Max Starks

The position battle at Left Tackle appears to be all over but the crying.  Unbeknownst to some, not this blogger, the Max Starks experiment is turning out to be the acquisition of a backup linemen.  Depth is necessary all over this roster.  Please don’t mistake that I find it crucial to have guys that can come in when the team suffers injuries with guys being poor signings.  I’ve just never been a fan of Starks.

To put it quite simply, the performance of King Dunlap has been head and shoulders above that of the ex-Steeler Starks.  I’m not sure that is saying much and, perhaps, shows that San Diego might not have properly addressed the Left Tackle position during this offseason.

Truth be told, the team did not have sufficient money to sign a big-name free agent to protect the blindside of Philip Rivers.  The fact that the top 3 Offensive tackles went in the first 4 picks of the 2013 draft forced the team to forego addressing the spot with a rookie to man it.

Dunlap has performed well throughout training camp and the preseason.  He is not going to be confused for being an All-Pro Tackle but as long as the only time you hear his name is during the starting lineup then he is doing his job well.

I should add that Mike McCoy has yet to name a starter at Left Tackle but it has seemed as though it is a foregone conclusion for the past few weeks.

Just for fun, I found a few tweets of mine that I sent out the day that Starks was signed.  According to many, the top tweet was breaking news although I was solely checking Starks’ Twitter account due to the release of Kevin Haslam.


Chargers got their first win in the preseason, let’s look how they answered some of the key questions below.

Coaching and GM

  • This should be the week we see a little more game planning as it could be seen as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. I don’t know about you, but I liked the WR screens and Danny Woohead wheel routes that I saw.  Definitely looked like they were trying some things out with the first unit.  The quick inside handoffs for Mathews were really effective too.
  • Depth continues to be a big question mark for this team.  Injuries have really emphasized that lack of depth.  Will Richard Marshall see the field as the latest addition to replace Steve Williams.  Marshall didn’t see the field, but the DBs got another injury when Patrick went down with a concussion (his 2nd in 2 weeks).  Chargers will need him healthy moving forward.  Overall, depth looked better last night with some decent performances from the 2nd and 3rd string.
  • While Mike McCoy has said that they aren’t playing the starters on special teams, the unit has been a nightmare.  Well that philosophy changed and we saw guys like Weddle and Stuckey making plays on special teams.  Stuckey was a man on a mission.  Kwame Geathers is a big man and that was an amazing field goal block.

Defense

  • The first unit was again very impressive with Liuget on the field.  This group needs to prove it can be dominant without him.  Cam Thomas and Freeney looked really good.  Reyes played a decent game, but there were some holes in the run defense early that need to be shored up.  Larry English made an incredible read and tackle on a sweep with Patrick Peterson.
  • It looks like Te’o may not be back until the regular season, Bront Bird and DJ Smith appear to be separating themselves from the rest.  Bront Bird is active but looks lost at times.  DJ Smith had a nice assist on the Gachkar interception.
  • Cox has started to make some plays in practice, hoping to see this translate to the field tonight.  Fitzgerald will prove to be another challenge for this unit after facing Marshall last week.  Not a bad job by Wright and Cox.  Fitzgerald had some catches, but Cox was physical without getting penalized.  The TD catch by Floyd looked to be on the safety.  I’ll have to re-watch but it looked like Gatson had looked back and asked for help over the top.
  • Gilchrist was somewhat invisible last week, which was both good and bad.  Would love to see him make a couple plays.  He looked good in run support, but Taylor was flying around the field making plays.  I would imagine Gilchrist doesn’t hold the spot down for long, especially if Patrick is down for any length of time.
  • We saw two sacks on the first 3 plays last week, would love to see more consistent pressure throughout the game.  Dwight.  Freeney.  Man was a beast.  He was a step away for most of the night and in and around Palmer on a lot of plays.  Finaly put Brown through the spin cycle and knocked him backwards before getting the sack.

Offense

  • No Alexander, Floyd or Royal.  We may be looking at Allen and Brown as the starters.  Thought the play calling was great, getting Allen involved early.  Brown drew a couple of penalties on Powers and looked impressive with the routes.
  • The wide receivers didn’t catch a pass until the 2nd quarter last week, need to get them involved earlier in the game.  See above.  Group was much more active early.  Still would like to see more receptions from the group as the starters only combined for 3.
  • Where’s Woodhead?  We thought we might see him last week, hoping he’s a go this week.  What could’ve been on that wheel route to Woodhead.  Man this guy is so quick.  I can’t wait to see what variation they run off that wheel.  Could run a V route or something similar to play off of it.
  • Keenan Allen has been a trusted target of Rivers, seems to be getting stronger every week.  Can he continue that trend?  Had two catches on a similar play.  But still was a target Rivers trusted.
  • Rivers bailed out Starks on 1090 this week about the sack saying he went too deep in the pocket, Dunlap still seems to be the more consistent option.  Does that trend continue?  A collective gasp when Dunlap went down.  He returned and all was right in the world.  Dunlap, appears to be the starter.
  • The protection last week wasn’t very good.  Needs to be much better and provide Rivers more time.  Fluker looked really good in the running game.  Excited to see if he can improve week to week in the passing game.  Decent pockets at times for Rivers, others forcing him to step up with pressure in his face.  But not a bad night for the group. 
  • Ryan Mathews…so good so far I took him in my fantasy league.  He’s running hard and looking very strong.  Another great game for Mathews up until that fumble.  Has to know that the defense is going to be looking for that after he attempted it a few times.
  • How busy is Mike Scifres?  Hopefully the offense finds consistency and establishes a nice rhythm early.  4 punts between both guys.  Not bad and the offense had a 13 play nearly 7 minute drive on their second possession that ended in a touchdown.  Good rhythm.
  • Ladarius Green has been a bright spot catching touchdowns from both backups.  Does he get some time with Rivers this week?  He’s going to force his way onto the field.  Another great catch and run.  
  • Mike Willie had a great week, consistency is key for him to ensure he makes this team.  Just one catch tonight and not a lot of production out of the WRs overall.
  • Robert Meachem – even with the injuries, he’s still a question mark.  Had 1 catch last week late.  Pretty sure Meachem will be cut as he is seeing limited playing time.  Although, he looked pretty good last night.
  • Second string O-Line – Troutman may not make this team.  Will be interested to see who takes snaps at center and guard.  Troutman was back in with the 2’s and seemed to fair better this time around.  Will be interesting to see what decisions are made for backups.

Special Teams

  • If this is the dress rehearsal, do we see some of the potential starters play on this unit.  Richard Marshall may be one of those guys.  We did and they responded.  While Marshall didn’t play, quite a few others did and they played well.  Good to see coaching come into play here to correct what had been a mistake prone unit.

Look forward to recapping the game on Sunday.

Go Bolts!

Justin Holmerud

It’s easy to go straight to negative town after last night’s game, but let’s all take a deep breath and remember it’s PRE-SEASON.  Sure, this is when things are fine tuned and tested out for the regular season, but let’s not get too high or low on performances from week to week.  That being said, let’s examine what we saw last night.  It’s not all doom and gloom, there were some bright spots last night (Mathews, Fluker run blocking, Green, Whitehurst, Mike Willie, backup OLine, Frank Beltre had some good playsetc.)

Key positions to watch tonight:

Left Tackle – King Dunlap seemed to really solidify his hold on the starter spot.  Max Starks looked pretty bad on that sack/fumble and it wasn’t against a Julius Peppers.  Starks is much more used to a mobile Ben Roethlisberger and Rivers is definitely not that.  Big adjustment there for the LT.  Interesting that Dunlap blocked for Vick and looks to be more suited for a pocket passer.
Safety – This one may go on into the season as Brandon Taylor gets healthier.  
2nd string O-Line – A better performance this week that saw Rich Ohrnberger taking snaps at center and guard with Molk rotating at guard/center as well.
Special Teams – It was mentioned by Trent Dilfer that Mike McCoy wasn’t going to risk players by having them play special teams in the preseason.  So let’s just assume he’s throwing rookies and young guys out there to see if anyone rises to the top.  Will be tough to find in the game tape.  Keenan Allen with a fumble, Richard Goodman with a near turnover in the endzone and Jahleel Addae missed a block that led to the blocked punt.  They also gave up big returns on both kickoffs and punts including a 100 yard return right after the Chargers pulled closer.  A bit incomplete until we see starters there, but this also speaks to depth and the need to coach the young players up.
Wide Receiver – Zero catches until the second quarter.  Mike Willie was a bright spot and even Robert Meachem caught a pass against 3rd stringers when he was wide open.

Coaching and GM

  • Mike McCoy was praised for his adjustments from Orton to Tebow.  Without his top two WR’s, what adjustments are made with this shorter group of receivers.  Still incomplete.  The running game was strong but the pass protection wasn’t good and didn’t allow Rivers to get into a groove.
  • Depth was a big question mark after the first team came out last week.  Seems the camp performances didn’t translate to the field. Look for the second and third units to be shifted around from last week.  Almost a reverse from last week, where the backups performed better than the starters.

Defense

  • The first unit was impressive last week, getting off the field twice against a potent Seahawks offense.  Can they repeat that success?  Corey Liuget is the key to this defense.  With him on the field that front was dominant.  As soon as he left, the game changed.  
  • Bront Bird (starting for Te’o) got some starts last year towards the end of the season, can he show he’s an improved player?  An ok performance.  Got blocked on the big run by Forte, but it was also away from him.
  • Wright looked solid last week, especially against the run.  Cox had a breakup, but wasn’t looking for the ball and was playing the man.  Need these guys to continue to take steps forward.  Wright looked good again.  He was knocked down on the big run by Forte but recovered to actually make the tackle.  Coverage on the Marshall touchdown was almost as good as it could be (without breaking up the pass)
  • Gilchrist, let’s see what you got Nothing too special about it although no big mistakes either.  Got caught up in the box on the big run and stuck behind Larry English which prevented him from going with the play, but again the run was away from him.
  • Not one turnover in the game last week.  That has to change.  Hello, Donald Butler.  A great pick on a bad throw by Cutler.  Also liked the forced fumble on special teams.
  • Great pressure last week by the front, with a less mobile quarterback this week, can we see a sack or two?  Ask and you shall receive.  Two sacks on the first series for the Bears.  That defensive line hinges on the health of Liuget.
  • Couple of miscommunications last week, can they clean that up?  For the most part, nothing that stood out as a MAJOR miscommunication, but that long run wasn’t good.

Offense

  • Two words: Vincent Brown  Was more excited to see him on the field and get a catch.  It’s been almost a year since he played a game.
  • Check downs – Rivers threw a few of them last week and he’s got the ultimate check down in Danny Woodhead this week.  Woodhead didn’t play this week, sounds like he will next week.
  • Keenan Allen is getting the chance to prove he belongs again.  The rookie looked good again (minus the muffed punt).  The catch that wasn’t because of a questionable no call.  I’ve watched it over and over and can understand the non-call, but I also thought the defender made a play on the ball very early (ball was almost 10 yards away when he made his move to cut in)
  • Left tackle should see some rotations for Starks and Dunlap.  Who has the better night?  Starks looked awful on that sack.  Dunlap did his job, so I think this job is pretty much his.
  • 12 snaps last week and a good pocket.  I don’t expect perfection again, but hope to see at least a drive or two with good protection.  Well this was the exact opposite from last week.  The protection was inconsistent and sacks were given up by Fluker, Clary and Starks.  Finally provided a good pocket for Whitehurst, but that was against the Bears backups.  Need more consistency.  Maybe now that the decision should be made on Dunlap, that will help.  Man can Fluker run block.  On one run he moved his man all the way across the field and on the touchdown run by Fozzy he blocked two guys.  Really good.
  • Ryan Mathews looked good.  Need to keep it going.  Zone blocking seems to suit him.  One of the other bright spots in the game.  He ran hard, finished his runs and held onto the ball.  He looks comfortable and fast.
  • Can the offense establish a rhythm early and even score points on the first drive?  Same as last week.  Absolutely no rhythm.  Out of sink and too much pressure to get into a rhythm.
  • Can Rivers keep a clean sheet (last year in week 1 he had an interception and a fumble)?  Well, had both last night.  But with only 2.7 seconds (according to Darren Smith on Twitter) I challenge anyone (including Trent Dilfer) to hang onto that ball 9 times out of 10.  I mentioned the interception already, Allen was tripped up with the ball about 10 yards away from him.
  • Ladarius Green had a TD last week, can he make it 2 for 2.  He made it 2 for 2 and was a yard away from having 3 touchdowns in 2 weeks.  At times his routes are very reminiscent of Gates, but let’s not get crazy and say he’s the second coming just yet.  He finished with 5 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
  • Dan DePalma had a great showing last week.  With another solid performance, he may be pushing for a roster spot.  Another solid performance by DePalma but not as flashy.  Had 2 catches for 27 yards, and one that setup a touchdown.  However, Mike Willie (a favorite of BoltBlitz readers) was the star with 3 catches and 2 touchdowns.
  • Robert Meachem – it seems all he’s needed to do is bounce back in his time in San Diego.  Time may be running out with another poor performance.  He had 1 catch for 40 yards and it was against probably the 3rd string for the Bears.  He was also wide open after the DB looked like he tripped.  But, did his job on the one reception.  Still on the bubble.
  • Second string O-Line – I expect some different combinations as Troutman and Molk struggled big time.  Does Colin Baxter get a chance with the 2’s?   Molk and Ohrnberger swapped center/guard duties on the 2nd and 3rd string.  Schilling got a lot of time as well.  Dunlap also played later into the game with the 2’s.  Troutman may be in trouble as Ohrnberger and Molk at C/G proved to be a good combo all night.  Much more consistency on the 2nd and 3rd line.

Special Teams

  • Gave up a sizeable punt return last week, need to bring more speed and sure tackling across the board.  I’ll reference this again that Dilfer noted during his interview with McCoy that he wouldn’t risk injuries by putting his week 1 starters on special teams in preseason.  Time will tell if this approach is smart, but the performance last night was abysmal at best.  Bears kickoff returners (Ford, Golden and Hester) averaged 53, 22 and 45 yards respectively.
  • Looking for stability and consistency from this unit.  Lack of stability last night.  Turnovers, bad coverage and the only positive was a forced fumble.
  • Who starts on kickoff coverage, this could indicate which players are on the bubble for the roster.  Addae who is pushing for a roster spot, whiffed on a block that led to the blocked punt.  Backup ILB DJ Smith had the forced fumble.  

Based on this week, we have a lot more to watch next week.  See you then!

Go Bolts!

Justin Holmerud

Cam1Green

 

 

 

Vincent2

 

 

 

 

With training camp rapidly approaching, I began thinking about the story lines that will be intriguing at the start of camp, through the pre-season and heading into the regular season.  I’m going to omit the new coaches and GM but obviously what they are able to do during the season is of huge intrigue.  If you are a glass half full person (like me) these will excite you.  In no particular order, I give you the stories to watch:

  • Can Philip Rivers get his swagger back (a story featured on BoltBlitz on this topic)?
  • Will Dwight Freeney resemble the potential future HOF player he was with the Colts?
  • To that point, how many 4-3 looks will we see this year?
  • Vincent Brown showed great promise last year before the ankle injury, can he pick up where he left off?
  • Who are the best 5 to start on the O-Line?
    • What do we have in Johnnie Troutman?
    • Can Max Starks lock down the left side?
    • Will Clary transition well to guard?
    • Fluker…experts think he’s better suited for Guard…prove ’em wrong big man.
  • How will Te’o and Butler mesh?
  • Can Wright and Cox replace Jammer and Cason?
  • Who will be the starting nickel?
  • Who will start next to Eric Weddle?
  • Liuget and Reyes both broke out last year, will they continue their rise to greatness?
  • Ryan Mathews…I’m a believer…but now’s the time
  • How will Danny Woodhead fit in with the offense…can he have a Sproles like impact (blocking too)?
  • Can Danario and Rivers continue the magic?
  • Meachem and Royal…Royal and Meachem
  • Keenan Allen felt like a steal in the draft…how much of a steal…let’s see
  • Tony Gonzalez has perfected the 10 yard hook…is it time to stop having Gates run down the field like a receiver?
  • Ladarius Green…I saw you with that smooth catch and run last year?
  • Cam Thomas…time to shine.
    • But who will provide depth at the nose?
  • Injuries have bitten us a bit the last few years…with new training staff and doctors, will that change?

Think I missed any?  Leave a comment below with your story to watch this summer.

 

Justin Holmerud

Freeney1

 

 

The Chargers are now at the point where each and every member of the “starting 22” is on the roster.  Despite the fact that the starters have yet to be named, it is difficult to see them bringing in anyone that would truly compete for a starting role.  If the team were to make any additions it would be to add depth.  Which, by the way, I expect the team will sign a couple of players just for that reason.

As we’ve covered here on the site a couple of times, the Chargers have been fairly active in free agency.  Many additions and subtractions have been made thus far in the 2013 offseason.  Many signings were made to create competition at some of the starting spots on the team.  There were additions that were brought in to San Diego to provide some quality backup play as well.

So the question is this.  Which of the Charger free agents will have the biggest impact in 2013?  Will it be Dwight Freeney?  Is having Max Starks at Left Tackle going to help turn this sad offense around?  Perhaps it will be the play of the former Jaguar, Derek Cox?  And let’s not forget that the Bolts signed Danny Woodhead to come in and have an impact offensively.

As posted in the title, this is a poll and I will leave the answer to this question to you.  Please place your vote and let me know why you voted the way that you did in the comments section below.

 

Which Charger free agent will have the biggest impact in 2013?

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Thanks a lot for reading and voting.

 

Booga Peters

 

 

On the heels of the Dwight Freeney acquisition, Chargers’ General Manager Tom Telesco struck again, signing free agent left tackle Max Starks to a one-year deal.  Starks had visited San Diego recently and left without a signed contract.  NFL rumors had mentioned that Starks would possibly return to the Steelers and continue to protect the blind side of QB Ben Roethlisberger.

A 10-year veteran, 31-year old Starks now walks into Chargers Park commanding the left side.  At 6’8 and 345 pounds, Starks will bring the size and veteran skill-set needed to protect Philip Rivers.  Starks played all 16 games last year for the Steelers and provided good protection for Big Ben. Starks moves well for a big man and is able to handle the faster speed rushers attacking off the edge.

Watching game tape of the week 6 matchup with the Titans, Starks held up well against DE/LB Kamerion Wimbley.  There were two occasions that Wimbley’s speed rush disrupted Starks, and he whiffed on a couple of blocks.  However, Starks came back strong and held Wimbley without a sack in the game.  Starks has massive size and stands out immediately on the line.  Starks has good feet and excels in his kick-slide, where he is able to move back quickly and attack the speed rush off the edge.  The man does not get pushed back as Starks’ girth and strength will stalemate any type of defensive bull-rush.

Starks also provides adequate run protection.  The Steelers featured a run-oriented offensive attack, where the O-line had to grind it out.  Starks’ game tape exemplifies his toughness and mean streak in the run game, consistently elevating to the second level and searching for the second block against a linebacker or defensive back.

King Dunlap will serve the role he was signed for this off-season, a giant swing tackle, able to play on both sides of the line.  Dunlap can be inserted to give Starks a rest and keep the veteran fresh.

The talent starved Chargers offensive line of 2012 has been given a lot of attention this off-season.  The right tackle spot was awarded to 1st round draft pick D.J. Fluker, the much-maligned Jeromey Clary is now inserted as the starting right guard.  Clary should make an impact in a more suitable position as he works much better as an interior lineman, rather being left outside in space against speed rushers.  Nick Hardwick will continue to be the captain of the line and make the crucial protection calls.  The battle for the left guard spot between Chad Rinehart and 2nd year man Johnnie Troutman will be interesting to watch in camp.  And as discussed earlier, Starks should anchor the left side along with King Dunlap providing depth.

You can debate the value of the Max Starks and King Dunlap acquisitions, but I’ll argue that the Chargers offensive line is better today then it was all of last year.  Kudos to Telesco in continuing to add the best players he can, be it free agency or the draft, in order to strengthen this roster.  Looking forward to the battles at camp.

D. Melkonian

 

Starks

 

 

The door to signing Max Starks is said to still be open.  But for the time being, he has left San Diego.  The thoughts of some close to the team were that he would not be “allowed” to leave without signing a deal.  This could mean that this was just an exploratory meeting.  It could also mean that Starks and his agent were asking for too much money.  I suppose it could actually mean both.

Whether or not the Chargers sign Starks, it was made clear in 2012 that the Chargers must do a better job of keeping Philip Rivers upright. It sounds like we won’t have to wait too terribly long to find out what is going on with the Starks situation.

I couldn’t care less if they bring in Richard Simmons to protect Rivers as long as he does a good job of it.

We will be doing our best to keep an eye on what is going on concerning the Bolts adding the former Steeler.  I would like to add – again – that it could be a similar situation to that of Bryant McKinnie.  Pittsburgh is rumored to be happy with going younger at their tackle spots.  The longer this plays out, the more likely it is that the Steelers could chnage their minds and bring back Starks on a team-friendly deal.

 

Thanks a lot for reading.

 

BoltUp!!!

 

BoogaP

This is going to be short and sweet but I want the opinions of as many Charger fans as possible.  I’d also ask that you leave a comment stating why you voted the way you did.

 

Who would you like to play Left Tackle for the Chargers in 2013?

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Thanks a lot for reading and voting.  Be sure to let us know why you voted the way that you did by leaving a comment at the bottom.

 

BoltUp!!!

 

BoogaP

 

 

It was reported by Michael Gehlken of UT San Diego that the Chargers were hosting a visit from free agent Left Tackle Max Starks.  Gehlken also said in a tweet, “Doubt this one gets away.”

It seems as though the organization is not content with going into the 2013 season with King Dunlap as the team’s starting Left Tackle.  As you all know, Bryant McKinnie was the last free agent to visit America’s finest city.  McKinnie was rumored to have been heading back to Baltimore all along where he did eventually re-sign.

Starks is in San Diego due to the team’s unwillingness to run with Dunlap as the starter.  He started all 16 games last year and 51 games over the last four seasons.  Starks is said to be a solid locker room guy and a good man off the field.  His performance on the field, in recent years, leaves a little bit to be desired.

For those of you that are numbers freaks, stat hounds, or fans of ProFootballFocus.com, the number-based website listed Dunlap as the 12th best available offensive tackle on the market at the beginning of free agency.  They listed Starks as the 39th “best.”

Most of you know that I am less of a numbers guy and more of what I see when watching the game.  When I lived in Walla Walla, WA for 9 years, my closest friend was a huge Steelers fan.  When the Chargers did not have a game scheduled at the same time the Steelers did, I would go to his house, drink his beer, and watch Pittsburgh play.  I am not a fan of Max Starks.

Starks is a frustrating guy to watch.  But I won’t expound on that any further in an effort to not bash on a possible Charger.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the situation invloving Starks.  For those of you that want him in lightning bolts, lets hope he doesn’t “McKinnie” San Diego.

 

Thanks a lot for reading.

 

BoltUp!!!

 

BoogaP

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