Offensive rookie of the year
It took almost a full season but the San Diego Chargers are finally starting to become the team we envisioned at the beginning of the season. The possibility of a team that would once again become playoff relevant looked good but not great as the Chargers took a 4-3 record into the bye week. The bye week came as the Chargers had won two straight games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville. After the bye, the Chargers dropped three straight games to fall to 4-6. With that losing streak, all hope for a return to prominence looked lost.
The Chargers went to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs. The Chiefs were 9-1 and coming off their first loss at Denver. The Chargers took it to the Chiefs and won a shootout 41-38. That win began a Chargers run that has seen them win four of their last five games. The Chargers now sit at 8-7 with a shot at getting into the playoffs if they can beat the Chiefs at home and the right teams lose on Sunday.
What has been the reason for this turnaround? The offensive line has solidified and while it isn’t a list of marquee names, the same guys are suiting up every week and staying on the field. Last season the offensive line was a turnstile with a new starting five almost every week. First round draft pick D.J. Fluker has done a great job at right tackle, helping open holes for the running backs. When starting left tackle King Dunlap missed games because of a concussion, Fluker moved to left tackle and played just as well. Jeromey Clary has found new life at right guard, Nick Hardwick hasn’t missed a game at center. Rich Ohrnberger, Johnnie Troutman and Chad Rinehart have all played well at left guard. The unit is playing better as the weeks go by and it shows. Rivers has been sacked 27 times through 15 weeks this season. Last season, Rivers was sacked a league high 49 times, a drastic improvement.
Ryan Mathews has found his stride and has put together his best season as a pro. Whether it was a change in philosophy or the new system implemented by head coach Mike McCoy, Mathews has run with a purpose and was one yard away (he had 99 against Oakland) from tying LeSean McCoy with six 100-yard rushing games this season. Mathews has more 100 yard games than higher profile backs like Jamaal Charles(4), Arian Foster(2), DeMarco Murray(3), Alfred Morris(3), Matt Forte(4) and has as many Adrian Peterson(5).
Mathews has run for over 100 yards in five of the last ten games and has a 99 yard game as well. For the first time in his career, he is set to play all 16 games and has already posted a career best 1,111 yards rushing. The Chargers are 4-1 when Mathews rushes for 100.
As a result of the first two factors, Philip Rivers is having an All-Pro season. Only Peyton Manning has more 400 yard games(4) than Rivers(3). Rivers is the fourth highest ranked quarterback in the league.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen was rushed into the starting lineup after a season ending injury to Malcolm Floyd. Allen quickly became the number one receiver and has burst onto the scene over the last 11 games. If Keenan Allen isn’t the Offensive Rookie Of The Year, the award should be discontinued due fraud. Allen is going to be a big name in the NFL as he gets years under his belt.
A who’s who of big names on defense hit the injured list before the season began including Melvin Ingram, Dwight Freeney, Larry English and draft pick Steve Williams. Out of that necessity, lesser names have had to fill greater roles, thrust into the spotlight as starters. As a result, unknowns such as Thomas Keiser, Andrew Gachkar, Bront Bird, Sean Lissemore and rookies Tourek Williams and Mantei Te’o have logged significant playing time and thrived. Now the defense has solidified and become a cohesive unit. The defense now has 33 sacks, 74 passed defensed, 11 interceptions and forced 11 fumbles (recovering 6).
The Chargers have finally all come together and look like one of those teams no one will want to play should they get into the playoffs. They played as close to a perfect game as possible in beating the Giants at home and Broncos in Denver with only five days between games. They played sloppily in the first half of the Raiders game but took over the game in the second half and cruised to victory.
The story of the season is the Chargers have beaten Denver, Kansas City, Dallas, Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Each are teams who are now or were at the top of their division. Their quality of wins are excellent. They have lost to Washington, Oakland, Tennessee and Houston. Those teams are now or were last in their division. Questionable play calling, poor execution and mental lapses have made the difference in the Chargers being in the playoffs now as opposed to fighting for a spot at the end of the season.
The good news is the Chargers are finally playing together. The offense is on track and all the moving pieces on both sides of the ball are set in place and formed a solid wall instead of a Jenga building. The new faces on defense are making fewer mistakes as they get valuable playing time in and that on-the-field experience has made all the difference here at the end of the season. Those unknowns will make the Chargers a dominating defensive unit once the injured players like Freeney, Steve Williams and Ingram start next season healthy.
At 8-7 the Chargers are guaranteed at least a .500 season. Most (not me) expected the Chargers to finish with fewer than eight wins. The McCoy/Telesco era is already off to a promising start and as this program is reshaped, will only get better.
Another year has come to an end. This has been a fun year for me and a significant part of it has been because of you, my dear readers. This year saw the inception of Boltblitz and I am very thankful to the founder of Boltblitz, Dave ‘BoogaP’ Peters for being his first pick to come join him on this new venture. The Chargers are our passion above all things in sports and most things in life in general, which is why we make such a great duo. Boltblitz is just getting started and I treasure all the friendships that have emerged from the cast of characters that compose our writing team.
You have endured my novellas all year-long and have left great comments, mostly positive, some negative. The important thing is you took time to read it and in spite of whether you agree with me or not, you were moved enough to respond. Don’t expect to see any quick hitter pieces from this columnist, except maybe this one. Like Treebeard said during Lord Of The Rings, “It takes a long time to say anything in all Ent-ish, and we don’t say anything unless it bears taking a Long. Time. To. Say.” Consider my columns GregOne-ese. The human version of Ent-ish. I have a lot to say about the Chargers, more than can ever be summed up in two paragraphs. One the positive side, my columns make a great option when you’re *ahem* taking the Browns to the Super Bowl…
Merry Christmas to you, Chargers fans. I hope you all get what you want this year. If you’re like the rest of us, it’s the Chargers in the playoffs this year. The Chargers are finally on a roll and are looking like the team we thought they could be at the beginning of the season. I believe and we all should believe in what new GM Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy are doing. They have yielded positive results. Our team has bettered their record from last year, even if it is only by a game it is still progress. The Chargers will not have a losing season this year. Ryan Mathews has actually played in EVERY game this season and played well! (I’m shocked too!) Our third round steal of the draft Keenan Allen will be offensive Rookie Of The Year! Philip Rivers was never broken, the pieces around him were. That’s what needed to be fixed and now that it is, look who’s back Pro Bowl Philip! That’s my…no, that’s OUR quarterback! I have faith now more than ever he will retire with a Super Bowl ring. Or two. Or three. Or…
Besides all that, I enjoy meeting all of you at games, tweeting and Facebooking with you throughout the year and appreciate you reading my columns. Here’s my Christmas column to you, with me standing in front of the Lombardi Trophy at this year’s NFL Draft (Doing my best to give it some Chargers mojo). My thought and prayers for a happy and healthy journey through life are for all of you who ever hear my voice or read my words. Merry Christmas and God Bless you all.
Chargers born, Chargers bred, and when I’m gone I’ll be Chargers dead…
It is evident to everyone in Chargers circles that there is no doubt Keenan Allen should be the leader in the clubhouse for the offensive Rookie Of The Year award. Even national media is falling into the same line of thinking as Allen’s numbers continue to dwarf his competition. here are Allen’s numbers through week 15:
Keenan Allen: 63 receptions, 931 yards, 14.8 yards per catch, 7 touchdowns.
A steal as a third round pick, Allen leads all rookies in first down catches with 50, and first down percentage with 79.4%. The next closest wide receiver trails in receptions by 16 and yards, behind by 172 yards. However, the category is offensive rookie of the year and there are a handful who will make a case for themselves. The top four candidates are:
1. Giovani Bernard, RB Cincinnati. Bernard has been a great weapon for the Bengals this season. Bernard is a dual threat running and receiving the ball. Bernard has 49 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns and 144 carries for 653 yards and 5 touchdowns. Bernard is a dual threat but he has only had one game over 80 yards rushing, no 100 yards games rushing or receiving. His best game receiving netted 72 yards.Bernard has been timesharing in the backfield with Benjarvis Green-Ellis, further hampering his chances at the award. The fact he is playing for a team headed to the playoffs may gain him more acclaim than Allen if the Chargers don’t get into the playoffs.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, WR Houston Texans. The first round pick is Allen’s closest competition as a wide receiver. Playing opposite Andre Johnson, Hopkins has amassed 47 catches for 759 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hopkins has fallen off the radar coming down the stretch as he has 1, 1, 2, 3, and 3 catches over the last 5 games. Hopkins has one 100-yard game in week 2 against the Titans, has had two games with under ten yards receiving and hasn’t had more than 77 yards receiving since the Titans game.
3. Jordan Reed, TE Washington. Reed has 45 receptions for 499 yards and three touchdowns. However, Reed has not played in the last four games and only had one catch in week 11. Reed has no shot of winning.
4. Eddie Lacy, RB Green Bay. Lacy has 248 carries for 1028 yards and 8 touchdowns. lacy also has 31 receptions for 236 yards. Lacy has four games with over 100 yards rushing and looks to be the only viable threat to Allen. Lacy has been relied on more heavily as the Packers have been without quarterback Aaron Rodgers over the last month. The high-profile of the Packers also works in lacy’s favor. Making the playoffs may make the difference for both players.
Allen has five games with over 100 yards receiving. Also working in his favor is that he didn’t even get into the starting lineup until week four after the injury to Malcolm Floyd. Floyd’s injury forced Allen into the fire where he immediately took off and became the new number one receiver for the Chargers. Since he became starter in week four (11 weeks), Allen has amassed 901 yards and seven touchdowns. No rookie has been better than Allen in that time and there is no more deserving player of the offensive player of the year than Keenan Allen.
The Greg One