Having made great strides to retool on the offensive line, the Chargers now look to make the same significant upgrades on defense. Cornerback Brandon Flowers was locked in with a new four-year deal. Defensive End Ricardo Mathews was re-upped for one year. Defensive lineman Mitch Unrein was brought over from Denver. Secondary help was added with the signings of free agent cornerbacks Patrick Robinson and Jimmy Wilson. Now it’s time to look at the hole at the linebacker position.
An underrated name that is still on the free agent market is inside linebacker Mason Foster, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 6’1, 240 lb. Foster was a third round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. In his first three seasons, Foster registered 381 combined tackles, 12 passes defensed, six sacks, five interceptions and two touchdowns.
Known for his versatility, natural football instincts and toughness the 26-year old had a down season in 2015 with 62 combined tackles. Keep in mind he missed six games last season with a separated shoulder and strained Achilles or those numbers would have been higher. After having to adjust to three new defensive schemes in the last three years, he is to be commended for being able to perform consistently on a high level despite all the turnover in Tampa Bay.
Last season saw the arrival of a new head coach in Tampa Bay. Lovie Smith was brought in to replace Greg Schiano and with him came his pet creation, the Tampa 2 defense. Foster was lost in the shuffle in the new defense and is looking to join another squad that utilizes a conventional base defense. Word is Foster is in contract talks with the Bears but according multiple reports are far apart in discussions.
Foster would be a great addition to a Chargers linebacking corps that has been besieged by injuries. Until last season he had only missed one game. Mantei Te’o has (seemingly) chronic foot issues. Melvin Ingram is still rounding back into form. Coupled with the departures of Jarrett Johnson and Dwight Freeney and the underwhelming season registered by Donald Butler, Foster is a playmaker that could raise the game of those around him.
The Chargers still have plenty of cap space and Foster makes the team better. GM Tom Telesco is in prime position to swoop in and do what the Bears won’t, pay the man. The Chargers defense finished in the bottom third (24th) of the league last season and has plenty of room to get better.
The Greg One
After a rough first half, the Chargers got it going and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 33-14. Despite having a 17-14 lead going into halftime, the first two quarters of the game found San Diego struggling to get going. The necessary adjustments were made during the intermission, and the Bolts turned it on.
Philip Rivers was solid and showed that the only thing that needs fixing about him are the headlines around the media. He finished the day with 377 yards passing and three touchdowns. He was in control of the offense as the running game was a mess. His performance was stellar considering the team only had 42 yards rushing on 20 carries. But don’t forget the Chargers, minus yesterday’s game, have faced three of the best defenses in the NFL in Arizona, Seattle and Buffalo.
That being said, the offense misses having Ryan Mathews. And if you don’t, I can’t help you. I will be writing about that later today.
Rivers was able to find both Eddie Royal and Malcom Floyd for a total of three scores. Royal had two of those touchdowns and the crowd went crazy because both scores were long scoring plays. Floyd’s touchdown reception was a 24-yarder. Keenan Allen burst onto the scene with his biggest production of this season. Allen finished the game with 10 catches and 135 yards.
The defense was stout and managed to pick off two passes. Brandon Flowers snagged his first interception as a Charger and Eric Weddle pulled one in, as well. Those were the first two interceptions of the 2014 season for the Charger defense.
Defensively, John Pagano was dialed in and called a solid gameplan. The defense, in addition to the two turnovers, was able to pressure Jaguar quarterback, Blake Bortles, and finished the game with three sacks. Both Ricardo Matthews and Cordarro Law had their first sacks as Chargers. A blitzing Jahleel Addae had a sack, too. They held the Jacksonville running game to 85 yards. The Jags were limited to zero explosive plays while running the ball. Not a single run went for over 10 yards.
In his first start, Blake Bortles showed he can play despite his two interceptions. But the San Diego defense proved to be too much for the rookie. Not even one Jacksonville receiver reached 70 yards receiving. When comparing that to the Chargers, Allen had 135 yards while Eddie Royal racked up 105 of his own.
The team is now 3-1 and they face the New York Jets at home in week 5. It is very important that they keep rolling considering the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning provide quite the competition in the AFC West. The division rival Broncos are currently coming off their bye week and they have a record of 2-1.
This could be a magical year in San Diego. The team has improved its depth and Tom Telesco is responsible for that. Despite being banged up at multiple positions, Mike McCoy’s mantra of “next man up” is being preached all over Chargers Park. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride that the 2014 San Diego Chargers are taking you on this year.