up the receiving numbers he did last year. But, make no mistake, Philip Rivers trusts him and uses him as a safety valve very often. Danny is a threat out of the backfield and he has very reliable hands. To expect him to finish with 76 receptions and 6 touchdowns receiving may be asking too much.
5) Will Johnnie Troutman hold down the fort at right guard while Jeromey Clary is out?
Cohesion along the offensive line is paramount to the success of the offense. Troutman has shown, at times, that he can be abused as both a pass blocker and run blocker. The drafting of Chris Watt in the third round of the draft had some believing that Clary may not make this team. After talking with Telesco for about 10 minutes at the Charger walk through at MCAS Miramar, it doesn’t seem that Jeromey is going anywhere. Watt received some snaps with the first team offense and then ending up losing out to Troutman. The right guard spot will certainly be one that is worth keeping an eye on.
6) Speaking of health, can Malcom Floyd rebound from the serious neck injury he suffered during week 2 last year versus the Philadelphia Eagles?
I have the utmost respect for Floyd, but he’s only played 16 games once – 2009 – over his NFL career. Sure, he’s seen some live action during the preseason, and made a play here and there. Losing Malcom again would, without a doubt, be an issue that would need to be addressed. In addition to his acrobatic catches, Floyd’s size and catching radius provide Philip a target that is uncommon among the other receivers. He is no longer relegated to solely being a deep threat as he has been asked to run many different routes in the passing game. Every single time he catches the ball, fans should be holding their collective breaths.
7) Will John Pagano be creative enough to confuse opposing offenses and avoid predictability in playcalling?
I am rooting for Pagano to have a breakout year as a defensive coordinator. His gameplan last year against Indianapolis was brilliant. But I’d like to see more of that. Disguised blitzes and more aggressive coverage outside by the cornerbacks must be a focus for this defense to succeed. The lack of pressure last year was sad. Ranking in the bottom 5 of the league in passing defense will not be acceptable in 2014. Pagano now has a few more playmakers/toys he can utilize moving forward. The question remains whether or not he’s able to put them in the best positions to make those plays that change games.
8) After watching Kendall Reyes be driven back off the line of scrimmage often, can he prove to be a solid player on the opposite side of Corey Liuget on the defensive line?
Reyes is a solid pass rusher for a 3-4 defensive end. But he struggles against the run when facing top-tier offensive linemen. Watching Kendall on roller skates while defending the run is quite a point of concern. It will be interesting to see how long he remains in the base defense on running downs.
9) Will Melvin Ingram convert those “almost plays” into game-changing plays?
Although disruption and quarterback hurries have taken a backseat, statistically speaking, to sacks, they are still vital to a team’s defense. Ingram played admirably after missing most of the year due to a torn ACL suffered last May. It is time to see him take that next step. It would be nice to see him moved around a bit more making it harder for teams to stop his pursuit. This is a big year for Melvin.
10) This will go with some of the aforementioned themes read above. Can Donald Butler stay on the field for sixteen games?
After signing a seven-year deal, Butler is expected to be a leader of the San Diego defense for many years to come. But his inability to stay healthy is an issue. Donald is a playmaker when on the field. Sure, he has his deficiencies, but he’s a very good all-around player. The Charger defense needs him on the field.
11) Will Kavell Conner eventually replace Manti Te’o in the starting lineup?
Many Te’o fans will be upset by this question. I do my best to not be too critical of players. It is worth pointing out that Telesco is familiar with Conner from his days in Indy. Kavell may not be as instinctive as Manti, but he has better speed and seems to be a better tackler; this dates back to tape of his time with the Colts. Do not be surprised if Kavell Conner is announced as the starter next to Butler at some point during the year. Let us hope that it isn’t due to a banged up, or injured, Manti Te’o.
12) Are Donald Brown and Eddie Royal the answers at kick returner and punt returner, respectively?
The special teams unit has been searching for an explosive, dynamic player in the return game since the loss of Darren Sproles. That search is still on. Donald Brown seems like Ronnie Brown’s double as a returner in the kicking game. A reliable guy that won’t turn it over, but doesn’t have the ability to break the big one. When looking at Royal as the punt returner, he’s a safe bet back there. But he hardly practiced most of last season. If given more exposure with return duties, is it more likely that Royal may end up being injured? Only time will tell.
13) What kind of impact will the addition of Brandon Flowers bring to the secondary?
The Bolts made a splash by signing the former Chief and adding him to the defensive back group. Despite his lack of size, Flowers is physical and can play multiple positions in the San Diego secondary. The team needs him to step up and wreak havoc while facing some of the league’s top receivers. Brandon is a clear upgrade and the hope is that he will help change games due to his aggressive style of play.
14) Have the Chargers found the answer at strong safety?
Jahleel Addae is a hard hitter. He has some work to do at wrapping up and in coverage. But, when healthy, he’s improving as he receives more playing time. But that’s the problem. It appears as though Addae will miss week one in Arizona. In comes Marcus Gilchrist. After being moved to the strong safety spot, he still has some learning to do. Marcus will be the starter week one. Book it. But when Jahleel is healthy, look for San Diego to make the switch to Addae. Despite being an undrafted free agent, he has impressed as a former CMU Chippewa. The position has been in serious flux since the days of Rodney Harrison. Richard Marshall will also factor in until Addae reruns to the field.
15) Was Jason Verrett the right choice at number 25 in the 2014 draft?
Yes. For those of you that didn’t approve of the drafting of Verrett, give him time and watch him impress you. The guy can make plays. He has great speed and his instincts accentuate that speed even more.
16) Can the Chargers improve on their dismal red zone performance from last year?
Settling for field goals with a brutal, difficult schedule will not cut it in 2014. The San Diego offense must score touchdowns. When you look at teams like Seattle, New England, San Francisco, Denver ( twice ) and Arizona, it will take maximizing scoring opportunities in the red zone for the year to be successful.
17) Will Mike McCoy’s conservative gameplan limit the Chargers and their ability to make a splash this season?
I have a ton of respect for McCoy and I like a lot of what he did as a rookie head coach in 2013. But, occasionally it seemed as though the team was calling plays not to lose, as opposed to having that killer instinct and going for the jugular. One could only hope, considering the weapons on offense, that coach will go into games with an aggressive mindset. Although Frank Reich is the offensive coordinator, McCoy sets up the gameplan every week. A “pedal to the metal” mentality is so important in what is a highly competitive league. You play to win the game.
18) Will Philip Rivers put up numbers similar to last year?
Rivers had a phenomenal year in 2013. He led the NFL in completion percentage at 69.5% while throwing 32 touchdowns and he posted a passer rating of 105.5. This is now year two within the new offense and it fits him very well. Not only will Rivers have another great year, fans should expect to see him exceed some of the stats from 2013.
19) Can Keenan Allen avoid having a sophomore slump after a fantastic rookie campaign?
Teams now have NFL tape on Allen. He is not going to surprise any defenses this year like he did as a rookie. He will most likely receive quite a bit of attention from opposing secondaries via double coverage, bracketing or a robber over the top. Keenan is one year removed from a knee injury that caused his stock drop to the third round of the draft. He has worked on increasing his speed and bulked up some, as well. Keenan Allen is a special player. Like Rivers, Allen has a great shot at bettering his numbers from his rookie year.
20) Will the Chargers play consistently enough to win the games they are supposed to win?
Houston. Tennessee. Washington. Games against the three aforementioned teams should have been wins. You cannot play down to the level of your competition and expect to be handed victories. For some reason, this has been a problem for the Bolts for many years. Playing each game like it’s your Super bowl should be the mantra of this team. No matter who the opponent is on the field, you must act as though they are a serious threat to steal a win.
Those are 20 questions that I believe will help develop the identity of the 2014 San Diego Chargers. The team has not had depth like this for almost 10 years. Heaven forbid the club has to deep too deep into their reserve players..
A healthy Charger team is a dangerous one. Despite a tough schedule, San Diego has a chance to be special. The hope in America’s finest city is that the Monday night opener will be the first of two trips to Arizona this season.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Editor’s Note: In this piece Peter Silberberger breaks down the defensive battles per position. Due to injuries along the defensive line, other spots on the defense may suffer cuts in order to supplement needs up front.
Tom Telesco has not ignored the need for help at the cornerback position. In fact, depending on health, it may now be a strength for the Chargers. While we haven’t seen any glaring dominance, what we have seen is how teams and players are reacting to San Diego’s rotating defensive back units.
A few things stand out. Richard Marshall was given snaps at safety during the San Francisco game. This action likely speaks to some final roster thoughts. Carrying any more than three full time safeties would cut into the other needs of depth for the team. Addae, Stuckey, and Weddle are all locks, and having part-time corner Marcus Gilchrist and a veteran like Marshall able to fill in occasionally makes the defensive backfield strong and flexible.
Teams seem more than willing to throw at Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall, but not so much toward Verrett or Flowers. Granted, the two starters from last year’s squad are labeled poorly when it comes to 2013 pass defense rankings, but with the two new faces around, it looks as though John Pagano will have plenty of options. It should also be noted that neither Flowers or Verrett have seen much playing time as of yet, but their reputation and speed respectively seem to affect the number of attempts thrown their way.
Steve Williams and Crezdon Butler have both had a rough go with actual game speed and play calling. Chris Davis, however, has been all over the place throughout training camp and on game tape. If today was 53-man cut down day, Davis would be getting the nod over both other reserves.
Brandon Ghee had seemingly disappeared completely during preseason, and found himself on the chopping block during first cuts, which finalized Tuesday. Marcus Cromartie was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, as well.
These moves leave the door open for either Steve Williams or Chris Davis, but likely not both with Gilchrist around. The team will likely total seven cornerbacks, including Gilchrist, which is a lot already. Don’t expect there to be eight.
Defensive Line/ Outside Linebackers:
At first glance, it appears that Pagano’s traditional 3-4 defense has some definite holes to fill in prototypical positions. The defensive tackle position is shaky at best, and the end depth is thin. Questions of how and where Dwight Freeney will be best utilized are still relevant, and there’s a lot of unproven talent walking around.
The team released reserve DE Damik Scafe and lost rookie prospect DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe for the year to an ACL tear. Telesco, doing what he does, pulled in two cuts from around the league in Doug Worthington and Joe Kruger. Worthington projects as a 4-3 lineman and Kruger mostly the same, although a more athletic frame may allow him to dabble in a standing position.
All of this maneuvering seems to overlap with the theme of this roster build, and its versatility. It would appear that Mike McCoy’s nature of playing the schemes which best fit his personnel has caught on with his coordinators. That being said, any personnel being brought in this late will have to be adaptable. Guys like Worthington, Kruger, and other roster hopeful Cordarro Law will have to be able to fit into multiple positions in order to make the team. This could, perhaps, be unfortunate news for a guy like Thomas Keiser.
Although noticeably productive, Keiser is viewed as a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s not that the Bolts don’t need pass rushing outside ‘backers, it’s that they already have those guys for those specific sets. Ingram, Attaochu, Johnson, Tourek Williams, and even Reggie Walker can all fill that role easily. If guys like Worthington, Kruger, or Law make this roster over Keiser, it will be because of their ability to play in multiple defensive sets, as well as contribute on special teams.
The defensive tackle position is a different story entirely. Kwame Geathers and Sean Lissemore have been at the top of the depth chart for some time. That being said, Lissemore is battling an injury and Geathers was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his season. Enter rookies Ryan Carrethers and Tenny Palepoi. Both have the prototypical build to anchor the traditional 3-4 line, but both are very young. They’ll collectively get all the snaps they can handle, which is great for their growth process. Suddenly, however, the team lacks playable veteran mentors at the position.
One thing most know about Tom Telesco is that he is never without options. The opportunistic GM will be closely watching the waiver wire as teams trim rosters to 75 this week. If he sees a bargain, he’ll certainly grab it.
Another option is long time NFL veteran free agent Ryan Pickett. The ex-Packer lives in San Diego and has expressed interest. The good there is clearly the wealth of experience and ability to teach, as he once did for Packers DT B.J. Raji. Pickett would almost certainly have to see veteran minimum salary as a must in this situation, which is also team friendly. The bad is likely his 34 year-old physique may not be what the Bolts are looking for.
It’s more in Telesco’s nature to find a second or third year guy who couldn’t squeeze onto a roster somewhere else in the league. In order to keep the talent level high, Telesco will likely wait and watch the final week with the guys already around. This will serve two purposes. One, it will give every snap available to the two rookies for invaluable experience in real-time. Two, it will allow for Telesco to wait for the perfect guy to add when final 53s are announced by Friday. There are tough decisions being made all over the league this week, and teams such as the Patriots and Broncos could be cutting some serious talent on the defensive line.
By the end of this week, Lissemore and Carrethers will be Chargers for sure, but don’t be surprised if Palepoi is challenged by a Telesco find. If that were the case, the battle for the roster spot could take place during the final preseason game. If not, and Tenny struggles, he may very well lose his spot to a more trusted veteran come Friday.
With the versatility of guys like Reggie Walker and Marcus Gilchrist, the inside linebacker and safety positions seem to be sewn up. So, while watching Thursday’s game, it’s D-Line, outside linebacker, and cornerback where the 2014 San Diego Chargers will be focused on finalizing the roster.
Can Chris Davis keep his momentum going in his duel with Steve Williams? Will newly added athletes in the front seven push Thomas Keiser out? Will there be another addition to the defensive tackle position by Wednesday afternoon? The final game of the pre season is supposed to be practically unwatchable to the average football fan. Good thing Charger fans are anything but that.
I had the pleasure of being at the first day of Chargers training camp today. Due to the fact that there were no injuries, the only negative takeaway I have is that I am, slightly, resembling a lobster. I was offered sunscreen by my great friend, Chris Garcia ( @sportsbrain on Twitter ), yet I, regretfully, declined. I am burnt to a crisp.
But enough about me and my sunburn. There are a lot of positive takeaways from the first day of Charger training camp. One of which was getting to see Joel Price again. He runs the Chargers Twitter account – @Chargers – and you can find his personal account at @joelprice as well.
Let’s go straight to my analysis of the first day of training camp. I mean, it’s not lot the major networks are talking about it…. AT ALL!
1) Brandon Flowers is extremely aggressive. Do not let his size fool you. He was all over receivers and looked quick all practice long. He actually made me shudder on a few plays where he was right on top on Malcom Floyd. Lord knows we don’t want him to be the new Shareece Wright, in that he manages to find ways to hurt Charger players during previous training camps.
2) Donald Brown’s feet are much quicker than I expected. His ability to cut and change direction is very impressive in person. Way to go, Tom Telesco. This signing will pay dividends.
3) When watching Tevin Reese he bobbled,yet caught, and dropped, a few passes at the beginning of the day. But he finished strong by making at least three remarkable catches. There were a few other catches that were impressive as well. I am a bit concerned that he shows, at times, a propensity to not be able to secure the ball when it initially hits his hands. But his speed and quickness make him an asset to this team. Telesco made it clear that he wanted to add more speed. And he did just that with the acquisition of Reese. He made plays that other wide receivers would not be able to make.
4) Jason Verrett is great at high-pointing the ball and his instincts make you forget about his lack of height and size. Verrett is still not 100%. But watching him today makes me believe that the Chargers made an undeniably excellent choice with the 25th pick in the first round of this year’s draft. When you add in his aforementioned traits, and his quickness and speed, Jason is just what this Charger secondary needs in having a playmaker that can contribute right away.
5) These players were in on punt return duties: Tevin Reese, Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal. It would appear that, considering that Reese was the first man up to receive the first punt, the team is looking long and hard at Reese as a punt return guy. I am not a fan of using Keenan Allen back there; as most of you have read via my posts on BoltBlitz.com, tweets and Facebook posts. I refuse to be able to get behind using the team’s number one wide receiver as a punt returner. I don’t like Eddie Royal back there either. We all should be on the Tevin Reese train and hoping that he continues to produce on a consistent level.
6) Melvin Ingram had to pull up often. He was on the other side of the ball and, being a veteran, he knew that getting too close to Philip Rivers was not an option. He looks fast and ready to make an impact in 2014.
7) Marion Grice, although he didn’t look overly quick, had a few runs that reminded me of some of the tape I received from Arizona State. He also made a few catches that would make some wideouts jealous. He’s got great hands. I’m excited to see what he can do.
8) Craig Watts Jr. was effective when on the field. He needs to work on his footwork a bit, which I’ve told him via text. But his play at the point of attack will, without a doubt, land him on the practice squad. Book it. I would not be surprised if he made the 53-man roster.
9) In his time with the second and third units, Alden Darby was in the right place at the right time. His coverage was tight and I look forward to his progress once he makes the squad. Yup, he will make this team.
10) Marcus Gilchrist looks bigger, and more stout this year. His muscle mass seems more defined and it looks as though he has embraced his new role as a strong safety on the Bolts. Only time will tell.
11) Keenan Allen looks determined and focused. He absorbed all comments from coaches during today’s training camp willingly. His cuts in and out of breaks were so solid. His hands continued to prove reliable and I can’t wait to see what he can do during his sophomore campaign in 2014. Not only will there not be a sophomore slump for Allen, I see him having an even better year this season.
12) Sean Lissemore looks bigger. He created a solid push. Yes, they aren’t in full pads, but I might have been too quick to judge him as a starting nose tackle in John Pagano’s defense. Although I’d still prefer him as defensive end depth, he may be a stop-gap for the time being.
13) Philip Rivers has one of the quickest releases in the NFL. Some may question his arm strength, but he gets the ball out so fast. He is an elite quarterback and those of you that do not believe in him, you should completely reassess your evaluation.
14) Brad Sorensen was out of sync and threw behind receivers often. Fans near me wanted to credit the defensive backs for making good plays. Truth be told, he just didn’t look very impressive. Sorry to all of you that think “Sorensen is the Charger quarterback of the future,” I just don’t see it.
15) The battle at strong safety is hot and heated already. Although Marcus Gilchrist saw the starting snaps with the first team, Jahleel Addae is learning Pagano’s defense at a quick pace. I can’t wait for them to put on the pads and see what he can do. My biggest concern regarding Addae during training camp? He may hurt a fellow teammate.
16) Jeromey Clary was on the side cheering on his peers due to being on the PUP list. Johnnie Troutman saw snaps with the first team. I am not sure that is conducive to success for the offensive line, nor the offense as a whole. For those of you that are not in favor of Clary making the roster, be careful what you wish for. Be very careful.
There’s my incredibly premature breakdown after the first day of training camp for your San Diego Chargers. Be sure to leave your thoughts below and let me know what you think. I am especially interested in what you saw if you were there today to enjoy the festivities.
Thanks a lot for reading.