The San Diego Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals for a week of practice leading up to their game Friday. The Cardinals begin practice at Chargers Park on Tuesday after having their home turf taken over by Guns N’ Roses’ massive arena tour on Monday. On Tuesday, practice will be at Qualcomm Stadium, Wednesday at Chargers Park. Both teams will take the day off Thursday to rest before the game Friday.
The joint practice will be a nice change-of-pace for both teams. Undoubtedly, they’re all tired of hitting each other in practice. One could expect the intensity level of practice to heighten with men in different colored jerseys on the opposite sideline. This will be a big week for the players fighting to make the roster.
Living in Phoenix, I have heard plenty of juicy tidbits coming from the Cardinals’ side of the ball. The Arizona Cardinals are a Super Bowl favorite and a great way for the Chargers to test themselves against one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians expressed his respect for Chargers’ head coach Mike McCoy on local radio Monday and talked about the joint practice.
“That’s the one thing, I enjoy working with Mike McCoy because we have the same philosophy.” Arians said. “We wouldn’t practice any different. We wouldn’t hit a guy going over the middle on our team in practice; we won’t hit one of their guys going over the middle. We always stay away from the quarterback.” Arians continued.
“It’s creating competition but it’s practice, and we’ve got 180 guys on the same team for three days. Then we’ll play them in the game and all bets are off.” Arians said on the Doug and Wolf morning radio show Monday.
More interestingly, Cardinals’ General Manager Steve Keim was also on the radio Monday talking about the road trip and made no bones about the fact he was looking to wheel and deal if the opportunity presents itself.
“I reached out to Tom Telesco last night and he and I will get together before practices start and talk about both of our rosters,” Keim started. “See where our deficiencies are you know; in hopes that you can always talk about, hey, is there an area where we can help each other improve?” Keim stated.
This kind of talk goes on behind-the-scenes at every joint practice if the front office is worth their salt. There are two 90-man rosters full of guys playing their hardest to showcase their talents for their current team and whomever else may be watching. What’s curious about this case is that Keim, who does a radio segment every week in Phoenix, has made it no secret over the past two weeks that he will be actively pursuing a healthy exchange of ideas and hopefully players during this trip to San Diego.
Sounds like the Chargers have something the Cardinals want…
Let’s look at the possibilities. The Cardinals have a wealth of depth at their defensive line, wide receiver, secondary and running back positions. They are lacking on their offensive line, especially at right tackle. The Cards are currently starting D.J. Humphries. Humphries was their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Arians listed Humphries as inactive for every game last season because of his inability to grasp the playbook and laziness on the practice field. Humphries earned the unfortunate nickname “knee-deep” referring to Arians’ disposition with Humphries in 2015.
Arizona’s deficiencies at linebacker have been hidden due to the effectiveness of the secondary and defensive line. If the Cardinals plan on carrying a third quarterback, it won’t be NFL journeyman Matt Barkley or Jake Coker, an undrafted free agent signee out of Alabama. Both quarterbacks have been unimpressive in camp and in their first preseason game.
San Diego has an abundance of talent at linebacker where they currently have 15 linebackers on their roster. The Chargers also have better depth at tight end, quarterback and offensive tackle. The possibilities for a talent exchange is endless but I will give you five names to watch.
RB Andre Ellington: The Cardinals drafted Ellington in the sixth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lower leg and foot injuries have derailed what was a phenomenal start to his career. Ellington is finally back to full strength from his injuries but with Chris Johnson (who led the NFL in rushing yards before he went down to injury in 2015), the emergence of David Johnson, Stepfan Taylor (considered the best pass protector of the group) and Kerwynn Williams on board, Ellington may be the odd man out. Ellington would be a great insurance policy for Melvin Gordon and he is an electrifying return man as well. Just how fast is Ellington? He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in 4.51-seconds with a pulled hamstring!
QB Mike Bercovici and G Vi Teofilo: Both of these men played their college ball right down the I-10 at Arizona State University. Bercovici has been the most impressive of the quarterbacks the Chargers have brought in during the offseason. Kellen Clemens and Zach Mettenberger are likely to be second and third on the quarterback depth chart unless Telesco sees enough promise in Bercovici to make one of the two expendable. Teofilo is a 6″3′-inch, 315-pound guard who fills a need for depth at that position.
CB Justin Bethel: In a very crowded Cardinals’ secondary room, Bethel has sat on the sidelines with a foot injury and watched as his job is threatened by rookie third-round pick Brandon Williams. Williams has wowed the coaching staff with one head-turning practice after another and is making the most of his quick ascension to the first team.
Bethel was a key piece of the Cardinals’ 2015 secondary as the number two cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. With Peterson locking down his side of the field, lots of balls came Bethels’ way and he was up to the task with 46 combined tackles, nine passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Bethel was signed to a three-year, $15-million dollar contract extension in the offseason and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year in 2015 as a special-teamer. Arians has a reputation for his disdain for players in the trainers’ room. Bethel could be moved if the price is right.
ILB Manti Te’o: Manti isn’t on the bubble but this is a contract year for him. Many stories are afloat about Te’o finally coming into his own as a leader. Foot injuries limited his effectiveness in his first two seasons but he finally showed what he is capable of in 2015 as he led the Chargers in tackles with 107 combined tackles. Te’o had a strong finish to his 2015 season, especially after Denzel Perryman was promoted to starter midway through the season. The two had an unspoken chemistry and played well off each other.
Why would the Chargers let him go now?
Te’o leaves you wanting more and not necessarily in a good way. Every missed tackle, every time a receiver catches a ball right in front of him, every time he’s left behind by a running back we shake our heads in frustration. To his credit, 2015 was hands down the best we’ve seen of him. However, there is a reason Telesco hasn’t offered him an extension when he has been diligently signing the Chargers’ core players to multi-year deals.
A Te’o-for-Bethel deal works for both sides.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Well, this is certainly a difficult challenge!
Try naming just five of YOUR favorite men to suit up in lightning bolts! Can you do it?!
Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes one say “Yeah, I like him!” Does it matter if it is an “old school” guy where they played more smashmouth football? Or one from the “new” era where it seems like statistics seem to be the norm?
Either way, we all have our favorites for whatever reason. Maybe it’s how they seemingly just fly down the field as if on wings. Perhaps it’s how that one guy is just ALWAYS busting through the offensive line. Could it be the brashness or confidence that reaches us? You all know what you appreciate about the players you can’t wait to see take the field.
Here’s my list of my top five “old school” Chargers, though there were many choices!
Punter for the Chargers from 1994 to 2003, Bennett was formerly an Australian Rules football player. One always knew two things about him: he had the BIGGEST kicking leg and he did not shy away from hitting an opponent if need be. You just knew that Bennett was going to give his team the best field position possible! It was something to see when that ball left his foot and caught air!
Lionel “Little Train” James:
Gosh, this guy was special! He was only in the league for five short years, but he left his mark! Small in stature at 5’6″ and 171 pounds, James was THE smallest running back when he came into the NFL in 1984. His best season was in 1985 when he established three records for a running back.
James led the AFC with 86 receptions and set the bar at 2,583 all-purpose yards including 1,027 receiving yards. I remember watching him squirt through holes and run along the sideline. He had so much power in those legs and he was quick; defenders had difficulty stopping him. Sadly, his stellar career ended due to a degenerative hip injury.
Ha, gotcha on this one! Who could forget the Tongan TE who literally was responsible for scoring the go-ahead touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers to get the Bolts into the 1994 playoffs?! Yes, I know that Dennis Gibson broke up a Neil O’Donnell pass with mere seconds on the clock.
Pupunu had two stints in San Diego (1992-97, 1999). One of the other reasons I and other fans liked him was because of his touchdown celebration: he would pretend that he was opening a coconut and then hoisted it skyward as if drinking from it. I’d venture to say that some folks might have thought he was opening and drinking a beer!
Undoubtedly, the BEST nose tackle to ever suit up for the Blue and Gold. “Ja-mal” was a big, hulking man at 6’3′ and 348 pounds. He was a tackling machine and one of my favorite guys to watch on defense not named Junior Seau. Eleven seasons in San Diego saw the huge but quick man wreak havoc against opposing offenses by collecting 240 tackles, defend 18 passes, force three fumbles plus a lone touchdown and interception apiece.
He was not only an outstanding defensive lineman for the Chargers, he was also considered one of the most elite nose tackles in the NFL in his day. I would always get a kick out of watching that huge body shove it’s way into the middle. Jamal meant business!
As a defensive end, O’Neal was another adept tackler for the Bolts. Voted Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986 he racked up 12.5 sacks prior to losing almost two years due to a knee injury. It was week seven of the ’88 season before he took the field again. His stats weren’t great that year (four sacks/28 tackles) but he was on his way. His performance that season made it possible for him to make his first Pro Bowl appearance.
By the time his career in San Diego was completed, per Pro Football Reference his numbers were: six Pro Bowl selections, 572 tackles, 105.5 sacks which made him the team leader in that category; forced 18 fumbles while recovering nine, two interceptions and a touchdown. O’ Neal is currently tied with Lawrence Taylor at 13th all-time as they both have 132.5 sacks in their careers. Yet another great defenseman for the Chargers.
Gill Byrd – Safety 1983-1992; played every position in the secondary (LCB/SS/FS/RCB), 42 INTs (4x in Top 10)
Stan Humphries – Quarterback 1992-1997; only QB to lead team to Super Bowl (’94), he also guided them to 10 fourth quarter comebacks to go with 12 game-winning drives. He retired as a result of sustaining four concussions in 22 months.
Charlie Joiner – Wide Receiver 1976-1986; aged 39 when he hung up his cleats, Joiner was one of Fouts’ favorite targets to the tune of 586 receptions, 9,203 yards and 47 TDs.
Kellen Winslow – Tight End 1979-1987; in addition to his memorable “Epic in Miami” performance, Winslow was a five-time Pro Bowler. He also placed in the Top 10 in these categories: receptions (4x), receiver (3x), and receiving TDs (4x). He had some gaudy numbers for a guy who only played in 109 games: 6,741 yards on 541 catches with 45 of those being TDs. After just eight years in the NFL, he, too, was forced to retire due to injury.
Keep an eye out for a list of my current players!
Thank you for reading!
Special teams captain. Pro Bowler. Safety. Motivator.
Those are just a few of the terms that one could use to describe the San Diego Chargers jack-of-all-trades Darrell Stuckey.
Stuckey was a nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award last year. The honor was a direct result of his volunteerism not only in San Diego but also in his hometown of Kansas City. In Kansas City he conducts football camps, community projects and works with a non-profit organization called “Not For Sale”. The mission of Not For Sale is to protect people and communities from human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
The 5-foot-11 1/2, 212-pounder has been with San Diego since he was drafted in the fourth round (#110) of the 2010 draft. The former University of Kansas Jayhawk logged 295 career tackles, second-most all time behind Leroy Irvin (the former Rams/Lions defensive back). He also had eight interceptions and eleven tackles for loss in his four-year career there.
At the NFL Combine he clocked the 40-yard dash at 4.49 seconds. He also made a 39.5-inch vertical jump. His height may have been a bit of a concern, but the guy is a ball hawk.
In 73 games, Stuckey has 41 tackles to his name. Besides that, there are five defended passes, two forced fumbles and a sack. He also has five fumble recoveries, of which the best-known came on December 7, 2014 when New England’s wideout Brandon LaFell was hit by Jahleel Addae. Stuckey scooped up the ball and took it 60 yards to the house. It was the longest fumble recovery in Bolts history.
It’s no wonder that his play in the 2014 campaign resulted in his being voted to his first Pro Bowl appearance. His selection was initially as first alternate, however, he ended up joining then teammate Eric Weddle in Hawaii when Patriots player Matthew Slater had to bow out because New England was headed to the Super Bowl.
Those are all wonderful things to be able to be known for long after his football career is over. What seems to give Stuckey the most satisfaction in life is what he does off the field of play.
Being one of the most active Chargers players in the San Diego community is just a small part of who Darrell Stuckey is. He is a participant in the team’s annual “Community Corner” program, which purchases game tickets for charity. Additionally, he is involved with “Athletes for Charity”, a non-profit organization that is dedicated towards improving the lives of disadvantaged and underprivileged youth. In his hometown of Kansas City, he also dedicates his time to the Youth City Network and the KC United Dotte Football Camp.
Let me add just one more charity: Living4One. This organization was founded by Darrell and his wife, Lacie, in 2012. One of the reasons they created it is to assist individuals in recognizing that we each have a purpose in life and it is not solely our day-to-day existence.
To quote Stuckey from the Living4One webpage, their purpose is this: “We must discover our gifts and talents, perfect them, and incorporate them into the master plan. We all have a purpose to fulfill. Our purpose influences the people we are around in our workplace, team, family and community. We must use our gifts to better the world we live in. There is no greater joy than a purpose fulfilled.”
Stuckey is quite obviously a man who leads by example, whether on the field or in the community. His unpretentiousness and willingness to provide support for others in some of life’s most unfair and desperate times is refreshing.
Darrell Stuckey would certainly have my vote if fans could somehow publicly recognize his efforts once his playing days are over.
Take a bow, sir. You are a bright light in a sometimes unfair and discouraging world and I thank you for your selflessness.
Thanks for reading.
News broke Tuesday that San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon had microfracture surgery on his left knee in January. The doomsayers have already come out of the woodwork, predicting Gordon’s career is already over after only one season. This type of surgery has a 4-6 month recovery timetable, which would put Gordon back to full strength by the time June training camps begin.
In microfracture knee surgery, small ‘micro’ holes are drilled into the damaged area of the knee. The damaged area bleeds out and once it reheals, it (hopefully) fully repairs the damaged area of the knee. Factors working in Gordon’s favor are his age and his health. At a young 23 years old, Gordon is much more likely to make a full recovery than an athlete who is much older.
Examples of successful returns from microfracture surgery are well documented.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had microfracture surgery that claimed all but one game of his rookie season in 2013. Kelce was 23 at the time of his surgery. In the two seasons since, he hasn’t missed a game. He’s averaged 70 catches, 868 yards and five touchdowns. Each year he has finished as the sixth-leading tight end in the NFL. Last season Kelce was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
The most notable player in the NBA to undergo microfracture surgery was Amar’e Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns. Stoudemire, 22 years old at the time, had the procedure in 2005 during their infamous fast-breaking offense they dubbed “7 seconds or less.” From 2004 to 2008, the Suns led the league in scoring and would beat their opponents with speed, conditioning and raw athleticism. After Stoudemire recovered from his microfracture surgery, he led the Suns in scoring for two more seasons. In addition, Stoudemire made the All-Star team five times, All-NBA second-team three times and All-NBA first-team once after microfracture.
Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadaveon Clowney had microfracture surgery after being taken with the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. The jury is out on whether he will achieve the greatness he showed in college. He did start nine of the 13 games he played last season.
Microfracture surgery goes back farther than you think. Dan Marino and Rod Woodson both underwent microfracture surgery early in their careers. If you don’t know how they turned out, you can ask their bronze busts in Canton, Ohio.
The moral of the story: pump the brakes, San Diego.
The fact that Melvin Gordon had microfracture surgery is not a death sentence on his young, still promising career. Forget what you saw last season. The Chargers had 25 different offensive line combinations last season. Any running back in the NFL would have had a bad year trying to run behind that line.
The fact that Gordon underwent the surgery in January is to his advantage. With the upgrades the Bolts have made along the offensive line, the addition of Ken Whisenhunt as Offensive Coordinator and drafting of Gordon’s college fullback, Derek Watt, all signs point to a breakout season.
The best days of Flash are yet to come.
The Greg One
While watching the Monday Night Football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Chicago Bears I saw something even more disturbing than the final outcome. Don’t get me wrong, the final outcome is terrible disheartening. The Chargers don’t play like a 2-7 team but they are. It’s a cold glass of arctic water splashed across your face. The team in America’s Finest City is not headed for the playoffs. They are speeding towards a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft.
During the broadcast, I saw a graphic for the Top-Five vote-getters for the Pro Bowl. In order they were Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Devontee Freeman and Rob Gronkowski. Hmmm. The rest of the Top Ten consists of Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Fitzgerald. Do you see what I see? Rather, do you see what I DON’T see?
The top-rated quarterback in the NFL, our very own Philip Rivers, is nowhere to be found on this list.
Rivers leads the league in passing attempts, completions and yardage. He is third in passing yards per game and only two quarterbacks have thrown more than Rivers’ 19 touchdowns. Through nine games, he’s the only quarterback with over 3,000 yards passing. This is all without the benefit of a running game and effective offensive line. Only six quarterbacks have been sacked more than Rivers (21 times).
There is no quarterback more deserving of a trip to the Pro Bowl than Philip Rivers.
The rest of the NFL fanbase is not the cause of my frustration. My frustration lies with the so-called Bolt NATION. Does our nation not exceed 100 thousand members? If so, each of us could vote once and get him in the game. As it stands, we don’t even need to number in the six figures. You can vote for the Pro Bowl participants as many times as you like!
Yes, the Chargers are having an awful season. Yes, we’re all upset because most of us figured the Chargers were set for a double-digit win season and playoff run. There is a lot of blame to go around but one place you can’t lay it is at the feet of Philip Rivers. His effort and desire shows week in and week out. He is the one constant we can count on while seemingly every other player on the team drops like flies around him.
This man deserves our support, and our vote.
The Pro Bowl is an individual award, not an MVP award. Philip Rivers is the MVP of the Chargers and our MVP. Let’s treat him like it and take ten minutes out of your day to go to www.nfl.com/probowl and cast your vote! Do we really want our quarterback to be the first one to lead the league in passing and not make it to the Pro Bowl?!
Let’s not be the fair-weather fans the rest of the league thinks we are and get this done! This is what we signed up for when we took up the Bolts as our favorite team. If we are indeed a NATION, log in and prove it! Vote on your PCs, vote on your phone, just vote! Make our motto…
Thick or thin, Philip Rivers gets in! Let’s GO!!
The Greg One
Uncharacteristically, high-profile San Diego Chargers have been making headlines during this offseason. It started in the front office with the ongoing stadium issue, Antonio Gates asking for reduced playing time and rolled into the Philip Rivers-for-Marcus Mariota trade chatter that consumed national and social media in the weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft. Since the draft, defensive captain Eric Weddle has proclaimed he will not show up for offseason training activities until he is signed to a new contract.
Weddle is the undisputed leader of the defense and one of the best if not the top safety in the league. Safety play is going to be critical if the Chargers are going to make the postseason. Let’s take a look at who the Chargers currently have on the roster at the safety position.
Eric Weddle: One of the few safeties wearing the helmet mic to receive the defensive calls from the sideline, Weddle is the conductor of the Chargers defense. Now entering his ninth season in lightning bolts, Weddle hasn’t missed a game in five seasons and has only missed four games in his career. Unlike other seasoned vets, Weddle has gotten better with age. The 30-year old has compiled 97, 115 and 114 combined tackles in the last three seasons. Weddle has been elected to the Pro Bowl four times, three in the last four seasons. Once Weddle signs his new deal, he and his beard will be permanently inked into his starting safety spot for the rest of his Chargers days. It will happen.
Jahleel Addae: Another Chargers undrafted free agent success story, Addae is entering is third season with San Diego. After contributing significantly on special teams he was thrown into the mix on defense halfway through the 2013 season and continued his stellar play. Last season, Addae started at safety alongside Weddle in five games and played eleven games. He compiled 48 tackles (35 solo), one sack, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Although he missed five games, two to hamstring and three to concussion, he showed an aptitude for the position. Addae has great safety instincts and he can be expected to start significantly more games at safety this season as long as he can stay healthy.
Darrell Stuckey: Heading into his sixth season, Stuckey has established himself as the Bolts’ special teams captain. He has continually improved his production each season to the point where he was named special teams Player of the Year and was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. Stuckey was also given extended playing time on defense at safety and proved his coaches right in doing so. The Chargers have an excellent three-man core at safety with Weddle, Addae and Stuckey consistently making plays.
Jimmy Wilson: An offseason free agency pickup by the Chargers, Wilson signed a two-year deal with the Bolts in March. A native San Diegan, Wilson was a seventh-round draft pick by Miami in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is expected to challenge Addae for the starting strong safety and nickel corner positions. Durable and versatile, Wilson has only missed four games in his four-year career and has compiled 153 tackles (133 solo), 16 passes defensed, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and two sacks. Last season was the first time he started more than four games when he started in 13 of the Dolphins 14 games. As a result he had his best statistical year with 58 tackles, two passes defensed and one interception. Wilson provides another playmaker into the Chargers rebuilt secondary and will be exciting to follow as camp progresses.
Adrian Phillips: The undrafted free agent out of Texas spent last season on the Chargers practice squad. Phillips was team captain for the 2013 Longhorns and had 206 career tackles from the safety position. He did see action in the Miami Dolphins game, where he recorded one tackle.
UDFA’s Johnny Lowdermilk and Gordon Hill: If the name Lowdermilk sounds familiar, it’s because his father Kirk Lowdermilk had a 12-year career in the NFL with Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts as an offensive lineman. Iowa’s Lowdermilk is lauded for his physical play, nose for the football and coverage ability but lack of speed is a concern. Last season he totaled 103 tackles (58 solo), three tackles for loss, three interceptions, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He’s worth a look just from a hustle and bloodline standpoint.
Hill entered the NFL after leaving Sacred Heart after his junior season. An All-NEC (Northeast Conference) first team selection, he collected 85 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and two interceptions last season. It will be a long way up to make the main roster but he will get his opportunity to shine in camp.
The Chargers have one of the better collections of safeties in the NFL. Weddle deserves to be the highest paid safety in the league and likely will be soon. Addae and Stuckey fly to the football and are finally coming into their own with regular playing time on defense. There is definitely room for a fourth man in the rotation. Whether it comes from this lot or from an unexpected name arising when roster cuts are made remains to be seen.
The Greg One
The tedious summer is gone. Fall is here and with it we have made it through the offseason hullabaloo. The NFL Draft, free agency, training camp, OTA’s and most importantly, preseason games and final cuts are OVER! It is time for some live action, these games count FOOTBALL!!
I did get to watch all four of the Chargers preseason games and was mostly impressed with what I saw. GM Tom Telesco has shown a deft touch at finding talent that can make an impact. Donald Brown is going to be a great insurance policy for Ryan Mathews. The few games he had in Indianapolis as the feature back showed he has the ability to carry the load of a number one running back. Brown is a great depth add. He will make his mark before the season is over.
Speaking of Mathews, he had a great 2013 season. For the first time in his pro career he played in all sixteen games. Considering it was his third season before he accomplished the feat doesn’t sway me. Those who have read my columns for any length of time know I am not a fan of 24, but I do applaud his effort last season. Mathews’ hard running spearheaded the Chargers second half surge into the playoffs. This is his contract year and a subpar showing will have him looking for employment elsewhere. For the Chargers sake, I hope he can repeat his success from last season. My dream scenario is Mathews mirrors last season’s production, the Chargers win the Super Bowl in the process and Mathews leaves willingly as he overvalues himself and goes to the highest bidder in the offseason.
I am encouraged by the wide receiver group for the first time in a long time. It’s great to see Malcom Floyd back on the field and looking good in the preseason games. Keenan Allen spent the offseason working on his speed. He looked plenty fast last season but he was working his way back from a knee injury that dropped his draft stock into the third round where the Chargers scooped him up as the steal of the draft. If he’s actually increased his speed running on a now fully healed knee, the Chargers will feature two legitimate vertical threats and a quarterback that is one of the top deep ball passers in the league.
Speaking of deep threats, Dontrelle Inman has been very impressive in the preseason and has gotten raves in camp. Inman has been sure handed, looks good running routes and has also shown the ability to get down the field in a hurry. I’m excited to see Inman on the field with Rivers putting the ball on him in stride. Add Eddie Royal and a stable of fast, uber-athletic tight ends and the field will be littered with great targets for Rivers. There is enough speed on the offense to make Chip Kelly jealous. No one is talking about the Chargers.
I also like the defensive back depth. They are unproven commodities but last year’s fifth round draft pick Steve Williams will be making plays on the field. Williams may have missed his entire rookie year but he now knows the defense and all there is left to do is apply what he knows to the field in real game action. First rounder Jason Verrett will see plenty of playing time. Brandon Flowers was in the Pro Bowl last season, and that was coming off what was statistically his worst season of his NFL career! There are a lot of plays and game impact that can’t be quantified by numbers.
Add to the mix the incumbents Wright, Gilchrist and Marshall (although he’s being converted to safety) and the Chargers now have something they’ve lacked for a long time, a playmaking secondary. My biggest gripe about the defense is they don’t get interceptions. There are quite a few dropped interceptions but the Chargers defensive backs have seemed allergic to interceptions. Usually there’s a defensive lineman who has as many interceptions as anyone in the secondary. Last season the Chargers had a paltry 11 interceptions. Defensive backs had five led by Gilchrist with 2, while defensive linemen had 4. Two picks came from Weddle at the safety position.
My other concern is run defense. Not to put too much stock in the preseason but the Seahawks ran all over the Chargers first team. Conversely, the 49ers couldn’t run against the Chargers defense at all. The best backdrop to use is recent history. Last season San Diego allowed 107 yards per game on the ground. Blame injuries and instability at nose tackle but it needs to be fixed if the Chargers are going to make the playoffs. This season they face great running backs like Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore, Zac Stacy, CJ Spiller and Ray Rice (lest we forget 4th and 29). Stopping these running backs are key to making the playoffs.
As I wrote in a recent column, no one is more excited to see Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich hand Philip Rivers a shiny new toy called the no-huddle offense. This is the same system Peyton Manning used in Indianapolis during the height of his powers. This offense also has aspects of the K-Gun offense run by the Buffalo Bills during their run of four straight Super Bowls in the early 90’s. Reich was Manning’s quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis during his run and Reich was Jim Kelly’s backup quarterback in Buffalo. Now Rivers gets to run an updated version of the same offense.
There are few quarterbacks in the league as cerebral as Rivers. There’s not a page of the playbook he doesn’t know upside down and inside out. There’s not a defense he hasn’t seen, no situation he hasn’t been in. With the defense unable to substitute regularly inbetween plays Rivers will have time to find the weak link in the defense and exploit it. To boot, he has the offensive personnel needed to make it successful. This could be the last wrinkle to the Chargers becoming a Super Bowl winning team in the near future. This team is going to take the league by surprise and by the time they show up on everyone’s radar, it will already be too late.
The Greg One
A few weeks ago newly appointed Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich announced a more attacking offensive philosophy. Big deal. All offensive coordinators say that. What he said next IS a big deal, and it has been a statement which seems to have been ignored by the rest of the league. The Chargers are going to run a no-huddle offense similar to the one Peyton Manning ran in Indianapolis during his rise to quarterbacking Godhood.
THIS. IS. HUGE.
We already know Rivers is a top-ten quarterback in the NFL, his laundry list of accolades and NFL records prove that point. What this means is Rivers will have on-the-field playcalling control. The Chargers thrived in a short pass, timing, ball-control offense that put the Chargers fifth in the league in yards per game (393) and first in time of possession (33:35). San Diego will be leaving the conventional style offense for one that is more explosive.
Who better to install this offense than Frank Reich? No one. Reich was Manning’s quarterback coach in Indianapolis. He knows the intricacies of that offense. During Peyton’s time in Indianapolis, he only missed the playoffs twice, in 1998 and 2001. The Colts averaged 11 wins a season and were at or near the top of the league in total offense annually. Reich was an assistant coach on the Colts from 2008-11. While Frank was Manning’s quarterback coach, horseface won the league MVP award in back-to-back years, 2008 and 2009. The Colts also landed in the Super Bowl in 2009, although they would lose to former Charger signal caller Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
During his playing days, Reich served as the backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills. He played in the famed K-Gun offense that would send the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. Although his starts were sporadic, when he came in the game he proved to be very capable. There’s no better evidence of this point than the 35-point second half comeback he engineered against the Houston Oilers in the 1993 playoffs. That win was key in getting the Bills to Super Bowl XXVII. That comeback is still the largest comeback in NFL history to this day.
Frank Reich knows offense. Giving the keys to these prolific offenses in a no-huddle format to Rivers will produce similar results. Manning was able to use the quick tempo to exploit matchups and take advantage of a defense that tired chasing fleet-of-foot backs and receivers for four quarters. Kelly and Manning were able to manipulate the defense by adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage without the defense being able to substitute.
Why doesn’t every team do this? Honestly, every team can’t. Only the most cerebral of quarterbacks have the ability and the personnel to be able to orchestrate such an offense. These quarterbacks have to know every single page of the playbook backwards and forwards. They have to be mentally quick enough to see and react to the defensive formations multiple times pre-snap and adjust to an advantageous play. They have to be able to process the accelerated pace for an entire game for an entire season.
We all know Philip Rivers has those qualities. With the added freedom of making his own calls, he will be even better than we’ve already seen. I have observed quite a few games last season where Rivers spotted the weak link on the defense and exploited it over and over.
In the preseason game against Arizona, he found a cornerback matchup he liked, and kept attacking that player until the Cardinals took him out of the game. Against the Chiefs, he exploited safety Eric Berry trying to cover Antonio Gates one-on-one and kept hitting Gates for completions until the Chiefs decided to take Berry off of Gates and double cover him for the rest of the game. In the playoffs against Denver, once Bronco cornerback Chris Harris was injured, Quentin Jammer took over the duty of covering Keenan Allen. Rivers attacked Bailey him away and Allen had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after being nearly invisible for the first three quarters.
It doesn’t matter if they’re Pro Bowl players like Bailey and Berry, or a rookie corner, once Rivers sees a weakness he will attack it until the other team adjusts. With the defense being unable to substitute without sacrificing timeouts, Philip will find more flaws in the defense and the offense will look like the juggernaut we saw on the ’90’s era Bills and 2000-10 era Colts teams that dominated the AFC. Both teams were annual playoff entrants and made multiple Super Bowls. That makes me, and it should make all the Charger faithful, extremely happy.
This offense will be great for Rivers and the Chargers, and terrible for the rest of the league. Fans should not be bothered by the loss of former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to the Tennessee Titans. Rivers has been on record, via multiple media outlets, stating that he loves the fact that Reich is a former NFL quarterback and he brings an insight to the gameplan that only a former QB can. It appears as though the offense is moving full speed ahead and will continue to run a fast-paced playbook that will constantly keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Look out for the 2014 San Diego Chargers. Don’t be surprised if they play in Glendale twice this year. Is it our year? Leave me your thoughts below.
The Greg One
On Tuesday, June 24, the Chargers announced the signing of free agent cornerback Brandon Flowers. He was released by division rival Kansas City in a salary cap move. Releasing Flowers saved the Chiefs over seven million in cap space and put a need position player in play for all who were interested.
According to reports, ten teams were interested in Flowers including the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings and Falcons. Flowers made two trips, a two-day stay in San Diego and a visit to San Francisco. During his visit, Flowers cancelled his visit to Minnesota.
However, Flowers visit came and went in San Diego without a deal being reached. In the end, Brandon signed a one-year, five million dollar deal (3 million guaranteed, with a chance for two million more in incentives) to play with the Chargers. I love this signing for a number of reasons.
1. The Chargers did not break the bank to sign him. Talk around the league was Flowers was asking too much and that’s why other teams backed away. The Chargers didn’t have much bank to break with under three million in cap space at the beginning of the day yesterday leading most to believe adding Flowers would be next to impossible. The Bolts did release safety Brandon Taylor last week and a couple more will likely see their tenure in lightning bolts end but wunderkind General Manager Tom Telesco found a way to make the numbers work.
2. The Chargers add a Pro Bowl player at a position of need. All Chargers fans know the secondary has been a weak spot on the defense for years. The numbers bear it out, the Chargers were 29th in pass defense last season and for near the bottom for many seasons prior. Brandon Flowers played on Team Rice in last season’s fantasy style Pro Bowl after a season in Kansas City where he logged 68 tackles, 8 passes defensed one sack and one interception during the regular season. In the Chiefs lone playoff game he had two passes defensed and an interception. Flowers was a six-year starter for the Chiefs and has been a top-10 cornerback in the league from 2007-2012. Metrics-wise, last season was a down year for him and he still made the Pro Bowl.
3. The Chargers will have money to spend next offseason. With the last of the bad contracts coming off the books this season, the Chargers will have over 30 million in cap space to sign players. This places the onus on players on one year deals like Flowers or who are in the last year of their deals such as Mathews, Freeney and Woodhead to perform knowing if they show up and play great ball all season, they will be rewarded with long-term deals next offseason. Telesco has the season to evaluate their performances and make the best decisions personnel-wise. With that in mind, barring injury, we should see Flowers at his Pro Bowl caliber self this season and in a Chargers uniform for years to come.
4. Depth. The Chargers have eleven cornerbacks on their 90 man roster. Right now, right cornerback is returning fifth round draft pick Steve Williams, Richard Marshall, Marcus Gilchrist, Brandon Jones and Brandon Ghee. At left cornerback the incumbents are Shareece Wright, Marcus Cromartie and first round draft pick Jason Verrett. Verrett is rehabbing from a shoulder injury and may miss some of training camp.
Flowers skill set fits the Chargers scheme like a glove. He’ll have to earn his spot in the starting rotation but his presence allows the Chargers to bring along Verrett at their own pace. Flowers will undoubtedly be in the starting lineup on day one of the regular season in my opinion. Add to the mix promising UDFA’s who are turning heads in camp such as ASU’s Alden Darby and Auburn’s Chris Davis and the Chargers finally have a surplus of cornerback talent instead of a deficit at the position.
5. Motivation. Aside from the potential long-term monetary gain next year, Flowers gets to stay in the AFC West and gain revenge on the team that dumped him, Kansas City. The Chargers have always had trouble with Chiefs number one wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and Flowers knows better than anyone how to cover him. He’s familiar with all the AFC West talent as the best cornerback on the Chiefs roster for six years, he’s usually charged with covering the other team’s best receiver. Add to the fact he gets a million dollar bonus if the team makes the AFC Championship game and Flowers has plenty of reason to be at his best this season.
Taking a strength from a division rival can’t be understated. The Chargers swept the Chiefs last season and taking their best cornerback widens the gap in talent between the two teams. At 28 years old, Flowers has plenty left to give and to teach to the young corners on the roster the Chargers will rely on in the future such as Verrett, Williams, Gilchrist and Wright. Flowers isn’t a veteran living off former glory. He played on the winning team in the Pro Bowl last season. The Chargers haven’t had a Pro Bowl cornerback since Antonio Cromartie in 2008. Flowers wasn’t pulled off the MASH unit of another team, he’s uninjured and ready to play. Flowers and is a plug and play addition to the roster and the secondary just improved greatly with him on the roster.
Are you excited to see Flowers in lightning bolts?
The Greg One
For the first time in four years, the football gods smiled down on the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers entered Sunday as a long shot to snag the sixth seed in the playoffs. They Chargers need a win and a lot of help from other teams. The Ravens needed to lose at Cincinnati and the Jets had to win in Miami to open the door for the Chargers to get into the playoffs with a win over visiting Kansas City.
Things did not start well. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton threw an interception on the first play and it led to three Ravens points. On the Bengals second possession Dalton threw another interception, which led to another Ravens field goal. On the Bengals third possession, Dalton threw a perfect deep ball to AJ Green to put the Bengals ahead 7-6. From there the Bengals never looked back, leaving the punchless Ravens scratching their heads and out of the playoffs after paying quarterback Joe Flacco mega millions to make sure that exact thing does not happen.
In Miami, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill began the game by leading a touchdown drive. From there, the Jets defense took over, intercepting Tannehill three times and pressuring him many more. Dolphins receivers dropped balls, Tannehill overthrew wide open targets and only completed 20 of his 40 attempts. The Jets won easily. Both games were played in the early time slot so the Chargers knew their fate before they took the field. The right teams lost. The door was open.
All they had to do was beat Kansas City.
In another example of Chargers kismet, Chiefs coach Andy Reid decided to rest his starters. No Jamaal Charles, the man who is second in the league in rushing. No Alex Smith. No Dwayne Bowe, out with a concussion. No Tamba Hali. The Chargers were essentially facing the Chiefs second and third teams. Easy breezy right?
Kansas City took the first drive straight down the field and running back Knile Davis ran 17 yards up the middle almost untouched for the first score of the game. The Chargers answered with a touchdown of their own. Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel threw a touchdown. Rivers answered with a second touchdown of his own. At any time the Chargers defense would start rag dolling these second teamers and cruise into the playoffs. Any time now…
Knile Davis rushed for his second touchdown just before the half and the Chargers found themselves behind 21-14 at halftime in a game that should have been cake. They entered the tunnel to a chorus of boos from the home crowd. They all knew the Chiefs were playing backups and found it embarrassing the Chargers were having such a difficult time dispatching them.
The home crowd neglected to acknowledge three things. It’s still a huge rivalry game against a division opponent. Any game against a division rival is going to be more hard fought than a game against an out of conference opponent. Secondly, they may be backups but they could have an advantage because they’re fresher. They haven’t been taking the week in week out beating the starters are. This was their chance to shine and prove themselves worthy of keeping their jobs as the inevitable roster turnover begins after the Super Bowl. Thirdly, these are the Chargers. We love them to death but they don’t give us easy games. Unless they’re playing Jacksonville or against Eli Manning that is. If you’re a Chargers fan, heart palpitations and anxiety attacks are listed in the program. This game was no exception.
The Chiefs kicked a field goal to go up 24-14 after three quarters. As things looked darkest as minutes ticked away in the fourth quarter, the defense stiffened and the offense scored. Rivers hit Royal for a touchdown. Ryan Mathews picked up chunks of yardage. The defense registered two sacks, they started getting tackles for loss by sniffing out screen passes. Novak hit a field goal with with 3:21 to go to tie the game. The Chargers scored 10 unanswered in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs took the ball and drove down the field. The defense, for all their effort, couldn’t get Daniel off the field. Daniel completed passes of 14, 11 and 24 yards to three different receivers, crossing into San Diego territory and more importantly, field goal territory.
The Chiefs rushed the ball for small amounts of yardage, milking the clock under ten seconds. The Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop ran onto the field. The stadium sat in stunned silence. The Chargers have suffered this kind of fate over and over the last four years, losing in excruciating fashion. The snap was clean, the hold was clean. Succop boomed the ball toward the goalposts.
The football gods smiled.
The kick sailed wide right. The Chargers special teams ran off the field in jubilation. Overtime.
The Chargers won the overtime coin flip and took the ball. After failing to complete on third and two, the Chargers lined up to punt. Then the gutsiest call of the day was made. Direct snap to Weddle. Weddle took the ball and followed the surging offensive line up the middle for the first down, shocking everyone in attendance and the Chiefs themselves. From the Chargers own 28-yard line, it was the last thing you’d expect. Brilliant. Offensive Coordinator Whisenhunt called his best clock killing drive of the season. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead combined for 9 of the 15 plays the Chargers ran. Mathews picked up big yards on the ground, Woodhead caught passes. Nine and a half minutes later, Novak nailed a 36-yarder to put the Chargers ahead for the first time in the game 27-24.
The Chiefs took the ball. McCluster had a big pass play over the middle for 28 yards but the Chargers defense finally held, and forced the Chiefs into a fourth down incompletion for the win. It was a grueling contest which should have been anything but if you ask anyone, including the wiseguys in Vegas who had the Chargers as 10 point favorites. The Chargers have made the playoffs.
I repeat. The Chargers have made the playoffs!
The football gods finally smiled upon the Chargers and apparently blinded the referees. Due to a new rule in the NFL pertaining to special teams on kicks, a team is prohibited from lining more than six players on any one side of the ball. The Chargers had lined seven men to the left side of the line. A flag should have been thrown and Succop given a rekick. The referees missed it. The Chargers win.
This is the kind of win that lays a new culture of winning. The new regime drafted expertly, signed the right free agents and put a team on the field that could compete with the best teams in the league. The competed and they won against some of the best teams in the league. Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle were both elected to the Pro Bowl. New GM Tom Telesco’s brilliant third round pick Keenan Allen should be the easy choice for offensive rookie of the year.
The new system brought over by new coach Mike McCoy and implemented by new Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has worked fabulously for the most part. Ryan Mathews completed his first 16 game season and posted a career high in yards. There is a lot to look forward to with Telesco in the war room and McCoy calling the shots.
Getting into the playoffs in the first year of the new regime is the best thing that could have happened. In doing so, they created separation from the Norv/AJ years, the last three in particular. We will now see the two regimes separately more so now than we did at the beginning of the season. The foundation is laid. All the Chargers have to do is win.
There will be playoff football for San Diego now, and for years to come.
The Greg One