See what two of our writers, Zak Darman and Chris Hoke, have to say about whether or not the 2016 San Diego Chargers will make the playoffs this season.
Zak Darman: NO DEAL! The San Diego Chargers will NOT make the playoffs at years end.
The Chargers made some nice moves in the offseason to boost up their offense by signing wide receiver Travis Benjamin and center Matt Slauson. It is no secret that the offense is much improved, starting with the addition of offensive guru Ken Whisenhunt. The offense was looking very good in Week 1, right before Keenan Allen left that game with a torn ACL, ending his season. The running game looked much improved with a better and more decisive Melvin Gordon. The loss of Danny Woodhead from Sunday’s game against Jacksonville will hurt immensely, though, and they hope the recent signing of Dexter McCluster will help. We will see.
On defense, however, is where the weaknesses still stand out. The Bolts used the No. 3 overall selection on defensive end Joey Bosa, who has not played in a single game this season due to contract negotiations/injury, and brought in nose tackle Brandon Mebane, cornerback Casey Heyward and safety Dwight Lowery. I still don’t like this group because in my opinion they don’t have enough playmakers to take this team to the next level. Manti Te’o is below average and prior to being lost for the season due to injury, there was a question whether he should be starting or not. The safeties are a joke and the pass rush is still bad. Outside of Pro Bowler Jason Verrett, who else is there? It also does not help to have one of the worst defensive coordinators in all of football in John Pagano. Yes, the defense looked great in the first half vs KC but lets not forget that the Chiefs were without Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith was missing some wide open short route throws that he usually doesn’t miss. This unit has been overrated from the get-go and it needs to be addressed. The defense looked better in week 2, but that was against a young and inexperienced Jaguars team. On Sunday, Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton did what they wanted. Verrett wasn’t on his game and the defense had no shot.
First let me start by saying for the sake of this piece I will make a case for Mike McCoy even if my previous articles and opinions have stated otherwise. Mike McCoy has shown flashes of being a Coach who can lead this team. All of the losses, huge injuries, off the field drama with Eric Weddle and now Joey Bosa, has caused major distractions which is never a good recipe in the locker room. In this case for Mike McCoy winning fixes everything. Even through three major season-ending injuries to key players, this team is built to win and get deep into the playoffs. Here’s how:
As Zak had pointed out above, the improvement of this offense is the running game. Yes it is odd to say this, due to the horrible run game the Chargers have had in a long time, a running game is very much back in San Diego; maligned since the departure of Ken Whisenhunt and Ryan Mathews. It’s no coincidence that since his return to America’s finest city, the run game has been rejuvenated. Gordon, who had zero touchdowns last year, has already compiled four scores along with his first career 100 yard rushing game against the Jags. Follow that up with a passing attack, without Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead whom are both lost for the season, still has the weapons to be very dangerous. With the old reliable Antonio Gates on the sidelines, there is not much room for panic with the emergence of second round pick Hunter Henry. Even with the fumbled tragedy that ended any last ditched efforts for a win last week against the Colts, Hunter had a pretty solid game; breaking open for huge yards. Continuity between him and Rivers will only begin to grow more with each big play Hunter makes. The future is still bright for these Bolts offensively.
After being released from the Chargers after the 2012 season, former Head Coach Norv Turner was asked for a quote regarding the new incoming coaching staff. “They need to have a lot of patience with them.”
“Them” referencing all Charger fans.
Maybe we need to really forget about 2013 as maybe the Chargers caught lightning in a bottle with a group of talent that really wasn’t that good, at least defensively. Moving on to this year, it’s been four years and four drafts since Tom Telesco and company took over. Some naysayers have claimed that he has missed on players, but at the same time he has found some gems, such as Jason Verrett. There are others like Craig Mager and DJ Fluker where the verdict is still to be determined however in my opinion they are good additions to this team.
I will say that the defensive talent on this team, is what Pagano has been waiting for. We all have seen what Hayward has done thus far and of course what the Pro Bowler Verrett can do, but the key addition, in my opinion, is the addition to Brandon Mebane – whose presence alone has shifted protection schemes. That ability, to force opposition to change schemes, is not listed in the box score yet it creates room for the linebackers, such as new defensive captain Melvin Ingram, to reap the rewards.
The first round pick Joey Bosa has yet to take the field – signs pointing to week 5 or 6. The Chargers seem fine to just ease him in slowly rather to not risk further injury. Even with the loss of Manti Teo, Jatavis Brown stepped in and showed that he can be an instant playmaker. When Bosa does finally step in and is at game level, this defense will be headed to the next level. We already see what happens when Mebane is on the field and when you add in the beast Corey Liuget and Bosa – the three-headed monster will lead this team to playoffs and hopefully back to the Super Bowl.
In closing, if McCoy can remain aggressive, this team can and will make the playoffs. If his attitude is as assertive as I saw it to be in 2013, it will resonate throughout the whole locker room. As long as we do not continue to lose key players every week, this team has the talent to beat any team on any given Sunday. The defense could easily be ranked in the top five, sans injuries of course, and as we have seen in the past, defense wins championships. Toss in a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a running back who is so raw and talented, and a receiving core who has already manifested themselves as reliable, the San Diego Chargers will make it deep into the playoffs. Perhaps we will hear this again.
Let us know your opinion on whether or not the Chargers, as it stands, will make the playoffs this season.
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There is plenty of blame to go around after the Monday Night “pull-my-heart-out-of-my-chest” loss to the AFC rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Why did this game, that the Chargers were in control of, end the way it did? Everyone likes to sound off with their opinions, because as fans we feel connected to the team. Scrolling through social media all week, I, too, had a gamut of emotions to sort through. Now I think I’m resigned to moving on, but I was sure angry as hell for a bit!
I saw the defense miss out on three GOLDEN opportunities to intercept Steelers quarterback Michael Vick and take at least two of them in for scores. Nope, three different Bolts with sieves for hands were there. Guys, you gotta get those mitts up and haul those in! Sure, having such takeaways is great, and perhaps more meaningful if a DB capitalizes with a touchdown; if they don’t it at least becomes a chance for Rivers and the offense, or Lambo, to put points on the board. Still shaking my head.
Groans surely were erupting when Rivers was picked off. As usual, he was blamed – “shouldn’t have thrown it!” – perhaps that was true though it looked to me like Floyd either didn’t finish running his route or ran the wrong one. But it is moot now.
Then came the fourth quarter meltdown. I’m sure we were all shouting at our televisions when corner Brandon Flowers was schooled on that 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton which created a 17-17 tie. It didn’t end there, though. Flowers got beat twice more and Vick was able to scramble his way to a first down. It took Pittsburgh four tries and defenders holding his legs, but running back Le’Veon Bell battled and scored the game-winner.
You’re probably asking why I am rehashing when this is supposed to be about Pagano and the defense. Just a bit of stats and recent history, first.
My apologies for making you all go through it again the day before the next game.
When John Pagano took the reins as defensive coordinator in 2012, San Diego’s defense ranked 16th. They moved up to 11th in 2013 before dropping to the 13th slot last year. Including numbers for the secondary through the first five games of this season, this unit has accomplished the following: 310 total tackles (227 solo); 8 sacks; 23 QB hits; 4 interceptions; 2 forced fumbles; three recoveries and 19 passes defensed. Not one touchdown. They could very well match last year’s total for sacks (26), interceptions (7) and QB hits (47) as about one-third for each is already in the books.
The team lost linebackers coach Joe Barry to the Washington Redskins, hiring Mike Nolan as his replacement. Nolan is well-known as a defensive coordinator and the former head coach of the 49ers. He has extensive experience implementing the 3-4 defense that Pagano prefers. In 2009, he served as DC in Denver while McCoy was the offensive coordinator. Obviously the thinking here was that Nolan could get the youthful LB corps to live up to it’s full potential. To a degree they have. Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu are disrupting the opposing QBs and have 3.5 sacks between them. Te’o has racked up 41 tackles with Butler behind him at 23. Here is something to be positive about: the three rookie linebackers – Kyle Emanuel, Denzel Perryman and Nick Dzubnar – collectively have 22 recorded tackles; Emanuel also has a sack and an interception.
The biggest problems that need to be overcome: penalties and coverage. The defense has amassed 17 penalties for 128 yards during crucial parts of the game. Clean it up!
Next: tackling is horrendous! Wrap up your man rather than attempt to knock him off his path with your shoulder.
Playcalling: Get some safety help across the middle, stop playing prevent defense and go for the damn jugular. The defense must find a way to finish plays at the quarterback, as opposed to just barely missing out on sacks. If someone isn’t performing, stick ’em on the bench and fill the spot with that guy champing on the bit to prove his worth.
Personnel: Has general manager Tom Telesco given Pagano and company the necessary pieces to allow their scheme to flourish? The lack of pressure being applied to opposing quarterbacks has been an issue for quite some time. The Chargers haven’t had a defender finish a season with double-digit sacks since Antwan Barnes totaled 11 in 2011.
This week the team heads to Green Bay as 9.5 point underdogs. I know players on both sides of the ball for San Diego will have their hands full trying to eke out a win over Aaron Rodgers and his weapons, along with a tenacious Packers’ defense. Just remember that the Chargers were in this same predicament last year against Seattle. Will this be an upset? Realistically, it probably isn’t.
All I know is that it is frustrating and disheartening to watch the Chargers keep the ball away from an opponent for a good part of the game only to assist them with that one play or penalty that swings momentum their way. I don’t know what adjustments Pagano, Nolan and Milus (secondary) need to make. But I do know they need to make them, and the players must execute to the best of their abilities, making plays when the situation presents itself. It may not yet be “desperate times call for desperate measures,” but that time just might be waiting in the wings.
Come on, Chargers, beat the Pack!
Thanks for reading.
He may be “just a fifth rounder”, but Kyle Emanuel went about his business throughout OTAs, minicamp and preseason to prove his worth. His hard work, determination and attention to detail all culminated with his name being listed in the release of the Chargers’ 53-man roster.
Hallelujah, he made the cut!
His outstanding preseason play was only the lead-in to a stellar debut that saw the 6-foot-3, 255-pound linebacker do the following: sack Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, nab himself an interception, make three tackles and mess with Stafford’s rhythm. The second quarter sack (a 13-yard loss) caused the Lions to punt. The pick-6 came in the third quarter and the Chargers took over at midfield. Two of the three tackles resulted in lost yardage and the disruption caused a misfire by Stafford that resulted in an interception by cornerback Patrick Robinson. The turnover led to a Stevie Johnson touchdown.
This outing has him nominated for Pepsi Rookie of the Week.
Emanuel played his collegiate ball at North Dakota State University. While there, NDSU had a 58-3 record and won four consecutive NCAA championships (2011-2014). Individually, the former Bison defensive end amassed 234 tackles, 35.5 sacks, 58.5 tackles for loss and two blocked field goals. In his senior year, he led the FCS in tackles for loss (32.5) and sacks (19.5). He was named the Buck Buchanon Award winner for 2014, given to the most outstanding defensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
Now, along with Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attachou and Cordarro Law, he is one of the four who will comprise the 2015 outside linebacking corps for San Diego. That unit last year combined for 46 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and a lonely sole defended pass. His adeptness as a pass-rusher, complemented with his instincts, athleticism and quickness, certainly did not go unnoticed. An upgrade for that squad was writing on the wall for Bolts general manager Tom Telesco, thus leading him to choose the youngster with the 153rd overall pick this past May.
After the draft, Emanuel had this to say about his preparation:
“No team I talked to told me I’d be a 4-3 defensive end, so everything I’ve been doing has been to make the switch. I worked on standing up in a two-point (stance) and worked with my linebackers coach at NDSU just to learn terminology. That way, things wouldn’t be so foreign when I got drafted. So ever since the process started I started that transition, and now that I’m here, I can already tell it’s getting easier day by day.”
San Diego Chargers Linebacker Coach Mike Nolan says that for his unit, “The biggest change and the thing they have to spend more time in is in coverage. That really is the biggest difference when you go from a defensive lineman to a linebacker. It’s that there is coverage involved. If you are a linebacker that just rushed every down, then there is less adjustment. But for Kyle, the coverage will be a big part. Now in the short time thus far, he’s done an outstanding job. Not just a regular job, but an outstanding job, so we’re all very pleased with where he is in the short term. We are hopeful that progress continues at the same pace, and he would surpass some expectations from a coverage standpoint.”
Obviously, this kid is something special. My advice: keep your eyes peeled on the guy wearing No. 51 on his chest and back, sporting lightning bolts. He looks to be a force on San Diego’s D.
Thanks for reading and Bolt Up!
In 2014, general manager Tom Telesco traded his fourth-round pick to trade up in the second round and select a linebacker, again. He traded a fourth-rounder to Arizona to move up and take inside linebacker Manti T’eo in 2013. In last year’s case, Telesco moved up in an effort to draft linebacker Jerry Attaochu out of Georgia Tech.
He got his desired linebacker for the second year in a row.
As a collegian, Attaochu put up solid numbers, totaling a Georgia Tech record 31.5 career sacks. His collegiate sack total ranks fifth in ACC history.
But how does that ability translate to the NFL?
Attaochu played in 11 games as a rookie in 2014. The linebacker was limited to 10 total tackles, two sacks, one pass defensed and one forced fumble in his first season. He added a blocked punt on special teams in the Chargers’ week one loss to the Cardinals. In his defense, he missed some games due to injury.
There is no doubting what he was able to do in college football. But, the 2015 season will call for far more from the second-year linebacker than he accomplished as a rookie. Attaochu struggled against the run in his first year. He was unable to force his way behind the opposing team’s line of scrimmage.
So, what should fans expect from the 22-year-old in year number two?
Well, the pressure is on the young man, regardless of whether or not the team finds another pass rusher in the 2015 draft. Although it is far more likely that Melvin Ingram will be asked to set the edge against the run on the other side, Attaochu must improve against the run, while providing a serious threat from the outside as a pass rusher. A lot of his performance will hinge on what new linebackers coach Mike Nolan can teach the youngster about the facets of playing the linebacker position.
The future may be bright for the Nigerian-born linebacker, but it will be interesting to see how he is used going forward with the Chargers.
Thanks a lot for reading.
The Chargers have brought in some experience and knowledge to the coaching staff, adding former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan as the linebackers coach. He replaces Joe Barry who left San Diego to become the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins.
Nolan comes to the Bolts with a rich coaching background. Most recently, he spent the last three seasons at the defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2012, he was able to improve the defensive from a 21st overall ranked unit to 9th in the league all while making an impressive playoff run.
The veteran coach has also spent some time with the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins. He spent three seasons as the linebackers coach in Denver from 1989 to 1992 which he coached Simon Fletcher and Karl Mecklenburg; respectively some of the best linebackers in Denver team history. Additionally, Nolan was Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2009 when Mike McCoy was offensive coordinator.
During his stint from 1997 to 1999 in Washington, he was able to improve the defense to an overall 2nd ranked unit. It’s safe to say that he has a niche for building stout defenses.
Nolan comes to San Diego already familiarized with the current 3-4 base defense; he ran the same scheme last year in Atlanta. The transition should be relatively easy for the young and talented linebacker unit that he will inherit.
The Chargers ended the 2014 season as a top 10 ranked defense. Now the team looks to top the NFL with an experienced coaching staff guiding a stealthy defensive unit.