It goes without saying, Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon showed vast improvement during his sophomore campaign in the NFL compared to the disappointment that was his rookie year.
The former Badger was unable to reach the endzone at all during his first season with the Bolts, but he made that seem like a figment of the fans’ imagination during Year 2 of his young career, finding the endzone 10 times in 2016.
Returning for another season to rejoin Gordon in the backfield is third-year ball carrier Branden Oliver.
Despite a switch from No. 43 to No. 32 — long-time number of former Chargers and current Baltimore Ravens free safety Eric Weddle — fans should expect more of the same from the former collegiate stud from Buffalo, who led the team in rushing in 2014.
A new addition to the running-back stable is former Oregon Ducks ball carrier Kenjon Barner. The 27-year-old entered the NFL with the Carolina Panthers before spending time with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was signed by the Bolts this offseason after the team lost Danny Woodhead to the aforementioned Ravens.
A speedster as both a running back and returner, Barner brings an added element to the position in the form of his versatility and possible game-breaking ability. Though he has never started a game since joining the league in 2013, the underused talent has played in 32 NFL games.
With Gordon, Oliver and Barner figuring to fill the top three spots on the ball-carrier depth chart, the team also has the following running backs fighting to prove that they belong on the squad: Kenneth Farrow, Andre Williams, Ronnie Hillman and Dexter McCluster.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has already been on record this offseason stating that he would like to add an X-factor similar to that of Kansas City’s dynamic Tyreek Hill. With speed to burn in bunches, Hill makes plays as a runner, receiver and a returner. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, every time he touches the ball
Do the Chargers and Telesco already have that answer on the roster? That X-factor that changes games in the blink of an eye?
I am not so sure that they do.
Though I believe the organization has more than enough options to fulfill their running-back needs for the 2017 campaign, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they took a look at the rising draft prospect out of Ohio State University, Curtis Samuel.
Samuel seems to provide the most comparable playmaking ability in this year’s draft class to what Hill does for the Chiefs, also seeing time at running back, wide receiver and as a return-threat.
Telesco and company may believe that drafting Samuel or a player of the similar ilk as of higher importance in comparison to other pressing needs on the roster that can or should be available in the draft. Or he may go ahead and ignore the position altogether due to enough capable bodies already being on the club.
The good news for fans?
You won’t have to wait much longer to find out, as the draft begins in 10 days on April 27 in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. And, per usual, the BoltBlitz.com staff will be represented by myself and Greg Williams at this year’s selection show at its new venue for ’17.
My take: I don’t necessarily see the need to add a back as the reason the team should or will. But if it comes around to any of their picks following the first round, and they have one rated as the best player available, then pull the trigger and go out and get said player — especially if that BPA is that fast guy from the Buckeye State.
Another name to keep an eye on is running back Joe Mixon of Oklahoma. Should he slip to Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft, that is a name you could see the team take a HUGE chance on by drafting. A player with off-the-field issues like Mixon may watch his draft position plummet, allowing teams in later rounds to snag the man who is possibly the best ball carrier available. Though that doesn’t sound like a Telesco-type selection, pressure is mounting on the entire organization now that there’s an exponentially more powerful microscope in their new home in Los Angeles, as opposed to their former laid-back confines of America’s finest city, San Diego.
The best piece of advice I can give a sports fan is this: cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.
No matter how wonderful a player is on or off the field, someday either the team or the player will make the difficult decision to go a different direction. The team remains, but the players go through the never ending revolving doors known as free agency and retirement. Remember the aforementioned advise when you look at the following list of fan favorites and impact players who are on the last year of their contracts with the Chargers. Here is the list of the players who may leave at seasons end. The departure of some will leave a hole in the team. The departure of others will leave a hole in fans hearts. So as I crank up The Clash in the background, let’s take a look at who should stay and who should go, as well as what they are making for the 2016 season.
Melvin Ingram (OLB) $7.751 million: Staying: Although Ingram has had to deal with injuries and has under achieved in a statistical way, the future of Ingram seems bright. The addition of Joey Bosa has made this pair of pass-rushers quite a handful for offensive lines. The sack totals are not as impressive as their AFC West rivals, but the fact that the Chargers lead the league in interceptions is a sure sign that these guys are putting pressure on quarterbacks and forcing errant throws. For a defensive front seven to be effective in today’s NFL, there must be two dominant pass rushers and a strong Nose Tackle. Ingram, Bosa and Mebane fit the bill for now. Ingram will be pursued by other teams, but expect the Chargers to overpay a little to keep their former first round draft pick around for the next three to four years.
Danny Woodhead (RB) $5.5 million: Going: I want to be clear about something here. Danny Woodhead is a wonderful player who can be a spark-plug for an offense, and a true leader. But along with his greatness is a serious problem. Since joining the Chargers, Woodhead has only played in 37 of the 64 games he was eligible to participate in. He has had two full seasons and two cut seriously short by injury, including the 2016 campaign. Not only does Woodhead have a hard time staying healthy, he is 31 years old. Not many running backs maintain their effectiveness for long after age 30. I’m sorry to say, the Chargers will move on from Woodhead. He will either sign somewhere as a free agent for the 2017 season, or hang up the cleats. Of course, there is the possibility that the Chargers would try to sign him at a discounted price on the chance that he will stay healthy. Unfortunately, he will most likely find a better offer somewhere else.
Mantai Te’o (MLB) $5.172 million: Going: Te’o is another player who has been plagued by injuries during his time in San Diego. By seasons end, he will have played in just 38 of a possible 64 games, over his four season tenure with the Bolts. He has been improving every year, and the improvement of the defensive line has helped him scrape down the line and get to ball carriers. But, it hasn’t helped his foot-speed, or ability to cover backs in the flat. Look for opposing quarterbacks to pick on Te’o on third and long. The fact is, Te’o will go down in Chargers history as a borderline bust. Nice enough guy, just not a great football player.
Jahleel Addae (SS) $2.553 million: Going: Chargers fans seem to have a great deal of respect and admiration for SS Jahleel Addae. Why? Because he is a hitter! Fans love players who come in and lay some hat on opposing teams. Addae certainly does just that. He has been a Charger for four years and has quite the reputation for having no fear. The problem is that all those hits have really taken a toll on Addae’s body. In fact, he has had several injuries, including concussions. Having only played 43 of his possible 54 games so far as a Charger, there must be concern that he will spend more and more time on the injured list. He is fairly inexpensive, but you do not want to pay anyone to ride out injuries. I believe that if Addae fails to get through the remaining five games of the 2016 schedule without incident, the Chargers will have no choice but to let him go.
Branden Oliver (RB) $1.53 million: Staying: Normally I would have said that a player who really hasn’t done very much, and has missed an entire season to injury, would not be returning. In Oliver’s case, I think the Chargers may take one more chance. He is the epitome of a fan favorite. Bolt fans just love watching Oliver run/return the ball and bang into those large defenders. Yes, Oliver plays larger than his 5’8″, 208 lb frame. He is such a fan favorite, some fans wanted Melvin Gordon either cut, or dropped to second string, so that Oliver could get his chance. The fact of the matter is that despite a few impressive games, Oliver does not have the stats to explain the love he receives. That being said, the Bolts may just bring him back because he will be cheap and the fans love him.
Korey Toomer (OLB) $600,000: Staying: It could be a little premature to add Toomer to this list, but he has been an impact player since joining the team in week four. With his playing time increasing, Toomer has racked up 33 tackles in the last three weeks! He is an aggressive player who likes to hit. The Seahawks and the Raiders are going to regret letting this guy go. Look for Toomer to get another two the three years added to his already very affordable contract.
Dontrelle Inman (WR) $600,000: Staying: Without a whole lot of playing time, Inman has managed to have some big games. He is a sure-handed receiver that was plucked from the Canadian Football League to fill in for injured receivers. Although much of the success of the young Chargers receivers can be credited to Philip Rivers, there is no denying that Inman has the ability to get open and catch the ball. He just may be part of a talented youth movement at wide receiver in San Diego.
There are many more players to make decisions on at the end of this season. Very few are notable. None are tremendous impact players or former high draft picks. Even though these names seem less important, some of them will return because they are affordable and they add much needed depth. The following is a list of players who will most likely be brought back to fill various roles: Mike Windt (LS), Tenny Palepoi (NT), Sean McGrath (TE), Damion Square (NT), and Isaiah Burse (WR/KR), Kenny Wiggens (G).
Finally, the list of potential free agents who are either doomed to be shown the door, or will fight hard and get back on the team: Sean Lissemore (NT), Tourek Williams (OLB), Trevor Williams (CB), Asante Cleveland (TE), Adrian Phillips (FS), Kellen Clemens (QB), Javontee Herndon (WR), Codero Law (OLB), Jeff Cumberland (TE), Dexter McCluster (RB/KR), Ronnie Hillman (RB), Jeremy Butler (WR), Geremy Davis (WR), Tyreek Burwell (T), Chris Landrum (OLB). Some of these guys have a real shot at making the team next year, they just will not be high priorities for Chargers GM Tom Telesco.
So, what do you think? Which of these guys will be sporting lightning bolts next season? Leave your comments below.
Every year, fans of all 32 teams view their club’s chances of success through rose-colored glasses.
Hope is free. Fantasy is free. Reality is a brutal heart punch from Bruce Lee.
Only one will live to tell the tale of winning the Holy Grail, the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.
In Bolt Nation, we all know the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. No logical fan is projecting the Chargers to win the Super Bowl. Win the AFC West? That’s a different story altogether.
The Denver Broncos dominance over the AFC West has coincided with the 2012 arrival of then free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. During their current four-year reign as kings of the AFC West, Manning has been at the helm for the last three AFC West pennants. Now entering his 18th NFL season, Manning and the Broncos are looking to keep their division stranglehold intact.
Easier said than done.
Last season, cracks began to show in the Broncos’ armor. Losses on both side of the ball took a toll and the 12-4 Broncos weren’t able to take advantage of their second seeding in the conference. Denver lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to Indianapolis. Despite the proficiency of the Manning-led passing attack, the Broncos were only able to muster 13 points at home in the loss.
Now more than ever, the pendulum looks to be swinging in the Chargers’ favor in their quest to take back the AFC West.
Consider these key factors:
Peyton Manning vs. Philip Rivers: What’s not to like about two old school gunslingers standing toe-to-toe and letting their arms do the talking? This has been one of the best (and most underrated) quarterback duels in the NFL. Manning entered the league five seasons before Rivers, who didn’t take over the reins of the Chargers until year three of his pro career.
Rivers was the understudy to Drew Brees for two seasons before Brees left for New Orleans. In reality, the two have been facing each other as starting quarterbacks for ten seasons when this season begins.
The difference is starting to show.
Last season, the whispers of Manning’s deteriorating arm strength became roars as the Broncos finished the season. In the last eight games including their playoff loss, Manning threw 11 touchdowns including three games where he only threw one touchdown and two games where he did not throw a touchdown at all. Eight interceptions during that stretch of games also fed into speculation of his decline in accuracy, long a Manning trademark. Last season’s fifteen interceptions were the most Peyton has thrown as a Bronco.
In an odd bit of symmetry between the two rivals, both quarterbacks had potential MVP caliber seasons curtailed by injuries they played through. Manning suffered a quadriceps injury and Rivers had undisclosed back and rib injuries. Rivers is now healthy and armed with a new contract extension that will allow him to retire as a Charger. Manning decided to return after long offseason deliberation as his retirement from the game looks imminent. Rumors of the Broncos and Houston Texans discussing a trade of Manning leaked during the offseason. Eventually, this was dismissed as a simple ‘inquiry’ on the part of the Texans.
Rivers is in the prime of his career and the Chargers are all-in on surrounding him with enough talent to earn the veteran signal caller a Super Bowl ring. Now in the third year of the McCoy-Telesco regime, the Chargers have had back-to-back 9-7 seasons. Choosing to rebuild with youth, only one-third of the current roster (including practice squad) is over the age of 27 years old. The Broncos are also all-in on Manning, but chose to make their push by bringing in big name free agents. DE Demarcus Ware, CBs Aqib Talib and Quentin Jammer, S T.J. Ward, and WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker were all Manning-era signings.
Denver backfield vs. San Diego backfield: The Broncos will rely heavily on the legs of C.J. Anderson. Anderson emerged as the go-to back during the season, making the final seven starts. Leading the Broncos with 849 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in 2014, Anderson is also a threat receiving the ball. Last season he had 34 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns. There isn’t much behind Anderson, now entering his third season out of California. Last season’s starting running back, Montee Ball, was cut by the Broncos. SDSU alum Ronnie Hillman is the only veteran rusher on the roster right now. At 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Hillman is not capable of being the every down back the Broncos expect Anderson to be.
Expectations for San Diego’s number one draft pick Melvin Gordon are high. The rookie didn’t even have two dozen carries in the preseason. Still, Gordon has earned the confidence of the coaches and veteran players throughout training camp and preseason. While Gordon is expected to assume an every-down role at some point, it has been made clear by the coaches the Chargers will have a running-back-by-committee approach. Danny Woodhead will contribute as a pass-catching, third-down specialist out of the backfield and Branden Oliver will be a change-of-pace back. Donald Brown is a depth player who has been an every-down back in the past.
Denver receivers vs. San Diego receivers: Denver features one of the top-five receivers in the league in speedster Demaryius Thomas. On the opposite side, Emmanuel Sanders will start and Andre Caldwell would be first off the bench in a three-receiver set. Behind them, second-year pro Cody Latimer will be looking to breakout this season.
San Diego will feature third-year pro Keenan Allen, who will be looking to bounce back from what was a down year by his standards. Allen had 77 receptions for 783 yards and four touchdowns, down from his rookie season where he topped 1000 yards with eight touchdowns on 71 catches. Ten-year veteran Malcom Floyd will look to go out with a bang after announcing he will retire after this season. The Chargers brought in Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones to fill in the void left by Eddie Royal in the slot and in the return game, respectively.
Denver pass rush vs. San Diego pass rush: Denver has one of the league’s most intimidating tandems of edge rushers in defensive ends Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. The bookends combined for 24 of Denver’s 41 sacks last season. Containing them is will be the focus of every offensive coordinator.
Whereas the Broncos depends on a pair of elite veteran pass rushers, the Chargers will look to young pass rushers to hurry Manning and other opposing signal callers. Melvin Ingram, Jerry Attaochu, Corey Liuget and rookie Kyle Emanuel will lead the charge to get the future Hall-Of-Famer sacked or throwing incompletions. San Diego finished near the bottom of the NFL with 26 sacks last season and the top Charger sacker was Liuget with 4.5.
Denver secondary vs. San Diego secondary: The Denver Broncos have what could be considered a top-five starting cornerback duo in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Both have the ability to shut down opposing receivers due to their solid coverage. Talib is one of the more physical corners in the NFL, while Harris can run with the best, showcasing strong ball skills and fluid hips.
After re-signing Brandon Flowers this offseason, the Chargers also have a top-five cornerback duo with him and Jason Verrett. The second-year Verrett is among one of the more exciting defenders at his position in the game. Many around the NFL believe that, if healthy, this will be a breakout season for the former Horned Frog. It doesn’t hurt the Bolts that they also have the best free safety in the league, Eric Weddle.
Now, more so than any season since the AFC West arrival of Peyton Manning, the Chargers are ready and more than capable of reclaiming the top spot. The Broncos have the advantage on defense, but the Chargers have a significant edge on offense. A home split is the most probable outcome.
What do you think? Will the Chargers catch the Broncos this season?
The Greg One
One look at that headline will have even a devout Chargers fan raising an eyebrow, probably both eyebrows. Tonight, San Diego goes to Denver to face a surging Bronco team four days after losing their first game in over a month against Kansas City. The Broncos are coming off a big win in their Sunday Night Football home game against San Francisco. In that game Peyton Manning broke the all-time NFL record for touchdown passes and his toteboard stands at 510 career touchdowns. Denver gets to stay, heal and rest at home while the Chargers go into high altitude to face their nemesis.
So how does this work to San Diego’s advantage?
The 5-1 Broncos are on a high after taking over first place in the AFC West and celebrating Manning’s record at home. Are the Broncos overlooking the Chargers? Definitely not. No matter who the division opponent, it is going to be a difficult game. The Chargers have proven to be the Broncos toughest opponent in the division. How quickly can the Broncos shift from the euphoria of their last game and get back into the proper state of mind to face the wounded Bolts?
San Diego narrowly lost at home against Kansas City in what was easily their worst played game of the season. They could not stay on the field as the plodding Kansas City offense dominated time of the possession. On top of that, the injuries continued to mount. Denver is definitely a game where you want to have all hands on deck to give yourself a puncher’s chance of winning.
The Chargers find themselves hamstrung in the one area you definitely don’t want to be hamstrung when facing Peyton Manning; in the secondary. Cornerback Brandon Flowers, signed by the Chargers in the offseason, has excelled as a starter in the secondary. Flowers left the Chief game with a concussion after a violent hit on Jamaal Charles as the ball carrier crossed the goal line for a score. According to the analytics based site Pro Football Focus, Flowers is the best cornerback in the league. He has been ruled out for the game. Rookie cornerback Jason Verrett is rated second. Verrett (shoulder) is ruled questionable for Thursday, as is cornerback Steve Williams. Williams is the Chargers 2013 fifth round draft pick who missed all of last season. Williams has also performed admirably in his first on the field work.
Combined with those injuries is the instability on the defensive unit with Te’o ruled out and his replacement Kavell Conner, also among the walking wounded but at least scheduled to play. Rookie Jeremiah Attaochu has added some bite to the pass rush alongside Dwight Freeney, but Attaochu is fighting a hamstring issue and Freeney is playing but hampered with a knee injury. The key to beating Peyton Manning is getting pressure on him. If the key components are not able to play, the Chargers chances of pulling out a road victory seem bleak at best.
Therein lies the rub, as they say.
The Broncos are fully aware of the Chargers injury woes. Peyton Manning is licking his chops knowing he will be facing a depleted San Diego secondary. We all know Peyton will not take the game for granted. But what about his teammates? His coaches? If there is such a thing as a good time to take advantage of the Broncos, it is now when they don’t have a full week to prepare. We all saw what happened when the Chargers found themselves in the same position last season. The Bolts went on the road and faced the Broncos on Thursday night and won 27-20. Denver was 12-2 at the time and had won five of their last six games.
Our team is not without advantages of their own. No team has been more successful slowing down the high-octane offense of the Broncos than the team from Ameica’s finest city. San Diego implemented an often imitated ball control offense based on a balanced run game and short passing game to chew up clock and leave Manning where he can do the least damage – on the bench. Aside from the Super Bowl, the three games the Broncos scored their lowest amount of points (regular season and playoffs) were their three games against the Chargers.
Let’s not discount the gunslinger on the other side of the field. Philip Rivers has been, for all intents and purposes, Manning’s equal this season. Rivers is the third highest rated quarterback in the league, while Manning is ninth. At the moment, Rivers is ahead of Manning in passing yards but the Broncos have had their bye week already. For all the fanfare Manning gets, he’s only thrown two more touchdown passes than Rivers (19 to 17) and both have only thrown three interceptions all season.
The Broncos feature elite pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Additionally, they have a strong secondary featuring Aqib Talib, TJ Ward and Chris Harris Jr. With the instability that has been the Charger offensive line, this would seem to be a huge advantage. Rivers doesn’t get the respect Manning does when it comes to blitzing. Defenses know not to blitz Manning. Rivers is one of the most blitzed quarterbacks in the league. The Arizona Cardinals blitzed Rivers on 57% of the plays in their Monday Night Football season opener. Seattle blitzed Rivers over 50% of the time.
Rivers loves blitzes. Despite a shaky offensive line, Rivers has only been sacked 11 times in seven games. No quarterback has more touchdown passes on third down (an obvious blitzing down) than Philip. He has shown an uncanny ability to elude the rush and deliver strikes down the field. Blitzing puts pressure on the quarterback, but the downside is it also opens up the middle of the field where those linebackers and defensive ends were. Who is roaming the middle of the field for the Chargers? An elite tight end who is third in the league in touchdown receptions behind the Broncos Julius Thomas, Antonio Gates. (Thomas 9, Gates 7). Blitzing could very well work against the Broncos if the San Diego tackles can hold them at bay long enough for Rivers to get the ball off.
While the running game has been hit with a wrecking ball, out of the rubble has emerged Branden Oliver. In only three games, Oliver leads all rookie running backs in rushing yards and he’s helped stabilize the running attack. The running game will also open up play action down the field where Rivers has his strongest stable of receivers in years all excelling and, more importantly, all healthy. The Broncos second ranked defense is a huge step up in degree of difficulty. But, remember at the time the Jets were one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL when Oliver was pressed into duty? He ran over, around and through them to the tune of 182 yards from scrimmage (114 rushing, 68 receiving one touchdown).
The Broncos find themselves in a similar position in the running game. The season opening starter, Monte Ball, is out and the running game has fallen into the hands of former San Diego State product Ronnie Hillman. Over the last two weeks, Hillman has been Denver’s feature back and he has played well. Stopping Hillman can turn the vaunted Manning passing attack into a one-dimensional, defendable concept. The only reason I don’t say the same for the Chargers is it has been shown that, no matter how meager the run production is, it is important for the success of the Charger offense that it remains three-dimensional. Mike McCoy will not abandon the running game at any cost.
This game is a great time for the San Diego to show the Broncos, and the rest of the league, that they are a team to be reckoned with in 2014. It is encouraging that it still took a last second field goal to beat them on their worst day. It is also encouraging that the Bolts have found their killer instinct and finished off lesser teams they way playoff caliber teams do. It is worth mentioning that the Chargers two losses are by a combined four points. San Diego has arrived and no one has been able to walk over this perceived soft, finesse football team. They have been able to out-physical teams all season long, most notably against the world champion Seattle Seahawks.
This game looks like a slam dunk for the Broncos to the talking heads all over TV and radio. But they thought the same thing last year. The Chargers are a wounded animal, ravaged by injuries and put into a corner by the biggest dog in the yard. A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. I fully expect the Chargers to shock the world (again) by getting the win in enemy territory. San Diego will assume first place in the AFC West once again by defeating Denver 31-27.
The Greg One
With a tough, ugly loss on Sunday, the San Diego Chargers fell to 1-1 in the division. The contest against the Chiefs, to me, was the worst performance of the season. First off, the Kansas City Chiefs absolutely dominated time of possession; they had the ball twice as long as we did. The Chiefs took it to us on the ground, running the ball for 154 yards on 39 carries, led by Jamaal Charles (22 att/95 yds/1 TD) which was a huge factor in helping them play keep-away from the hand of Philip Rivers and his offense.
While most of the Kansas City drives produced little to nothing on the scoreboard as they kicked three field goals to two touchdowns, it made our offensive possessions that much more precious and important; especially when the Chief defense forced the Chargers to kick two field goals of their own. The Chargers posted a 30% 3rd down conversion rate which showed our inability to keep drives going in order to put points on the board.
Other than Week 3 against Buffalo, the Chargers have not won a game scoring less than 30 points. This is not necessarily a defensive issue, rather it illustrates how potent San Diego’s offense is and allows the defense the luxury of not having the spotlight on them. The defense was front and center on Sunday and showed their inability to get the necessary stop. John Pagano’s unit was exhausted after being on the field for so long.
A 1-1 AFC West record is not bad, but it makes Thursday night against the Denver Broncos that much more important. The Broncos hold a 1-0 record in the division, the Chiefs tie the Chargers at 1-1, and every win the Raiders have this season is as many as they have in the division. The AFC West will be all knotted up in a 1-1 tie if San Diego can prevail on Thursday as the Chiefs cannot improve their division record against the Rams on Sunday. Beating Denver will be no small task.
Peyton Manning and crew will come into this game with a great offensive rhythm as their offense has averaged 38 points since their Week 3 loss in Seattle. During this streak, Manning got the “monkey off his back” by throwing his NFL all-time leading 509th and 510th career touchdowns.
While Denver owns the 14th ranked total offense, they boast a top-10 passing game (7th) with Manning putting up a league leading 118.2 passer rating and 19 touchdowns, second to Tony Romo in completion percentage, and 9th in yards. The run game is what has been weighing this offense down. They rank 29th overall with only 571 yards on the season. Much can be accredited to the Montee Ball project not being as successful as expected this season with only 172 yards and a fumble through four games before being hit with a groin injury that has kept him out since. Ronnie Hillman has been serviceable over the past two weeks posting 174 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries.
The Chargers will have a tough time getting back on track offensively as Denver has allowed the second least amount of yards this season. Specifically, the Broncos will put out the 7th rated passing defense and the 2nd stingiest run defense in football on Thursday night. This will surely test MVP candidate Rivers and rookie sensation Branden Oliver. Our own defense will have to play in prime form. With many injuries to choose from, when you talk about Manning it is significant to point out we will be without our #1 corner in Brandon Flowers and possibly rookie Jason Verrett.
Simply put, this is a huge game if the Chargers have any hopes of capturing the AFC West crown this season. Going 1-2 in the division, and 0-1 against Denver, could give San Diego a tough hill to climb going forward.
There are always question marks surrounding all 32 NFL teams going into the regular season. I will have a piece coming out today or tomorrow regarding 20 questions regarding the 2014 San Diego Chargers.
Due to the importance of the question in the title, I felt it necessary to take this question to the next level and expound upon the subject at hand. Sure, San Diego has improved in multiple areas. The lack of depth going into 2013 has evolved into a situation where the 2014 Bolts will have some difficult decisions to make concerning the cuts of some players that fans will be surprised to hear their names on the waiver wire.
As mentioned on both this website and BoltBlitzLIVE on Mountain Country 107.9, having too much talent is a good problem to have. The level of competition throughout the offseason and preseason will turn to career-saving plays from the fringe players that are currently on the gigantic 90-man roster. There is very little room for error when looking at the players that are on the cusp of either winning a roster spot, or looking for a new residence come the final cuts on August 30th at 4:00 pm est.
Here is where I get back to the topic on hand and focus on the losers of last year’s Super bowl, the Denver Broncos. Let me make something clear, the offense in Denver last year not only followed the trend of being a part of confirming that today’s NFL is a pass-driven league, they blew records out of the water with ease.
That sound you just heard was Peyton Manning throwing for more yards and another touchdown.
The Bronco offense may have lost Eric Decker, but he was replaced with former Steeler wideout Emmanuel Sanders. More explosion, and, possibly, an even bigger threat for Manning and the Denver offense could have been found with the addition of Sanders.
I think what deserves more attention is what the Broncos did defensively. After losing players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Wesley Woodyard, Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers and long-time defensive back Champ Bailey, the Denver defense was in need of an overhaul. And they did just that.
Phillips led the Broncos in sacks last year and was replaced by the free agent signing of DeMarcus Ware. Is it truly an upgrade? Maybe? Be careful and think in terms of future production and do not allow yourself to be clouded by numbers that may not be replicated by either player moving forward. I would tend to agree with those of you that give the slight edge to Ware. But, the Broncos are not getting the guy that was once one of the best defensive players in the league.
The loss of Rodgers-Cromartie could have been a significant one. Well, except that, in my opinion, they upgraded the spot by signing Aquib Talib. Despite off-the-field issues, he is a force to be reckoned with as a cornerback. He is incredibly physical and he has the capability of shutting down the opposing team’s number one receiving option each and every week. They certainly improved there despite the athleticism that Rodgers-Cromartie flashed at times during his career.
Another addition to the Denver secondary was T.J. Ward. He is a bit of a liability in coverage but he will not hesitate to take an opposing player’s head off with a vicious, well-timed hit. He might be able to fill the void as the defensive enforcer on the back-end of the Bronco secondary.
When backtracking to the offensive side of the ball, Denver, in addition to Decker, also lost Knowshon Moreno and Zane Beadles. The loss of Moreno may not amount to much due to a running back tandem of Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. The offensive line returning Ryan Clady to the fold is one of the only reasons I have any fear regarding the Denver running game. Ball and Hillman are not serious threats without pristine blocking, in my opinion. Sorry, San Diego State fans ( regarding my lack of faith in Hillman being a factor.)
When looking at what the Broncos have done this offseason, what are your thoughts regarding the San Diego’s ability to match Denver on paper? For all Charger fans out there, you all know what the Bolts have done. Exciting additions of Brandon Flowers and Donald Brown added more depth and starter quality where it was needed. The most underrated signing of the Charger offseason might have been that of Kavell Conner. He will make an impact defensively in passing situations, at times, but mostly his presence will be felt as insurance behind both Donald Butler and Manti Te’o.
Another free agency add that has both the media and fans clamoring is that of David Johnson. The team has lined Johnson up all over the place including fullback, tight end and even in the slot. For a man his size, he can really move. He is not going to set any 40-yard dash records, but he will surprise defenders if they are only focused on his size. Yes, he’s a big boy.
Speaking of insurance, the Donald Brown signing proves that Tom Telesco realized during the playoff loss to the Broncos that there must be more quality depth in the Charger backfield. Running Danny Woodhead between the tackles can only get you so far. That’s not to say that he can’t be effective at times doing just that. But relying on that is not conducive to long-term success. After Ryan Mathews put up one of the most physical running years in recent Charger history, he was banged up near the end of the 2013 season. He played through it for the most part which is highly admirable. But, he was forced to leave the playoff game in Denver due to a season’s long ration of wear and tear.
In comes Donald Brown. Brown has been seen as a guy that could be considered to be a cross between Mathews and Woodhead. His feet are surprisingly quick when watching him in person. He is effective as a pass-blocker when asked to do so. He also has reliable hands as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He averaged over 5 yards per carry last year during his final campaign with Indianapolis. The fans in America’s Finest city, and all Charger fans everywhere, should be very pleased with the pickup of Brown.
The fact that Brandon Flowers has the Charger fans incredibly excited for the 2014 season, and this is now the second year of the reign in San Diego of Telesco and Mike McCoy, the sky may be the limit for the 2014 Chargers. When you add in the aforementioned moves above, there seem to be a lot of reasons to be excited in San Diego.
But, I’ll leave the answer of this question to you. Let’s go back to the title. Have the Chargers improved enough to keep up with Denver?
You all know the drill. There is a poll below. Place your vote and leave your justification for why you voted the way you did in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
I am really looking forward to reading what the fans have to say regarding this topic. It is going to be interesting, I’m sure of that.
Thanks a lot for reading and voting. I look forward to your comments below.