Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kicking woes were a constant problem for the Los Angeles Chargers during the 2017-18 season. In an attempt to finally solve their kicker quandary, the Bolts signed veteran kicker Caleb Sturgis to a two-year/4.45 million contract. Per Spotrac, the deal includes a one million dollar signing bonus and one million fully guaranteed.
Sturgis entered the NFL after a standout career at the University of Florida. The Miami Dolphins selected him in the fifth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft and he played in South Beach for two seasons. He then joined the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2015-16 season where he was cemented as the starter until game one of the 2017-18 season when he went down to a hip flexor injury. The Eagles placed Sturgis on injured reserve and he lost his job to Jake Elliott.
For his career, Sturgis has made 111 of 137 field goals (81%) and 140 of 144 (97%) extra point attempts. The Chargers went through five kickers last season and it directly cost the Bolts wins due to their combined league-low 67% success rate. Sturgis was 7-11 in the critical area of 50+ yard kicks in his most recent stint in Philadelphia.
Immediately after the season ended, the Chargers signed kicker Roberto Aguayo. Aguayo is the former second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After entering the draft as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history out of Florida State, Aguayo never found his footing in Tampa. He missed nine of his 31 field goal attempts and two extra points his rookie year, resulting in his getting cut after one season. Quick stints with the Panthers and Bears did not yield better results and he found himself out of work before the end of last season.
Aguayo and Sturgis will be a camp battle to watch as offseason activities and training camps will begin in a few weeks. Can Aguayo find his groove? Has Sturgis fully regained his starter form from when he was a top-10 kicker in the league? Stay tuned…
Do you like this move? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Photo credit courtesy of the official Los Angeles Chargers Twitter account and team website.
The staff here at boltblitz give their predictions and takes on what they think will happen Sunday versus the Buccaneers
Zak Darman: Coming off a big road win in Houston, Philip Rivers and the Chargers go home to take on the Buccaneers in what many think will be a close game. I happen to agree with them. Most are picking the Bucs, I don’t agree with them there. I think the Chargers control the clock fairly easily and force a few turnovers on Winston, who is known to give up the ball at times. Chargers 24 Bucs 20
Charles LaFurno: Defense does a great job shutting Mike Evans down and the Chargers cool off a dangerously hot Bucs team to seal their sixth win and get back to .500 with four games left to play. Philip goes over 300 yard mark with four touchdowns. Bosa and Ingram combined for 3 sacks and the defense snags two picks from Famous Jameis. Chargers 34 Bucs 20
Michael Brazeel: Mike Evans against Casey Hayward is going to be the matchup of the day. Evans gets the better of CH going for 100 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs will be in position to tie the game late in the 4th, but the rookie kicker will miss. Giving the Bolts a win and getting them back to .500. 27-24 bolts
Brian Scott: The young and up-and-coming Bucs suffer a hangover after defeating the Seahawks. Bucs give up sacks and with the improved pass rush, the Bolts get in the backfield often. Rivers has a 300 yard game and Gordon gets 80 with two touchdowns. Chargers win 36-17
Laura Leech: Back at home and trying to get to .500 for the third time this season, the Chargers finally do it. It comes down to the wire but they are victorious in this must-win game. 31-28 bolts
Corey Decker: Both teams going into this game with something to prove. The veteran presence and the record of Philip Rivers in December are the two reasons chargers walk away victorious. 24-21 Chargers by 3.
Brian Krich: I like the Chargers here. I believe Bucs will struggle to protect Winston and won’t be able to effectively sustain run game. Mike Evans will get his, but it won’t be enough. Chargers balanced offense carries the day. I say 27-17 Bolts.
Chris Hoke: Chargers have a very sleepy first half falling behind 14-0 giving up a TD to Mike Evans and another on a Rushing TD. Melvin Gordon carries the team in the Second half scoring a TD and racking up 200 scrimmage yards. Rivers finds Hunter Henry late to tie the game up 14-14 the Chargers get the ball back with one minute left and drive into Lambo range he makes the game winner. 17-14 bolts
Cheryl White: Bucs fly West hoping for another “W” but Chargers defense plays hard & Bosa disrupts Winston often. Rivers is epic again this week with 300 yards & TDs to Gates, Williams & Inman while Gordon runs for 85 yards & a scores twice. Chargers win 35-17
Mike Pisciotta: Lambo misses two FGs, but hits in the closing seconds for the win. Rivers throws 2 INTs, but balances those with 2 TD passes and Gordon runs for another. Rivers and Gates connect early and often with the old man collecting 125 receiving yards. Bolts over the Bucs 27-24
Will McCafferty: I think the Chargers get out to a first quarter lead, let the Bucs back in the game in the second quarter and then open up a can of ass-whoopin’ in the second half. Chargers win going away, 34-17.
Dave Peters: Gates gets one step closer to Tony Gonzalez and the TE-TD record. Rivers throws for three scores as the Chargers dominate until late in the game. Joey Bosa logs a 2.5-sack day. Denzel Perryman recovers a fumble forced by Corey Liuget. Pagano goes ultra conservative in his play calling, as always, surrendering a couple scores late. Chargers 27 Bucs 26
Here is my take on the Chargers vs Buccaneers game and what the bolts must do in order to win and get to .500
1.) Contain Evans
Mike Evans is a stud and is one of the most vastly underrated receivers in the game. He absolutely torched Richard Sherman and the Seahawks last week going for 8-104-2. He is going to be a big task for whoever guards him this week (my assumption is, it will be up to Casey Hayward) and is really the only player on Tampa that scares me. Winston is young and raw but he is improving and Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin, is average at best.
2.) Balanced Attack on Offense
You aren’t winning in this league without a balanced offense regardless of how much the game has changed. Philly Riv is borderline elite, as we’ve seen throughout the years, but no team is winning with a borderline elite QB and no running game. Tampa Bay currently ranks bottoms in defense, so this should be a game in which the bolts and control the rock and throw 25 times while running it another 20 eating up clock and keeping their defense fresh.
This seems to be a key each and every week. Well, until it improves, it wont be going away. The Chargers are blown countless amount of leads in the 4th quarter and have a minus in points for the quarter. The Chargers SHOULD have the lead Sunday, but whether or not they keep it is ultimately the final question and answer.
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
The NFL regular season starts in just under two months. The 2016 schedule has the Chargers facing the AFC South, NFC South, the Miami Dolphins (AFC East) and the Cleveland Browns (AFC North).
Below is a breakdown of their 2016 opponents.
Week 1: @Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Record: 11-5, 2nd AFC West
Offense: 27th overall
Defense: 7th overall
The Chiefs started 2015 slow, losing five straight games. They ended the season winning 10 straight and won their first playoff game in 20 years. The running game should be solid for the Chiefs in 2016. Jamaal Charles is coming back from an ACL injury. Along with his fellow running backs, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, KC sports one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Week 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Record: 5-11, 3rd AFC South
Offense: 18th overall
Defense: 24th overall
The Jaguars had a less than stellar season, placing third in the worst division in the NFL in 2015. Jacksonville only won one road game last year. The Jags took to the draft to help beef up their defense by signing defensive players with their first five picks, including DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and LB Myles Jack from UCLA.
Week 3: @Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 28th overall
Defense: 26th overall
The Colts had a 3-5 record in the first half of the 2015 season, losing starting quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 8. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and journeyman signal caller Josh Freeman went 5-3 in the second half, but it still was not enough to win the division. If Andrew Luck can stay healthy in 2016, the Colts could make improvements on offense. They drafted a much-needed center, Ryan Kelly from Alabama, with the 18th pick overall.
Week 4: New Orleans Saints
2015 Record: 7-9, 3rd NFC South
Offense: 2nd overall
Defense: 31st overall
The Saints were a very lopsided team in 2015. Their offense averaged 403.8 yards and 25.5 points per game, but their defense allowed an average of 413.8 yards and 29.8 points per game. That is clearly not a recipe for success. The Saints should continue to have a stellar offense with veteran Drew Brees at quarterback.
Week 5: @Oakland Raiders
2015 Season: 7-9, 3rd AFC West
Offense: 24th overall
Defense: 22nd overall
The Raiders made some improvements last year in an attempt to have their first winning season since losing the Super Bowl in 2003, but fell short, again. Their 7-9 record was an improvement considering they have averaged only 4.9 wins a season in the last 13 years. The Raiders will probably continue to improve in 2016. They have a young team lead by third-year quarterback Derek Carr. Don’t sleep on the Raiders in 2016.
Week 6: Denver Broncos
2015 Season: 12-4, 1st AFC West
Offense: 16th overall
Defense: 1st overall
The Broncos won the division — again — for the fifth consecutive season and went on to win Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning had his worst season, finishing with only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games. The stellar Broncos’ defense allowed an average of only 283.1 yards and 18.5 points per game. The Broncos are bringing back pretty much the same defense in 2016. The retirement of Manning brings veteran Mark Sanchez, back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch fighting for the starting position. Rumor has it that Sanchez and Siemian are neck-and-neck in the fight to win the job.
Week 7: @Atlanta Falcons
2015 Season: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 7th overall
Defense: 16th overall
The Falcons started out the 2015 season hot, winning six of their first eight games. The second half was the exact opposite, as they went 2-6. One of the two wins in the second half was against their division rival, and eventual Super Bowl runner-up, the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons drafted strong safety Keanu Neal from Florida with the 17th overall pick to boost their struggling defense.
Week 8: @Denver Broncos
See week six.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC South
Offense: 30th overall
Defense: 12th overall
The Titans looked like a sleeper team in Week 1 of the 2015 season, when they won 42-14 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, led by 2nd overall pick, Marcus Mariota, who had 209 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Despite Mariota’s success in Week 1, the Titans ended up with the worst record in 2015, averaging only 311.8 yards and 18.7 points per game. It will be hard to do much worse in 2016, but anything is possible.
Week 10: Miami Dolphins
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th AFC East
Offense: 26th overall
Defense: 25th overall
The Dolphins were led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who averaged 263 passing yards per game and had 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. While those numbers aren’t terrible, his offensive line could not keep him standing up, as he was sacked 45 times. The Titans could fare better in 2016 when it comes to sacks with the signing of offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @Houston Texans
2015 Season: 9-7, 1st AFC South
Offense: 19th overall
Defense: 3rd overall
The Texans started the season off rocky, going 3-5 in the first half of the season but turned it around in the second half, only losing two games. The third ranked defense allowed only an average of 19.6 points for game and even had five games where their opponent only scored six points. The Texans liked what they saw when Brock Osweiler took over the quarterback duties for the Broncos and signed him to be their starter in 2016. This move could either make them or break them.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th NFC South
Offense: 5th overall
Defense: 10th overall
The Buccaneers should have had a better record in 2015 since they had a top-10 overall offense and defense. Stats don’t always show the big picture, especially considering their offense averaged 375.9 yards per game, but only 21.4 points per game. The defense allowed an average of 340.4 yards per and 26.4 points per game. The Bucs took to their coaching staff to bring change, naming Dirk Koetter as the new head coach, replacing Lovie Smith, along with Mike Smith as the new defensive coordinator and Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator.
Week 14: @Carolina Panthers
2015 Season: 15-1, 1st NFC South
Offense: 11th overall
Defense: 6th overall
The Panthers had an explosive offense in 2015, leading the league with 500 total points and an average of 31.3 points per game. Their offense, lead by quarterback Cam Newton, was not able to fare well against the best defense in the league and lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos, scoring only 10 points. The Panthers will be without DB Charles Tillman, who recently announced his retirement after 13 years in the league. They signed former Chargers punter Mike Scifres to a one-year deal.
Week 15: Oakland Raiders
See week five.
Week 16: @ Cleveland Browns
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC North
Offense: 25th overall
Defense: 27th overall
For the fourth straight year, the Browns were in last place in their division. The quarterback situation in Cleveland was their biggest downfall in 2015. The off-field antics of quarterback Johnny Manziel had the Browns switching the starting positions between the former first-round draft pick and Josh McCown. The Browns lost their best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, to the Chargers during free agency. They went to the draft in hopes of replacing him, drafting five wide receivers, including Corey Coleman from Baylor with the 15th overall pick.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
See week one.
The Chargers only face four teams with a winning record last year, but two of the four of those teams are the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. They will face two teams with a .500 season and seven teams with a losing season in 2015, including the Oakland Raiders.
The schedule seems pretty easy — on paper — and I predict that they will definitely win more than four games this season. The Chargers play in a tough division and will need to win some of those games to be contenders in 2016.
Thanks for reading!
Let me begin by saying that the fan-boy in me is in its usual form regarding the excitement I have about the upcoming NFL season and your San Diego Chargers.
This is the time of the year where all 32 teams are sporting a 0-0 record, and the sky is the limit for every NFL team — well, except the Cleveland Browns.
This is also the time of the year where finding things to write about is difficult but not impossible.
Forgive me in advance for the fluff pieces that will come out until the beginning of training camp.
Below is a look at the Chargers’ 2016 schedule:
Week 1 – @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 2 – versus Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 – @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 4 – versus New Orleans Saints
Week 5 – @ Oakland Raiders
Week 6 – versus Denver Broncos
Week 7 – @ Atlanta Falcons
Week 8 – @ Denver Broncos
Week 9 – versus Tennessee Titans
Week 10 – versus Miami Dolphins
Week 11 – BYE WEEK
Week 12 – @ Houston Texans
Week 13 – versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 14 – @ Carolina Panthers
Week 15 – versus Oakland Raiders
Week 16 – @ Cleveland Browns
Week 17 – versus Kansas City Chiefs
In addition to what I mentioned above about this time of the offseason, this is also when you look at the Chargers’ schedule on paper and decide where the team will finish up this year’s campaign.
Quite frankly, the slate of opponents this season does not seem to be daunting.
Obviously, the team cannot go 0-6 in the division this year like they did in 2015 — not if they have any hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season.
Below is a poll. You know the drill: place your vote and leave a comment stating why you voted the way you did.
Thanks in advance for reading, voting and commenting.
I am really looking forward to your responses.
Dave Booga Peters
It’s officially the doldrums of the NFL offseason, the lonely time between mini-camps and the start of training camp. Made worse by the fact that the NBA and NHL seasons are over, this could be considered a sports fan’s darkest hour. Coaches and players are on “vacation” until the last few days of July. For many players this is the only time they will have to take care of important personal business like buying and selling houses and cars, renewing or obtaining driver’s licenses, and other important “housekeeping” duties.
For other players, it party time! The next four weeks are their last bit of freedom to let loose before another grueling season begins. Let’s hope our Bolts can focus on staying in shape and the playbook instead of “making it rain” and the local clubs.
Usually during this time sports news is hard to come by. Most local sports talk show hosts and news reporters are on vacation, and aside from the occasional story of some bonehead NFL player getting into trouble outside a local strip joint or night club, NFL news is fairly non-existent. So I was delighted to see an interesting NFL story break recently.
The Associated Press published an article about how a few NFL teams are using beeping footballs to help their running backs hold on to the ball more securely. The footballs are equipped with pressure sensors and an audible beeping device that emits a sound when the runner holds the ball by key positions tight enough to avoid being dislodged via a hit. The article states the ball could reduce fumbling by nearly sixty percent. The article also states that the Tampa Bay Bucs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are all using the device. More interestingly, it also stated that the Chargers are reportedly going to start using the football when they commence training camp on July 30th.
This is something worth taking note of when camp starts. Running back Melvin Gordon’s fumbling issues were well known last season. Putting the ball on the ground is unacceptable, especially this season for a team in “win now” mode for several reasons, including a potential stadium vote in November. The ball helps with muscle memory, training backs to grip the ball properly as well as with the correct amount of force. Instead of thinking about holding on to the ball, they can think about hitting the hole in front of them.
One potential hiccup I foresee is Mike McCoy will have to turn down the training facility’s boom box during practices. A staple of McCoy’s practices, and one of the few things he does that I actually approve of, is playing loud music during practice. Blaring rhythmic tunes over the facility’s speakers helps simulate loud stadium environments the Chargers play in on a weekly basis such as Arrowhead Stadium. I am not sure how Gordon and company will be able to hear a beeping football over Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit screaming expletives. If the new footballs help reduce fumbling I am all for shelving McCoy’s playlist and listing the boom box for sale on Craigslist.
Hopefully these new balls can help Melvin Gordon, who has many facets to his game that need improving, as well as the other running backs on the roster. I would actually give this device to any players who handle the ball such as receivers and return men, maybe even the whole team. It will be interesting to see if this new training tool will make an impact for the teams using it this year, especially our Bolts!
What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
(Photo Credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune)
This past Monday Night football was nauseating to watch. The Chargers, who dominated most of the game, could not hold onto a slim three-point lead in the waning minutes against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. When the clock displayed double zeros and Le’Veon Bell’s reach over the goal line was replayed numerous times, Bolts fans were disgusted. The final score was not the only thing that upset the home crowd. It was all the obnoxious yellow towels that were whirled about Qualcomm stadium. Players from San Diego were even in awe of the strong black and gold front that, at times, overtook the stadium. The game was, after all, played in America’s finest city and not the Steel City from Pennsylvania. How shocking was it to see and hear?
Honestly, it should not have been that big of a surprise.
The Monday Night announcers made sure that people sitting at home were very aware of the Steelers’ fan-base presence; especially after the end of the game. So naturally sports media, talk shows, podcasts…etc. were talking about it. Chargers fans worldwide voiced their frustrations and even compared San Diego’s fanbase to other football teams, asking why Bolt fans were outnumbered at home.
Let me take this moment to state the obvious:
The San Diego fan base will never be at the same level as the fans from Green Bay, Pittsburgh, or Chicago. Period.
Several articles that I scanned through all had this to say about the Pittsburgh Steelers fans:
“Best traveling fans in the NFL.”
Out here on the west coast of Florida, you could maybe find 20 people out of 100 that were born and raised in the Sunshine State. The other 80 hails from the likes of Pittsburgh, Ohio, Massachusetts…etc. Having gone to several Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays games in my 15 years of living here, it rarely feels like a home game. It’s a transplant state after all. Residents bring their fandom with them. In fact, there is a Steelers bar very close to my home called Fanatics Sports Bar & Grill.
So why do fans from all over outnumber the home team? What does Florida have to offer?
The same thing San Diego has to offer….except the awful humidity, of course.
In America’s finest city, people come from all over to reap the benefits of perfect weather, beaches and the lifestyle. Just like here in Florida, after a few visits, people decide to move and plant themselves permanently, or seasonally. San Diego has always boasted the best weather year round of any other city in America. With the ocean breeze slapping them in the face, the surfing, fishing and the relaxed atmosphere, it is no wonder people from twelve-below temperatures are flocking their way out west.
I am a transplant Floridian, and the only games I really attend are those when the San Diego Padres and Chargers are in town. Do I get nasty looks? Of course I do. Nobody wants to see opposing fans at their home stadium.
As disheartening as it was to see those awful towels seemingly exceed those beautiful Charger jerseys in the stands, it should not have been a surprise. It is painful that this story reached such great heights.
However, Charger fans need to worry less about the number of opposing fans and more about the team itself. Call it like it is, Bolts fans: the city of San Diego is a transplant city and those transplants bring their money as well as their love for their favorite team. All Charger fans need to do is to continue to support the team and “BOLT UP!!”
Thanks for reading.
Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
Listen to all the draft coverage on any network and you will hear the same thing coming from a different mouth. The two best quarterbacks in the draft are Jameis Winston of Florida State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon. All signs indicate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will select the man they see as the best quarterback, Winston, with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
As they have been throughout their team’s history, Tampa Bay will be wrong.
A fact that has recently emerged regarding Tampa Bay sheds a little light on that statement. In the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, they have never signed a quarterback they drafted to a second contract. Every quarterback the Bucs have ever drafted has washed away or drifted off to another team. As a result, the team has to reset the position with the frequency of a Presidential election, every four years at best.
Of the 32 men who have been quarterbacks for Tampa bay since their inception in 1976, only 5 have played four or more seasons in Buccaneer Orange. Their frugality in contract talks have cost them players who went on to greater success and Super Bowl rings with other teams. (Steve Young, Doug Williams, Joe Flacco). Now they’re primed in the top spot of the draft to choose the new face of their franchise at the quarterback position.
The best quarterback is not Jameis Winston. Not by a long shot.
The measurables for Winston look great. He has a NFL build. He played in a pro-style offense at Florida State that everyone sees as the dividing line between him and the man who really is the best quarterback available, Marcus Mariota. Winston is a proven winner who won the Heisman Trophy his freshman year. Despite putting up better numbers than Winston, Mariota didn’t win the Heisman until last season, his junior season.
There are few positive metrics that Mariota does not beat Winston. Last season, Mariota was better than Winston in completion percentage, passing yards, rushing yards, passing and rushing touchdowns, yards per completion and quarterback rating while leading the fourth highest scoring offense at Oregon to the tune of 45 points per game. Winston led Mariota in one category, interceptions, with 18 to Mariota’s 4. He completed one pass more than Mariota (305 to 304) but it took 22 more attempts to do so.
To the eye, Winston looks much bigger than Mariota. In reality they’re practically the same. Both players stand 6’4. Winston (225-230) outweighs Mariota (215-220) by 10-15 pounds depending on how much indulging on crab legs he’s been doing lately. Winston does carry a spare tire around his midsection where Mariota has a more slender, athletic frame. Both men have rifle arms and show great pocket presence and escapabilty. Mariota gets the nod in the speed department after posting a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
The single knock on Mariota is the system he played in. In Oregon, he was the maestro of the spread offense. He operated out of the shotgun and Oregon ran a play an average of every 20 seconds. Pro pundits debate whether that system of play will translate to the NFL. That stands as the only reason Winston is considered a can’t-miss NFL prospect while Mariota is seen as a project. The Oregon QB hasn’t ran a play from the under center since high school.
Any quarterbacks coach should be salivating over the possibility of having a prodigy such as Mariota to mentor. A three, five or seven step drop is not rocket science to teach. As Mariota gets comfortable operating under center he’s going to get better with each season as the drops become second nature. Look at his tape and Mariota goes through his progressions quickly, not just deferring to his first read as many have said. He has an above average release time and is adept at reading defenses.
Winston comes with a lot of red flags. All of his misadventures at FSU are well documented and it should force a GM to reconsider using the highest draft pick on one with such a questionable moral code. The quarterback is the leader of the football team, the face of his university. It could be argued that Winston has damaged the reputation of Florida State as much as he has enhanced it. Mariota has no such character issues.
Immaturity does (or should) play a role in the decision making process. If Winston makes such bad decisions when he’s a poor college student, what is he going to do with his free time with millions of dollars in the bank? How will he behave when the gold-digging groupies of the NFL come after him? What are the odds Winston will be able to keep his nose clean his entire pro career, help his team win games and be the first person the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have ever signed to a second contract? Things can always change but I wouldn’t bet he will.
Both quarterbacks are the top of their class. Mariota has unlimited upside while Winston enters the league at the height of his powers. This is shaping up to be the millenium edition of the Manning/Leaf debate. In my view, Mariota is trending to be the next Steve Young or Cam Newton (another spread quarterback) while Winston looks like the next Byron Leftwich or Jamarcus Russell. (All the raw, physical tools in the world but lacking the self-discipline to put it all together). A quarterbacks’ most important weapon is his brain and I trust Mariota to be the film room junkie, first one in, last one out of the facility type of athlete that becomes a Hall-Of-Famer. Four years from now we’ll all look back and wonder how it was even a question.
Sorry Tampa, you got it wrong. As usual.
There are less than three days remaining until the offseason day we’ve all been waiting for aside from the start of free agency. The NFL Draft will commence with the Tampa Bay on the clock and a whirlwind of speculation surrounding our beloved San Diego Chargers. I will be there in person to see the events unfold and write of it in the days thereafter. After ingesting all the rumors and speculation of the last couple months, I have a feel for the way things go and I am brave (or stupid) enough to put them in print. Without further adieu. here are my top ten fearless predictions.
1. Philip Rivers will NOT be traded. Chargers GM Tom Telesco knows how valuable a commodity he has in Rivers and he’s simply not for sale. Not for Mariota. Not for Winston. Not for a handful of magic beans. No trade. No way. No how.
2. Adrian Peterson WILL be traded. To my chagrin, I have come to the realization that he will not be traded to the Chargers as dearly as I want that to happen. The Vikings know there is no chance in hell Peterson will ever suit up in the Purple and Gold ever again so on draft day he will be gone to the highest bidder. I will stand by my projection that the best they will get is a third round pick and maybe a late round throw in but their first round asking price will not happen.
3. Marcus Mariota will be the second pick in the draft but he will not play for Tennessee, who own the second pick. Not coincidentally, it leads to my next prediction…
4. Marcus Mariota and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly will be reunited in Philadelphia. All the talk of a Mariota-for-Rivers deal has to make the Eagles happy because they have been largely forgotten in the equation. This will turn out exactly the way we expected it to at the end of the National Championship game. Chip Kelly wants Mariota to run his offense the same way he did at Oregon. Kelly knows there is no one better to run his offense than Mariota. Kelly will get Mariota.
5. To get Mariota, Kelly will trade off his offseason acquisitions. We all thought Kelly traded off his best pieces if he wanted to trade up to get Mariota. The Eagles sent former rushing champion LeSean McCoy packing. They traded away a strong quarterback in Nick Foles. What they did was overload their skill positions in order to make a deal the Titans would want. Let’s examine the facts. They now have DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles as running backs. They now have Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and Tim freaking Tebow in their five quarterback stable. Kelly is going to give the Titans the quarterback and running back of their choice AND their first rounder to get the Titans spot and claim Mariota. Book it.
6. Eight household name players will change addresses during the draft. Expect at least five veterans to get traded on day one and more on day two as Peterson comes into play. Chip Kelly will be responsible for three of those names alone. More will come.
7. The Chargers first round pick will be a running back. Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon will be the man depending on who’s available. Florida State center Cameron Erving will be the selection (as I indicated in my recent mock draft) if both are gone. Offense will be the order of the day in the first round. Telesco has not addressed the running back issue at all in the offseason and contrary to what has been said, don’t expect him to stand pat with Donald Brown, Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead. A top two running back will be drafted.
8. Only two quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round but three will be traded. Among those names, expect Robert Griffin III to be one of them.
9. The bidding war for Adrian Peterson between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys will be won by….New England. The Patriots will give the Vikings their first, second and fifth round picks to secure Peterson as Belichick shows why he is still the smartest person in the room. Hear that sound? It’s Bill Belichick dropping the mic.
10. Telesco will go against formula and trade down on day two to recover the seventh round pick he dealt last year. He’s saving one other bombshell for day two that lands the Chargers the services of.. disgruntled Bears feature running back Matt Forte. You heard it here first. A big name veteran will end up with the Chargers by the end of the draft. Telesco has a plan and its going to jolt Bolt Nation.
There you have it. My expectations for the draft. There’s always a few surprises, a few head scratchers but it will always be entertaining. Look for me on Thursday wearing my powder blue lightning bolted jersey of the quarterback who won’t be traded.
The Greg One