EDITOR’S NOTE: BoltBlitz.com staff writer Charlie LaFurno is expecting some big things for your San Diego Chargers in 2016. In an effort to explain how the team will be able to achieve the expectations that LaFurno has for them this year, he highlights three keys which will enable the Bolts to be very successful during the ’16 campaign.
First, let’s start things off with giving both the Chargers and Joey Bosa several rounds of applause until our hands hurt. They FINALLY reached a contract agreement of $25.8 Million over four years this Monday. The contract comes with a $17 million signing bonus and makes him the highest paid upfront rookie in Chargers history.
As it stands after the Bosa signing, I certainly believe the Chargers can be a 10-plus win team and, depending on how they play their division games, they could very well end up at 11-5 or 12-4. Now, in order for this to actually happen, and for Chargers fans to stop dreaming and this finally become a reality, a couple of things need to play out in the Bolts’ favor.
Melvin Gordon having a breakout season is a KEY part to the Chargers’ success this season. He showed flashes of the Wisconsin version of Melvin Gordon this preseason, albeit a small sample size. He had three carries for 12 yards against the Titans in Week 1, adding a 44-yard touchdown catch — something he failed to do all last season was getting into the endzone. Hopefully that shook the jitters off for the youngster. But, he continued to stay hungry even though the starting position is his. He didn’t have a huge second game, rushing six times for 18 yards, but he came back the next week against the Vikings and had a BIG performance even though the Bolts fell short. Gordon rushed four times for 51 yards, including a 39-yard TD. Granted the play was audibled by Rivers and Gordon got a little lucky with the Vikings linebacker completely misplaying it, but No. 28 finished the play, showing elite speed and burst. THAT play got me extremely optimistic and enthusiastic. Gordon did not play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the 49ers. Keep him fresh for Week 1 in Arrowhead. The team is really going to NEED him.
The offensive line staying healthy and getting continuous reps and playing time together will come a long way in developing the chemistry that they have failed to sustain for a while now. Barksdale is the only lineman that played in every game last year. Last season, the Chargers used 26 different O-Line combinations.. TWENTY SIX. To say that is putrid would even be an extreme understatement. The Bolts averaged a measly 3.46 yards on the ground last season — 32nd in the league — and it needs to improve going forward if they want to have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
This offseason, San Diego signed Matt Slauson and drafted former Trojan Max Tuerk in the 3rd round. I loved the pick because I watched some film and saw that he has good athleticism and outstanding movement. He doesn’t overcommit on plays which is huge and could be a clutch player for years to come. The starting offensive linemen should consist of Dunlap, Franklin, Slauson, Fluker and Barksdale. That is a very capable group of talented individuals to create space for MG28 to eat, eat, eat and eat some more. We already know what Philly Riv can do when given the proper amount of time to throw the football to his bevy of weapons.
Last, but not least, the defensive line. I feel like the last time I saw a good Chargers’ rush unit was when I was on the couch at nights before bed playing Pokémon. And no, I’m not talking about Pokémon Go, I’m talking about the actual Gameboy games. In the midst of the contract stalemate Bosa and the Chargers had, he was still working out at different facilities in Florida up to three times a day. His work ethic and leadership are lights out. He reminds me of somebody. As it stands now, the starting defensive line will feature Liuget, Mebane, Philon with Bosa coming in on 3rd downs or in sub-packages until he gets fully ready to man that right spot. The Chargers also have Ingram, Emanuel and Attaochu as the outside linebackers. Both Ingram and Attaochu are speedy, freakish athletes but they have to remain healthy and produce consistently. Emanuel is solid on early downs, setting the edge and helping to slow down opposing ball carriers.
This is a year where the Bolts might know what it feels like to get to QBs that still have the ball in their hand and what does that lead to?? Turnovers. Everybody loves turnovers. It’s just us Chargers fans who aren’t really used to them. To make the Joey Bosa addition even better, the Chargers went and got Jatavis Brown. where they ranked 1st and 5th, respectively, in TFL in FBS over the last two seasons.
There’s going to be some plays where the defensive line doesn’t look good, but John Pagano’s defensive unit features Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o to clean it up, along with the Electric Avenue secondary!
All in all, if all three of those things can happen at a consistent rate, the Chargers will be in very good shape to make a run this year. I predict Melvin to produce 1,200 yards, 8-9 TDs and 30-40 catches with 2 TDs. His improvement in the running game will open up play-action passes and defenses are not going to be ready for Keenan, Gates and Benjamin on the field; there are just too many weapons to account for, especially when you have one of the greatest QBs in Philip Rivers.
I predict the Chargers will have a top-5 offense and a top-10 defense. My honest prediction is 11-5 — if healthy — with a 4-2 division record.
Get hype Chargers fans!!! This franchise is ALIIIIIIVEEEEE!
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.
Thanks for reading!
Whenever a team goes on a bye week, it allows players to get some rest and relaxation. Players with minor injuries can use the respite to try to get healthy. The players also can spend time with their families. The bye week also provides the opportunity to reflect on the previous weeks and look into the weeks ahead.
The Chargers will use this week to get that extra rest, relaxation and to reflect. Hopefully, this will be a bye week of a different sort for the Bolts. They need to say, “Bye, Felicia!” to a lot of the issues that have the team at 2-7.
Bye, Felicia #1: Injuries
It is just mind-boggling how many players have been injured this year. The team suffered thirteen injuries against the Ravens. Losing Keenan Allen for the year was the most devastating.
Something needs to be done to help reduce the injuries. What though? Better conditioning? Less fragile players? Better depth to alleviate injuries that arise?
Maybe the football gods will take mercy on the Chargers and lessen the constant injuries to this team. In the case of cornerback Jason Verrett, making a big play, like a pick-6, just to get injured on the next play is just cruel.
Bye, Felicia#2: Penalties
Mike McCoy and the other coaches need to instill more discipline to the players when it comes to avoiding penalties. When Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach, those players knew that they’d get an earful from him if they committed stupid penalties. They were one of the least penalized teams during his tenure.
Penalties are taking points away from the scoreboard as we saw last week against the Chicago Bears. The Bolts can no longer let that happen. Mike McCoy needs to get pissed about these stupid penalties. No, they didn’t need more plays! They had the plays and are giving them away due to dumb penalties.
Bye, Felicia #3: Losing at the end
The offense, with Phillip Rivers giving 1,000%, has been unable to get last-drive wins against the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
The defense, again with Rivers giving 1,000%, could not secure wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.
Can we say, “Goodbye, Felicia,” to these close games and get some legitimate wins. Our hearts and nails can’t take much more of these last-second losses.
Bye, Felicia #4: Missed plays
The defense needs to force turnovers. There have been a lot of dropped interceptions this season. Although Eric Weddle recovered Jay Cutler’s fumble last Monday night, at times, forced fumbles have not been recovered by John Pagano’s unit despite multiple chances.
The offense needs to eliminate some dropped passes and recover fumbles. They need to protect Rivers and not allow him to get sacked or hit as often.
The special teams just needs to figure out how to play! All facets of the third phase of the game have struggled mightily this season.
Bye, Felicia #5: Home field advantage for visiting team
The Chargers got embarrassed on a Monday night when the whole country witnessed the invasion of Qualcomm Stadium by Steelers fans. Two more home games, another one on a Monday night, show a stadium full of opposing team’s fans. Fans of the Raiders and Bears filled at least half of Qualcomm.
The home field advantage, especially against Pittsburgh, has been largely nonexistent, with the Q being overtaken by fans of other NFL teams. It is hard to win on the road, but even harder to “win on the road” at home.
This one is for the Bolts fans! Fans need to buy the tickets. Season ticker holders need to make sure that when they sell their tickets, they are only selling to other Chargers fans, no matter what!
Can we just say, “Goodbye, Felicia” to all those fans of the opposing teams? San Diego is America’s finest city, so people from all over the world want to come and visit. Well, they can visit and not invade our stadium during their vacation.
What do you mean, Keenan Allen playing slot receiver? Just bear with me while I attempt to persuade you.
A slot receiver, by definition, is a player in the offensive formation between the offensive line and the player closest to the sideline and at least a yard off of the line of scrimmage. That space can be occupied by a wide receiver, tight end or running back. It is often used when the offense wants to confuse the defense by having more than one receiver on the same side of the field. Utilizing this tactic generally forces the opposing team to adjust their coverage scheme by making alignment changes or adding extra defensive backs to ensure that the player in that “slot” has someone on him.
While at University of California – Berkeley (UCB), Allen was used in several different formations: split wide at receiver, in the slot and in the backfield. He primarily played the slot position while at UCB, so the role would be nothing new to him. Being quick off the line of scrimmage whether the ball is coming his way or if he is being a decoy can only help Philip Rivers in the long run. Although Allen may not have top speed, he does have the ability to change speed quickly. Prior to the draft, NFL analyst Charles Davis stated “…he didn’t run very fast at his pro day, but the comparisons for him: he plays the game a lot like Anquan Boldin and has hands like Larry Fitzgerald”. Current players also known as slot receivers are: Jeremy Maclin (Kansas City Chiefs), Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos), Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys), Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers) and free agent Wes Welker.
Allen has played 29 games in his two years with the Bolts and has 148 receptions of which 95 went for first down. Other than his receiving yardage, there are only punt return statistics for him: 26 attempts for 224 yards with 24 fair catch calls and zero touchdowns. In comparison, here is what newly-signed Jacoby Jones amassed during his first two years (2007-2008 and 30 games) in the league. As a receiver, Jones recorded 18 receptions and 11 of those were for first down. His punt return numbers: 672 yards on 62 attempts, 24 fair catches made, two TDs. On kick offs, 17 attempts for 358 yards (zero touchdowns, zero fair catches made).
Perhaps the argument can be made to move Keenan Allen to the slot since he is considerably younger than Jacoby Jones and Jones has more NFL experience overall in that position. So you are aware, though he is also on the team now, Stevie Johnson was not included in this comparison because he was only used in the return game his initial season (2008).
I know what I would do if the decision was left up to me…however, where do you think Allen lines up this season?
Thanks and Bolt Up!
Quick is probably the best word to describe today’s game. The Eagles’ offense was once again VERY quick paced under new head coach Chip Kelly. The longest scoring drive for the Eagles took 3 minutes 41 seconds to drive 76 yards and completing 10 plays. In fact, the average time of all 6 Philadelphia scoring drives was only 2 minutes and 1 second to cover an average of 65 1/3 yards.
Quick too was Eddie Royal. Making clutch receptions for Rivers both on 3rd downs and on all 3 of his touchdown receptions giving him a league leading 5 TD catches over the first two games of the season.
Momentum also shifted back and forth quickly. Twice the Chargers fumbled inside the Eagles’ 10 yard line, one each from Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates, giving the Eagles a break and letting the air out of great Charger drives. The Eagles missed a field goal with a chance to tie the game before going into the half, allowing the Chargers to keep the lead and get the ball back after half time.
In the complete opposite of the Eagles offense, the Chargers were methodical on offense. Rivers’ drives were effective and ate up lots of clock, keeping the Eagles high-powered offense off the field for 40 minutes of the 60 minute game. The Chargers amassed 33 first downs after managing only 14 in week one. 3rd down efficiency also increased from week 1 from 50% too 66%. The Chargers were only forced to punt once, which I am sure made Mike Scifres happy.
A lot of the credit can go to the offensive line. After turning in a good performance in pass protection week one, allowing only 2 sacks, they yielded only one sack this week and Rivers had plenty of time to go through his progressions. They still need to improve on opening holes in the run game, however part of the blame for that falls on Mathews who is not a patient runner and does not always wait for the hole to develop.
Danny Woodhead was a much bigger part of the offense this week. After turning in 2 catches and no receptions in week 1, Woodhead had 9 rushes for 27 yards and 8 catches for 37 yards. He was also outstanding in pass protection with multiple key blitz pick ups. Woodhead was once again close to a few great receptions on swing passes but Rivers needs to work on getting his throws down for the short RB as he has thrown it too high for Woodhead to handle 2 weeks in a row now.
Rookies also showed up for the Bolts today. Jahleel Addae had a couple of tackles, including a massive hit on 3rd down, and recovered the fumble as time expired to end the game. After the unfortunate injury to Malcolm Floyd, 3rd round draft pick Keenan Allen saw the first regular season action of his career and made 2 first down gaining receptions for 34 yards total.
Unfortunately though, most of the good things for the Chargers happened on the offensive side of the ball. The defense allowed 511 yards of offense on only 58 plays, an average of 8.8 yards per offensive play. They also allowed the Eagles to convert 45% of their 3rd downs. The secondary got torched for 428 yards and allowed 9 receptions of 20 yards or more. The defense was able to keep control of the ground game by holding the Eagles to 90 yards rushing, no small feat considering LeSean McCoy at RB and Michael Vick at QB.
Overall the Chargers played a good game. If you take away the poor defensive performance, the offense was methodical and efficient, they played clean drawing only 4 penalties, and Nick Novak turned in possibly his best performance as a Charger converting all 4 of his attempts from 49, 44, 33, and the game winner from 46 yards. There are lots of positives here to build on and keep rolling next week at Tennessee.
One final note, thoughts and prayers go out to Malcolm Floyd who was taken off on a stretcher today. Initial word is that all tests, including a CT scan, have come back negative and he should be okay to travel home with the team today. I do not want to speculate as to what the injury was but please keep him in your thoughts and, if you believe, prayers.
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