New Orleans Saints
With less than three weeks until the 2017 NFL Draft, all 32 teams in the league have been notified of their preseason opposition and in which week they will face each of their preseason opponents.
Though the schedule-makers must still determine the specific dates of each contest (with the exception of a few games), teams now know which of their preseason tilts are at home or on the road along with in which week they face each opponent.
Oddly enough, the Chargers will not leave the state of California during the 2017 preseason.
Week 1 – Seattle Seahawks
The Chargers and Seahawks have been facing off in the preseason for quite some time, dating all the way back to when the teams were divisional foes decades ago in the five-team AFC West.
After a brief and unimpressive stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, new Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will face an opponent who he has much familiarity, seeing as he used to man the head defensive spot for the ‘Hawks prior to his time in Florida.
Editor’s Note: I miss the days when this game was the “Somehow Charlie Whitehurst got paid after leaving San Diego” Bowl.
Week 2 – New Orleans Saints
Speaking of familiar faces, former San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees is back to face his former team, but this time it’s in Los Angeles. The signal caller down in the bayou won a Super Bowl after leaving America’s finest city.
Week 3 – @ Los Angeles Rams
Ah, yes… just what the NFL wants: the fight for L.A.
Though the teams will eventually share a stadium, the Chargers will face the Rams as the road opponent for this match-up at the Coliseum. As you all know, the Bolts will play their home contests at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.
Week 4 – @ San Francisco 49ers
There are few teams in the NFL who have struggled as much as the Chargers have in recent years. The 49ers happen to be one of those lucky organizations.
These two teams traditionally face-off during the preseason.
News out of Chargers Park is that ANOTHER player is lost for the year due to injury.
Monday we learned it is defensive end Caraun Reid. And as has been the sickening norm for this team, it was an ACL tear to the big end’s left knee.
Reid sustained his injury in the first quarter of the Atlanta game after being hit in his lower leg as he planted his foot. Linebacker Denzel Perryman was heading for the pile and just caught Reid’s knee.
Claimed off waivers from the Detroit Lions roster, the 6’2, 302-pounder (Princeton, round five of 2014 draft) has been with the Chargers for about six weeks. Filling in while Joey Bosa (2016 draft first round #3) nursed his sore hamstring, Reid has been a contributor on the defense. In 103 snaps he collected five combined tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
That notable highlight occurred in the week three game at Indianapolis. Rookie linebacker Jatavis Brown strip-sacked Andrew Luck and Reid scooped up the ball, taking it to the house 61 yards and tying the game at 13 all.
While announcing Reid’s situation, McCoy said “Caraun came in on the very first day and did an outstanding job. He’s a smart player that picked our system up in a hurry and made some big plays for us.”
If anyone is counting, including Reid, that makes TEN – yes, I said TEN – players lost to season-ending injuries. Five of those ten are to the knee and have occurred in the last seven weeks. Here’s the long and incomprehensible list:
Keenan Allen – torn right ACL, week one vs the Chiefs
Danny Woodhead – torn right ACL, week two vs the Jaguars
Jason Verrett – torn left ACL possibly sustained in the Jaguars game
Nick Dzubnar – torn right ACL, week four vs the Saints
And of course, Caraun Reid from yesterday.
Though it was not his ACL, the Bolts lost Manti Te’o to a torn left Achilles’ tendon early in the Colts game.
On top of those, what about the non-contact injuries that besieged the team before the 2016 campaign even began:
wide-out Stevie Johnson tore his meniscus in training camp
tight end Jeff Cumberland was lost to a torn Achilles’ during the pre-season game against Arizona
rookie guard Donavon Clark tore his right ACL in the Arizona contest
change of pace back Branden Oliver had his right Achilles’ snap during the Minnesota game
It is ONLY Week 7 and that list is scary!! I don’t know if there is any other NFL team playing right now that has had the upheaval to their roster that San Diego has endured. There are still nine weeks to go to the end of the season.
I shudder to think what the “football gods” have in store for this group of men and the accursed injury phenomena as time rolls by. Every time a man goes down, I cringe and pray it is just a minor hiccup and they’ll be back quickly.
Time for the CBA to be re-evaluated. Some teams don’t lose any players, some one or two. But to have TEN is like looking at an emergency room full of wheelchairs!
Sorry to see your name added to that list, Caraun Reid. Your presence on defense will be sorely missed.
Everyone knew that the time to choose a “replacement” for the Chargers’ stellar tight end Antonio Gates was fast approaching. The 36-year-old Gates has been the go-to guy for the Bolts’ signal caller Philip Rivers for the last 10 years. The pair have set many franchise records and “Gatesy” has numerous individual statistics which have come via the arm of Rivers. The veteran TE has slowed just a bit, however, so finding a viable replacement — not in terms of production but in terms of playing time — was a focal point during the 2016 offseason.
Enter dynamic tight end Hunter Henry. As in the best tight end of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Yes, the BEST tight end of his class. The only one ranked by CBSSports.com above 70.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Check out any of his draft profiles. Many football analysts and draftniks dubbed Henry as such, the consensus stating that he had good hands, ran routes well and was a good blocker. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 235 pounds. His 40-yard dash time was 4.66 seconds. Sounds like just what the Chargers need at that position, right?
Henry declared his eligibility on January 4, 2016, after his junior season at Arkansas. And, why not? Just look at the former Razorback’s career stats: 1,661 receiving yards on 116 catches with nine touchdowns. Did you know that 93 of those 116 receptions went for first downs or touchdowns? Or that he had four 100-yard receiving games? His 2015 numbers of 51 grabs for 739 yards and three touchdowns plus NO DROPS culminated in Henry receiving the John Mackey Award, an honor annually bestowed upon the most outstanding collegiate tight end in the nation.
Though he has been active in all six games thus far, Henry’s debut versus the Kansas City Chiefs was quiet, as he had a lone catch for 20 yards. He came up empty in the boxscore for the Jacksonville game. The rookie finally busted out in Indianapolis to the tune of 72 receiving yards, as he caught each of the five passes tossed to him by Rivers. The only slight was that in the final minute of that game, he was stripped of the ball in what would most likely have led San Diego to a come-from-behind win.
Henry caught his first touchdown in the home game against New Orleans. It was a sweet pass caught in the middle of the field that he took to the house after 20 yards, just one of his four-catch, 61-yard day. No. 86 has scored a TD in each of the last three games. Six games into the season and he has already amassed 310 yards on 19 receptions (16.3 avg) with three scores and 16 first-down grabs.
Thursday’s game at Qualcomm had division rival Denver in town. How did Henry respond? He responded by scoring a 5-yard TD in front of Broncos’ corner Chris Harris, Jr. while the Bolts were at 2nd-and-goal in the first quarter. He finished the night with 83 yards on six catches in addition to his touchdown reception.
Having future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates as your mentor has to be right up there with being able to play in the NFL.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Gates told Ricky Henne of chargers.com: “From the time I met him, I could see he had all the intangibles.
I see him still growing. I jokingly told him, ‘If I met you before the Combine, you would have went first round! I would have showed you how to have some personality in your routes!’ Now you are seeing that personality in his routes. He already had it all, and now he is just building on it. He is a phenomenal blocker, which is rare to see coming into the league. He’s special. He really is.”
Those are TWO special tight ends that San Diego has on its roster; the master and the apprentice. Keep absorbing all the knowledge you can from No. 85, Henry. He will mold you in to a Hall of Famer, too.
“The sky’s the limit” might be a trite phrase. But in Henry’s case, there are no truer words. Whenever Gates hangs up his cleats, we all know that the team will be in good — make that great — hands!
Here is my Week 4 breakdown as I list three things that the Bolts need to do to beat Drew Brees and the Saints.
1.) Finish each half
Two losses and two games the Chargers could not finish when they had the lead. Whether it is keeping the pace in a 24-3 lead or stopping them from scoring a late go-ahead touchdown, the Bolts must find a way to finish.
2.) Just get one damn stop
This game is going to come down to who can stop the other team first. There is no doubt in my mind that this score will likely imitate a college football game. If the Chargers can stop them just one time, they will have a realistic shot to win.
3.) No big plays
The Saints are known for the big plays. Limit them to Brandin Cooks and Mark Ingram. Jason Verrett is going to be busy and the front-seven is going to have to spy on Ingram and stop the run.
What do you think is a key to this week’s game? Let me know!
Zak Darman (@WilMyersGOAT)
The staff at BoltBlitz.com gives their predictions on the Chargers Week 4 matchup versus the Saints.
Zak Darman: This is going to be an offensive showdown in Mission Valley. The o/u on this game is 53.5 and, if you’re a betting man, you should take the over. I can see Brees and Rivers going for 300-plus yards each and a couple of scores each. It’s going to come down to who can run the ball more effectively and who can make that one stop. Both teams are even teams, despite what the record says. It can go either way, but for the sake of being biased, I’m going with the Bolts. 41-38 Chargers
Chris LaFurno: MG carries the load this game. 20 carries for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns against one of the worst run defenses in the league. Hayward continues his lights out play with a big interception late in the 4th. Verrett and Cooks butt heads the entire game as Verrett grabs a pick but Cooks scores a TD. Brees and Rivers combined for 800 yards and 6 TD’s. Lets spoil Brees’ homecoming fellas! #BoltUp Chargers 31 Saints 21
Corey Decker: The Chargers will come out swinging in this event, The reason for the 21 is that there are some people in the chargers organization that know Brees from his time here very well. 31-21 Bolts
Travis Blake: Just after the National Anthem, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees both step forward from the sideline and draw their wands. In an epic, wizardly showdown Voldemort and Harry Potter would be proud of, they unleash footballs shielded in blue and gold for Rivers and gold and black for Brees. The footballs collide at midfield causing a rift between the muggle world and the world of magic. The rift sucks in all the evil hoteliers from their mansions overlooking the La Jolla coastline. Brees and Rivers battle against each other all game, the prize? San Diego’s eternal, never dying love. The game itself ends in a tie, 31-31 and personifies The Great Mystery of Life in San Diego.
Laura Leech: They go back and forth scoring. Lot of offense not so much defense. Gordon with touchdown number 5. Heyward gets a pick six. 42-38 Chargers
Brian Scott: Drew Brees struggles on the road. In 2015 his passer rating for away games was a paltry 87.7 where his home games he rated at 112.5. Last year at home he threw 23 TDs with 5 interceptions; whereas on the road he only threw 9 TDs with 6 INTs. This year so far seems to be the same; 7 TDs in 2 home games and 1 TD in one road game. Rivers shows everyone that there is no debate between the two and overcomes a horrid game last week by throwing 3 TDs to 3 different receivers; Gordon scores once and racks up another 100 yards. Final score is 40-28 in favor of the Chargers
Chris Hoke: The Shootout in Mission Valley as the Saints and Bolts score a combined 73 points. The take a note from the Falcons and feed Gordon early and often. Splashing in some McCluster. Tyrell Williams racks up some big yards and 2 TDs. the Bolts narrowly beat the saints 38-35
Cheryl White: They finally remember to keep putting the ball in the hands of M28. Benjamin and Henry get in the end zone too. Hayward and/or Verrett picks off Brees. Chargers 34-28
Mike Pisciotta: Drew Brees throws for 400 yards in his Qualcomm homecoming, as New Orleans romps to a victory. After the game, Mike McCoy is relieved of his duties and Ken Whisenhunt is named interim Head Coach. John Pagano is also let go and replaced by a tackling dummy. 31-17 Saints
Will McCafferty: This has been a difficult game to call. I feel like the Chargers are the better team. But when I consider the Bolts offensive line injuries and the emotions that will fuel Drew Brees, it makes think twice. Since I always pick the Chargers, the Saints defense is horrific, and the Saints don’t play well in the road. Aints 31 Chargers 34
Greg Williams: This game will come down to which team has the ball last as both offenses will score almost at will. This game is the picture of a coin flip. If the game was in New Orleans I’d call it for the Saints but since this game is at the Q, Chargers get the nod. 34-33 bolts
Dave Peters: The Chargers score more points than the Saints. 41-40 Bolts win
Let us know your predictions and go Bolts!
This Sunday marks the first time Drew Brees makes his return to San Diego since leaving in free agency for the Saints in March of 2006. Brees owns a 2-0 record against the Chargers since his departure from America’s finest city.
While the Chargers are a couple of plays and injuries away from being 3-0, the Saints are as well. New Orleans looked as if they were going to go 1-0 until the Raiders scored with 52 seconds left and Jack Del Rio elected to go for two and the win instead of the tie. The Saints failed to get into field goal range and lost a heartbreaker to fall to 0-1.
The Chargers lost a heartbreaker to the Chiefs in Week 1, as well. In Week 2, the Saints’ defense held the New York Giants’ offense in check, but lost a tough one 16-13; largely in part to a blocked field goal attempt which was returned for a touchdown.
Their Week 3 contest proved no different, as they lost a shootout to the Falcons 45-32. The Saints have fallen to 0-4 only twice in the Drew Brees’ era, and one of those seasons – 2012 – they ended their losing skid against the Chargers.
Brees is an excellent Quarterback. Despite being vertically challenged for his position, it makes me appreciate his game even more having to stand on his toes to make plays at times. He has a serious weapon who cannot be overlooked in Brandin Cooks, who I believe is a better version of T.Y Hilton, and can cause serious problems for this defense come Sunday if they aren’t well prepared.
Mark Ingram a solid back who’s off to a bit of a slow start but San Diego is notorious for letting players get hot. Willie Snead has emerged as a top target for Brees, but he has a toe injury that caused him to miss his last start against the Falcons. Should he play against the Bolts this Sunday, containing him and Cooks will be a really tough challenge.
I can see this game being a high-scoring shootout, seeing as the New Orleans’ defense ranks 31st in the league. They’re giving up 299 passing yards a game and 149.3 yards on the ground.
San Diego’s defense ranks 25th in the league, giving up 322 passing yards a game and 81 yards on the ground.
Drew Brees currently is 1st in the league passing with eight touchdowns and only one interception while throwing for 1,025 yards.
On the other side, Philip Rivers has 755 passing yards with five TDs and no interceptions. Granted, San Diego is a more leveled offense this year having more running plays than passing plays and the Saints have been in two shootouts; so it warrants a team to pass more than run.
Let’s take a look at how the Brees-Rivers matchup has looked in 2012 and 2008.
In 2012, the Chargers and Saints played a close game in which the Saints came out on top 31-24. A couple of questionable calls on the last drive ultimately stalled the Chargers from possibly tying the game up. A couple of holding calls and an offensive pass interference killed all the momentum the Bolts had going on their final drive. Rivers passed for 354 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception, while Brees threw for 370 yards slinging four passing scores and one interception.
In 2008, it was a similar result. The Saints took that matchup, 37-32. Brees and Rivers had identical numbers in that matchup as well, throwing for three touchdowns and roughly 340 yards.
Historically, the Saints have been a tough team for the Chargers to beat. It is like Brees has the cheat sheet to barely escape with victories over his former team. In my opinion, this game on Sunday will once again be a close one. There are a couple of things that the Chargers need to do and do well to keep Brees and company. on their toes and against the ropes.
Melvin Gordon has had a good year up to this point, scoring a TD in every game so far and two in Week 2. His four rushing scores tie him for the league-lead in rushing touchdowns. He currently has 194 yards and has been running with confidence and has patience. He has not fumbled yet this year in 54 carries (I’m hoping I don’t jinx him). He will play a huge role in this game. I want to forget about that Colts’ game as a whole, because I felt like while the Chargers only lost by four, they should’ve won by at least seven. They were out of sync for a large part of the game.
Which brings me to my next key: Philip Rivers trusting his receivers.
Philip looked off that game, missing a wide-open touchdown to the newly acquired Dexter McCluster in the endzone, and a crucial 3rd down to wideout Travis Benjamin which would’ve essentially put the nail in the coffin and given the Chargers the win.
It is never easy losing your top two targets and having your No. 1 all-time target out for the game, but Philip must find a way to get on the same page with his receivers. Benjamin is almost always open and Tyrell Williams is a beast waiting to be awakened. They did look as if they were going to make an interesting ending to the game, until rookie tight end Hunter Henry fumbled on the 40-yard line. But that doesn’t take anything away from what Henry has done. He’s been brilliant for the Chargers, especially as a blocker, but he has flashed some of the receiving ability that made the Bolts select him in the second round of this year’s draft.
Lastly, my final key is getting a consistent pass rush. Melvin Ingram, the newly elected team captain after Te’o went down for the season with a torn Achilles, will have a big game here. He has two sacks on the season so and he happens to be in a contract year. Due to his recently appointed captaincy and the fact that he is in a contract year, I think a flame will be lit under his tail to kick it into high gear and perform consistently the way we all know he can.
So, with all that being said, I believe the Chargers can squeak out a win despite Drew Brees being hungry and being eager to return to the Q to play the NFL team who drafted him. It will be a back-and-forth affair with the Chargers pulling ahead by 10 late in the 4th for a 31-21 Chargers victory and the Bolts will move to 2-2.
Let me know what you think below in the comments section, Chargers fans.
Let us begin with one seemingly simple, yet frequently argued truth: the Chargers made the right decision when they let Drew Brees get away.
Those with 20/20 hindsight see how great Brees became and know that he won a ring with New Orleans. They look at his accomplishments after leaving San Diego and compare them to the success, or lack thereof, of the Chargers under Rivers, and envy the fans of the Saints.
That being said, be honest with yourself, Drew Brees was seriously injured in his last game in San Diego and, quite frankly, his performance with the Chargers was average at best.
Please allow me to refresh your memory.
During the Brees’ tenure in San Diego, he was very hit-or-miss. In his first season, he sat the bench and learned behind fan-favorite Doug Flutie. In his sophomore year, 2002, he won the starting role, but was only able to throw for a little over 3200 yards with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, adding two fumbles. Not bad for a first-year starter, but he lead the team to a middling 8-8 record.
Brees came back as the starter in 2003 and only amassed 2100 yards with 11 touchdowns, 15 picks, and four fumbles. He was benched by then head coach Marty Schottenheimer and replaced by Flutie. Despite the efforts of Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the team ended up just 4-12 that season. With Brees seemingly heading in the wrong direction, the Chargers’ brain trust decided that it was time to draft a quarterback.
Enter Philip Rivers.
In 2004, Brees could see the writing on the wall. The Chargers traded for Philip Rivers on draft day and he was the heir apparent to the starting QB job.
Brees’ days were numbered indeed.
Fortunately for Drew, Philip decided to hold out for more money and missed most of training camp. Coach Schottenheimer decided that he could not afford to start their new $40 MIL rookie and put Brees back in his familiar role.
Well, one thing we all know about Drew Brees in current times is that when his back is against the wall, he will come out fighting. He went on to throw for over 3100 yards with 27 touchdowns, against just 7 interceptions and four fumbles. This was by far his most productive season, as he lead his team to an amazing 12-4 record.
What do you do with a quarterback who just lead your team from worst to first in a single year? You start him the next year!
The 2005 campaign rolls around and Rivers is sent to the bench once more. That holdout is proving very costly to the sophomore QB. This was the last season on Brees’ contract. Something had to be decided by the end of the year. Two quarterbacks’ futures were on the line as the season wore on. Brees was quite inconsistent in 2005. He amassed just under 3600 yards and 24 touchdowns, but his interceptions ballooned back up to 15 and his fumbles up to eight!
The decision was going to be tough.
With the team going 9-7 and Brees showing signs of greatness along with signs of ineptitude, no one was sure whom the Chargers would keep.
Word was leaked out that general manager AJ Smith wanted to keep Rivers. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer liked Brees.
Who would win the job?
As it turned out, that difficult decision was made quite easy. Despite many who thought Brees should not play the meaningless final game of the season, Schottenheimer decided he should. Many speculated that Brees got the start because Schottenheimer did not want to showcase what Rivers could do and keep AJ Smith from offering Brees a contract extension.
Whatever the reason was, it backfired in a big way.
While attempting to recover a fumble, Brees suffered a severely torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. This injury is not considered an automatic career-ender, but many do not return with the same arm strength. Brees was not considered a strong-armed QB to begin with, so the thought of him coming back weaker was not attractive. Also, the thought of letting go of their $40 MIL bonus baby was eating away at AJ Smith.
Smith made the call. With Brees’ numbers declining and it being impossible to determine if and when he would recover from his injury, it was time to part ways; thus opening the door for Philip Rivers, who lead the Chargers to a 14-2 record the following season.
With Rivers and Tomlinson playing at an extremely high level, it was obvious that Smith made the right call. Hell, even the Dolphins, who brought Brees in for a workout, refused to sign him. They opted instead for aging veteran Daunte Culpepper. That proved to be an extremely poor decision.
Yet again, when you tell the undersized Drew Brees that he can’t do something, he gets determined to prove you wrong. Brees rehabbed his shoulder and came back stronger than ever before. The New Orleans Saints decided to take a shot and signed him as their new starting QB. Just four years later, Drew Brees was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy high in the air and celebrating his Super Bowl victory with the Saints. He was the king of New Orleans and the top passer in the NFL.
Sunday, October 2, 2016, Drew Brees returns to his roots. He will once again grace the field at Qualcomm stadium in front of thousands of adoring fans who think about what could have been.
You see, Drew Brees didn’t leave San Diego in an ugly fashion. There may have been no love lost between Brees and the Chargers’ front office, but with the community, all was well. In fact, Brees still lives in San Diego in the offseason and is a pillar of the community.
There is no question that the success that Brees has seen in his brilliant career in New Orleans has helped revisionist historians question the decision to let him go. That being said, what choice did the Chargers have? Keep an ailing, undersized, average quarterback? Or, give the young stud who they had invested so heavily his opportunity to shine?
In reality, the decision worked out for both teams. Brees found the perfect situation, team, city and coach to allow his skills to flourish. Rivers stepped in and quickly made fans believers. In fact, they are both considered to be future Hall of Fame QBs by many experts.
My question is, if Brees did not get injured, would he ever have had the chip on his shoulder that allowed him to build up his strength and become a far stronger and more deadly quarterback than he was in his first five years?
We will never know the answer to that question, so the debate goes on.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Go Bolts! #VoteYesOnC
The San Diego Chargers have begun making roster moves and training camp isn’t set to begin until Saturday. On Friday, the Chargers waived center Trevor Robinson. Part of the carousel at the center position, Robinson had 14 starts at center over the last two seasons.
Also included in the recent mix of Chargers centers since 2013 are Chris Watt, Nick Hardwick, Doug Legursky and Rich Ohrnberger.
The free agent signing of former-Chicago Bears offensive lineman Matt Slauson is expected to stop the revolving door at center while 2016 NFL Draft third-round pick Max Tuerk is groomed to be the center of the future. Slauson is an eight-year veteran who will be looked to provide leadership and serve as a mentor to Tuerk and the young offensive linemen.
The release of Robinson frees $2.3-million in cap space.
The free roster spot was filled with the signing of offensive lineman Marcel Jones. Listed at 6’7″-inches tall and 320 pounds, Jones was a seventh-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 2012 NFL Draft. He is listed as a guard/tackle. Now entering his fourth season as a pro, Jones has been limited to playing on the practice squad for the Saints and Baltimore Ravens.
Training camp is heating up and the first pass hasn’t been thrown yet. What will the Chargers do next? Are you excited for the 2016 edition of the San Diego Chargers so far? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
The NFL regular season starts in just under two months. The 2016 schedule has the Chargers facing the AFC South, NFC South, the Miami Dolphins (AFC East) and the Cleveland Browns (AFC North).
Below is a breakdown of their 2016 opponents.
Week 1: @Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Record: 11-5, 2nd AFC West
Offense: 27th overall
Defense: 7th overall
The Chiefs started 2015 slow, losing five straight games. They ended the season winning 10 straight and won their first playoff game in 20 years. The running game should be solid for the Chiefs in 2016. Jamaal Charles is coming back from an ACL injury. Along with his fellow running backs, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, KC sports one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Week 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Record: 5-11, 3rd AFC South
Offense: 18th overall
Defense: 24th overall
The Jaguars had a less than stellar season, placing third in the worst division in the NFL in 2015. Jacksonville only won one road game last year. The Jags took to the draft to help beef up their defense by signing defensive players with their first five picks, including DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and LB Myles Jack from UCLA.
Week 3: @Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 28th overall
Defense: 26th overall
The Colts had a 3-5 record in the first half of the 2015 season, losing starting quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 8. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and journeyman signal caller Josh Freeman went 5-3 in the second half, but it still was not enough to win the division. If Andrew Luck can stay healthy in 2016, the Colts could make improvements on offense. They drafted a much-needed center, Ryan Kelly from Alabama, with the 18th pick overall.
Week 4: New Orleans Saints
2015 Record: 7-9, 3rd NFC South
Offense: 2nd overall
Defense: 31st overall
The Saints were a very lopsided team in 2015. Their offense averaged 403.8 yards and 25.5 points per game, but their defense allowed an average of 413.8 yards and 29.8 points per game. That is clearly not a recipe for success. The Saints should continue to have a stellar offense with veteran Drew Brees at quarterback.
Week 5: @Oakland Raiders
2015 Season: 7-9, 3rd AFC West
Offense: 24th overall
Defense: 22nd overall
The Raiders made some improvements last year in an attempt to have their first winning season since losing the Super Bowl in 2003, but fell short, again. Their 7-9 record was an improvement considering they have averaged only 4.9 wins a season in the last 13 years. The Raiders will probably continue to improve in 2016. They have a young team lead by third-year quarterback Derek Carr. Don’t sleep on the Raiders in 2016.
Week 6: Denver Broncos
2015 Season: 12-4, 1st AFC West
Offense: 16th overall
Defense: 1st overall
The Broncos won the division — again — for the fifth consecutive season and went on to win Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning had his worst season, finishing with only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games. The stellar Broncos’ defense allowed an average of only 283.1 yards and 18.5 points per game. The Broncos are bringing back pretty much the same defense in 2016. The retirement of Manning brings veteran Mark Sanchez, back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch fighting for the starting position. Rumor has it that Sanchez and Siemian are neck-and-neck in the fight to win the job.
Week 7: @Atlanta Falcons
2015 Season: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 7th overall
Defense: 16th overall
The Falcons started out the 2015 season hot, winning six of their first eight games. The second half was the exact opposite, as they went 2-6. One of the two wins in the second half was against their division rival, and eventual Super Bowl runner-up, the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons drafted strong safety Keanu Neal from Florida with the 17th overall pick to boost their struggling defense.
Week 8: @Denver Broncos
See week six.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC South
Offense: 30th overall
Defense: 12th overall
The Titans looked like a sleeper team in Week 1 of the 2015 season, when they won 42-14 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, led by 2nd overall pick, Marcus Mariota, who had 209 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Despite Mariota’s success in Week 1, the Titans ended up with the worst record in 2015, averaging only 311.8 yards and 18.7 points per game. It will be hard to do much worse in 2016, but anything is possible.
Week 10: Miami Dolphins
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th AFC East
Offense: 26th overall
Defense: 25th overall
The Dolphins were led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who averaged 263 passing yards per game and had 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. While those numbers aren’t terrible, his offensive line could not keep him standing up, as he was sacked 45 times. The Titans could fare better in 2016 when it comes to sacks with the signing of offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @Houston Texans
2015 Season: 9-7, 1st AFC South
Offense: 19th overall
Defense: 3rd overall
The Texans started the season off rocky, going 3-5 in the first half of the season but turned it around in the second half, only losing two games. The third ranked defense allowed only an average of 19.6 points for game and even had five games where their opponent only scored six points. The Texans liked what they saw when Brock Osweiler took over the quarterback duties for the Broncos and signed him to be their starter in 2016. This move could either make them or break them.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th NFC South
Offense: 5th overall
Defense: 10th overall
The Buccaneers should have had a better record in 2015 since they had a top-10 overall offense and defense. Stats don’t always show the big picture, especially considering their offense averaged 375.9 yards per game, but only 21.4 points per game. The defense allowed an average of 340.4 yards per and 26.4 points per game. The Bucs took to their coaching staff to bring change, naming Dirk Koetter as the new head coach, replacing Lovie Smith, along with Mike Smith as the new defensive coordinator and Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator.
Week 14: @Carolina Panthers
2015 Season: 15-1, 1st NFC South
Offense: 11th overall
Defense: 6th overall
The Panthers had an explosive offense in 2015, leading the league with 500 total points and an average of 31.3 points per game. Their offense, lead by quarterback Cam Newton, was not able to fare well against the best defense in the league and lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos, scoring only 10 points. The Panthers will be without DB Charles Tillman, who recently announced his retirement after 13 years in the league. They signed former Chargers punter Mike Scifres to a one-year deal.
Week 15: Oakland Raiders
See week five.
Week 16: @ Cleveland Browns
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC North
Offense: 25th overall
Defense: 27th overall
For the fourth straight year, the Browns were in last place in their division. The quarterback situation in Cleveland was their biggest downfall in 2015. The off-field antics of quarterback Johnny Manziel had the Browns switching the starting positions between the former first-round draft pick and Josh McCown. The Browns lost their best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, to the Chargers during free agency. They went to the draft in hopes of replacing him, drafting five wide receivers, including Corey Coleman from Baylor with the 15th overall pick.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
See week one.
The Chargers only face four teams with a winning record last year, but two of the four of those teams are the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. They will face two teams with a .500 season and seven teams with a losing season in 2015, including the Oakland Raiders.
The schedule seems pretty easy — on paper — and I predict that they will definitely win more than four games this season. The Chargers play in a tough division and will need to win some of those games to be contenders in 2016.
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Quarterback Philip Rivers has already set more than his fair share of team records since taking over the reins as the starting signal caller in San Diego. Rivers has passed up the legendary Dan Fouts in most statistical categories, but there are still a few more passing records which he has the opportunity to eclipse prior to hanging up his cleats.
The fact of the matter is, this will be the year that he overtakes Fouts in all major passing stats, make no mistake about it.
Perhaps if Ken Whisenhunt had remained with San Diego after the 2013 season rather than accepting the head coaching job for the Tennessee Titans, we would have already witnessed it. However, “Whiz” left in 2014 and Frank Reich was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
While a portion of the argument would have to include the dreaded injury bug to the offense, the majority of blame lies in the uninspired playcalling over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There was a flash here and there of going outside the box with the occasional reverse or two tight-end sets, but that was too infrequent. Reich may have been one of the better back-up quarterbacks in the NFL, yet play design was not his forte. His tendency to use and shotgun and pistol formations, inability to develop schemes that were more familiar to then-rookie Melvin Gordon and abysmal offensive line play led to a parting of the ways between Reich and the organization this past January.
Let’s not dwell on that, though. A new season is on the horizon. A great many positives can come out of this year’s campaign. It has been said many times that as Rivers goes, so does the team he leads.
Now, I recognize that when Dan Fouts led the Chargers, the rules for protecting the quarterback were a bit different. Quarterbacks might have been hit in the head or had their legs grabbed by a defender, and little came of it. The NFL rulebook has changed considerably, and a quote made in 2013 by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer pretty much says it all: “…we played a game where we had to stay in the pocket and get hit in the face…But part of the badge of honor of playing quarterback in the NFL was standing in there and taking shots in the face and throwing a 20-yard dig route. That’s what separated you from the other guys. Now that’s just not part of the game.”
Undeniably, the QB position is one of the most protected when it comes to the assessment of penalties. Blatant or not, it’s going to be costly for the defense (possibly for the defender in the form of a fine) in today’s environment.
Keep a couple of things in mind as you read this: First, when Fouts entered the league in 1973, the season was 14 games long. Five years later it was changed to the current 16-game format. Second, two strike-shortened seasons skew his statistics. In 1982, only nine games were played. In 1987, weeks four through six saw predominantly replacement players take the field. One last thing, Fouts only had three seasons (1979 through 1981) in which he played the entire game schedule, whereas Rivers has played every game since becoming the lead signal caller for the Bolts’ in 2006.
There are a few of Fouts’ records that Rivers will meet and exceed in 2016, and at least a couple that might go into next year. For now let’s just concentrate on what is waiting.
Obviously, the first item is the career passing yards record. At the end of 2015, Rivers had amassed 41,447 yards to the 43,040 that Fouts had at the end of his career. That 1,594 mark could be gone by the end of the Chargers versus Saints game on October 2. Brees and Rivers may put on a passing extravaganza that day!
Another record that should easily be surpassed will be the number of 300-yard games. To date, No. 17 has collected 46 (including one playoff contest) to the 56 — including five playoff appearances — that Fouts has. That’s a difference which is well within PR’s reach. He is also one game-winning drive away from tying Fouts (25 vs 26), plus three away (21) towards matching the 24 fourth-quarter comebacks of his contemporary.
Last up, the number of games these two have played. Fouts played in 181 contests while Rivers is at 164. The disparity is due to the fact that Rivers sat behind Drew Brees until the last two games of 2005, when Brees suffered that shoulder injury while diving to recover a fumble in a meaningless game against the Denver Broncos. The only way that 17-game differential gets broken during this year’s campaign is if the Chargers fight their way into the postseason.
The discussion about who is the better quarterback will never stop. Don’t forget, however, that despite never making it to the Super Bowl, Fouts was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Is that honor in Rivers’ future, as well? Only time will tell, but he is so far up the record books, how could it not?!
All in all, the 2016 football season is shaping up to be one to remember!
Thanks for reading!