Offensive line

The Chargers lit it up at the Q after being down 21-3 against Lions at halftime, coming back to win 33-28.

The San Diego offense had a sudden surge in the second half after only putting three points on the board through two quarters. It all started with Philip Rivers. The 33-year-old completed 83.3% of his passes on Sunday (35-42). He threw two touchdown passes to tie Dan Fouts’ team record (254) for most touchdowns thrown for over a career. He threw for a whopping 404 yards. Not a bad start to the season for the 12-year veteran.

The Chargers offensive line did a decent job. They started off shaky in the early portions of the game, but meshed well as the game wore on. There were also two injuries to this line, D.J. Fluker and Joe Barksdale. Although those seem like key losses, their replacements did a solid job at protecting Rivers. Fluker sustained a high-ankle sprain and looks to be out about 4-6 weeks. Barksdale is expected to return this week.

Rookie Melvin Gordon had 14 carries for 51 yards, averaging 3.64 yards per carry. Gordon almost scored his first touchdown as a rookie, but it was called back because his elbow touched the turf when trying to spin out of tackle. Gordon also fumbled the ball, turning it over to the Lions. All in all, it wasn’t a bad debut performance.

Danny Woodhead also had a nice game, toting the rock 12 times for 42 yards. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Woody managed to score two touchdowns on the ground. It was nice to have him back after losing him to a season-ending injury early last season.

Keenan Allen was huge this game! Allen had 15 receptions for 166 yards. He tied the team record for receptions in a single game. Allen didn’t score any touchdowns, but he sure helped the team move the ball down the field. The 23-year-old also popped a ball up that Rivers threw at his back shoulder; it was intercepted and taken back for a pick-six.

Stevie Johnson proved to be a nice offseason addition. He recorded 6 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown, averaging 13.6 yards per catch. Johnson ran a great inside route and took it to the house with his lone diving touchdown. He will definitely be an asset to the already prolific offense.

Ladarius Green had a good game, stepping in for the suspended Antonio Gates. Green registered five receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. Green came through in the clutch when the Chargers needed to move down the field to get into the red zone.

Lastly, Malcom Floyd. Floyd had a bit of a disappointing game having only one catch that went for 29 yards. Rivers also tried to target Floyd in the endzone, but that pass was well underthrown and ended up being intercepted by the Lions’ secondary for Rivers’ second pick of the game. Truth be told, there is only one football to go around, so to speak.

When every player is healthy, this is one of the most prolific offenses in the league. The offensive line took a while to mesh, but when they did, they were able to open holes for the running back and protect Rivers. With stable blocking upfront, the Chargers can move the ball down the field with a great deal of poise.

Next up is the Bengals. Let’s see how the offense can do against a good defense on the road.

Thanks for reading!

Rick Reiff, Jr.

Keenan1

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!

Cheryl White

The start of the 2014 season looked extremely promising for the offensive line. Veteran center Nick Hardwick was returning after questioning retirement, right tackle D.J Fluker was entering his sophomore season, and a healthy left tackle King Dunlap was set to make another impact. Adding to the mix was guard Chris Watt; a third round draft pick in this year’s draft. However, being past the halfway mark and into the bye week, the offensive line has crumbled into little football pieces; almost unrepairable.

Shortly after the one point loss to the Arizona Cardinals on a Monday Night Football showdown, Hardwick was placed on injured reserve; not returning for the rest of the year. Rich Ohrnberger was to fill the position, however injuries have inhibited him to be able to play effectively.  He too has missed some games. The injury bug struck so hard that at one point it left Watt, not a true center, filling the void as the fourth backup to Hardwick. At that point, the offensive line started to disintegrate and show their true colors. The next man up motto almost seemed like a joke.

It should be no surprise that the Chargers are ranked almost last (30th) in the NFL for rushing yards. Yes, the void of Ryan Mathews has greatly impacted the run game, but the guards and center haven’t done a sufficient job at creating holes for the run. In week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, Donald Brown had 31 attempts, ran for 62 yards and only averaged 2.0 yards for the game. If you remember, the Bills have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The run game had no chance. As many know, Johnnie Troutman is the right guard on the line, but does it shock anyone that he isn’t performing well? I’m not at all. Scary enough, Watt hasn’t even been able to outperform him to snag the starting role — as predicted in the offseason. It wasn’t until the Miami where the entire offensive line hit rock bottom.

The Chargers were shut out a few Sundays ago by the Miami Dolphins. That hasn’t happened since 1999 (I was eleven years old). Philip Rivers had a total of three interceptions and one strip-sack fumble. Does it sound oddly familiar to the 2012 season? Before the three game losing streak, Rivers was said to be the league’s MVP contender, but he doesn’t look like that anymore. If you look below, Rivers’ poor play has been due to an extremely underperforming offensive line:

SD vs Miami Oline 1

-Rivers sets up for a pass play on 2nd and 18. Eddie Royal to the lower right looks to be making a route in open coverage and the offensive line looks to be blocking correctly to allow Rivers sufficient time in the pocket.

SD vs Miami Oline 2

-Notice Troutman, turned around, looking completely lost and confused while exposing Rivers to Miami player #79. Fluker is basically playing the right tackle and  right guard position. But it’s becoming more evident that he might excel at the right guard position. As a result, the play ended in one of the three interceptions of the game.

Just as I mentioned, Fluker is being forced to play two positions at once. Do you miss Jeromey Clary yet? This type of play is a disgrace at the NFL level and absolutely needs to be address by the coaching staff sooner than later; if not, the next draft. Could it get any worse? Yes, and it does in the next example:

SD vs Miami Oline 4

-A view of the offensive line setting up for a well needed 8 yards on 3rd down. Antonio Gates looks to be the receiver while lined up on the right side.

SD vs Miami Oline 3

-In this view, Rivers appears to have pocket time to convert. However, the play never ended that way.

SD vs Miami Oline 6

-Dunlap was horribly beaten on the edge. Keep in mind, this play only lasted roughly three seconds. That’s how little time it takes to disrupt an opposing offensive line and quarterback. The play ended in the games only strip-sack fumble.

Lastly, Watt was given an opportunity when Ohrnberger was removed from the game. The rookie’s inexperience was exposed horrendously:

SD vs Miami Oline Watt 1

-Rivers has a pretty decently protected pocket, however Watt starts to crumble under the pressure from Miami’s Dion Sims at the far right.

SD vs Miami Oline Watt 2

-Well, this doesn’t look great. Watt is easily manhandled and left looking behind him while #80 attacks up the middle for Rivers.

SD vs Miami Oline Watt 3

-A very painful looking sack occurred on the play while Watt looks like he is in complete disarray. Rookies will be rookies. However, with the mindset of “next man up”, Watt doesn’t look NFL ready.

An efficient guard and offensive lineman will protect the passer and open up the pocket for the quarterback to see an open receiver. At this point, the Chargers current linemen have allowed the pocket to collapse sooner than desired leaving Rivers to increase his release rate to 2.52 seconds in order to get the pass out quicker. If the line is collapsing in three seconds or less, that ultimately leaves Rivers forcing to throw and converting in .52 seconds or less. Even if you’re Peyton Manning, that is horrible protection for any quarterback.

Basically, the offensive line has looked like the former 2012 line; nonexistent pass protection, no open lanes/holes for the running back and players looking like a lost child in a grocery store. Not to mention, they have been hit by injuries. The sad part, this was just the Miami matchup and more horrendous play occurred well before this game. Tom Telesco and company have many issues to address, and the offensive line is the biggest one. Everyone is pretty excited to see Ryan Mathews return to the practice field, but can the line hold up? It’s going to take more than a bye week to clean up this train wreck.

 

Briana Soltis

OL

 

 

The Chargers are heading into their fifth week with great poise and a record of 3-1 being led by the league’s leading MVP contender – Philip Rivers. They’ve been praised and dubbed Super Bowl contenders for their early season success, yet it’s no secret that the running game seems to continuously be struggling in each match up. Averaging only 2.4 yards a carry this year, and with only one rushing touchdown, gives them the distinction of almost last place for total rushing offense. The circling question of who is to blame can be debatable, yet the facts are pointing more toward the offensive line.

When it was announced that Ryan Mathews was going to be out 4-6 weeks due to injury, there was no question that Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead would step in nicely. However, that hasn’t gone as planned, forcing Tom Telesco to make a flood of active roster changes. Brown is now averaging 2.0 yards a game and 6.0 receiving yards. In hindsight, he is playing the role of both Mathews and Woodhead. Yet, how is a running back supposed to complete his job when he isn’t given the proper tools? Let me explain.

The offensive line has made an overflow of changes in just four games played. Nick Hardwick was placed on IR after the Arizona game which required the next center, Rich Ohrnberger, to step up. His performance hasn’t been stellar, yet he has been able to get the job done. However, after playing an incredibly physical game against Seattle, the Chargers found themselves digging for their third-string center to step in. With that said, every opponent that has played Seattle has lost their next matchup – until San Diego.

Already limited at the guard position, and no guaranteed timeline of when Jeromey Clary will be back, we’re left with two great pass blockers to hold the line – RT D.J Fluker and LT King Dunlap. In the last four games, the Chargers have played three of the league’s top 10 defenses: Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo. Keep in mind, Arizona ended last year with the number one ranked rush defense and Seattle’s defense crushed Denver in the Super Bowl with a 43-8 win.

Currently, the Chargers do not have the talent on the O-line to dominate the run game, which leaves the game dependent on Rivers’ throwing arm. With Brown having 50 rushing attempts and sharing the load with Oliver, it’s slowly wearing down each team that the Chargers play.  This eventually tires the defensive line and opens up the passing game.  It may not look too pretty in the boxscore, but the running game is serving its purpose.

Moving into week five versus the New York Jets, the Chargers will need a finely tuned game plan. Currently, the Jets rank #3 in total rushing defense, and #7 in total defense. These numbers are just as scary as going back into week one and two – in addition to an injury-ridden secondary. In order for the San Diego Chargers to defeat the Jets, the offensive line needs to step up big, open the gaps for the run, and hold firm for the entire game. Adding the way Rivers is connecting with his receivers and the defense’s continued success, there are no reasons as to why the Chargers can’t add another one to the win column.

 

Briana Soltis

Dunlap1

 

 

We may not be on the field with Philip Rivers but just like him we spent a few years being spoiled by the play of left tackle Marcus McNeil. After injury cut McNeil’s career short, the Chargers spent almost two seasons trying to replace him. When the GM who shall not be named offered a contract to the man the Ravens called the “Big Lazy,” it surprisingly didn’t work out.

The 2012 season was a disaster at the position, Jared Gaither lived up to his former team’s nickname and seemed not interested in returning from injury. With no back-up plan in place (I mean, why would you have depth at the second most important position on offense, right?) The QB’s blindside became the responsibility of undrafted free agent out of UCLA Mike Harris. Let’s face it, most of the season Harris looked like his was guiding people to sack Rivers. Cut the rookie some slack, he had never played left tackle before.

The biggest question leading up to Tom Telesco first draft was who would be the starting left tackle for the Chargers. As the 1st round picks started going it seemed that all the left tackles were going fast. Many pundits didn’t expect any 1st round-worthy left tackles to be left. It would finally take someone who had replaced Marcus McNeil before.

The Union-Tribune’s Tom Krasovic even wrote on April 1st 2013 “King Dunlap, as of now, is the Chargers left tackle and that’s not an April Fool’s joke.” Who? And why was the U-T already dismissing the big guy? Let’s just take a minute (or several) to learn about King Dunlap and how he became a Bolt.

He is not just King Dunlap, he is King Dunlap V, as in the fifth. The fourth of the King Dunlaps was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1969 (which in Chargers terms was Sid Gilman’s last year as coach) out of Tennessee State where his mother was also a track star. His sister plays for the Kentucky wildcats basketball team.  Raised with an NFL history and an athletic family King V grew to be 6 foot 9 inches tall and was highly recruited out of high school.

One of the coaches that recruited him was an O-line coach out of Georgia Tech and now Chargers O-line coach Joe D’Alessandris. The two were so impressed with each other that they stayed in touch over the 10 years even though King Dunlap ended up at Auburn where he backed up none other than senior left tackle Marcus McNeil.

In Dunlap’s freshman year 2005, he got his first chance to replace McNeil during an early season game against Ball State. The following year he became Auburn’s starting Left tackle when McNeil became Rivers’ protector. Dunlap started all 13 games for Auburn in 2006 and won the SEC offensive lineman of the week award for game against Tulane where he had a 99% rating. It was a surprise to many that he fell to the 230th pick in 2008 draft where he was selected by the Eagles.

Under Andy Reid in Philly, Dunlap was given credit often for his football IQ but Reid more than once called him his Sixth man. Not exactly the highest praise for an O-line man. During his rookie pre-season he rolled his ankle and didn’t see action until 2010 when he came in for an injured Jason Peters in week 5 against the 49ers. He got abused by one of the NFL’s best Justin Smith giving up 3 sacks in limited play. He did rebound in his second start against Atlanta the following week. Pundits had expected John Abraham to feast, but he ended with as many sack as I did that week. In that first start he also got high marks from profootball focus for his run blocking making an athletic play blocking 10 yards down field for Desean Jackson (who is not exactly slow).

Dunlap never caught on as an Eagle, always playing back-up despite flashes of good play. When San Diego signed him many of the local sports radio shows had on Eagles beat writers and none of them had very much praise for the free agent signing and coming to the west coast. As one of the first moves by new GM Tom Telesco this was not greeted by the Blue and Gold diehards with excitement. With a lot of 20/20 hindsight I think it is safe to say Coach Joe D had his finger on this signing.

I like many of you thought former Steeler left Tackle Max Starks (who signed on before mini-camp) would easily beat out Dunlap for the starting spot. Only Eli Manning’s time in San Diego was shorter than Starks who pretty much walked off into the sunset after that. The rumors from Chargers park were that Dunlap not only won the job, he did so easily.

In the season we didn’t see much of him at first. He played well against the Texans but against his former team in week two Dunlap hit the dirt and had to leave the game. In and out of the line-up with multiple concussions, He ended up missing five games in row. It would be easy at that point to say Telesco had made a mistake, when the their 1st round draft pick left guard was playing in blindside.

It was week 14 when the Bolts were set to play both Manning brothers in 5 days that the King came back. Boy did he! Against the giants Dunlap played like a man possessed. Despite a low snap count for the game he had the highest run blocking grade (+11.7) in the NFL that week according to profootballfocus.com. He didn’t surrender any sacks and only two hurries.

On bolo Thursday five days later Dunlap was the only starter with a plus rating on run blocking (give major credit to Mathews who ran for 127 yards on 29 carries). Dunlap’s two biggest plays in the game are worth noting. On Mathews’ 23 yard TD run in the second half Dunlap crushed Both safety Mike Adams and linebacker Danny Treviathan thirteen yards down field to clear the way for the endzone. The other big one reminded me of his big plays blocking down field for Desean Jackson – this time it was Eddie Royal getting 20 yards on a third down conversation that crucial to the Bolt’s ball hoarding game plan. A good ten yards from scrimmage, Dunlap again put Broncos safety Mike Adams on his back. Royal told Tom Krasovic of the U-T, “To see a guy that big who can run like that, he is a pretty special athlete.”

Dunlap showed the Charger faithful what he had over that stretch of wins but it was the five days of Manning revenge that he shined the most. It was that kind of play that helped Tom Telesco feel comfortable drafting strong on Defense this year. I wonder what those dismissive Eagles beat reporters are saying now?

It doesn’t matter.

Dunlap can hold down the fort as long as he stays healthy. He and my team MVP, coach Joe D’, seem to work well together. All hail the king!

—– –

David Agranoff is the wonderland award nominated author of three horror novels including “The Vegan Revolution with Zombies,” “Hunting the Moon Tribe” and “Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich.” Follow him on Twitter @Dagranoffauthor and can be found on Facebook.

MathewsVsOak

 

It is common knowledge that the Chargers have many positions that need upgrading in the 2013 offseason.  The most obvious positions of need happen to be on the offensive line.

But let’s get one thing straight.  The Chargers have many holes in their roster in addition to the offensive line. 

Ryan Mathews has shown that he is incapable of being a workhorse running back due to repeated injuries and an inability to stay on the field on third down.  Although Mathews is a decent receiver out of the backfield, he is a poor blocker, at best, in passing situations.  There is no need to get started on his fumbling issues.  The aforementioned facts show that there is a need at running back in the Charger offense as either a replacement for Ryan or as a complimentary piece to him.

Despite Donald Butler getting better in each and every game, it is hard to imagine how he would perform with a solid inside linebacker playing next to him in our 3-4 defense.  I know that Takeo Spikes has become a fan favorite, but his best years have long passed him by.  If the Chargers were to find another solid player to play next to Butler, our youthful, improving defense would only get that much better.

I have had a good time making up nicknames for Atari Bigby.  He set himself up pretty good with his name announcement during the Monday night contest versus Denver.  All joking aside, Bigby’s inability to wrap up, coupled with his penchant to bite on play action, made him a serious detriment to the success of the Bolt defense.  The Chargers haven’t had a quality strong safety since the days of Rodney Harrison.  Yes, it has been that long.

Now that Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer have completed the final year of their contracts, the Chargers are now left searching for two starting cornerbacks.  Despite Jammer being one of my favorite Chargers, it is nearly impossible to think that he will be back as a cornerback with the team.  The door might be open for him to sign a hometown discount to return as astrong safety as we talked about last night on “All Out Blitz.”  Cason is a player that could price himself out of our range while being allowed t shop free agency.  My hope is that we bring him back but only at the right price.  Cornerback will need to be addressed with multiple players in any case.

Those are the obvious holes, in my mind, that need addressing on the 2013 San Diego Chargers.  You could easily add in defensive tackle and defnsive line depth as well.  Also, you can never have enough quality depth on the offensive line either. 

Below you will notice a poll asking the very same question in the title.  Excluding offensive line, which position is in need of upgrading the most in San Diego? 

Please vote and leave a comment below stating why you voted for the position that you did.

 

Excluding O-Line, which position is in need of upgrading the most in San Diego?

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Thanks a lot for reading and voting.

 

BoltUp!!!

 

BoogaP

 

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