The close of the 2014 NFL season for the San Diego Chargers was pretty dismal. The team finished 9-7 behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. The Bolts were 18th in total offense, 10th in passing, a lowly 30th in rushing and 29th in special teams. The signings of free agent wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson should go a long way toward bumping up some of those rankings.
Offensive coordinator (OC) Frank Reich and wide receivers coach Fred Graves currently have at least four players to devise schemes around in 2015. Reich is entering his second year as OC while Graves is on his third with the wideouts.
Here is a look at who the receivers are to date:
Malcom Floyd: 6’5″, 225 pounds
This will be Floyd’s 11th year. After a season-ending neck injury in game three of 2013, the 34-year-old veteran receiver came back in 2014. He played all 16 games last year and he recorded 52 catches for 856 yards and six touchdowns.
Keenan Allen: 6’2″, 211 pounds
The 22-year-old was constantly covered after proving himself to be a viable threat in his rookie year. Prior to missing the last two games of 2014 due to a broken collarbone (game 15 vs Denver Broncos), he had 783 yards on 77 receptions with four touchdowns.
Stevie Johnson: 6’2″, 207 pounds
This may be one of the free agent pickups that really has quarterback Philip Rivers smiling. Johnson’s presence gives Rivers another seasoned option at wideout. He played 13 games in San Francisco last year with 35 receptions for 435 yards with three touchdowns. Career numbers for Johnson include 89 games played, 336 catches, 4,267 yards, and 31 touchdowns.
Jacoby Jones: 6’2″, 215 pounds
Jones was most recently a Baltimore Raven. With the special teams unit finishing 29th in the league last year, this signing should prove to be a boon for San Diego. Jones can be a kick returner (165 returns, 4,527 yards, and 5 touchdowns), a punt returner (265 returns for 2,673 yards, four TD’s) and a receiver (203 balls for 2,733 yards with 14 touchdowns).
Dontrelle Inman: 6’3″, 205 pounds
Previously a Canadian Football League player, the 26-year-old Inman made San Diego’s roster last August. He caught the ball 12 times for 158 yards in two games played. He spent the majority of the season on the team’s inactive list.
Austin Pettis: 6’3″, 203 pounds
Pettis has played in 47 games. As a receiver, he has racked up 1,034 receiving yards on 107 catches with five touchdowns during his career with the Rams. Additionally, he has nine kick returns for 75 yards, with 29 punt returns totaling 254 yards.
Although there could be changes among the receiving corps prior to the beginning of the 2015 season, this is how it is shaping up as of now. Perhaps Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco will add another receiver via free agency or the draft. Fans will not have to wait long as free agency is well under way and the draft is right around the corner.
What are your thoughts regarding the wide receiver position moving forward? Please let me know by commenting below.
The Chargers ended their season in Denver last year after a heartbreaking loss during the AFC Divisional Playoff game. Not long after, Offensive Coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, left San Diego to restart his head coaching career. He headed east to the Tennessee Titans; leaving the Chargers in need of a new OC. Having the most familiar knowledge of the current system, Frank Reich was promoted from Quarterbacks Coach to fill the position. At the time, this seemed to make the most sense. However, after a declining season and questionable play calls, fans should be concerned if this was the right choice.
Game time playcalls are the most important role of the OC and the root of success to a team’s offense. So far, Reich hasn’t been much more than mediocre. The offensive line is crumbling week by week, but the same plays are still being called. What about the screen pass plays that have been greatly successful for the Chargers in previous years? They are not even there. The absence of Danny Woodhead has been the biggest factor of all. In 2013, he averaged 8 yards a reception, 30 receiving 1st downs, and 483 yards after the the catch; ranking him 20th of all NFL players. Reich hasn’t been able to effectively utilize Branden Oliver to match these numbers; which has ultimately hurt the offense. Creative and unpredictable playcalling reflects a great OC, yet they seem to be missing every game so far.
Speaking of a hurting offense, Reich has been unable to make adequate halftime adjustments. The Chargers currently have four losses on the season. Of those four losses, three were when the team was trailing at halftime. As an OC, adjustments should be made to enable the team to finish with a win. But, Reich’s adjustments seem to be absent. Additionally, the OC should easily be able to see what offensive weaknesses were exposed in the first half and use those to prevent the same errors from occurring in the second. After the ugly and embarrassing loss to Miami on Sunday, the halftime adjustments require much needed attention.
The lackluster team downs are also an issue that Reich seems to be sweeping under the rug. Last year, the Chargers ended their season ranked 3rd in the NFL for third down conversions, this year they have dropped to 13th. In addition, the Chargers have only converted 25% (1 of 4) of their fourth down conversions thus far. When comparing that to last year, they converted 83% (5 of 6). Having a depleted offensive line will certainly contribute to poor down conversions, but the appropriate calls will get the job done and focus on each player’s strengths instead of weaknesses.
Focusing on a player’s strengths is key when injuries have affected the team like the bubonic plague, however, Reich doesn’t seem to be addressing this appropriately. With injuries to Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Nick Hardwick and many other offensive players, why are the same formations being utilized? Antonio Gates has been the most successful player this season for many reasons, but what happened to including Ladarius Green? Trying a two tight end formation will help the struggling backfield flourish and create great disruption in the opposing defense. The two-tight end attack works well against 3-4 defenses; which the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs currently run, but still lost to. Using Gates’ physical body and Green’s speed, the offense can easily get back on track.
Last year, Arizona blitzed the most in the NFL and Miami wasn’t too far behind; two teams that also defeated the Chargers this year. The third down option against the blitz is terrible. Instead of trying to throw for long on third down, a check to short, three-step pass will allow for a small yard gain and the chance to run for a first down. Additionally, the miscues from Rivers to Reich are preventing valuable points being placed on the board. I’m sure everyone was severely frustrated when a time out was called prior to the play clock expiring and Rivers turning his head to say “are you serious?” It was clear that Rivers saw something in the defensive formation but the poor communication caused the drive to end.
Clock management has also been an issue Reich seems to not have a grasp of. The Chargers have averaged 31:16 minutes of ball possession this year, but of the four losses only one team ranks higher than them with 31:56 minutes (Kansas City). What this means is that the offense is keeping the ball, but not doing much with it. They are struggling in red zone attempts per game; only 1.7 attempts in the last 3 games and of course zero in the most recent one. The Chargers are also only averaging 3.1 yards per carry, which implies that they are keeping possession of the ball, but not getting effective yards to set up scoring opportunities. Either way you cut it, Reich’s attempt at clock management isn’t as effective as we once thought.
The year is certainly not over just yet, and after a much-needed bye week, the Chargers can bounce back and sneak into the playoffs as they did last year. It’s safe to say that Frank Reich as the Chargers OC is questionable moving forward. Anything can happen, it’s football, but it’s going to take a lot of planning and adjustments to convince fans that he is the right one for the job.