St. Louis Rams
Currently, many NFL fans have been faced with a very difficult decision. Now that my team has moved away, or will soon be moving away, who should I root for? It seems that the answer should be obvious: Root for anyone you want!
But, alas, it is not that simple.
Unfortunately, right now in “Chargers Country” there is a bit of a civil war. Long-time Chargers fans who feel deeply hurt by their team moving to Los Angeles are not only rooting against the Bolts, they have elevated owner Dean Spanos to the level of Osama Bin Laden on their list of most evil men who have ever walked the earth.
All I have to say to those people is that I understand and feel their pain. I was born and raised in San Diego and I certainly get why you feel abandoned, bullied, and misled. I especially feel for those who knocked on doors, gathered signatures, joined fan groups, et cetera. I also feel for those who live in the county and did not get a chance to vote.
On the other side are the fans who believe that they can move on despite their dislike for Mr. Spanos. They just want to watch and enjoy NFL football and not have the same passion for any other team than their Chargers. Yes, Spanos benefits from their support, but they don’t really care because they put the players above the ownership. To those people I would say that I am in your boat. I have come to grips with the fact that my team has a very flawed owner, but I will continue to root for my Bolts.
Now the interesting group….the undecided. These are Chargers fans who just can’t make up their mind. Should they remain Chargers fans? Or, should they shop for a new team? If they decide to move on to greener pastures, what team should they choose? For those people, I offer some facts to ponder. I hope they help. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular teams in the NFL and why they may or may not deserve your loyalty, love, and hard-earned dollars.
New England Patriots
If you are looking to celebrate championships, this may be the team for you. At least while they still have head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, I would never bet against them. But hold on just one minute before you choose the Pats. Consider the fact that they have been caught cheating multiple times. Everything from filming other teams signals to deflating footballs. I won’t even go into the Aaron Hernandez story. They like to say that they push the envelope. In reality, they rip the envelope open and rely on their popularity and extremely wealthy owner, Bob Kraft, to save them in the end. So far, their plan has been successful. So, you need to ask yourself if you can root for a team that has possible morality issues and one that has most likely been one of your most hated teams for years? If you can get past all this, enjoy the next few years as a winner.
I can’t even believe that I am listing the Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders as a viable option, but here they are. Yes, I have heard many ex-Chargers fans saying that they are switching their loyalties to the Raiders. As always, I believe that is their choice and they are welcome to it. I just don’t understand it.
Let’s be fair. The Raiders are an up and coming team that honestly has a chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy within the next two or three years. That can be enticing to any waffling fan. They have a great, young quarterback, outstanding pass rushers, and exciting play makers. All that being said, they are still the Raiders! If you have been loyal to the Chargers for any length of time, you most likely have a deep-seated hatred for the Silver and Black. But let’s put rivalry behind us for a moment. In my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense for a Chargers fan to jump ship and join Raiders Nation. You are mad at Dean Spanos for not being loyal to his fans, yet you are willing to give Mark Davis a pass? The Raiders have a long history of screwing their fans. They went from Oak-town to Los Angeles (sound familiar), back to Oakland and now they are moving to Vegas. All along they have used cities like Irwindale and Los Angeles as leverage to use against the city of Oakland to force them to build them a new stadium (sound familiar?). It is quite confusing to me why anyone who quotes loyalty as the reason that they are leaving their team would go to a team that is quite possibly the least loyal franchise in sports. But that is just me.
Kansas City Chiefs or Denver Broncos
Good teams. Quality ownership. Chance to win in the future. The only real negative would be that you would be going from hating them to loving them just because you are mad at Dean Spanos. If you can sleep at night, go for it.
New Orleans Saints
I have heard other Chargers fans say that they are going to follow the Saints because of Drew Brees. Yes, Brees is great and he was a fan favorite (more-so after leaving) in San Diego. The problem is that he will only be around for a short time and then you are stuck with this decision all over again. Do you stick with a team you don’t have any passion for? Or, do you become a free agent again.
Los Angeles Rams
Again, I don’t get it. Yes, I have heard the argument that supporting the Rams would be a throat-punch to Dean Spanos. I suppose there is some validity to that. But once again, we are talking about supporting an owner who abandoned his fans. Yet another owner who sees the bottom line as dollar signs, rather than loyalty to those who love their team. Also, an organization that has gone from Los Angeles, to Anaheim, to St. Louis, and back to Los Angeles. Once again, it is your right to make this choice, but to me, your logic is flawed.
If you are old like me, you may think of the first time that they fans in St. Louis lost a team. It was the Cardinals, not the Rams. I’ll admit that the Cardinals have been in Arizona for quite a while now and do not seem to be heading out anytime soon. I think you are safe to root for them, if location is your biggest concern. Arizona isn’t even that far to drive if you want to make an annual trip or two to see a home game. They will also play in Los Angeles at least once a year. I don’t have any reason to like the Cards, but if you do, knock yourself out.
“Sixburgh” knows how to win championships. They must be a fun franchise to watch. They play at a high level year in and year out. They have cool looking uniforms and a unique helmet with a logo on just one side. They do have a history of paying guys who have some pretty serious “character flaws”, but most teams in the NFL can say the same. My favorite memory of the Steelers is watching them go down to defeat to my Chargers in the AFC Championship game, just a week after producing their own Super Bowl video. Makes me smile every time I think of it.
“America’s Team”! You are most likely an American, so it makes sense to like the Cowboys. Right? Seems to me that the Cowboys are one of the most polarizing teams in the NFL. People either love them or hate them. Either way, they have a very solid team and have a real chance to be playing on the next several Super Bowl Sundays. I’m sure there is room on the Cowboys bandwagon (or wagon train in their case). Perhaps before long, you will find yourself as passionate about that star as you were the lightning bolt. Do remember though, owner Jerry Jones came up with the framework for the Chargers and Rams to share a stadium in LA.
This choice was interesting to me. It came up the other day on social media that an ex-Chargers fan was going to root for the Eagles going forward because of Darren Sproles and the recent drafting of Donnell Pumphrey (RB out of San Diego State University). I have no real argument against this choice. Perhaps by the time Pumphrey concludes what is hopefully an illustrious career with the Eagles, the new fans will have found a way to attach themselves to Philly and will continue on. Perhaps not.
This could be the flavor of the month, or it could be a legit choice for free agent fans. Everyone seems to love their owner and there aren’t many negative stories plaguing the roster. They were Super Bowl runner-ups last year (they should have won) as well. So again, good team with a chance to win. Perhaps you can find a way to jump on board. If so, enjoy the ride. It should be fun for a while.
“The Field” would consist of all the other team except the Los Angeles Chargers. These are teams that have no obvious reason to pick them. Sure there are great players like JJ Watt or Aaron Rodgers out there who you may like enough to start following. But beware, players careers are short. Do you really want to be right back in the same spot again in five or 10 years? Perhaps there is a city that is important to your family. Your Dad grew up in Chicago and is an avid Bears fan. Okay, root for “da Bears”. Maybe you are moving elsewhere and your new city or state has a team. Great! Your choice is easy. Maybe you want to pick your team the way you pick your horse at Del Mar. “I really like the colors on this one.” Whatever your method, the choice is yours and no one else’s opinion matters. Peace and love, Baby. Peace and love.
the Los Angeles Chargers (that is so strange to type)
Let’s assume for a moment you are straddling the fence and you just can’t decide what side to come down on. The side that shows Dean Spanos how much you despise him, or the side that shows how much you love the team despite how much you despise Dean Spanos. Notice, I am working on the assumption that the vast majority of Chargers fans, current and ex, share a hatred for Spanos. Anyway, you have a decision to make. Let me see if I can help. First of all, consider the aforementioned teams and whether or not you have any passion for any of them. If you do, problem solved.
If you are one of those “two favorite teams” people, your task is easy. But, if you are like me and do not believe in having two favorite teams, you still have work to do.
Here is what worked for me.
I simply paid attention. I paid attention to what was going on in the NFL. I listened and read about the various news on players, owners and teams. Then I paid attention to how that news made me feel. It didn’t take long before I realized that I was still far more interested in Chargers news than any other team. The more I heard about the players, the more I realized that Dean Spanos means nothing to me. Yes, I realize that every shirt, hat, jersey, or ticket I buy puts money into Dean’s pocket. I just don’t care. Dean Spanos is rich and he will continue to be rich, with or without me. Why should I let him ruin my enjoyment?
It finally hit me last week. There was a build up for the draft and I found myself paying more attention than in recent weeks and checking mock drafts for who people thought the Chargers would pick. Then draft day came and I got more and more excited as the Chargers pick drew near. I can’t say that I had the same level of interest or excitement as I have had in the past. But I can say that I had far more interest and excitement when the Chargers picked than any other team. I even got frustrated as I noticed the NFL network kept going to commercial break before the Bolt’s picks and therefore didn’t have much time to discuss the team or their needs.
Yes, I have decided to stay with my team because I do not care in the least about any other team, and I do not feel the desire to waste all that I have gone through for the past 39 years. That being said, I am not saying that you have to feel the same way. Although, if you are reading this on Boltblitz.com, you still have some interest in the team. That much is obvious.
If you choose to move on to another team, or no team at all, or whoever is playing the Chargers on any given Sunday…good for you. I respect your choice. It is a personal decision for every individual to work out. I hope you don’t waste your time and energy trying to spread your hate to others. Who I like doesn’t affect you in the least. Nor does who you like affect me. Football season will be here before you know it. I hope you find your team and manage to enjoy the season. Remember, it’s a game.
Thanks for reading.
Korey Toomer has only been wearing lightning bolts since September, but it surely seems longer.
The former Oakland Raider is as happy to be with the Chargers as they are to have him. He is finally getting an opportunity to put his talents on display, especially that 4.53-second 40-yard dash.
After being drafted by Seattle in 2012 (round 5, selection No. 154). He was on the roster for 20 (including preseason) games during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory in 2013. Between being on injured-reserve for two straight years and having guys like Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner ahead of him, it was difficult for Toomer to get on the field in Seattle. He was released from the Seahawks in 2014. Subsequent stops in Dallas and St. Louis with minimal playing time (special teams only) garnered three tackles in seven games. More of the same followed in Oakland, so much so that he terminated his contract with the Raiders to sign in San Diego.
The signing of the ultra athletic Toomer has gone a long way towards solidifying the linebacking corps. Season-ending injuries to Manti Te’o and Nick Dzubnar left a void that demanded filling. Recent injuries to both Jatavis Brown (knee) and Denzel Perryman (hamstring) only increased the necessity of his presence.
Ahead of the match-up against the Houston Texans on Sunday, Toomer had started in four out of seven games. One of his best plays to date came in the Thursday Night Football game when he tackled Broncos wide receiver Jordan Taylor and the Broncos’ player coughed up the ball. The fumble recovery led to a San Diego field goal and put the Chargers up 13 points on their division foes. San Diego went on to win that game, their first victory in the AFC West since 2014.
Since mid-October, Toomer has amassed 51 tackles, the majority of which are solo (37), defended against two passes, forced three fumbles and notched one fumble recovery. There were impressive stats against both the Tennessee Titans (nine tackles/eight solo) and the Miami Dolphins (11/10), including three-and-a-half tackles for lost yardage. In the Houston game, the veteran linebacker recorded 13 more tackles (four solo) and a quarterback hit.
Having Toomer back there to get receivers off routes has been fun to watch, as well. His ability to reroute crossers and drags which run through the linebacking corps’ area can significantly alter the short passing games of opposing offenses. He has helped solidify that inside linebacking group.
Speaking to Ricky Henne of chargers.com in October, Toomer stated:
“Pags’ system is benefitting me because he is letting me play fast. He is putting me in positions not to fail. That is why it is working for the both of us. I feel like these coaches are giving me a chance. Granted, I made good on the situation. These coaches have put me in position to make plays and are not putting too much on my plate. They are letting me fly around. I am grateful for these coaches giving me a call and giving me a chance to play this game. I want to show people I can bring more to the table than just special teams. I love special teams, that’s where I want to play for the rest of my career as well, but I want to play defense, too.”
Whether he plays defense or special teams, the fact that Toomer left a division rival in order to grasp an opportunity with both hands shows he has gained confidence in himself and his ability.
Bring on the Bucs and Mike Evans!
*Featured image credit: AP – Denis Poroy
A week away from the official beginning of the free agency period, teams are already cutting players to save cap space. That space will then be used to sign their replacements. A handful of recognizable players have already been shown the door and more will come after free agent signings begin.
Big names who have already been added to the unemployment line include running backs Matt Forte and Arian Foster; safeties Michael Griffin and William Moore and other notables add to an growing list of names. Over the past couple of days former New Orleans Saints record-holding wide receiver Marques Colston and Ex-Buffalo Bills/Houston Texans standout defensive end Mario Williams were shown the door.
On Monday, March 7 those names and many more will find new homes during the six-week buffer zone between the start of free agency and the NFL Draft. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To that end, one of those early cap casualties would be a great fit on the Chargers defense.
Enter Rams cap casualty James Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis was an integral part of a stout Rams defense. The middle linebacker is on the right side of 30 as he won’t celebrate that milestone until December. Entering his eighth season in the NFL, he averages 122 combined tackles per season and has not missed a single NFL game. Over the length of his career, Laurinaitis has amassed 16.5 sacks, 34 passes defensed, 10 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and one safety.
A player that dependable and in the Chargers case, that durable is badly needed. With Donald Butler all but out the door, Laurinaitis would be a substantial upgrade.
Last season Butler had 43 combined tackles, 2 passes defensed and one interception over the entire season. Over the course of his six-year career he has averaged 80 combines tackles and has compiled 7 sacks, 12 passes defensed, 6 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions and one touchdown. He’s missed 25 games and been docked game time when he is healthy because of his subpar play.
Almost not fair to compare the two is it?
Simply put, Laurinaitis is in his prime and the San Diego defense needs more playmakers and better tacklers. Laurinaitis is a tackling machine. His instincts keep him near the ball at all times. He is not a Ram anymore not because his production fell, it’s because he makes too much money and the Rams couldn’t afford him.
Chargers GM Tom Telesco fired up the fan base when he said he was going to be more active in free agency than he has ever been. A signing like this would show a commitment to bettering the team now, rather than finding a low-cost replacement for players on the way out.
The market will have quite a few teams bidding for his services. At present, Laurinaitis has a visit to New Orleans scheduled for next week. Teams are going to have to ante up and put together a good 4-year deal minimum to win his services. For the old school fans of professional wrestling, to have the son of the legendary Road Warrior Animal on the team would be pretty damn cool. Laurinaitis has shown the son of Animal has grown into a beast in his own right!
The Greg One
Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like there is a path between Chicago and San Diego when it comes to football and I don’t just mean head-to-head match-ups.
Consider this: Since 2000, there have been three quarterbacks who played for the Bears before coming to the Chargers (Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno (1999-2000) followed by Doug Flutie (2001-2004). There was also a defensive tackle in 2011 named Tommie Harris. The year 2000 brought a wide receiver named Curtis Conway, now a studio analyst for the Bolts, who was catching what they threw at him until his 2002 release. Don’t forget that the Chargers had Ron Rivera as their linebackers coach/defensive coordinator during the 2007-2010 seasons. (Yes, that would be the same Rivera who is going to the Super Bowl as head coach of the Carolina Panthers). Ah, what could have been!
The Bears and Chargers have met five times since 1999, with the Monsters of the Midway leading the match-ups 4-1. That sole win, a 14-7 final score, was played in September 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Chicago’s defense sacked Philip Rivers three times and racked up 70 tackles in that game. Do you remember who was the defensive coordinator for Da Bears that day? None other than the Bolts’ new linebackers coach, Bob Babich.
Babich has 33 years of coaching experience, with his first eight having been at the college level. He entered the professional ranks in 2003 as linebackers coach for the St. Louis Rams. The next year, Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith was named head coach of the Chicago Bears and took Babich with him. After coaching linebackers during his first three years, he took over the role of defensive coordinator in February 2007, when the Bears decided not to renew the contract of Ron Rivera. Babich spent three seasons in that capacity, until he was returned to his prior position of linebackers coach from 2010-2012. He then moved on to serve as the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2013 until earlier this month.
Chris Harris recently joined the Bolts defensive staff as an assistant defensive backs coach. Harris is a former safety who played most notably for the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. In Chicago, Harris was coached by Babich for three seasons (’05-06 and 2010). Chargers coach Mike McCoy was on the offensive side of the ball while Harris was in Carolina.
Harris played for eight years as a safety in the NFL after being selected in the second round (#181) of the 2005 draft by the Bears. His career statistics: 439 tackles (352 solo), 13 forced fumbles, 16 interceptions and one sack. Also known as “Hitman” during his playing days, Harris will most likely be coaching the Bolts’ own “hitman”, Jahleel Adddae.
Harris was an integral part of the Chicago Bears defense which participated in the 2007 Super Bowl against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. He intercepted a deep, third-down pass from Manning, and returned it 6 yards to the Bears’ 35-yard line. Unfortunately Chicago could not convert the pick into points. The campaign saw the Bears defense collect 87 tackles, a sack, defended 14 passes, two fumble recoveries and forcing one. That defense was pretty stout that year with guys like Harris, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Jerry Azumah and Nathan Vasher implementing Babich’s playbook.
I like these two hires on the defensive side of the ball. I like the experience Babich and Harris both bring. With the teaching that will take place when OTA’s and mini-camp arrive, the Chargers 2016 defense can be what we would all like to see: getting after the passer, stuffing the run, making picks, forcing fumbles – you know, stuff we have seen them do in the past.
I can’t wait to see how the DB’s progress! Bring it on!
Thank you for reading!
It’s been a week since the fateful decision that wasn’t for the team and the fans of the San Diego Chargers. A week later we have as many answers as we did when every owner of every team went behind closed doors to discuss the fate of our favorite team in Houston.
The 33 most powerful men in football went into a room. By the time they came out, much like the Chargers own front office, even they could not figure out what to do with the Bolts. The Los Angeles Three-for-all ended with the St. Louis Rams getting the green light to go to the City of Angels by a whopping 30-2 vote.
San Diego gets approval to move to Los Angeles and share the new stadium Rams owner Stan Kroenke will build in Inglewood. That is, IF he and Chargers owner Dean Spanos can come to an agreement on co-habitating the facility in one year. The Raiders get left with nothing but the right to be next in line to barter for co-habitation with Kroenke if the Chargers fail to do so.
The NFL offered a parting gift to the Chargers and Raiders in the form of $100 million towards building a new stadium in their home cities IF they can come to an agreement to build there. We all know how well that has gone so far.
Still, this is a victory for fans of the San Diego Chargers. The team is not moving. Yet.
Dean Spanos is part of the old school of NFL owners. Stan Kroenke is part of the boisterous, defiant, rebellious new school of NFL owners. Spanos is tight with his money as all Chargers fans know. Kroenke throws around money like there’s no tomorrow. The two don’t get along to say the least, which bodes well for Bolts fans.
Imagine you just built your dream home. You’ve moved in, decorated and it is finally perfect. That night the doorbell rings and it’s the person you can’t stand but tolerated because you know punching this person could equal time in jail. This person says, “You have a great new house, we should BOTH live here for the next fifty years!”
A little over-the-top, sure, but not far from the truth.
Chargers fans couldn’t have hand-picked a better foil for the Los Angeles plan than Stan Kroenke. Kroenke is set to build his dream stadium. If the renderings are to be believed, this stadium will be nothing short of futuristic. Into his office walks frumpy Dean Spanos.
We should both live here…..
The NFL owners are not a mutual admiration society. There are distinct factions behind the scenes. While Kroenke made his victory speech last Tuesday night Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis left the room and did not return. When reporters asked Spanos when he was going to begin discussions with Kroenke his Chargers owner first comment was “I’m going to take a day off.” Doesn’t sound like a man looking forward to moving onto another man’s property, especially that man.
The fate of the Chargers remains in limbo. Spanos has reportedly applied for the trademark rights to the names Los Angeles Chargers and L.A. Chargers but that’s about all he’s been able to accomplish. The rights haven’t been granted to him yet.
When Spanos and Kroenke finally met in person on Monday to discuss sharing the new venue the only thing they decided was to keep everything private until there’s something to report. Thanks for nothing, guys. It’s not like there are players lives and families and fan allegiance riding on these ‘discussions’.
Oh wait, there are…
Again, this pairing could be the best thing to happen to San Diego when it comes to keeping the Chargers in town. If both owners were gung-ho on getting these teams in place as soon as possible a deal would be done by now. In my humble opinion Spanos would rather stay, use his $100 million consolation prize toward building his own stadium than be Kroenkes’ tenant. I’ve never believed the Chargers would leave and still don’t. Looking at the way the situation is unfolding, now I have a basis to go from and not just hope. As do we all.
Sit back and enjoy the first world billionaire problems.
The struggle is real.
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers are having a nightmare of a season. Not even the most pessimistic Bolts supporter would have figured a team this talented would be 2-7 after nine games. Alas, the Chargers find themselves in that position with nothing but doom and gloom on the horizon. With every loss fan apathy outgrows fan anger over the results on the field. Teams that should be an ‘easy win’ for Philip Rivers and company now look daunting. After all, San Diego did just lose to a 1-6 Baltimore Ravens and a 2-6 Chicago Bears team in back-to-back weeks.
For all intents and purposes, the Chargers have fallen into the ‘easy win’ category.
The blackest of the clouds hovering over the Chargers is the relocation issue. A topic that has been lingering for 14 seasons and counting, replacing Qualcomm stadium has been on the agenda every offseason only to eventually get swept under the rug.
With the NFL bent on getting a team back into the lucrative Los Angeles market for the 2016 season, teams are jumping on the opportunity to leave their ramshackle digs in favor of a new state-of-the-art facility in the second-largest market in the United States. The Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are embroiled in a three-horse race to get the Los Angeles prize. At the same time, Oakland and San Diego are working to get a back-channel deal for a new stadium in their own city at the same time.
St. Louis owner Stan Kroenke has no desire to stay in St. Louis a second longer than he has to. The billionaire has already purchased land in Inglewood, California and is ready to build a stadium upon it the moment the NFL says yes. The Rams are the most storied of the three teams bidding to move. The NFL isn’t exactly happy with the owner trying to ‘bully’ his way into the Los Angeles space without their consent.
The Oakland Raiders are also more than ready to leave their O.Co stadium, known around the league as the worst stadium in the league. The Raiders also have a long history in Los Angeles and are ready to return. It was revealed over the offseason that the Raiders and Chargers ownership have met and discussed co-habitation of a stadium in Los Angeles. The league is interested but the measure does not have the 2/3 support of the other NFL owners to make that proposition a reality. Yet.
The San Diego Chargers have only had one season in a temporary home while Qualcomm stadium (previously known as Jack Murphy stadium) was being built. The Chargers have resided in San Diego for 49 years and looks to be the team working the hardest to keep the team in the city despite ownership saying everything to the contrary. The city, local politicians and the government are working in various capacities on proposals for stadium sites in Mission Valley or in downtown San Diego.
The NFL is watching all three teams. They have listened to multiple proposals from each team and recently concluded town hall forums in each of the three cities to take the pulse of the fanbases there. In the end, it’s all about money. Proposals aside, the team that will make the NFL the most money will win the battle for Los Angeles.
As hard as it is to say or even type, the Oakland Raiders are a team on the rise. At 4-4 they have themselves in the wild card hunt and a future superstars on their hands with quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper maturing together. Cooper was the Raiders 2015 number one draft pick, brought in to give a legitimate weapon to Carr, the Raiders 2014 number one draft pick. The play has paid off and Cooper is succeeding beyond expectations.
St. Louis hit the jackpot with their 2015 number one draft pick, Todd Gurley III. Gurley has taken the league by storm and in the five full games since he’s returned from ACL surgery he’s vaulted into fourth place in the league in rushing with 664 yards and four touchdowns. The rookie is averaging a gaudy 118 yards rushing per game.
Gurley is already drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson in their prime and has the looks of the next big unstoppable force at the running back position. The Rams are two games behind the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West lead and have already beaten the Cards once this season.
San Diego is obviously going in the opposite direction. The Chargers are not devoid of bankable stars. If he can stay healthy, which has been easier said than done for the third-year pro, Keenan Allen can be a yearly top-10 wide receiver. Second year cornerback Jason Verrett is going to be tops among the new breed of shut down cornerbacks if he can stay on the field. Even in pictures, Philip Rivers’ love of the game shines through. All of these teams have faces that would look great on a Los Angeles billboard.
What the Chargers needed was a buzz.
It wouldn’t be a reach to say San Diego is a market that is dimly lit on the NFL landscape. They’re known as a ‘soft’ football team. Visiting teams love to go to San Diego because of its perfect weather and the fact that the road team’s fans usually outnumber the local fans creating a ‘home game on the road’ environment.
The Chargers needed a great season tied into a playoff appearance that would have put them into the consciousness of the NFL fans that don’t watch the Chargers or have any familiarity with the players aside from fantasy football. That way, when the NFL announces San Diego as the team headed to Los Angeles it would result in interest and excitement as opposed to the scratching of heads.
The Rams and Raiders have very loud and vocal factions of their fanbases shouting at the NFL from the rooftops that they should be the team that goes to Los Angeles. Rams fans have even started a movement to boycott the games should San Diego get cast in LA. Aside from the diehard San Diego fans, the fanbase largely is not willing to travel two hours up the I-5 to continue to support the Chargers. Apathy does not sell PSL’s and luxury boxes. Shutting out two teams with a long history in Los Angeles for a team with one year of tenure and currently sitting in last place will not draw eyeballs, ad revenue or sell merchandise.
In short, the Chargers are playing their way into San Diego. The biggest ally in keeping the Bolts in San Diego were the Bolts themselves. No one planned for the team to have this dismal a season but in a karmic way they solved their own problem. Forget what the ownership says, it’s all about the league making money and the Chargers are not going to do it.
The Greg One
When the San Diego Chargers did not address the vacancy at running back during free agency, it was obvious that would become one of the top priorities in the 2015 draft. Most of the Chargers’ faithful cheered when the front office moved up two spots, selecting Wisconsin Badger Melvin Gordon with their No. 1 pick.
Telesco and company found it paramount to give up their fourth-round pick in ’15 (big surprise) and fifth-round selection in ’16 to ensure that no one received the right to signing the electrifying Gordon other than the Bolts.
At the University of Wisconsin Gordon rewrote the NCAA record books. In 2014, Gordon led the Nation in rushing (2,587 yards), yards from scrimmage (2,740 yards), rushing touchdowns (29), touchdowns from scrimmage (32), rushing attempts (343) and yards per attempt (7.8). Gordon was a unanimous selection for All-American and All-Big-Ten First-team honors, as well as winning the Doak Walker Award given to the Nation’s best running back.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gordon was the picture of durability during his days at Wisconsin. After receiving a medical redshirt for suffering a groin injury during his freshman year in 2011, Gordon did not miss a game due to injury the remaining three years he spent on campus. A stellar 2014 season was capped by an Outback Bowl MVP award, additionally earning him second place in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
All of the hype surrounding Gordon upon his drafting by San Diego was well-deserved and well-received among most Chargers fans. To anticipate big things from such an elite collegiate running back was to be expected.
The reality of his pro career through seven games has not been as rosy.
Contributing factors to Gordon’s limited success can be traced to multiple things; an ankle injury has limited his effectiveness in games. The Chargers have been slowly working Gordon into the offense with a running-back-by-committee approach alongside Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver. The Bolts’ offensive line has once again been decimated by injuries. Ball security has also affected his playing time. To date, Gordon has fumbled four times, losing three. In three years at Wisconsin, he fumbled 12 times, losing seven. Gordon had 631 carries during that time. In San Diego, he’s carried the ball 85 times, yet still putting the ball on the carpet at an alarming rate.
It goes without saying that the college game and the pro game are two completely different animals. The defenses are faster, the players hit harder and the game is played at a much higher level.
Nonetheless, fundamentals, like ball security, don’t change. In college, it equated to one fumble every 53 carries. In the pros, it’s an alarming one fumble per every 21 carries. Gordon’s recent fumble issues, and nagging ankle injury, are the most likely reasons why he didn’t enter Sunday’s Raiders’ game until midway through the third quarter.
Despite the growing pains of being a high-profile draft pick in the NFL, Gordon is fifth among rookies in rushing with 328 yards. The Chargers find themselves with a 2-5 record, clinging to slim playoff hopes after an embarrassing home loss to the Raiders.
How does San Diego right the ship and get Gordon on track?
Two simple changes can achieve both purposes.
Abandon the running-back-by-committee approach
Gordon has shown he is capable of being an every-down back at the collegiate level. Let him prove he is capable of being an every-down back in the pros. To achieve this, Mike McCoy and those responsible for the gameplan on Sundays must to be willing to give Gordon the ball. In the last two games, Gordon has carried the ball seven times each. He has averaged 14 carries over the five previous games.
Gordon has to do his job and step up his game in respects to ball security, pass protection and route running. McCoy and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have to fully commit to the running game, giving Gordon twenty-plus carries, allowing him to be the punishing running back that he was in college.
Any running back will tell you being in on every down allows them to get into a rhythm, which helps them run better. Woodhead and Oliver can still be inserted on passing downs to spell Gordon when he needs a rest.
The second solution is presented in the form of a question.
What did Gordon have during his record-breaking seasons as a Wisconsin Badger that he does not have in the pros?
Get Melvin a capable fullback
Gordon accomplished all the gaudy records mentioned above — and a lot more — playing in a traditional Big-Ten power-running scheme. The Badgers almost exclusively ran I-formation with a fullback leading the way, opening the first crack in the defensive line. Gordon was able to use his explosiveness to get through the crack and accumulate yardage at an astounding clip. No back in NCAA history has more than Gordon’s 7.9 yards per carry average over his career. Using that scheme, Gordon is the fastest running back in NCAA history to 2,000 yards. He did it in only 241 carries.
If it ain’t broke…
With the Chargers, Gordon has been the single back on most of his plays.
We’ve watched as he’s shuffled his feet at the line, waiting for that first crack to open. It has been tough sledding for the rookie behind a patchwork offensive line struggling to open running lanes. As a result, Gordon is only averaging slightly above 40 yards per game.
After three-plus years of not having to wait, he’s getting stopped at or behind the line because his downhill running style isn’t conducive to waiting for a lane.
We’ve also seen that when he’s able to turn the corner along the sidelines he has a phenomenal second gear, along with the ability to accelerate for huge gains. Sadly, those moments have been few and far between. It will remain that way until the offensive philosophy changes.
The fullback is a dying breed in the NFL. There are no great fullbacks left, but you don’t need a great fullback to achieve the desired result.
There are plenty of free agent fullbacks who would love nothing more than to sign for the veteran’s minimum (approximately 800-900k depending on years of service) and run into the defensive line looking for contact. Henry Hynoski, Frank Summers, John Conner, Zach Boren and Jed Collins are all experienced fullbacks who would welcome the opportunity for an NFL paycheck.
Establishing a running game takes pressure off of quarterback Philip Rivers.He has already taken a beating this year. Rivers has been sacked 18 times. The Chargers have the No. 1 passing offense and the 29th rushing offense in the NFL through seven weeks because the coaches won’t commit fully to Gordon. A solid running attack keeps Rivers healthy, opening opportunities down the field with play action. But the running game must first be established prior to play action making sense, much less being viable in tricking the defense into deciding whether or not to commit to one or the other.
Forcing Rivers to throw 123 times in the last two games is an indictment of the lack of a consistent, effective running game. Continuing to force Rivers to shoulder that heavy a load will result in fans seeing the same beaten, battered QB we saw limping around at the end of last season.
The Chargers need to do no more than look east of the Mississippi at Gordon’s draft-class counterpart, Todd Gurley, to see what the reward could be. Many considered Gordon better than Gurley. The difference is that in St. Louis, Gurley is getting 19 carries per game and has garnered 442 yards in the four games he’s played. The Rams trust their workhorse, and San Diego needs to do the same.
The window is still open for a turnaround and postseason run with an (on paper) easy remaining schedule, including five division games on tap. The window will shut fast if no change is made soon.
At this point, there is nothing left to lose.
It’s time to release the Kraken. Get Gordon a fullback, let him carry the rock, stacking wins.
What do you think Bolt Nation? Leave your thoughts below.
The Greg One
As all of the NFL world knows, rookie running back Melvin Gordon has yet to reach the end zone. Going into Week 6, Chargers fans are anxiously waiting to see his first touchdown. The game in Green Bay at Lambeau Field might be the perfect venue for Gordon to get it done.
Gordon was drafted in the first round. The Chargers traded with the 49ers to move up two spots from 17th to 15th to assure the pick. Many would argue that drafting a running back, and moving up to do so, in the first round was a bad idea. Tom Telesco knew what he wanted, a solid running back after releasing Ryan Matthews, and did what he felt was needed to get Gordon. It is too early to determine if the pick was worth giving up their fourth-round pick in 2015 and the fifth-round pick in 2016.
The former Badger has some big shoes to fill. The Chargers had one of the greatest running backs to ever play the position, LaDainian Tomlinson. LT spent nine years with the Chargers between 2001 and 2009. Tomlinson had 12,490 rushing yards with the Chargers and 138 rushing touchdowns. Ryan Mathews was drafted in 2010 to take the reins from Tomlinson. Mathews was a decent running back registering 4,061 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns in his five years with the Bolts. Unfortunately, he seemed to always be injured and was not re-signed during the 2015 offseason.
It seems a little unfair to expect Gordon to be the next Tomlinson or to pick up where Mathews left off. Tomlinson had one of the best offensive lines in the league during his tenure with the Chargers. He also had workhorse Lorenzo Neal at fullback. With with exception of last year, Mathews also had a decent offensive line. Gordon has been playing behind an offensive line pieced together with duct tape after early injuries this season.
Gordon was not the only rookie back selected in first round of the 2015 draft. The St. Louis Rams drafted Todd Gurley out of Georgia with the tenth pick overall. Due to an injury that had yet to heal, Gurley missed the first two games of the year, and played sparingly in Week 3. In the last two games, the rook has gained 314 yards. Gordon only has 270 yards through five games.
The Chargers also have Danny Woodhead who is getting a majority of the snaps at running back, especially in the red zone. Gordon had his best chance to get into the end zone on a 1st-and-goal against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. Unfortunately, he was not able to get reach the end zone. The bottom line is that he is a rookie and still getting used to the playbook and the speed of the NFL.
Sunday’s game in Green Bay will be a homecoming of sorts for Gordon. He was raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kenosha is about three hours from Lambeau Field. He also played for the University of Wisconsin. Gordon will have a lot of his friends and family in attendance. He told ESPN that his grandmother will be able to attend this game. He added that it would be too hard for her to fly to California to see him play.
It feels like the perfect scenario for Gordon to get his first touchdown in his home state. While it’s always better to get a first touchdown in front of the home crowd, getting it in your home state with friends and family present is a very close second.
If he does get his first touchdown, maybe the fans will let him do the Lambeau Leap? Probably not, but crazier things have happened!
Thank you for reading.
By now, the news has spread through the San Diego Chargers’ news wire that free agent offensive tackle Joe Barksdale has been signed by the Bolts. The offensive line has been an area that needs improvement this offseason. They have re-signed left tackle King Dunlap and reserve center Trevor Robinson. Offensive guard Orlando Franklin was added via free agency, as was Chris Hairston, former Buffalo Bill. The team also brought in guard Michael Huey for depth or as a camp body.
Barksdale, 26, was a third-round pick in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders. The St. Louis Rams claimed him off waivers prior to the 2012 season. Barksdale has played the last 29 consecutive games for the Rams at right tackle. Now at the end of his rookie contract, the Rams drafted Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, instead of re-signing Barksdale as an unrestricted free agent.
Until the Rams’ offensive line was beset by injuries midway through the season, particularly to Jake Long and Davin Joseph, Barksdale ranked as a top-15 tackle according to Pro Football Focus. As the injuries and losses mounted during the second half of the season, his ranking also plummeted. The Chargers signed the 6’5″, 325 lb. bruiser to a one-year deal.
With Barksdale in the fold, the projected starting offensive line looks to be King Dunlap at left tackle, Orlando Franklin at left guard, Chris Watt at center, Barksdale at right tackle with D.J. Fluker moving to right guard. Guard Johnnie Troutman would be the odd man out of the starting lineup.
Looking at Troutman’s body of work, his career to date has been marred by injuries and ineffective play. He was the Chargers fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Troutman missed his entire rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered two weeks before the draft. In 2013, he started nine games and missed seven as a result of injury, or ineffectiveness. Coach McCoy benched Troutman halfway through the season after picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The injured reserved list was where Troutman’s season would end in 2014 due to a knee injury. Though he played 15 games, his run and pass blocking were equally abysmal and contributing factors to the overall lack of offensive production that caused the Chargers to miss the postseason by one game.
All the offensive line woes can’t be blamed on Troutman, but it is easy to see why he will be on the hot seat this season. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and he’s not shown he’s worthy of a starting position, much less a new contract. Younger, hungrier and more talented lineman are coming in every season and Troutman has yet to prove himself.
Troutman will be in a battle just to make the roster, as he will have to show he belongs with Hairston, Huey and the host of UDFA linemen the Chargers brought in to create quality depth at all positions on the line. The Chargers lose nothing by keeping Troutman, but they can gain a more capable, reliable player with whom they already have and who will become available when final roster cuts occur.
In the end, I believe Johnnie Troutman will not play another down in a regular season game for the Chargers. Like letting Ryan Mathews walk, it’s addition by subtraction. One less injury-prone player on the roster makes the team better. Best of luck to Troutman elsewhere, but his time is up.
What do you think? Does Troutman deserve one more year to prove himself?
The Greg One
The close of the 2014 NFL season for the San Diego Chargers was pretty dismal. The team finished 9-7 behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. The Bolts were 18th in total offense, 10th in passing, a lowly 30th in rushing and 29th in special teams. The signings of free agent wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson should go a long way toward bumping up some of those rankings.
Offensive coordinator (OC) Frank Reich and wide receivers coach Fred Graves currently have at least four players to devise schemes around in 2015. Reich is entering his second year as OC while Graves is on his third with the wideouts.
Here is a look at who the receivers are to date:
Malcom Floyd: 6’5″, 225 pounds
This will be Floyd’s 11th year. After a season-ending neck injury in game three of 2013, the 34-year-old veteran receiver came back in 2014. He played all 16 games last year and he recorded 52 catches for 856 yards and six touchdowns.
Keenan Allen: 6’2″, 211 pounds
The 22-year-old was constantly covered after proving himself to be a viable threat in his rookie year. Prior to missing the last two games of 2014 due to a broken collarbone (game 15 vs Denver Broncos), he had 783 yards on 77 receptions with four touchdowns.
Stevie Johnson: 6’2″, 207 pounds
This may be one of the free agent pickups that really has quarterback Philip Rivers smiling. Johnson’s presence gives Rivers another seasoned option at wideout. He played 13 games in San Francisco last year with 35 receptions for 435 yards with three touchdowns. Career numbers for Johnson include 89 games played, 336 catches, 4,267 yards, and 31 touchdowns.
Jacoby Jones: 6’2″, 215 pounds
Jones was most recently a Baltimore Raven. With the special teams unit finishing 29th in the league last year, this signing should prove to be a boon for San Diego. Jones can be a kick returner (165 returns, 4,527 yards, and 5 touchdowns), a punt returner (265 returns for 2,673 yards, four TD’s) and a receiver (203 balls for 2,733 yards with 14 touchdowns).
Dontrelle Inman: 6’3″, 205 pounds
Previously a Canadian Football League player, the 26-year-old Inman made San Diego’s roster last August. He caught the ball 12 times for 158 yards in two games played. He spent the majority of the season on the team’s inactive list.
Austin Pettis: 6’3″, 203 pounds
Pettis has played in 47 games. As a receiver, he has racked up 1,034 receiving yards on 107 catches with five touchdowns during his career with the Rams. Additionally, he has nine kick returns for 75 yards, with 29 punt returns totaling 254 yards.
Although there could be changes among the receiving corps prior to the beginning of the 2015 season, this is how it is shaping up as of now. Perhaps Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco will add another receiver via free agency or the draft. Fans will not have to wait long as free agency is well under way and the draft is right around the corner.
What are your thoughts regarding the wide receiver position moving forward? Please let me know by commenting below.