On paper, The San Diego Chargers have had one of their best offseasons in recent history when it comes to player acquisitions. Their 2016 NFL Draft averaged out to a B grade if you listen to the talking heads and draft gurus on TV and radio. Chargers fans once again have reason to be optimistic about the team’s chances of going worst to first and returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season.
Improving the wide receiving corps, adding team speed and improving special teams were high on the Chargers’ to-do list this offseason and they succeeded in all three facets. The loss of Malcom Floyd (retirement) was answered by the free agent signing of speed burner Cleveland Browns’ Travis Benjamin. Healthy returns of Javontee Herndon, Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman are also expected to help.
The San Diego Chargers/Denver Broncos intra-conference pipeline was still shown to be intact when the Chargers signed Broncos’ kick returner/wide receiver Isaiah Burse to their practice squad in November 2015. Now entering his second season as a pro, Burse played 12 games as a rookie in Denver as a punt returner. Last season he had 29 returns for 211 yards, good for a 7.3-yard average.
The 5’10”, 187-pound Burse showed in college at Fresno State that he has what it takes to be an elite returner as he posted an FBS single-season record for kickoff returns in 2012 with 75 returns for 1,606 yards; an average of a scorching 21.4 yards per return.
Over his four seasons at Fresno State, Burse had 126 kickoff returns for 2,835 yards (22.4 yards per return) and 29 punt returns for 344 yards (11.5 yards per return). He also caught 210 passes for 2,503 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 191 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries.
After being signed by Denver as an undrafted free agent in May of 2014, Burse played most of the season before being waived then placed on the Broncos’ practice squad that December. Waived again in early September 2015, Burse was signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad and released later that month. San Diego signed Burse in November 2015 and he re-signed with the Bolts’ on a Futures contract in January.
In Denver and Pittsburgh, Burse was lost in the shuffle of an already deep talent pool at wide receiver and returner. In San Diego, he will have every opportunity to claim a spot at both positions. We know the punt returner slot is already claimed by Benjamin, but a dynamic kickoff returner is something the Chargers have lacked for a long time. Given the opportunity, Burse can show he is the future of the position and etch his name in stone as a kick returner and as added depth on the wide receiver depth chart.
One look at the video below and it’s easy to see why Chargers GM Tom Telesco has tracked the 24-year old native of Modesto, CA, for so long. He runs faster on the field than the 4.58-seconds 40-yard dash time he posted at the 2014 NFL Draft Combine. He is sudden, can stop on a dime and effortlessly change direction. Burse is shifty, elusive and tenacious when attacking the defense as a receiver or returner.
The competition at wide receiver for spots on the 53-man roster will be one of the top position battles to watch when camp opens in less than two weeks. Get your popcorn ready.
Good luck, Mr. Burse.
The Greg One
With the 35th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, the Chargers drafted University of Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. In doing so, they may have finally found the heir to the aging Antonio Gates throne. Coming out of Arkansas, the 6’5, 250-pound tight end has soft hands, great route running, and the ability to block. Henry was named the 2015 John Mackey Award winner, an award reserved for the nation’s top tight end. He also earned first-team All-SEC honors, finishing the 2015 season with 51 catches for 739 yards and reaching the end zone three times.
Other than Gates it seems as though the tight end position has been somewhat of a revolving door, being temporarily filled by one-dimensional players. Fan-favorite Ladarius Green was expected to take the reins from Gates, and showed flashes of greatness. However, after an ankle injury last season, concussion issues, Gates steady play, and a lucrative $20-million dollar contract later, Green inked a deal with the Pittsburg Steelers this offseason to join Ben Roethlisberger and their top-tier passing offense.
I like Green and think he will have a good career with Big Ben at the helm. However, I think it was a smart decision for the Chargers to part ways with Green. With injury concerns and his lack of size for the blocking game, he was just too much of a liability for the money. Drafting a well-rounded tight end like Hunter Henry has eased my concern surrounding the future of the tight end position.
Antonio Gates’ decline has been graceful. His production has been steady. At 35 years of age, one begins to question how much more he has in the tank. Many of his duties and roles have been slowly shifted to younger players like running back Danny Woodhead, and the security blanket he once provided Phillip Rivers has started to unravel.
Now is the perfect time to start grooming a potential heir to take over Gates throne, and Henry is the perfect candidate. Let’s be honest no one will ever be able to replace Gates, he is arguably one of the best tight ends to ever play the game! Hunter Henry will be able to contribute right away, and will be able to learn from one of the best to ever do it. Ultimately, he will become a long-term solution to the tight end position.
Henry has the potential to thrive in a Ken Whisenhunt offense. His system is a steady balance of short passes and physical runs, with an emphasis on clock management. Henry can shed defenders, and has secure hands to haul in passes, as shown in his Junior campaign at Arkansas, where he didn’t drop one pass. Henry also has the ability to stack up on the offensive line and offer blocking support to Rivers in the pocket, or open up holes for Melvin Gordon in the run game.
The rookie has already started to turn heads in rookie minicamp. With only a day to familiarize himself with the offense the rookie looked comfortable on the field. He showed why the Chargers targeted him with their second round pick. He was running smooth routes and making several highlight reel worthy catches, immediately becoming the break out star of the two-day event.
Realistically, Gates has another two or three good seasons left on his aging body, but I believe Gates might hang it up quicker if the Chargers can make a deep run into the playoffs sometime soon. This time frame provides Henry with the ability to learn the offense, his role and responsibilities, build chemistry with Rivers, and work on some of his weaknesses.
Henry has a tendency to get a little grabby at the offensive line and was flagged for holding three times in 2015, and struggles to get good body position against defenders, making it easier for defenders to bully the young rookie. However, he is still very young and growing into his body. By adding bulk, along with perfecting his technique he has the potential to be one of the better tight ends in the league.
Not only does Henry have the desired size and skill, he also possesses great work ethic and football IQ. I believe the Chargers have found the tight end for the future and can quit looking for help via free agency. I can see Henry easily amassing 400+ yards, and 3 TD’s in his rookie campaign. What are your predictions? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.
The now 2-6 San Diego Chargers are living out the meaning of the old cliché “backs against the wall”. This week alone, star receiver Keenan Allen, Branden Oliver and Tourek Williams were all placed on season-ending injured reserve. Corey Liuget and Ladarius Green left Baltimore in walking boots after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Thirteen players were injured during the Ravens game alone. Only 46 are allowed to play on Sundays. The Chargers literally lost over 25% of their active team on Sunday.
The offensive line is in shambles. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been sacked 19 times. Now the league’s top passer is down his best receiver, an emerging tight end (Green) and a running back that gained eight yards per reception in Oliver.
The defense is not faring much better. Team Captain Eric Weddle and Manti Te’o have missed multiple weeks. Both were entrusted with the ‘green dot’ helmet that receives the play transmission for the defense. Now that helmet resides in the locker of linebacker Donald Butler. Recent losses include rookie Denzel Perryman (biceps) and now Liuget. Unable to get pressure on the quarterback, the Bolts have only managed 15 sacks and four interceptions. To make matters worse, they’re allowing 28.4 points per game.
Coming into San Diego for a Monday Night Football showdown will be Jay Cutler and the 2-5 Chicago Bears. Like San Diego, the Bears lost their greatest weapon last week when Matt Forte was lost for the game and will miss time with a knee injury. On paper, the Chargers are more talented and should beat the lowly Bears rather easily.
The same thing was said when they went to the east coast to face the then 1-6 Ravens.
If the Bolts win, that will put them at 3-6 with a slim but still possible chance of challenging for a wild card spot in the playoffs. A loss makes a third straight 9-7 season nearly out of reach and a .500 season a daunting task. That being said…
Is it time to start tanking for a high draft pick?
We all want to see the Chargers go on a long winning streak that finishes in the playoffs. Realistically, they are five games behind the still undefeated Denver Broncos. The Broncos have been woeful offensively but their defense has been unstoppable and the main reason they have been able to stay undefeated. The fact that they have played weak opponents all the way up to last week’s impressive win over the then undefeated Green Bay Packers didn’t hurt either. The AFC West title is effectively out of reach barring Peyton Manning going down with injury.
By the way, the Chargers play the Broncos twice in the last five weeks.
That leaves the possible wild card. As of today, San Diego finds themselves two games behind the 4-3 Oakland Raiders, the 4-4 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 4-3 New York Jets. They have already lost to both Pittsburgh and Oakland and it would take massive collapses by those teams to give San Diego a chance of getting one of those two wild card spots.
At this point, it’s time to empty the playbook. It’s time to use every untested player, dust off every odd formation, gadget play and blitz strategy in hopes of getting a spark that will carry into next season. Unfortunately, the Chargers are playing for pride. They have dug a hole too deep to extract themselves from. I want them to go on a 8-0 run to finish the season in the playoffs like the rest of you. In the part of our brain that is responsible for rational thought, we know it isn’t going to happen.
Should the Chargers tank the season? No.
Should the Chargers play fast, loose and with a nothing-to-lose mentality for the rest of the season? Yes.
Go for it on every fourth-and-one. Mix up the play calling. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment with Gordon (Get the man a fullback). Experiment with the passing game (Green at WR? Yes, please). Experiment with movement. Boots, waggles, and bubble screens to get Gordon in space would be a nice start. Replace all those inside handoffs with toss sweeps to get the backs to the edge quicker. Go deep more. A LOT more. If you’re gonna go down, go down swinging.
At this point, the game with the Bears is the season. If the Bolts win, they maintain course as long as they continue to win. If they lose, time to blow up the formula, wing it and play for draft position. Get a top blue-chip prospect who can help the team immediately before Rivers’ window is closed forever. The top-ten picks are where game-changing, franchise-changing players can be found.
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, Oakland’s Amari Cooper, St. Louis’ Todd Gurley all have their respective teams on a trajectory to finish with a higher win total than last season. All were top-ten picks. The Chargers hope to have found the same fortune with Gordon but they had to trade up to 15th to get him, sacrificing a needed draft pick along the way. The jury is still out on Gordon, seeing as he only surpassed 100 carries for the season in the Ravens game.
San Diego needs a change of fortune and philosophy to get this uber-talented team over the top. As sad as it sounds, it’s going to take a step back, a change in coaching philosophy and a wise top-ten pick to finally move forward.
What do you think? Should the Chargers tank for a high-draft seeding? Leave your comments below.
The Greg One
The 2014 season finished in what can be accurately described as “disappointing” for the Chargers. The team started 6-1, were No. 1 and on top of multiple power rankings to start the season. Philip Rivers was getting consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player and they were being thrown around as a possible Superbowl team.
Then, injuries happened.
Danny Woodhead broke his leg. DJ Fluker played through half the year on a hurt ankle. Ryan Mathews played in six games. Keenan Allen missed the last two games with a broken collarbone. Rivers played with a back injury that limited his ability to throw and move. It goes without saying the playing five different centers makes it difficult to build cohesion on the offensive line.
As you can tell, the Chargers played beat up and with a lot of back ups and third stringers. But they finished the season 9-7, and one game shy of the playoffs.
Just how good are the Chargers when healthy?
As everyone knows, the Bolts added some playmakers this season. They upgraded many areas of their team and they are also coming off a very disappointing, yet not terrible season. The offseason has been a disaster, however, from the talks of relocating to Los Angeles, to Eric Weddle not being extended which then lead to a brief holdout and then the biggest bomb of them all, future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates being suspended for Performance Enhancing Drugs.
So why the optimism?
Well, the Chargers are good. REALLY good. Tom Telesco has altered the o-line as one of the best in the AFC, gave Rivers another weapon in Stevie Johnson, got more physical defensively with the signing of Patrick Robinson and Jimmy Wilson and made the return game something teams fear with the signing of Jacoby Jones.
Is it enough?
The schedule this season is very favorable. Early on in the year is the toughest stretch, with games in Cincinnati, Minnesota and Green Bay and games at home vs Pittsburgh and Detroit. I mention these five games because they seem to bring the toughest competition to the Bolts.
Early in the season, it is not that big of a deal to drop a game or two to a team of that caliber. Win two of those five and you’re set up perfectly for the stretch run. The notable games after the bye week (week 10): Home/away versus the Chiefs, home/away versus the Broncos and home against the Dolphins. These are very winnable games and with the depth and offensive line that Telesco has provided, the Chargers should be able to compete and win at least three of these five games mentioned.
That leaves you at 5-5 through the toughest stretches of the schedule. The remaining games are at home versus the Browns, Raiders, Bears and on the road against Raiders, Ravens and Jaguars. Five of the six just named are extremely winnable with the Baltimore game being winnable, but a difficult game, nonetheless (and Chargers have experience winning there as they did it this past season). That leaves the Chargers final record at 10-6 or 11-5 and should be enough for a wild card berth and a potential AFC West division title.
The key to the playoffs is health (also, having an elite QB in Philip Rivers doesn’t hurt either) and the Chargers have depth, but will they stay healthy? Head coach Mike McCoy has been doing a great job trying to keep everyone healthy during training camp. That won’t change during the regular season.
On paper, this is the most talented team the Chargers have had since 2009 where the Bolts went 13-3 and snatched up the second seed in their conference. The AFC doesn’t seem to have that one Superbowl favorite team that you know will dominate the conference. It is wide-open, and the way Telesco has built this roster, the Chargers very well could end the year in Santa Clara playing in Superbowl 50.
Do you think the Chargers have what it takes to reach the Super Bowl? Let me know in the comments!
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been over six months since we have had football consistently on the television every Sunday. It makes you wonder how one even managed that long without it. Well, we can all finally say that the 2015 NFL season is upon us, and boy is it long overdue.
It has been a very noisy offseason for San Diego Charger fans with stadium location chatter and player contract discussions. For Bolt fans, it’s pure entertainment considering thirty-one other fan base’s sat around twiddling their thumbs while watching lousy baseball highlights for the last few months. Speaking of baseball, sorry, Padres, Chargers football is back.
Back to football – how can you not feel the excitement? It’s the season for pumpkin spiced beer, autumn weather, and tailgate parties. I get all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it. As a fan of a west coast team, I thoroughly enjoy waking up early on Sundays to start my football prep: breakfast and adult beverage time. That being said, it’s always five o’clock somewhere.
This Sunday kicks off the 2015 preseason when the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings go head to head in the NFL’s Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. This is also the game where the great Junior Seau, former Charger and current Hall of Fame inductee, will be featured in the enshrinement ceremony. After all the hype, it turns out that Seau’s daughter, Sydney Seau, will in fact be speaking on his behalf. A big thank you to the NFL for getting their ducks in order on this one.
So, even though this weekend is a complete tease for all football fans across the nation, it’s something to remind us that we are so close to the season opener and another great year of trash talking, name calling and all around good fun.
‘Tis the season, everyone. I just hope you are ready for it!
Briana Soltis (@BrianaSoltis)
Hi, I’m Cheryl. I’ve been supporting the Bolts since 1980 when we moved here from Rhode Island. I didn’t know much about football until our neighbor invited us over to watch a game, (I believe it was Chargers vs Steelers) and I was hooked! My favorite players to date are Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eric Weddle and Melvin Ingram. The past players would be Jamal Williams and, of course LT and Junior.
My seven year old grandson is a huge Chargers fan and he makes me laugh when he calls out Rivers for a bad throw or gets excited seeing a big hit by Weddle! My son played cornerback for San Marcos and my 10 year old grandson plays both center/nose tackle for Ramona.
Favorite moment as a Chargers fan: 1994 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. San Diego wasn’t expected to go anywhere that year, but Coach Bobby Ross and the team ended up 11-5. The defense gave Pittsburgh more than it expected. The game came down to the final two minutes, Chargers up 17-13 with Steelers in their final drive. 4th and goal, Neil O’Donnell fires a pass to Barry Foster; linebacker Dennis Gibson knocks the ball away from Foster and the Bolts are headed to Super Bowl XXIX!!
My worst moment: the 2006 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. The Chargers had the best record in the NFL that year, the number one seed, at 14-2. That was the year Ladanian Tomlinson (LT) led the league in rushes and Philip Rivers was ninth in passing (and by the way, that was also the year the Patriots won 18 straight games). It was a heartbreaking loss when you consider that Rivers played with no ACL in his right knee that game, Antonio Gates had a bum toe, and LT was lost after the second quarter with a knee injury. The team just couldn’t overcome having no running game and lost 21-12.
I’m new to this blogging, however, I will do my best to provide articles that capture your attention, maybe toss in a bit of humor. Hoping they will be enjoyed and most importantly, spark some kind of conversation amongst your friends, family, the rest of the writers here, and myself. GO CHARGERS!!
Thanks for reading!