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
Man, oh man! What a day to be a Chargers fan!!
That was my reaction to the Chargers vs. Falcons game a few weeks back. And if you had Tyrell Williams in your fantasy football lineup that week – he reaped HUGE dividends! I have him on my team in two leagues and he was well over his projections: 15 points against an 8.64 in my Yahoo league while in my NFL League it was 14 versus an estimated 5.70 low.
Crazy to recall that this huge, raw talent was not invited to the NFL Combine. Guess he was considered too raw as he went undrafted.
That’s okay, because the Chargers picked him up. And while he didn’t see much on-field time until late last year, it’s all good.
Fast forward to 2016.
The 6’4″, 205 pounder made his way up the depth chart after an injury in training camp landed Stevie Johnson on IR. Shortly after that, the Bolts’ number one wide-out Keenan Allen was lost for the season. Where did that put Williams? Squarely in the starting line-up along with slot receiver and off-season signing Travis Benjamin.
During training camp last year, Chargers’ signal caller Philip Rivers made mention of how much Williams reminded him of Malcom Floyd; the way he moved, almost as if gliding his way down the field.
He is becoming adept at using that big body and 4.38 second speed to fly across the middle or along the sidelines. Through 10 games, Williams career stats are 43 catches for 720 yards and four TD scores. The Falcons game saw him mark career-highs in both targets (7 of 10) and receiving yards (140). To date, he is ninth in yards after the catch (YAC) with 317. That breaks down to an average of 7.4 YAC.
Those are all great. There are, however, a couple of things that Williams needs to tweak. One is his sideline awareness.
Early in the second quarter, first and 10 from Atlanta’s 49-yard line, Benjamin threw the ball towards Williams, who caught it and ran. A 22 yard bomb. While the toss took many by surprise, it was an awesome catch…except that it was called back incomplete. A simple nuance – dragging his right toe as he was going out of bounds would have been the difference of another set of downs rather than the challenge that followed. Second and 10 at Atlanta’s 49 yard line rather than first and 10. Sigh. The Bolts kick a field goal to cap that drive.
Williams was kind of quiet in the second half (3/4, 27 yds) as San Diego continued to run the ball with Gordon and began mixing Inman into the offense more. Williams’ last catch of the day converted a 3rd and 10 at the Falcons’ 15 yard line into a Chargers’ 1st and goal at Atlanta’s 5-yard line early in the fourth and Josh Lambo kicked a chip-shot to pull the Bolts’ within three.
The thing with Williams is that he is extremely adept at picking up those yards after the catch, much like Malcom Floyd was prone to do when Rivers was putting the ball up for him to nab. In just his second year, Williams and Rivers have quickly developed a rapport in which when No. 17 fires a bullet in his direction, he is confident that No. 16 is getting his hands on it. The game is not too big for him as he has continued to build on what began last December – opportunity knocking due to Floyd having to leave the Denver game. He hauled in his first NFL touchdown that day in front of Broncos’ corner Aquib Talib.
He hasn’t looked back since.
So what does Williams need to do at this stage of his development? One thing he MUST do is work on his route running. For example, we have all seen how at least a couple of times throughout a game he misses the option route. Those miscues just give Rivers fits. So far there have been 11 times where the chance for better field position has resulted in the ball not being in his hands. Overall better recognition of where the defender is in conjunction to when/where Williams should break or how deep into the route before he does will come with repetition. He needs to get a quicker break off the line of scrimmage also.
When Keenan Allen went down week one, it was Williams’ turn to step up. At that time, Rivers stated to Michael Gehlken (SD-UT) “We need him to catch a bunch of balls this year — a bunch of balls and have some huge days and big gains.”
From the apex of Atlanta to the debacle in Denver, Williams appeared to be hampered a bit in Mile High Stadium. Battling a knee injury had his status questionable all week, so perhaps limited practice time may have affected him in his running and timing ability. A tipped ball off his hands led to a 49-yard interception-TD by Bradley Roby and gave the Broncos the lead late in the second quarter. On the Bolts’ next series, Williams tweaked his knee again going after a pass and was done for the day. Targeted six times, he hauled in a lone catch for four yards.
Though still having a sore knee with minimal practice reps, Williams hauled in six Rivers’ passes for 65 yards and a score this past Sunday against the Titans. This week versus Miami, with fellow wide-out Travis Benjamin inactive with his own knee injury, Williams’ stat line was 5/125 and a TD. It could have been more if not for at least twice where he didn’t even look back to Rivers to recognize that the ball was headed in his direction. Or because he let the defender beat him to the ball and didn’t fight for it, thus causing an interception.
The chemistry between Williams and his signal caller continues to evolve with each rep in practice and on the field. After the Thursday Night game against Denver two weeks ago, Rivers told Tom Krasovic (SD-UT) “Tyrell, as you saw, has the potential to make every play. There’s not a play physically that he can’t make. It’s just a matter of continuing to grow as a receiver – running (optimal) routes.”
They say knowledge is power. Stepping in to fill the shoes of your team’s number one receiver at a moment’s notice shows one’s mettle to teammates and coaches alike.
So far, Tyrell Williams has proven he is up to the challenge. He MUST continue to do so for team to have any kind of chance at winning games.
The Chargers looked to move back to .500 in Week 10 as they faced the Dolphins at home before heading into the Bye Week. Unfortunately, huge mistakes in key situations lead to the Miami Dolphins stealing this game away from the Chargers.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of another heartbreaking Chargers’ loss.
Tyrell Williams– 5 REC, 126 YDS, TD
With Travis Benjamin out with a knee injury, Tyrell Williams stepped up in a big way, as he has done pretty much all season. You have to love Tyrell’s ability to find ways to get open and his desire to learn from his mistakes. After running the wrong route and getting chewed out by Philip Rivers and Mike McCoy, Williams made up for his error the very next play with a game/momentum changing 51 yard touchdown reception. You almost wonder if Tyrell would have come this far if this team still had Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. None the less, look for Tyrell to get even better after the bye week, sans any injury setback.
Chargers Defense– No Denzel Perryman or Jatavis Brown? No problem. With those key injuries, this rag-tag defensive unit did their job in key moments in the game, especially Korey Toomer who lead the way with ten tackles and one assist. In addition, this band of misfits was able to hold the NFL’s leading rusher, Jay Ajayi, to 79 yards on 19 carries. Even if I didn’t agree with John Pagano’s play calling at key moments, you can’t blame the defense for this loss. The defense kept the Chargers in it until the end and with the upcoming bye week, this defense should get even better; getting Brown and Perryman back from injury,
Worth a mention– Trevor Williams, Melvin Ingram and Melvin Gordon.
In four games with nine penalties on one player, there comes a time where you have to rethink who is out there. It would be okay if Joe was good at his job. The truth is he’s not. In those four games he has been consistently beat at the point of attack, allowing Rivers to be sacked on multiple occasions. With the present bye week, the coaching staff needs to see that just because he is healthy, Barksdale is just not getting it done. Can they please try Chris Hairston or DJ Fluker at the right tackle position?
Offensive Line Pass Protection
In addition to Barksdale, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how bad this line was as whole. For the second week in a row, Rivers continued to find himself looking up at a blue San Diego sky. Three times last Sunday, Rivers was probably wondering if his line would ever protect him. This has been a consistent problem that can only be fixed by a short, quick passing game and running the ball far more consistently.
Philip Rivers– 23/44 326 YDs, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
After the game Rivers took all the blame for the team losing on Sunday as he should have. This team lives and dies by his success and struggles. Rivers struggled a lot on Sunday throwing four interceptions; three of which were in key points of the game. The first one of those three came off of a rare Dolphins turnover, giving the Bolts a 1st and goal at the five yard line. Rivers looked like he just wasn’t paying attention to zone defense as he threw into double coverage for an easy interception. Tough to come out of that situation with no touchdown – let alone no points at all.
The second came as the Chargers were driving down the field late in the game – trying to get in field goal range for a game winning score. Philip was baited into thinking Kiko Alonso was blitzing, As the ball was snapped, Kiko instead backs out into zone stepping in front of the first read. Tyrell Williams. and took it back for the Dolphins go ahead score. Finally, on the game sealing interception, #17 is again looking for Tyrell who wasn’t even open on the play. He forced it, instead of looking elsewhere or taking the sack and live to fight another down.With the upcoming bye week, its time for Rivers to rest up. Get Travis Benjamin back and hoping Williams gets 100% healthy he will try to get this team back into the thick of things if it’s not too late.
Situational Play Calling- Too many times this season have we seen this team get bogged down in the redzone. Why? Because we run the same predictable plays every time we get to the opponents twenty yard line or closer. Where was the screen passes? Where was the quick slants? We ran a screen to Melvin Gordon on a crucial third down and he was able to gain a ton of yards. Yet we only ran the screen again with a failed screen to Antonio Gates. Lets be realistic for a moment: Screens are for speedy and shifty players in the open field. Gates is none of those at the back-end of his career. Quick slants were one of the factors in the Chargers victory against the Tennessee Titans the previous week. Yet against Miami, the offense went away from the bread and butter.
Most of the season, the question most asked is “Why didn’t the charger run the ball (in key situations)? I’m aware Gordon was getting stuffed for most of the game, however Ayaji was also getting stopped but the Dolphins had no problem running it in twice in the red-zone. So if San Diego fired Frank Reich last year for these same issues, why does this continue to happen? The answer is Mike McCoy who seems to have some sort of say in these situations. If this is the case, Mike has to go this week. He is holding this team back from being good or great. I for one have seen enough of this McNorv experiment and its time to move on. I hope that during this time off, the “powers that be” make the right decision and let McCoy go. A change is desperately needed, although I highly doubt this organization has any guts to do it.
Worth a mention– Dwight Lowery
Hopefully all those people – those would be the voices of last season which were scathing at times – are eating their words this season with regard to Melvin Gordon. Bust, you say? Maybe that was a bit premature.
Why? First a little bit of Gordon’s background.
There was speculation aplenty when Chargers’ GM Tom Telesco and the San Francisco 49ers swapped spots in the 2015 NFL Draft. Telesco moved from 17th position to 15th and took Gordon. Many fans were disconcerted, some even loudly outraged, that the running back pick was Gordon and not Todd Gurley. Personally, I felt that with the Bolts needing a better running back than Ryan Mathews had been, plus the fact that Gurley was still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, it was a good choice.
What wasn’t there to like? Gordon finished his career at University of Wisconsin-Madison having played in 45 games where he had 631 carries for 4,915 yards and 45 TDs. As a receiver out of the backfield there were 22 catches for 228 yards and four TDs. In his senior year, the former Badger hauled in 19 receptions for 153 yards and three TDs while also accumulating 343 carries and 29 TDs for 2,587 yards (second most in the FBS). He also had six games of 200+ yards, a school record.
Being chosen as a first rounder is a huge responsibility coupled with as much, if not more, expectation. Not just the expectation of teammates and coaches, but also what the individual places on themselves. As a rookie the playbook is just one part of the whole; the speed of the game is vastly quicker and the majority of guys you suit up with are playing at a level considerably higher than your own.
Contributing factors to Gordon’s lower-than-anticipated numbers were the woes of the offensive line play of the Chargers. The team went through 24 O-line combinations. Play-calling was WAY too predictable. The line could not create holes on a consistent basis for the rookie to run through. Perhaps the biggest disservice to Gordon was the fact that his entire career at Wisconsin he had a fullback in front of him, yet there was no such position on his new team.
It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
This year saw a change at offensive coordinator as Frank Reich exited San Diego for Philadelphia. Ken Whisenhunt returned and brought with him the hope for a more productive running game. At the end of his 2013-14 stint as OC, San Diego had the No. 5 offense overall and was 13th in rushing. In 2015, the team was ranked ninth in total offense and they were 31st in rushing. Gordon was ranked 37th amongst all running backs.
With Whisenhunt, Gordon seems to have flourished. Through eight games (no update to include week nine yet), NFL.com has him ranked twelfth amongst running backs with 572 rushing yards (161 carries) and 219 receiving yards (24 catches). Including week nine stats, Footballdb.com has Gordon listed in the No. 3 slot behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (891 yds) and Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray (807 yds). Gordon has logged four games with over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards: Jacksonville 120 yards, Atlanta 121 yards, Denver 155 yards and last week at home against Tennessee he racked up a whopping 261 yards.
Even better is the fact that after nine games, Gordon is leading the league with 11 touchdowns. After not crossing the goal line once last year, the guy that many called a “bust” is number one in touchdowns scored!
The early season loss of Danny Woodhead, one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield, is part of the reason for the uptick in Gordon’s numbers. When Woodhead went down, and Branden Oliver out for the year since pre-season, it meant that Gordon had to step up his own game. It had been stated several times from OTA’s through training camp that he appeared more confident and sure of himself. Now, HE is the one taking the hand-off from Rivers in those 3rd down conversion scenarios when the call is for a run. HE catches some of those 3rd and long passes, and HE is the guy scampering in when they are in the red zone. Except of course for the Broncos game when he should have been given at least ONE shot from the 2-yard line to tie the game and Whisenhunt called for four straight pass plays.
Gordon has the vision this year that he was lacking throughout his rookie campaign. Having Derek Watt, his fullback from Wisconsin, blocking in front of him in games has helped. Less turnover along the offensive line has also made it easier to get off the line of scrimmage. He has fumbled twice this year versus the six from a year ago. The frenzy of 2015 has slowed a bit in his second year.
Gordon has been running so well that after last week’s Titans game in which he accumulated 196 rushing yards, 65 receiving yards and darted in for another rushing TD, the second-year back was nominated for, and won, both the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and the Castrol Clutch Performer of the Week!! Take that, all those Melvin Gordon haters of 2015! Not so much of a bust, after all, is he?!
My prediction is that Gordon will be the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Chargers since LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 1,110 in 2008; LT had 11 TDs that year and 154 receiving yards. Gordon needs only 232 yards to hit the 1,000 mark in rushing. If he continues at the pace he is on now, he will exceed that number. As of this writing he has already reached 1,032 yards combined. I anticipate he will score a total of 18 touchdowns and amass 1,300 rushing yards by season’s end. Bold? Perhaps. But I think he is up to the task.
Now if only he can continue to get the ball put in his hands in those short red zone TD situations!
The staff here at Boltblitz.com gives their takes on what they think will happen today versus the Titans.
Zak Darman: The Titans record is better than their talent says. What that means is they aren’t a team that should be 4-3. They have Murray on offense, and that’s really it. Delanie Walker didn’t practice Friday so it’s safe to assume he won’t play this week. They have been the team who has given up the most 20+ yard plays this season, and I think one of Travis Benjamin or Tyrell Williams will go for 100+ yards. Chargers 31, Titans 10
Charles LaFurno: Late Mariota drive with a TD pass to Murray seals it as the Bolts lose in powder blues and we all officially hop on the tank wagon. Titans 24, Chargers 20
Michael Brazeel: This is a game Chargers have to win at home. Rivers has big day against this secondary, and defense gives Mariota fits. Bolts win 34-21
Martin JC Jr: I see Rivers having a bounce back game against a sketchy secondary. He gets 3 touchdowns. Gordon will get to the endzone because Whiz will realize that Gordon can score the rock in the redzone. Chargers win 31-10
Travis Blake: The Chargers’ defense is going to be really sore on Monday, that is, if they can slow the Titans running attack. The Titans bring in one of the scariest ground games in the league. Scary because DeMarco Murray and Derick Henry are beasts, and the Chargers starting middle linebackers will consist of a backup and an outside linebacker moved inside. This is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion. We’re really going to see what the Bolts defensive line is made of in this game. If they can curb the Titans running game, the Chargers will have to worry about Mariota who can hurt them with his arm or legs. On offense the Bolts will sputter with no Henry, and both primary receivers banged up. I’d love to see someone else start at right tackle, not sure what’s going on with Joe Barksdale but his play is hurting this team. Chargers lose another close one, 28 – 19.
Brian Scott: With Hunter out the Rivers-Gates combo notch 2 more on their belts. Gordon runs ragged and get his most all-purpose yards of his career. Bosa continues his dominance as he spends all day in Marcus’s kitchen. Titans maintain their run game through most of game but abandons it in the 4th Quarter as Chargers have a big lead…only to dwindle and give fans another heart attack. Chargers win 36-26
Chris Hoke: Let’s see I had us losing in close one last week which Rivers did throw a pick 6 so your boy was right! No Perryman and Brown. Our run defense is screwed just in Preseason the Titans ran us over. Murray being hurt will limit his carries but he still gets 90 yards and a TD while Henry does the heavy lifting going over 100 yards himself. Mariota throws 2 TD’s and 1 pick. On offense we don’t know whether to run or pass so we just settle for 4 Lambo field goals. Rivers throws a TD late to Gordon it’s not enough as the bolts lose another close one and hope fully the McNorv shit finally ends! 21-20 Titans
Cheryl White: Whiz says that two yard line series has kept him awake. I think this is a game where Gordon is continually given the ball. Gates will be in for a good day as well while Williams & Benjamin play as well as expected with knee injuries. Barksdale plays smart this week (no Miller/Ware/Wolfe to face). Defense does ok with the plug-in players, Bosa & Ingram get to Mariota. TD’s by Gordon (2), Gates (1) & Inman (1) with a couple of FGs by Lambo give Bolts a close win. 34-27 bolts
Mike Pisciotta: Individual accomplishments by Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry, Dontrelle Inman, Joey Bosa, Jatavis Brown and Brandon Flowers will be erased by last-minute Tennessee heroics. McCoy, Pagano and Whisenhunt will again out coach themselves to deliver a heartbreaking loss in the closing minutes yet again. I don’t trust the coaching staff. I lost faith in Whisenhunt after Sunday’s embarrassing series of plays from the Denver two yard line. Mike McCoy gets in the way again this week, failing to manage the clock. Titans 27-24
Will McCafferty: I am quite worried about how far down the depth chart the Chargers have to go to fill spots like linebacker and receiver. On the bright side, I think the Bolts can do a decent job of stopping the run and that is the Titan’s strength. I’m not impressed with the Titans overall, but I think it will be a game. Chargers 31, Titans 27
Dave Peters: Whiz gets the better of LeBeau in this one, controlling both the tempo and the clock. Due to injuries adding up on defense, Rivers and the offense must score early and often. Gordon scores and notches another 100-yard game on the ground. Inman steps up with six catches and a TD. Ingram and Bosa each add sacks to their season totals. Bolts win, barely 29-27
Here are my three keys to victory today on how the Chargers can take down the Titans
1.) Lock on Murray, make Mariota beat you
Murray is their best player. Titans are going to want to give him the ball as much as possible. Mariota is young, so he’s prone to more mistakes. If you force Mariota not beat you, not Murray, then you have a better shot at turnovers and 3 and outs.
2.) Coaching needs to be better
This one is tough, because the staff is so incompetent. But if they would have run the ball from the two yard line last week they win the game. Whiz needs to understand his players strengths and to stop overthinking things. McCoy can’t coach scared and has to understand clock management. Pagano mustn’t take his foot off the gas and needs to consistently bring pressure. If they do all these, they will win.
3.) Take deep shots
Titans lead the league with most plays in the air of 20+ yards. Chargers have two guys who can stretch the field in Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams. One of the two will go off today (maybe both). Not sure which one, but I have a feeling it will Travis. Take shots and beat them deep.
What are your guys’ keys? Let me know below!
Zak Darman (@WilMyersGOAT)
On Monday another crushing blow to the Chargers 2016 campaign occurred when it was announced that Danny Woodhead would be lost for the season. Compounded with the loss of Keenan Allen last week, a huge void has been created in this offense.
Enter Dexter McCluster who the Chargers wasted no time finding as a solid replacement for Danny. Formerly with the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs, he is a capable and dangerous weapon who could be the best in-season pickup the Chargers have had in a long time.
Dare I say this – McCluster may be a better weapon for Rivers then Woodhead was. That’s only if McCluster has the same speed and shiftiness he had in KC/Tenn. The best part of this signing is Dexter knows Whisenhunt’s offense since he played for him in Tennessee. McCluster should easily be a situational player who has the versatility to make an impact in the running game, passing game and a return specialist. The Bolts haven’t had this kinda flexibility since the days of Darren Sproles.
To some, there might be some concern as to why he was on the free agent market. In Tennessee, he was third on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and thus he was released on September 2nd. A tryout with the New York Jets and 18 days later, the Chargers timing seems fortuitous as they inked him right away.
With his adaptability to fit into any role, it is anyone’s guess as to how McCoy will utilize the 28-year-old. Clearly he has huge shoes to fill in replacing a player like Woodhead, but perhaps with the right coaching staff and supporting cast, his career and usefulness could get a major jump. So far in his career, since being drafted by Kansas City out of Mississippi, he has not been “the guy” to build a team around. However, he appears to be a self-aware player who believes he can make an impact in any role he is given. All he needs is open space and the rock in order to showcase his speed and elusiveness.
If you’re not familiar with Dexter, here’s some highlights of his years with KC and his last year with the Titans. Enjoy!
Thanks for the read
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!
Quarterback Philip Rivers has already set more than his fair share of team records since taking over the reins as the starting signal caller in San Diego. Rivers has passed up the legendary Dan Fouts in most statistical categories, but there are still a few more passing records which he has the opportunity to eclipse prior to hanging up his cleats.
The fact of the matter is, this will be the year that he overtakes Fouts in all major passing stats, make no mistake about it.
Perhaps if Ken Whisenhunt had remained with San Diego after the 2013 season rather than accepting the head coaching job for the Tennessee Titans, we would have already witnessed it. However, “Whiz” left in 2014 and Frank Reich was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
While a portion of the argument would have to include the dreaded injury bug to the offense, the majority of blame lies in the uninspired playcalling over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There was a flash here and there of going outside the box with the occasional reverse or two tight-end sets, but that was too infrequent. Reich may have been one of the better back-up quarterbacks in the NFL, yet play design was not his forte. His tendency to use and shotgun and pistol formations, inability to develop schemes that were more familiar to then-rookie Melvin Gordon and abysmal offensive line play led to a parting of the ways between Reich and the organization this past January.
Let’s not dwell on that, though. A new season is on the horizon. A great many positives can come out of this year’s campaign. It has been said many times that as Rivers goes, so does the team he leads.
Now, I recognize that when Dan Fouts led the Chargers, the rules for protecting the quarterback were a bit different. Quarterbacks might have been hit in the head or had their legs grabbed by a defender, and little came of it. The NFL rulebook has changed considerably, and a quote made in 2013 by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer pretty much says it all: “…we played a game where we had to stay in the pocket and get hit in the face…But part of the badge of honor of playing quarterback in the NFL was standing in there and taking shots in the face and throwing a 20-yard dig route. That’s what separated you from the other guys. Now that’s just not part of the game.”
Undeniably, the QB position is one of the most protected when it comes to the assessment of penalties. Blatant or not, it’s going to be costly for the defense (possibly for the defender in the form of a fine) in today’s environment.
Keep a couple of things in mind as you read this: First, when Fouts entered the league in 1973, the season was 14 games long. Five years later it was changed to the current 16-game format. Second, two strike-shortened seasons skew his statistics. In 1982, only nine games were played. In 1987, weeks four through six saw predominantly replacement players take the field. One last thing, Fouts only had three seasons (1979 through 1981) in which he played the entire game schedule, whereas Rivers has played every game since becoming the lead signal caller for the Bolts’ in 2006.
There are a few of Fouts’ records that Rivers will meet and exceed in 2016, and at least a couple that might go into next year. For now let’s just concentrate on what is waiting.
Obviously, the first item is the career passing yards record. At the end of 2015, Rivers had amassed 41,447 yards to the 43,040 that Fouts had at the end of his career. That 1,594 mark could be gone by the end of the Chargers versus Saints game on October 2. Brees and Rivers may put on a passing extravaganza that day!
Another record that should easily be surpassed will be the number of 300-yard games. To date, No. 17 has collected 46 (including one playoff contest) to the 56 — including five playoff appearances — that Fouts has. That’s a difference which is well within PR’s reach. He is also one game-winning drive away from tying Fouts (25 vs 26), plus three away (21) towards matching the 24 fourth-quarter comebacks of his contemporary.
Last up, the number of games these two have played. Fouts played in 181 contests while Rivers is at 164. The disparity is due to the fact that Rivers sat behind Drew Brees until the last two games of 2005, when Brees suffered that shoulder injury while diving to recover a fumble in a meaningless game against the Denver Broncos. The only way that 17-game differential gets broken during this year’s campaign is if the Chargers fight their way into the postseason.
The discussion about who is the better quarterback will never stop. Don’t forget, however, that despite never making it to the Super Bowl, Fouts was inducted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Is that honor in Rivers’ future, as well? Only time will tell, but he is so far up the record books, how could it not?!
All in all, the 2016 football season is shaping up to be one to remember!
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