Since late last week, the social media buzz has been ringing nonstop. Trades, re-signings, and various pick-ups have stunned the NFL and have given fans an entertaining start to free agency 2015. For Charger fans, the frenzy started when left tackle King Dunlap was re-signed. Since then, multiple players have also resigned and or joined the Bolts.
Entering the 2015 season, it was made very clear that the Tome Telesco had the most cap space available since taking over as general manager. The adjusted salary cap for this year is $142.98 million, leaving roughly $30 million of the cap unused.
So far, Telesco has locked up a total of 6 players: King Dunlap, Brandon Flowers, Orlando Franklin, Jacoby Jones, Trevor Robinson, and Ricardo Mathews. Knowing now who has already been secured, there seems to be a burning question as to how much cap space is left after recent contracts.
King Dunlap’s signing brought the cap space down to about $25 million. Brandon Flowers signed a 4-year, $36 million deal bringing the cap space now to a little more than $20 million. Now, Orlando Franklin was the heavy hitter signed from the Denver Broncos to a 5-year, $36 million dollar contract which brings the cap to roughly $16 million. Let’s not forget Jacoby Jones who signed a 2-year, $5.5 million dollar incentive which makes the cap space in the ball park of $14-15 million. That’s four impact players all locked up for 2015, with funds still available.
The last two players that were re-signed are backup center Trevor Robinson who signed a 2-year, $4.25 million and playing-time bonuses. Defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews signed a one-year deal estimating around $1 million.
We must not overlook that there have been some players released to free up some cap space. The Chargers cut guard Chad Rinehart, saving the team $3.25 million. Inside linebacker Reggie Walker was also released a few days ago, saving $1 million against the salary cap. With all these recent transactions, San Diego’s cap space should be approximately be in $16-17 million range.
Free agency isn’t over yet. It’s actually far from it. Telesco is still actively searching for aptitude, not big numbered headliner players who eat up cap dollars. Remember, the culture has shifted to obtaining quality over quantity. Don’t expect names like Ndamukong Suh or Mike Iupati to wear a blue and gold uniform, but don’t hope for a player like Vince Wilfork. The biggest sore spot in 2014, the offensive, has already been tremendously been upgraded. Moving forward, Charger fans should not get discouraged for this is only the beginning. In addition to free agency mania, the NFL Draft will aid the team in fresh young talent. Due to the rookie wage scale, all draftees will not be detrimental to cap availability.
The Bolts still have some gaps to fill, but having available cap space is crucial to filling those voids. Tom Telesco and his back office staff are diligently, yet wisely playing a game of football chess. Carefully placing each pawn in the right place for the advantage to win in free agency. With roughly $17 million dollars left to play with, expect a lot more to come from the crafty general manager.
The Chargers have suffered a plethora of injuries in the early stages of 2014. Some impact players such as Nick Hardwick and Danny Woodhead are out for the entire season. Others like Ryan Mathews and Melvin Ingram have already missed time and will for a bit longer; Melvin is currently on the reserve-injured with a designation to return. The hope is that Mathews will be back before, or right around, the bye week.
When looking at the names listed above, each and every one of them are impact players.
This week’s injury report is not short of big names either. Here’s a look at the list of injured Bolts heading into this Sunday’s game at Oakland.
RB Donald Brown – Concussion
RB Ryan Mathews – Knee
ILB Manti Te’o – Foot
CB Shareece Wright – Knee
WR Malcom Floyd – Calf
RT DJ Fluker – Ankle
OLB Jarret Johnson – Back/Ankle
OLB Cordarro Law – Ankle
C Rich Ohrnberger – Back
S Darrell Stuckey – Quad
LB Reggie Walker – Ankle
WR Keenan Allen – Quad
OLB Jerry Attaochu – Hamstring
ILB Donald Butler – Shoulder
OLB Dwight Freeney – Ankle
TE David Johnson – Knee/Shoulder
From what the San Diego media is reporting, most of the players listed as questionable – with the exception of Fluker – are likely to play this week; although Fluker has a shot at playing via Michael Gehlken on UT San Diego. Attaochu is set to play for the first time in the last two games. He was only in on one play three weeks ago after tweaking his hamstring.
The return of Ohrnberger is huge for the offensive line and Philip Rivers. Additionally on offense, Floyd has been a sure-handed target for Rivers and it would be a shame for him to miss the Raider game. Seyi Ajirotutu saw time in his place last week against the Jets.
The Chargers had a decisive victory against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, scoring 23 unanswered points. It wasn’t always pretty, but considering the health of the team: Mantei Te’o, Jason Verrett, Jerry Attaochu, Reggie Walker inactive, Ryan Mathews on the shelf, Melvin Ingram on short-term IR and Danny Woodhead lost for the year, it was a mostly well-played game. I never thought I’d say this, but the Chargers offensive line misses Jeromey Clary. It took the defense the first half to figure Blake Bortles out, but once they did, it was all Chargers.
My May prediction: “Can you say doormat of the NFL? Chad Henne is a pedestrian QB at best. No more MJD? Not that he’s the player he was a few years ago, but he was their most potent weapon. Toby Gerhart will never be confused for MJD. Their pass rush is getting old (Jason Babin 10 years and Chris Clemons 11 years). Because our boys have a habit of playing to the level of the competition, this game will be closer than it should be. 27-17 Bolts (3-1)” Well, I got the outcome right and was close on the score, which was better than I predicted. I’m now 2-2 against my May predictions.
Chris Clemons was a non-factor. In fact, his name was never even called. Toby Gerhart was limited to 32 yards on 10 carries. He also lost a fumble on the opening drive forced by Jarret Johnson that the Chargers unfortunately weren’t able to capitalize on. Henne was replaced by Bortles and it looked like John Pagano and the defense weren’t ready for him in the beginning. That showed in the first half with the ease Jacksonville moved the ball up and down the field. To his credit, Pagano made the right adjustments and the defense pitched a shutout in the second half with the help of interceptions by Brandon Flowers and Eric Weddle. Jahleel Addae, Cordarro Law and Ricardo Mathews each recorded a sack as it was clear Jacksonville was out to neutralize Dwight Freeney.
Philip Rivers had a big game going 29 for 39 for 377 yards. He threw for three touchdowns against no interceptions. Rivers now has nine touchdown passes against one interception through the first four games of the season. Keenan Allen had 10 catches for 135 yards and Eddie Royal had five catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The gap could have been wider if the Chargers could run the ball. Collectively, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown could only manage 32 yards. Timing between Philip and Doug Legursky and Chris Watt left a lot to be desired as well. Too many misfires on the quarterback/center exchange. They need to get this cleaned up.
Next up, the 1-3 New York Jets who are coming off a 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. With being inactive against the Jags, it’d be nice to get Verrett and Attaochu back in action. There are still three games until the bye week. Chargers don’t need any more injuries to pile up.
Back in May, I said the keys to beating Buffalo were to “…stop Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, stop the Bills. Sammy Watkins drafted to replace Stevie Johnson is really the only weapon I see in the pass game for EJ Manuel. Their front 4 looks tough with Mario and Kyle Williams, but not tough enough. 37-17 Bolts. (2-1)” I am now 1-2 against my predictions.
Our Chargers did a good job of keeping CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson and EJ Manuel contained. Jackson and Spiller were taken out of the game early with the Bolts building a lead. They only ran for a collective 59 yards. Manuel threw for only 238 yards, much of them coming as garbage yards when the game was already in hand. Sammy Watkins only caught two balls for 19 yards.
Chargers scored 20 of their points in the first 37 1/2 minutes before going into cruise control. With Ryan Mathews out, the running game was not as effective as we’d like it to be. Philip Rivers was efficient, going 18 for 25 for 256 yards with two touchdowns and no picks.
Malcom Floyd showed his value in the vertical game, catching two 49 yard bombs from Rivers. Ladarius Green had a bigger role catching four passes, tying him with Eddie Royal for most catches last Sunday.
The Chargers played into my pet peeve after going ahead 20-10 by taking their foot off the gas, this time offensively. One of these days, we’ll see a full 60 minute game on both sides of the ball.
All in all, there’s more to be excited about at this point. Green and Floyd showed their worth in a huge way. The defense played their butts off, led by Eric Weddle and Corey Liuget.
The injury bug took its toll again this week. Danny Woodhead, we know is done for the year with a broken leg and ankle injury. Mantei T’eo is out this week against Jacksonville with a fracture in his foot. Reggie Walker is out with an ankle injury. C Rich Ohrnberger is doubtful with a back issue, Doug Legursky is probably going to start at center, making the third to play that position already this year. Keenan Allen, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett were limited.
Chargers are already looking like a M*A*S*H unit and it’s only Week 4. Hopefully, this trend will stop before it gets to the point where the bye can’t come soon enough.
The San Diego Chargers are in the news again due to an injury. This time, per Michael Gehlken, the injured player is inside linebacker Manti Te’o. Despite all of his deficiencies, Te’o currently leads the team in tackles.
In comes former Colt Kavell Conner.
As I’ve written before, Conner may not be as instinctive as Manti, but he’s a solid substitution. I don’t expect there to be much of a drop-off at all. Conner has 241 career tackles along with three fumbles forced and three fumbles recovered.
The former seventh-round selection in the 2010 draft by the Indianapolis Colts is a sound tackler. He has good size at 6’0″ and 245 pounds. In his second season in the NFL with Indy, he amassed over 100 tackles. Tom Telesco obviously liked Conner’s skillset enough to sign him during the offseason.
The injury bug has been hanging out in San Diego during the early stages of the 2014 offseason and regular season. The versatility of a guy like Reggie Walker will help due to his ability to play both inside linebacker and outside linebacker. He will most likely be called upon to back up Conner. Andrew Gachkar will also see snaps in relief at the ILB spot.
Mike McCoy has preached his “Next man up” mantra over and over again. The Bolts will stick with that plan and continue to find that next guy to step up and fill the shoes of another injured starter. As I mentioned on Facebook, the aforementioned injury bug needs to go inhabit and harass the cities of Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. The Chargers have had more than their fair share of injuries. Shoo, fly!
The Chargers and the Seahawks had one thing in common starting the game on white hot Sunday. They both had their last meaningful loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. For the Seahawks, they had only lost once (in preseason) since they played the Cards last December. After steamrolling the record-setting Denver Broncos and opening the season with a thrashing of Aaron Rogers and the Packers, most considered the chances of the Bolts winning pretty slim. Yet OUR San Diego Chargers handed them their first loss by more than a touchdown since 2011.
It didn’t help the fan confidence that in week two of the preseason the Chargers looked like a MAC team playing the SEC in a week one college tune-up game. While the final score reads 30-21, it doesn’t paint the picture for those of us who watched the entire game. While many have pointed out that the Chargers players dominated the defending Champs on the field, I think it was the coaching staff of the Chargers who dominated Pete Carroll and his crew.
I know a testy Earl Thomas after the game blamed the heat and sheer luck for their loss. “It was hot and there was a lot of cramping up when [the defense] was out there a long time,” Thomas said. “I exert a lot of energy out there, and in this heat it was kind of hard for me at times. But it wasn’t anything we didn’t prepare for. We just didn’t execute when it really mattered. When somebody beats us it’s just luck to me. It’s not about them.”
Wow, someone forgot to learn humility. Sorry, Mister Thomas. It was everything you didn’t prepare for. You lost, dude. Not only that, you got handled. You came blame the high pressure system that was hanging over southern California (I mean, I am not a fan of it either), but if you want to blame anyone I think it should be your coaching staff. Mike McCoy, Frank Reich and John Pagano are not getting used to new rings on their fingers like the Hawks coaches but they out-coached them by a mile. That was the difference in the game.
Pete Carroll admitted as much by saying, “we weren’t able to execute the plan we had gone in with.’’ I wonder what gameplan he is talking about? Because I only saw evidence on the field of one team with a plan. It really would worry me as a Seahawk fan that it didn’t seem like Carroll and crew learned anything from Arizona’s victory over the Bolts. I know it is not Seattle’s style to mix coverages or disguise blitz packages, but last Monday the Arizona defense was confusing and flustering our offense. Not once did I see anything like what the Cards did.
This coaching chess match goes back to week two of the preseason. It was clear from the moment the two teams stepped on the field the two staffs had wildly different agendas that day. Pete Carroll seemed intent on winning the meaningless game, playing his starters for longer, running actual non-vanilla plays and seemingly hitting and tackling with much more authority than the Chargers. Once the Champs started scoring it seemed the idea was that the Seahawks wanted to put a beatdown on the Chargers, one they would remember.
Coaches set the culture of their team perhaps Earl’s lack of humility comes from the top. It didn’t seem like Carroll was at all worried that he was giving our coaches a lot of tape, or our players a lot of motivation. It doesn’t seem like they took our coaches or team seriously at all.
Mike McCoy saw things differently in that preseason game. He couldn’t have cared less about who won or lost. He wanted out of the Clink with his team healthy and nothing the Seahawks could learn from. McCoy, who should come out of the tunnel at the Q to the theme song from Mission impossible, excels at the impossible games because he has an old school formula and the right team to execute it.
The plan was only slightly different from the one that beat Denver in the huge Thursday night domination in 2013. BOLO! As with that game, it was not a rout score-wise, but in both games the Chargers imposed their will leaving the opposing team feeling crushed. The league admitted the mistake that the score and the running stats are misleading. The Hawks were spotted 35 yards and a rushing TD when Percy Harvin stepped out-of-bounds with a Line judge pointing at his feet. So do some math in your head when you look at the numbers.
The plan was just as it was last year. Hog the ball. The Chargers ran 75 offensive plays in comparison to the Hawks 40. The Bolts had a 26-14 advantage in first downs and controlled the ball for 42 minutes. Philip Rivers brought the team to the line, and called most plays in audibles, thus not giving the defense time to substitute. In 37 pass plays, the O-line only gave up one sack for 8 yards. It is no surprise in 120 degree weather that the defense started to wear down and had trouble tackling. Seattle allowed 377 yards, more than any regular season game last year ( Not counting the overtime victory at Houston when the Texans had 476). Philip Rivers is the first Quarterback to throw 3 Touchdown passes against the Seahawks since Week 8 in 2012.
The only major difference between how we executed this game plan this year as opposed to last year (in Denver) was with our revamped defense. John Pagano’s defense, while not lights out, looked a hell of a lot more “badass” than the so-called Legion of Boom. In week two it seemed like Pagano was clueless about stopping the mobile QB. All four quarterbacks on their roster had rushing touchdowns.
In Sunday’s game, Russell Wilson had only 1 yard rushing more than Philip Rivers who normally looks like he is pulling the team bus when he takes off. Not only that after watching QB’s slip out of our hands on 3rd down over and over in the last two years – yesterday the D dropped Wilson twice for 22 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Seattle gave up eight quarterback hurries in 27 pass attempts to rank third-worst in the league in pass-blocking efficiency. How about that Chargers Pass rush!
Most importantly, they held Percy Harvin to three touches, including a huge stop by Wright on a jet sweep that seemed unstoppable in week one. How about beast mode and the running game? Marshawn Lynch had just six carries. Pete Carroll admitted, “that’s the last thing we want to have happen.’’ In fact, the team only rushed for 108 yards (remember you have to subtract 35 from Harvin). In this case, the numbers do lie.
Pagano’s gameplan was great for most of the game, helped by the fact that we are finally seeing his defense tooled with the weapons he needs. It is amazing when you consider Jarret Johnson and Brandon Flowers didn’t even play. He attacked for most of the game. The soft zone prevent defense let the team back into the game in the third quarter, but Pagano attacked on the last drive and the team made four amazing plays in a row. The key was Reggie Walker playing spy on Russell Wilson; who prevented him from running on the last crucial 3rd down. If only we had this year’s D on the 3rd and 17 last January!
Only one Seahawk player that I know of admitted it, and that was Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright. He said, “They kicked our ass and beat us at our own game.” This is the same crew that embarrassed Manning in the big game, and that went 13 and 3 last year. The difference was our coaching staff.
Russell Wilson was a perfect 6-0 in games against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Too bad for him his coaches let him down when he faced Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers. In the Battle of NC state QBs, Rivers is 1-0. The best part is we made this staff and team angry before they go home next week and play Denver. This might end up being worth more than one win. Coach McCoy and the staff deserve the game ball. Be patient, Charger fans. These coaches and this quarterback showed you they can outplay and, more importantly, out-coach the world champions. They have what it takes to get this town the Championship it deserves.
David Agranoff is the author of three novels published by Deadite press one of the world’s leading publisher of cult horror novels. His latest Boot Boys of the Wolf-Reich is coming of age horror novel about anti-racist skinheads in gang war with Nazi werewolves. All three of his novels are available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @DAgranoffauthor or look him up on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: In this piece Peter Silberberger breaks down the defensive battles per position. Due to injuries along the defensive line, other spots on the defense may suffer cuts in order to supplement needs up front.
Tom Telesco has not ignored the need for help at the cornerback position. In fact, depending on health, it may now be a strength for the Chargers. While we haven’t seen any glaring dominance, what we have seen is how teams and players are reacting to San Diego’s rotating defensive back units.
A few things stand out. Richard Marshall was given snaps at safety during the San Francisco game. This action likely speaks to some final roster thoughts. Carrying any more than three full time safeties would cut into the other needs of depth for the team. Addae, Stuckey, and Weddle are all locks, and having part-time corner Marcus Gilchrist and a veteran like Marshall able to fill in occasionally makes the defensive backfield strong and flexible.
Teams seem more than willing to throw at Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall, but not so much toward Verrett or Flowers. Granted, the two starters from last year’s squad are labeled poorly when it comes to 2013 pass defense rankings, but with the two new faces around, it looks as though John Pagano will have plenty of options. It should also be noted that neither Flowers or Verrett have seen much playing time as of yet, but their reputation and speed respectively seem to affect the number of attempts thrown their way.
Steve Williams and Crezdon Butler have both had a rough go with actual game speed and play calling. Chris Davis, however, has been all over the place throughout training camp and on game tape. If today was 53-man cut down day, Davis would be getting the nod over both other reserves.
Brandon Ghee had seemingly disappeared completely during preseason, and found himself on the chopping block during first cuts, which finalized Tuesday. Marcus Cromartie was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, as well.
These moves leave the door open for either Steve Williams or Chris Davis, but likely not both with Gilchrist around. The team will likely total seven cornerbacks, including Gilchrist, which is a lot already. Don’t expect there to be eight.
Defensive Line/ Outside Linebackers:
At first glance, it appears that Pagano’s traditional 3-4 defense has some definite holes to fill in prototypical positions. The defensive tackle position is shaky at best, and the end depth is thin. Questions of how and where Dwight Freeney will be best utilized are still relevant, and there’s a lot of unproven talent walking around.
The team released reserve DE Damik Scafe and lost rookie prospect DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe for the year to an ACL tear. Telesco, doing what he does, pulled in two cuts from around the league in Doug Worthington and Joe Kruger. Worthington projects as a 4-3 lineman and Kruger mostly the same, although a more athletic frame may allow him to dabble in a standing position.
All of this maneuvering seems to overlap with the theme of this roster build, and its versatility. It would appear that Mike McCoy’s nature of playing the schemes which best fit his personnel has caught on with his coordinators. That being said, any personnel being brought in this late will have to be adaptable. Guys like Worthington, Kruger, and other roster hopeful Cordarro Law will have to be able to fit into multiple positions in order to make the team. This could, perhaps, be unfortunate news for a guy like Thomas Keiser.
Although noticeably productive, Keiser is viewed as a bit of a one-trick pony. It’s not that the Bolts don’t need pass rushing outside ‘backers, it’s that they already have those guys for those specific sets. Ingram, Attaochu, Johnson, Tourek Williams, and even Reggie Walker can all fill that role easily. If guys like Worthington, Kruger, or Law make this roster over Keiser, it will be because of their ability to play in multiple defensive sets, as well as contribute on special teams.
The defensive tackle position is a different story entirely. Kwame Geathers and Sean Lissemore have been at the top of the depth chart for some time. That being said, Lissemore is battling an injury and Geathers was sent to injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his season. Enter rookies Ryan Carrethers and Tenny Palepoi. Both have the prototypical build to anchor the traditional 3-4 line, but both are very young. They’ll collectively get all the snaps they can handle, which is great for their growth process. Suddenly, however, the team lacks playable veteran mentors at the position.
One thing most know about Tom Telesco is that he is never without options. The opportunistic GM will be closely watching the waiver wire as teams trim rosters to 75 this week. If he sees a bargain, he’ll certainly grab it.
Another option is long time NFL veteran free agent Ryan Pickett. The ex-Packer lives in San Diego and has expressed interest. The good there is clearly the wealth of experience and ability to teach, as he once did for Packers DT B.J. Raji. Pickett would almost certainly have to see veteran minimum salary as a must in this situation, which is also team friendly. The bad is likely his 34 year-old physique may not be what the Bolts are looking for.
It’s more in Telesco’s nature to find a second or third year guy who couldn’t squeeze onto a roster somewhere else in the league. In order to keep the talent level high, Telesco will likely wait and watch the final week with the guys already around. This will serve two purposes. One, it will give every snap available to the two rookies for invaluable experience in real-time. Two, it will allow for Telesco to wait for the perfect guy to add when final 53s are announced by Friday. There are tough decisions being made all over the league this week, and teams such as the Patriots and Broncos could be cutting some serious talent on the defensive line.
By the end of this week, Lissemore and Carrethers will be Chargers for sure, but don’t be surprised if Palepoi is challenged by a Telesco find. If that were the case, the battle for the roster spot could take place during the final preseason game. If not, and Tenny struggles, he may very well lose his spot to a more trusted veteran come Friday.
With the versatility of guys like Reggie Walker and Marcus Gilchrist, the inside linebacker and safety positions seem to be sewn up. So, while watching Thursday’s game, it’s D-Line, outside linebacker, and cornerback where the 2014 San Diego Chargers will be focused on finalizing the roster.
Can Chris Davis keep his momentum going in his duel with Steve Williams? Will newly added athletes in the front seven push Thomas Keiser out? Will there be another addition to the defensive tackle position by Wednesday afternoon? The final game of the pre season is supposed to be practically unwatchable to the average football fan. Good thing Charger fans are anything but that.
The day that Charger fans had been waiting for has finally come and gone. In the words of Mike McCoy during last night’s postgame press conference, ” There were some negative things and some positive things that can be taken from the game. But, it is the first preseason game.”
I would like to reiterate the last portion of his statement. It was only the first preseason game.
Before you induct Branden Oliver into the Hall of Fame, and before you act as though Kellen Clemens is the next savior at signal caller for the Charger offense, please take heed of the fact that there is very little that can be drawn from the first preseason game of the year.
I asked McCoy during the same press conference about playing against a team other than your own and he basically said that is what we were wanting to do as a staff, team and organization. Everyone was excited and glad to be lining up against a team wearing different helmets.
There were certainly some highlights last night that had several players deserving kudos. Below I am listing my takeaways from the victory of the Dallas Cowboys last night at Qualcomm stadium.
– In an effort to get it out-of-the-way, Branden Oliver looked solid. He racked up 64 yards on only 7 carries and managed to find the endzone on an impressive 14-yard run where he carried the last defender 4 yards with him in for the score. Additionally, and this needs to be said, he is not, I repeat, not Darren Sproles. I believe he is about 20 pounds heavier. He has quick feet – similar to Sproles, but not as quick – and he is a bit more physical. He runs with a very low center of gravity and his cuts are impressive. But, his foot-quickness is not on the same level as that of Sproles made popular. He’s looked good in camp and he also looked good last night.
– Dontrelle Inman continues to impress. Despite a fantastic showing of surprising speed on that 70-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens, he beat a guy that was just signed by Dallas that had yet to practice with the team. He is another player that has impressed throughout the offseason. He has a big frame and capable hands. Inman is, without a doubt, going to continue to make a strong push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
– The Charger quarterbacks were very accurate. When looking at the trio of Philip Rivers, Clemens and Brad Sorensen, only two incompletions were thrown all night. Both of those were by Sorensen as both Rivers and Clemens finished with 100% completion percentage on the night.
The fact of the matter that remains, as it did prior to the game, if Rivers goes down it’s all over but the crying. If you want to crown the backup quarterbacks as capable starters, then crown their asses. <— Dennis Green voice
– Jerry Attaochu is fast. Really fast. Even though he lost contain due to biting on a play-action rollout, he was still able to turn and make the tackle after a minimal gain. His speed will be an asset to John Pagano’s defense and the quicker he learns the defensive scheme the sooner he’ll be making plays on a consistent basis.
– Ryan Mathews is fine and I would rather him lose a ball in the first preseason game than in any of the games that truly count. The man had only two fumbles last year after having over 300 touches. I have an article coming out this afternoon stating why I believe he’ll have the best year of his career in 2014. So, keep calm and realize the talent this man has. Do not forget, last year he ran as physically as any running back in the NFL and was a key cog to a successful Charger offense.
– Lawrence Guy suffered a shoulder injury after the devastating hit he put on Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden. To add insult to injury, Weeden managed to throw a touchdown pass on the very same play. At this time, I am not sure of the severity of the injury. I saw Guy in the locker room speaking to Coach McCoy while wearing a sling. He provides valuable depth on the defensive line and it could mean trouble for San Diego if he is out for an extended amount of time.
– Knowing this is the preseason, and the playcalling on defense will remain vanilla until the regular season, I wasn’t too surprised by the first-team defense’s inability to impose their will on the Dallas offense. The team did finish with three total sacks as both Thomas Keiser and Colton Underwood each had a sack while Reggie Walker and Cordarro Law shared a sack to end the game with a half a sack a piece. It is paramount that the team is able to generate a pass rush seeing that they play in a division with Peyton Manning. The lack of of a pass rush in 2013 must be remedied this year if the team wishes to contend in a tough AFC West.
– Darrell Stuckey for the Pro bowl will be something that I am going to begin lobbying for very early in the season. He’s a beast and he made a couple of plays that should remind fans of why he is so valuable on special teams.
– Craig Watts Jr. looked good and it is obvious the game is slowing down for him. While playing on both the offensive line, and some of the special teams units, he was impressive. He has improved each and every time that I have watched him. There is a steep learning curve going from West Texas A&M to the NFL. But with Craig’s intelligence and very strong work ethic, I stand by my prediction that he will be a San Diego Charger in 2014 and beyond.
– Marion Grice racked up 35 yards on 14 carries. If you take away his 18-yard run, he had a tough night. It’s not realistic to take out a play that happened, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. He also added a 4-yard reception as well.
– Both the kick and punt return games were pedestrian on limited opportunities. The three returns netted a total of 19 yards. The Chargers have not had a threat in the return game since the days of the Lightning Bug.
– The redzone offense is still a work in progress. This was also touched on by McCoy. It is too early to be concerned but when the regular season begins, I have no doubt that everyone will be paying close attention to how the teams performs inside the 20.
That is what I saw during last night’s game. I am curious to hear what you took away from the game. Let me know by leaving your comments below.
Thanks a lot for reading.
When running a 3-4 defense the ability of your outside linebackers is paramount. Although pressure and disruption is needed from the entire front-seven, and occasionally a blitzing member of the secondary, the OLBs provide your best opportunity to cause mayhem.
After a 2013 season that saw quite a bit of rotation due to injuries to starting outside backers Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney, the Chargers have a significant number of playmakers at the position heading into 2014.
In addition to Ingram and Freeney, the Bolts are loaded at outside linebacker. After drafting Jeremiah Attaochu in the second round of this year’s draft, and having veteran edge-setter Jarret Johnson in the fold, the team has four quality members that are able to make plays. Additionally, San Diego has depth players such as Thomas Keiser, Reggie Walker, Larry English ( for now ), Cordarro Law ( although he’s listed as a defensive end ), undrafted free agent Colton Underwood and Tourek Williams.
In this article, we’ll take a look at these players and what their production could be this year. Having so many players at one position is a great problem to have, so to speak. To have that much competition will help bring out the best at the outside linebacker spot. Let’s also not pretend that the pass rush, or lack thereof, last year was anything more than anemic at best.
Prior to analyzing the players, it goes without saying that John Pagano must be more creative in his defensive playcalling. Although he was masterful with his gameplan against Indianapolis last year, he tends to be very passive and predictable more often than not. In Pagano’s defense, his side of the ball has been riddled by injuries and some low-level talent. But it’s clear to me that he must find a way to be less predictable and find what his players do best and put them into a position to do so.
Let’s get right to looking at each outside linebacker that is currently on the roster.
Before the acquisition of Freeney was made by Tom Telesco, I lobbied in a serious way here on BoltBlitz.com. I was met with a lot of negativity regarding the possibility of him signing with San Diego. Well, here we are now are losing the dynamic pass rusher for most of the 2013 season due to injury. Though he is still not 100% the expectation is that he will be by the start of the preseason. My guess would be that he will see very little time in the preseason in an effort to keep him fresh and healthy for the regular season.
When focusing on the regular season regarding Freeney, I also believe there will be an emphasis on keeping him healthy. Meaning, I do not expect him to see much time in the Charger base defense, which the Bolts hardly run anyway. Look for Dwight to be employed on pass rushing downs and third down situations. I’d be willing to put the over/under on his sack totals at 6, barring injury, I would call it a push.
The leader in “almost plays,” Ingram is primed to have a breakout season. But, like Freeney, his contribution is based on remaining healthy. After miraculously coming back from an ACL injury he suffered on the first day of OTAs in 2013, Melvin made his impact felt despite it not showing up in the sack column. His disruption in the backfield and pestering of opposing team’s quarterbacks made a definite impact when returning from injury. He was constantly on the other side of the line of scrimmage creating havoc.
After Ingram fell in the 2012 draft I was ecstatic that he landed in San Diego. The hopes for him to be an immediate contributor were extremely high. After finishing his rookie campaign with two half sacks, the belief that his T-Rex arms were a factor in him falling were widespread. I actually lost a $50.00 bet regarding the sack numbers he would put up during his first year. Though he is not on the hot seat, by any means, he is now in a position to be held accountable for his production. Heck, he was already there considering a poor first season stat-wise.
Look for SupaMelvin to have a big year and rack up anywhere between 7 and 10 sacks in 2014.
Talk about the consummate professional. JJ, as known around the locker room and organization, is one of the best edge-setters in all of the league at outside linebacker. He is a great leader and allows his plays to do the talking for him. After being acquired in free agency by he who will not be named on this site, he came in and made his mark on the Charger defense. Despite sacks not being his forte, his instincts and ability to read offenses are a true asset to the Bolts.
Another Charger that suffered, and played, through injuries in 2013, Johnson is reliable when on the field. Don’t expect many sacks from the veteran but his presence will be felt on the San Diego defense.
When Tom Telesco sees a player that he covets, he does what it takes to get him. Telesco traded a fourth round selection in this year’s draft to move up and nab Jerry. When Attaochu left Georgia Tech he did so as the school’s all-time leading sacker with 31.5. He finished his career leaving college as a playmaking backer that made sure that opposing offensive coordinators were cognizant of where he was lined up on the football field.
Though he is a rookie at a crowded position, the team is not afraid to thrust him into the spotlight and give him playing time. Again, there are three quality starters ahead of him heading into the 2014 campaign, but it’s up to Pagano to find ways to incorporate him into the defensive scheme. A premature over/under for his sack totals as a rookie could be set at 3.5.
Where do I begin with Larry English. He may struggle to find a spot on this season’s roster due to the fact that he was a draft choice of the prior regime. English has all of the potential in the world. But the “P-word,” potential, is what gets coaches fired and players released if they are not able to live up to their billing. A former first-round pick out of Northern Illinois, Larry has flashed, at times, a tenacity to aggravate opposing offensive lineman and make a play here and there. But that’s part of the problem. He has yet to do anything to warrant his selection as a first-round pick.
I hold out hopes for English in that he can prove all of the doubters wrong, myself included. But he is facing a steep climb to even make this team at this point.
I can’t say enough about how pleased I was with the Walker signing by the organization. This guy has a no quit mentality and his ability to play multiple positions is highly admirable. As I’ve talked about on BoltBlitzLIVE on Mountain Country 107.9, Reggie makes plays down the field and has a certain tenacity that any squad would be lucky to have in its ranks.
Walker’s versatility to play both inside and outside have him as a valuable member that gives depth to a unit that needs it in a sense of the need of having non-stop motor individuals that can make plays when called upon.
After being thrust into action due to injuries at the outside linebacker spot, Keiser made plays despite an uncertainty regarding his true ability to contribute. He not only made plays, Thomas was in the right place at the right time often. Though some people would point to his recent off the field incident as a question mark, the Chargers have made it seem as though he has a place on this team for the immediate future by not cutting him.
We all remember the game-sealing interception against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. But he added a few sacks to his numbers as well. Keiser is an athletic specimen that has the build of a comic book hero. If the organization is truly at peace with his recent “issue,” then look for him to provide quality depth to a strong unit. I don NOT expect to see him removed from the Bolts. I feel confident setting his over/under sack total at 3.5.
A monster in the CFL, it’s still hard to find a place on the current roster for Law. If he is able to replicate his CFL success in the NFL, then the fans have a lot to be excited about. It boils down to his ability to impress Pagano and the defensive coaching staff to determine whether or not he has a place on the 2014 Chargers.
I know nothing about him and his only hope in being a part of this team is via the practice squad.
Despite being a sixth-round pick in last year’s draft, Williams was forced to start a few games due to injuries. Is there a tone to this piece? Lots of guys that weren’t brought in to start that the defense needed due to injury. Playing as a defensive end at FIU, Tourek came out and made a handful of plays. But, moving forward, he is not a player that the Bolts can rely on moving forward as a starter.
Williams may, eventually, develop into a solid contributor, but I wouldn’t bet on it. BoltBlitz.com was fortunate enough to earn his first interview as a pro. I wish him nothing but the best.
There you have it. There’s my position outlook concerning the outside linebacker spot. It’s a unit that should be a strength on the Chargers defense. But so much of their success depends on the health of the veteran players. If the younger guys are pushed into playing, it could be a long year for the San Diego defense.
Thanks a lot for reading.
After playing four years for the Arizona Cardinals, Reggie Walker was signed by the Chargers in September of 2013. Walker was coached in Arizona by Ken Whisenhunt and Chargers special teams coach Kevin Turner. He was known as a special teams ace while with the Cardinals but began seeing time in the team’s nickel packages prior to his release. In fact, Walker was the special teams captain in 2012 for Arizona.
After signing with San Diego it was thought that he would play a similar role on special teams and provide depth to the linebacking group for the Bolts. Little did we know that Reggie would end up starting 6 games last season. (Actually, Sean Elgar – @AngrySK on Twitter – knew and was very vocal about the abilities of Reggie Walker.) His versatility gave the coaching staff options, as we was able to play at both the inside and outside linebacker spots. It has been made clear at Chargers Park that the more you can do, the more opportunities you will be given to contribute. And Walker did just that.
Although his versatility is one of the first things you think of regarding him, his relentless motor is something of note as well. If there was a breakdown in coverage or a big play occurred down the field, you would often see Walker tracking down the play from way back at the line of scrimmage to 30-plus yards the other way. These are the kind of players that we love. When a player is constantly giving their all, you can’t help but root for a guy like that.
In 2013, Reggie started 6 games, as mentioned above but played in all 16. During his time on the field he racked up 36 total tackles – 30 of which were solo stops – with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Due to injuries all over the linebacking corps, a player like Walker was a perfect fit. He came in and contributed on both special teams and defense.
The former Kansas State collegian made such an impression on the organization in 2013 that he was signed to a two-year contract in March of this year. The team will look for more of the same type of play from him and he is a player that I enjoy watching play the game we all love. Versatility, non-stop motor, solid speed for the position and a “no give up attitude…. what’s not to like?
Thanks a lot for reading.