Over a month ago the San Diego Chargers drafted defensive end Joey Bosa with their third overall pick. Along with Bosa the Chargers drafted two more defensive players. One of them was Bosa’s running mate at Ohio State, Joshua Perry. These look to be great additions combined with the free agent signings of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and safety Dwight Lowery.
Some Chargers fans are clamoring for the Chargers to switch defensive schemes. I’ll tell you why this can not and will not happen anytime soon. First, I’ll tell you the difference between the two schemes. For the purpose of this piece it will just be a base 3-4 scheme versus the base 4-3 scheme. After this I will give my opinion on why switching schemes wouldn’t be beneficial for the Bolts moving forward.
I’ve stated in a previous article (Bolt Up For Bosa) that the Chargers only run their base scheme about 50% of defensive snaps. It’s these 50% of snaps I will be focusing on. That being said what is a 3-4 defense? It has been used famously by Bum Phillips, the father of Wade Phillips.
Used by the Houston Oilers in the 70’s, it’s predicated on pressure by overwhelming the offensive line with multiple attacking defensive players. If used correctly this scheme can be virtually unstoppable. This was defensive scheme used most brilliantly by the Denver Broncos to defeat the Carolina Panthers in this past years’ Super Bowl.
The 3-4 was the staple of Dick LeBeau’s defense which helped drive multiple teams to Super Bowl appearances. Lebeaus’ defense has yielded two wins and four losses in the Super Bowl. In New England, the 3-4 has been the driving force behind the Patriots dynasty. Yes, Tom Brady has made his throws but its been the defense that’s given the Patriots four Super Bowl titles in 15 years.
Breaking it down the 3-4 consists of three down linemen and four linebackers. The four linebackers have endless possibilities on how they can be placed. There’s a multitude of packages to utilize. This makes the 3-4 a hard defense to plan against. With four linebackers you don’t know who is blitzing or who is dropping back in coverage. The point of a 3-4 defense is mismatches. It’s built to stop the run and apply endless amount of pressure on the opposing teams’ offensive line. In theory, the Chargers should be good at run-stopping although this has been the Achilles’ heel of the defense over the past several years.
Here’s a diagram of a basic 3-4 defense.
So how will the Chargers look defensively? Let’s start with the defensive line. At left defensive end will be Corey Liuget. Anchoring the middle will be nose tackle Brandon Mebane. At right defensive end will be Joey Bosa. At weak side outside linebacker will be Jerry Attaochu. The inside linebacker will be Manti Te’o. The middle linebacker will be Denzel Perrymen. The strong side linebacker will be Melvin Ingram.
Anchoring the back end of the defense from left to right will be left cornerback Jason Verrett. At Free Safety will be Dwight Lowery. Next to him will be strong safety Jahleel Addae. The right cornerback will be Brandon Flowers. Keep in mind this is how it stands right now. A lot depends on training camp and if the Chargers sign other free agents.
So now know how the Chargers will run their basic 3-4 defense. What is a 4-3 defense? The base 4-3 first came to us under Tom Landry when he was the Giants defensive coordinator in the 1950’s. He then made it even more famous with the Dallas Cowboys and through their vaunted “Doomsday” defense. Ever since, there’s been multiple variations of the scheme from the Bill Parcells stack defense to the Wide-9 defense famously used by the Philadelphia Eagles.
On to the basis of the 4-3. It’s four down linemen and three linebackers. In its most basic form the four down linemen will always have their hands in the ground and be in pursuit of whomever has the ball. The three linebackers are in charge of coverage in this base defense although they may blitz in certain packages.
Here’s a diagram of a basic 4-3 defense.
The Chargers run a variation of the 4-3 in a hybrid nickel package. The nickel package features Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu with their hands in the dirt. The 3-4 defense has been implemented since 2001 when Marty Schottenheimer took over as head coach. Since then the Chargers have had a few dominant defenses in ’06, ’07, ’09 and 2010. Its been proven very effective when the right pieces are in place. In 2016 this is such the case. My main reason for this belief is Joey Bosa and the signing of cornerback Casey Hayward. The Hayward addition was an amazing pick up.
It’s all about the anchor of the 3-4, the nose tackle. A viable anchor is something the Chargers have lacked for so long. Since the days of Jamal Williams its been a revolving door at this position. Brandon Mebane probably didn’t make headlines to the casual Chargers fan. I believe this is the most underrated pickup of the whole offseason. Mebane can garner double- and sometimes even triple-teams.
This defense, hell, this whole team is going too shock a lot of people. As I said earlier the 3-4 requires almost pure selflessness from its three down linemen. It starts with Mebane. I may call him Bane by seasons’ end. If you know Batman then you understand the reference. Its been five years in the making with this defense. Why change philosophies now when this defense is so close to grasping greatness? Its proven to be a dominant defense in the past. It can and will be for years to come.
The news of the week for the San Diego Chargers was the acquisition of former Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The Bolts claimed him off waivers Tuesday and released quarterback Bryn Renner to make space on the roster.
With Mettenberger in the fold that makes three quarterbacks at camp vying for the back-up quarterback position behind Philip Rivers. Kellen Clemens and undrafted free agent Mike Bercovici are the other quarterbacks filling out what will be a very interesting camp battle.
Mettenberger, 24, was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Titans. Standing 6’5″, 224 pounds, Mettenberger was a standout quarterback at LSU. Moving into the starting lineup in his junior season, Mettenberger excelled right away. In leading the Tigers to a 10-3 (6-2 in the SEC) season, Mettenberger went 207-352 for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. They lost by one point in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl to Clemson 25-24. LSU finished 12th in the Coaches Poll and 14th in the Associated Press Poll that year.
In his senior season, Mettenberger made another quantum leap forward. Although they duplicated their record from the previous season at 10-3 (5-3 vs. the SEC), Mettenberger went 192-296 for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The Tigers finished 14th in the AP and Coaches Poll as a result.
According to his 2014 draft profile on numerous NFL sites including NFL.com and WalterFootball.com, Mettenberger’s strengths are his outstanding arm strength, size, field vision and working from a pro-style offense in college. In his senior season he had a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron calling his plays. Cameron had just left the same position for the San Diego Chargers that offseason. Cameron’s arrival was key in Mettenberger’s senior year explosion.
Mettenberger’s perceived weaknesses were his footwork, work-ethic, long delivery and needing to improve his accuracy. For all intents and purposes Mettenberger had second-round talent. The main catalyst in his plunge into the late rounds was an ACL injury he suffered in the final game of the 2013 regular season. The injury prevented Mettenberger from participating in the NFL Combine. He did shine at LSU’s Pro Day where he completed 90% of his 125 passes.
The discussion of who the heir apparent to Philip Rivers should be has raged on for multiple seasons. We all know Scott Tolzien, Brad Sorensen, Kellen Clemens and Charlie Whitehurst were never going to be the answer to that question.
Mettenberger already has the advantage of knowing the system of new Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt was the head coach for the Titans for both of Mettenbergers’ years in Nashville. The last time the Chargers made the playoffs was the one year Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator. The Chargers leaped from 31st to 5th in total offense in that season. Tennessee offered him their head coach position immediately after the season. He was fired halfway through his second season as head coach.
Whisenhunt brought John McNulty with him from Tennessee to be the Bolts new tight ends coach. McNulty was Mettenbergers’ quarterbacks coach in Tennessee. In a new interview with Ricky Henne of Chargers.com his had this to say about reuniting with his old coaches:
“I was definitely relieved to come to a situation where the future looks good for me. That was a long 24 hours to be waiting so it was great to hear his voice.” Mettenberger was speaking of Ken Whisenhunt, who called Mettenberger immediately after the waiver claim was official. Mettenberger continued. “The first thing he asked me was if I still remember the playbook. Fortunately, I know it really well. He was really excited to get back to work with me. He was the one who drafted me, so it’s worked out really well. It’s awesome to be back with Coach Whiz and Coach McNulty.”
Did the Chargers just stumble onto their quarterback of the future?
Pessimists will point to the fact that Mettenberger is 0-10 as a starting quarterback in the NFL. That is true. What also can’t be disputed is how awful the Tennessee Titans have been over the past two seasons. The Titans were 2-14 the season Mettenberger was drafted and 3-13 in 2015. The Titans ranked 25th or lower in the NFL in rushing yards, passing yards, points for and points against.
Mettenberger had a better offense at LSU than he had in Tennessee. At least at LSU he had Pro Bowlers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. to catch the ball. Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill were chewing up yards running the football.
Mettenberger is in an ideal situation in San Diego. With his knowledge of the offense and coaches he already has a leg up on Clemens and Bercovici. He now has a better team and an elite, veteran NFL quarterback as a mentor. Rivers’ contract ends at the conclusion of the 2019 season. In three seasons Mettenberger will be 27 and ready to step into the starting spot. There is no pressure to produce right away as there was in Tennessee.
We’ve seen this situation play out with great success when you consider stars like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Rivers himself. All of them watched from the bench for a season or more before their number was called. All of them will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio one day.
The reset button has been pushed on Zach Mettenberger’s career. For the first time since the departure of Drew Brees there appears to be a capable second-in-command waiting in the wings. Is Mettenberger that man? Post your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
We are just 48 hours away from the start of the 2016 NFL Draft, live from Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. Picking third, we all now know that the draft truly begins with our beloved San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have the luxury of knowing the first two selections will be quarterbacks, giving them pick-of-the-litter among all the non-quarterback players.
To quote a famous line from comic book lore: With great power comes great responsibility.
The Chargers can not miss with this pick. This must be a player who will be a mainstay for the next decade provided he can stay healthy. We all know that is easier said than done in San Diego. This man must be a building block of the future, someone who can step into a starter’s role from game number one.
Many intriguing storylines are attached to the 2016 edition of the NFL Draft. Here’s a look at the biggest ones on everyone’s minds and lips heading into Thursday night.
1. What will the Chargers do?
San Diego can enlist a franchise player from this spot but will they? Temptation will be heavy to trade down and try to add picks and value. If the Bolts trade down and add picks, the chances of hitting on a prospect increase. The risk is passing on the next big superstar/future Hall Of Fame enshrinee. What to do, what to do…
As we’ve already seen, quarterbacks drive the action in this draft. The number one and two selections have exchanged teams. More movement to acquire the top five quarterbacks on the board will occur, most likely in the first round. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff will undoubtedly go in the first two picks. Expect Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg to be drafted in round one.
Aside from the rookies, don’t be surprised to see Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kaepernick traded in the first round. The Philadelphia Eagles (Bradford) and San Francisco 49ers Kaepernick) find themselves in the same boat. Both teams have quarterbacks that don’t want to play for them anymore. Both quarterbacks have plummeted on the field and in overall value. Will the two teams make the best of their bad situations and swap headaches (err…quarterbacks) especially after new 49ers coach Chip Kelly was just fired by the Eagles.
Whether it’s an even exchange or not, the Niners would be helping the coach that has set back their organization untold years. (Insert dramatic music here…) Quarterback desperate teams will rule the first two days of the draft. Sleeper team to be a player in the quarterback sweepstakes: The New England Patriots. You heard it here first.
3. Ole Miss players
There are always players that fall from grace in the draft. It’s most likely that player will come out of Ole Miss. Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is considered the best offensive lineman on the board in the last five years. Robert Nkemdiche was the chosen one for the number one pick in the draft just six months ago. A handful of off-the-field incidents later, he is not expected to go until the second round or worse. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is the top-rated wide receiver prospect in the draft despite an unimpressive 4.6 40-yard dash time.
The NFL won its appeal and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will serve his four-game suspension for his role in the Deflategate scandal after all. This dark cloud will manifest itself multiple times during the proceedings, starting with the fact the first round will only be 31 selections due to the Patriots losing their first round draft pick. With the news dropping just 72 hours before the draft, it is sure to be a hot button issue all week long. As mentioned above, this news could also precipitate a move by the Patriots on the quarterback front.
5. Winners and losers
Every year, the talking heads will compile their winners and losers list for the draft as a whole. Some teams will reach way to high for a head-scratcher of a pick. One team will get the ‘steal of the draft’. We’ll all comb the internet and sports channels for the draftniks’ grades of each team.
We all know what’s coming, and like Christmas, we can’t wait for it to get here. We’re anxiously anticipating Roger Goodell taking the podium to thunderous boos as he announces the 2016 NFL Draft is underway and the Los Angeles Rams are on the clock.
The themes are the same, only the names will change. We’ll ogle a players’ smoking hot girlfriend. We’ll shake our head at a couple of players’ choices of suits. We’ll see that big name player plummeting down the draft board and keep a curious watch on how far he slides as if rubbernecking at the site of a car crash. We will watch every pick and celebrate the entire three hours like we’ve never seen it before.
Because football, that’s why.
Are YOU ready?
The Greg One
The United States Court of Appeals has reinstated Tom Brady’s four-game suspension due to his involvement in what has been dubbed #DeflateGate.
What does this have to do with the Chargers? Not too much.
I just wanted a reason to use the Nelson pic.
While watching the Monday Night Football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Chicago Bears I saw something even more disturbing than the final outcome. Don’t get me wrong, the final outcome is terrible disheartening. The Chargers don’t play like a 2-7 team but they are. It’s a cold glass of arctic water splashed across your face. The team in America’s Finest City is not headed for the playoffs. They are speeding towards a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft.
During the broadcast, I saw a graphic for the Top-Five vote-getters for the Pro Bowl. In order they were Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Devontee Freeman and Rob Gronkowski. Hmmm. The rest of the Top Ten consists of Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Fitzgerald. Do you see what I see? Rather, do you see what I DON’T see?
The top-rated quarterback in the NFL, our very own Philip Rivers, is nowhere to be found on this list.
Rivers leads the league in passing attempts, completions and yardage. He is third in passing yards per game and only two quarterbacks have thrown more than Rivers’ 19 touchdowns. Through nine games, he’s the only quarterback with over 3,000 yards passing. This is all without the benefit of a running game and effective offensive line. Only six quarterbacks have been sacked more than Rivers (21 times).
There is no quarterback more deserving of a trip to the Pro Bowl than Philip Rivers.
The rest of the NFL fanbase is not the cause of my frustration. My frustration lies with the so-called Bolt NATION. Does our nation not exceed 100 thousand members? If so, each of us could vote once and get him in the game. As it stands, we don’t even need to number in the six figures. You can vote for the Pro Bowl participants as many times as you like!
Yes, the Chargers are having an awful season. Yes, we’re all upset because most of us figured the Chargers were set for a double-digit win season and playoff run. There is a lot of blame to go around but one place you can’t lay it is at the feet of Philip Rivers. His effort and desire shows week in and week out. He is the one constant we can count on while seemingly every other player on the team drops like flies around him.
This man deserves our support, and our vote.
The Pro Bowl is an individual award, not an MVP award. Philip Rivers is the MVP of the Chargers and our MVP. Let’s treat him like it and take ten minutes out of your day to go to www.nfl.com/probowl and cast your vote! Do we really want our quarterback to be the first one to lead the league in passing and not make it to the Pro Bowl?!
Let’s not be the fair-weather fans the rest of the league thinks we are and get this done! This is what we signed up for when we took up the Bolts as our favorite team. If we are indeed a NATION, log in and prove it! Vote on your PCs, vote on your phone, just vote! Make our motto…
Thick or thin, Philip Rivers gets in! Let’s GO!!
The Greg One
This Sunday marks the official halfway mark for our beloved San Diego Chargers. The season that began with so much promise has given way to despair and a 2-5 season record heading into a road game against the also woebegone 1-6 Baltimore Ravens. For those who have missed it, here’s a quick look back at how the season has transpired.
The Good: Franchise quarterback Philip Rivers is once again proving to all the doubters that he is an elite NFL quarterback. Through seven weeks he leads the NFL in passing yards (2,452), completed passes (215), attempts (311), yards per game (350), first downs (116) and trails only Tom Brady and Carson Palmer in touchdowns (16 to 15).
As a result, Keenan Allen has thrived and is set to destroy his stat line from last season. Allen accumulated 77 receptions for 783 yards and four touchdowns with a 10.2 yards per catch average. This season, Allen leads the NFL in receptions with 62. He is third in the league in yards (690), yards per game (98.6) and has three touchdowns. With eight catches against the Ravens, Allen will set the record for most receptions through eight games. Keenan is also in reach of the NFL single season receptions record of 143 set by Marvin Harrison in 2002.
Despite only getting 85 carries to date, Melvin Gordon is fifth in rushing yards for a rookie with 386. We’ve already seen flashes of brilliance as Gordon already has five runs over twenty yards.
Danny Woodhead continues to be Mr. Reliable for the Chargers. Looking even better than the 2013 version, Woodhead is second on the team in rushing with 49 rushes for 188 yards and in receiving with 39 catches for 407 yards. Surprisingly, Woodhead is the only Chargers running back that has a touchdown. Gordon still hasn’t found pay dirt and trails Woodhead by two.
The Bad: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. The promise of a banner year headlined by the Gordon drafting, Rivers extension and excellent free agency signings is slowly slipping away. Before the season started the argument was what to do with the abundance of offensive line talent. Move Fluker to guard? Who starts at right tackle? Who is the second unit? Unfortunately, no sooner than the first game started did linemen start dropping like flies. As of this week, every offensive lineman has missed game action with the exception of Joe Barksdale. As a result, Philip Rivers has paid the price as he’s been sacked 18 times. That’s an average of almost three sacks a game. At that rate, not only the Chargers season but Rivers’ season is at risk.
The injuries are not limited to the offensive side of the ball. (By the way, the recently returned Antonio Gates is anticipated to miss games with a knee injury). The defensive side of the ball has been ravaged as well. Defensive captain Eric Weddle is out with a groin injury. NT Sean Lissemore, ILB’s Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman are all out. Cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers have missed game action throughout the season but are back on the field. OLB Tourek Williams will see his first regular season action after suffering a foot injury in the preseason.
As a result of the ongoing injuries, San Diego has not been able to stop the opposition. The Chargers rank 18th in total defense (31st vs. rush, 9th vs. pass), giving up an average of 28 points per game. The bolts have the top ranked offense in the league in terms of yards per game(430.7), but only average 23.6 points per game. That type of differential is not and will not win many games.
The Ugly: Special teams play has not been special at all. Special teams continually gives the opposition favorable field position and gains little for the San Diego offense. There’s only one fact you need to know to illustrate this point. The Chargers have played more games (7) than they have return yards (3).
Play calling has been a disappointment to put it kindly. Is there anyone that doesn’t see the first down inside handoff from their couch? The patchwork offensive line isn’t holding back defenders or opening running lanes for Gordon. We all expected a little more genius when the front office scooped the forward-thinking quarterback guru Mike McCoy from Denver. What we’ve seen is anything but progressive and forward-thinking.
Tackling has been atrocious. The bad tackling can’t be attributed to injuries but it can be attributed to bad coaching and a lack of fundamentals. Have the players tuned out the coaches? Are the players going into business for themselves and playing to add to their highlight reel when other teams begin calling their agents?
The Outlook: Over the last three weeks, the Chargers have lost two games on the last play of the game and were destroyed by the Raiders, of all teams. With the exception of the Raiders and Vikings games, they have played well enough to win despite all the inconsistency, injuries and lack of production from special teams and the running game. The reality of it all is they did lose. They are 2-5. You have to wonder how the morale in the locker room is right now. Something has to change if San Diego is to make the postseason and it has to happen NOW. My suggestions would go as follows:
Abandon the running-back-by-committee. Melvin Gordon has been ‘worked in slowly’ for long enough. It’s time to take the reins off the racehorse and give him twenty carries a game and let him show what he can do. I have already detailed my thoughts on this subject in my last column here. Get Melvin a fullback and watch him go!
Bring Javontee Herndon up from the practice squad. The special teams needs a boost and Jacoby Jones is not providing it. Fresh legs like Herndon could be just what the unit needs. The unit can’t get any worse.
Open up the playbook. There has to be more creative plays in the arsenal than an inside draw from the pistol formation. There are ways to get Melvin in space where he is dangerous. Run some reverses with the speed receivers. Mix in a flea flicker. Rivers is one of if not the best deep ball passer in the league and he doesn’t air it out nearly enough. Part of the reason for that is the Chargers don’t have a receiver with the straight line speed to take the top off a defense but the extra time generated from a gadget play can make up for that deficiency and open up the middle of the field for big gains with Green or Gates.
San Diego has a favorable schedule for the rest of the season. There’s five division games remaining and winning those alone puts them in the hunt to win the AFC West. Their non-division schedule includes Jacksonville, Miami, Chicago and Sunday’s Ravens game. The Chargers have a better team than any of their out-of-conference opposition talent-wise and are just as good or better than their in-division rivals. The bolts can go on a 8-1 or 7-2 run to finish the season in the playoffs.
The question is are the willing to make the changes needed to do so. There’s nothing left to do but go all-in and show the team and the fans that the team hasn’t thrown in the white flag on the season. What do you think Bolt Nation? Do you still believe? Post your comments below.
The Greg One
Last week, Keenan Allen reintroduced himself to the NFL world by catching 15 passes for 166 yards in a Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. However, no one is talking about Allen’s herculean display of pass-catching proficiency. Like the Chargers themselves, Allen is getting little attention or respect from the league or national media.
Luckily, Bolt Nation, you have me.
Let the truth be known!
Such numbers might not get a second look if it’s elite receivers like Dez Bryant or Calvin Johnson. Actually, yeah, they would.
Let’s look at the facts for a moment.
In Week 1, Allen had more receiving yards and twice as many receptions as Bryant and Johnson combined.
Demaryius Thomas has 15 catches for 176 yards…after two games. Thomas is regarded by many as a top-five wideout in the NFL.
Keenan Allen is on pace for 240 receptions and 2,656 yards. Those would both be all-time receiving records. What’s even more improbable is Allen would have all those receptions and yardage but no touchdowns.
With Tyrell Williams getting released by the Chargers on Saturday, and Jacoby Jones being doubtful for Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, San Diego will play four wide receivers including the aforementioned Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman.
You know what that means? More targets for Allen.
After one week, San Diego has the league’s No. 1 offense, quarterback and wide receiver. Cincinnati may as well begin the game playing prevent defense. That would, however, amount to more catches and yards for Allen. The flaw with the prevent is it gives the offense more yards; making that option moot.
Throw in the under-the-radar yeoman’s work of tight end Ladarius Green last week (5 rec, 74 yards, 1 td), and with the running backs catching out of the backfield, Cincinnati would probably forfeit the game if they could get away with it. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m predicting a resounding win for the away team; somewhere in the 37-17 range.
Keenan Allen will add another double-digit catch game and stay on pace.
Dez Bryant and his broken foot will be somewhere watching Allen on an insanely big screen, tears short-circuiting his remote control.
Calvin Johnson wants to be Keenan Allen when he grows up.
Keenan Allen doesn’t catch balls, balls are sucked into his gravitational pull.
Chuck Norris wears Keenan Allen pajamas.
Donald Trump wants Keenan Allen to be his running mate.
If Tom Brady threw a pass to Keenan Allen, the ball would inflate.
Keenan Allen caught Halley’s Comet.
Keenan Allen deserves all of our support as he runs (and catches) toward NFL immortality. Cheers to you, Mr. Allen! The most interesting man in the world wants your phone number so he can learn how to be as interesting as you.
The Greg One
**Writers note: This column is for entertainment purposes only. Any rebroadcast, re-transmission or commenting on the absurdity of this column after only reading the title without the expressed written consent of the Chargers, the NFL, BoltBlitz.com and The Greg One is strictly prohibited.
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell upheld his four game suspension of New England Patriots Tom Brady for his involvement in the Deflategate scandal. There wasn’t a talking head on any network who thought Brady’s appeal of the initial ruling wouldn’t result in a reduction of games. In a move to be applauded, Gooddell forsook the man other NFL owners call the “assistant commish”, Robert Kraft, and stuck to his guns on his decision.
We’ve all been waiting to see if the league held its golden boy Brady to the same standard as all others when it comes to discipline. It’s ludicrous to think that Patriots equipment personnel deflate footballs of their own free will. The fact Brady destroyed the phone containing potentially damning evidence was all the Commish needed in upholding his suspension. No special treatment. No favors for his bestie Robert Kraft. Justice is served.
Of course, Brady will take the matter to federal court to try to clear his name and eliminate his four game ban. First, he has to get an injunction passed by a judge, putting the ban on hold until after the court process plays out. Of course he does. Instead of accepting defeat and taking his suspension like a man, he will surround himself with high priced lawyers and look for loopholes. Thankfully, getting an injunction isn’t as easy as it sounds. Brady has to prove he has a winnable case and the preceding adjudicator (Gooddell) missed key evidence that would’ve cleared his name. If he has such evidence, you’d think it would’ve been revealed by now.
The NFL is on solid footing. They have the Collective Bargaining Agreement, agreed to by the owners and players, giving the Commissioner the power to discipline and rule over these same cases. They have the Wells report, a 243-page investigation on the matter. Ted Wells is one of the nation’s best white collar trial lawyers and his findings were critical in the Richie Incognito bullying scandal of two years ago.
Karma is finally catching up with the Patriots but what does this have to do with the Chargers?
It has everything to do with the Chargers. San Diego will be looking to supplant the Denver Broncos and win the AFC West. If they can do so they will likely be competing with the Patriots for a potential first round bye. Even if the bolts don’t win the west, this season the team looks deeper than they have in years. If they can eliminate the distractions with contracts, relocation and keep injuries to a minimum they will post a double digit win total.
In their first four weeks, New England faces the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. Pittsburgh and Dallas are playoff-caliber teams and the Bills improved significantly over the offseason. That could be two losses that will be tough to make up for when fighting for a top seed in the playoffs.
San Diego faces the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals in their first four games. That stretch of games could easily favor the Chargers given the advantage they have behind center. That leads to the question no one seems to be asking but everyone is wondering…
What if Brady’s replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo, stinks out loud?
Garoppolo has thrown for 182 yards and one touchdown in his NFL career. His only playing time is when the game is out of hand and the opposition is already demoralized. Defenses are going to throw every disguise and Madden-esque blitz package they can think of at the second-year pro. What’s more, New England lost a lot of key components on defense. All-Pro cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandown Browner left for the Jets and Saints, respectively. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork found a new home with the Houston Texans. This is a team that will have to win by scoring lots of points because their defense will give up plenty of points.
Every team in the AFC East got better while the Patriots took a step back. Buffalo added one of the league’s leading rushers in trading for LeSean McCoy and signed wide receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Charles Clay and the aforementioned Richie Incognito to their offense. Miami signed the biggest name on the free agent market in nose tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins also added tight end Jordan Cameron and wide receiver Greg Jennings to add punch to the offense.
Even the lowly New York Jets pulled Revis out of Belichick’s clutches, then added corners Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine. They signed Brandon Marshall, and running backs Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley to completely overhaul the offense. Offensive coordinator mastermind Chan Gailey will spearhead a revamped Jets attack who’s only glaring weakness is the quarterback.
The sledding was going to be rough for the Patriots if they had Brady for all 16 games. Now, the task becomes incrementally more daunting with a new quarterback for 25% of the season. Fending off the young guns is getting tougher by the year to the point where a team other than New England winning the AFC East isn’t laughable anymore. It’s closer to reality than we all think and my prediction is the Patriots will make the playoffs but as a wild card.
And that is a very good thing for the Chargers.
What do you think? Are the Patriots still the team to beat in the AFC or does time (and all the cheating) catch up to them this year? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
For the third year in a row I have had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Rank of NFL Fantasy Live and NFL.com. Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to fantasy football, high-quality music and Star Wars, he is a really cool, down-to-earth guy.
I met Adam in New York at the 2013 NFL draft. I have interviewed him a handful of times over the last three years and he has yet to disappoint.
Booga: It is that time of year again. It’s time for all of the fantasy football players to get that much-needed info to build a Championship fantasy team. With the No. 1 pick, in this year’s fantasy football draft, fans should select?
Adam: I’m going with Eddie Lacy. Too often, we as fantasy enthusiasts can be reactionary. But it’s going to be important to be proactive here, so I like Lacy a ton. He had some injuries last year and ran o.k. early in the season. But he averaged close to five-yards per carry during the last 10 games of the season. And he plays in one of the top offenses in the league, which is nice.
But perhaps the biggest reason why I like him over a player like Adrian Peterson (who seems to be the consensus No. 1) is that he’s involved in the passing game. He established a career-high in touchdown receptions last year and I see him taking a bigger role for the coming year.
Jamaal Charles is another candidate for the top spot, but dang, he’s the only guy in Kansas City. He gets bullied way too much by opposing defenses. I hope Jeremy Maclin helps him out a little bit, but dang, I get bummed for the guy.
So I’m going Lacy. And if I’m at the end of the first-round, I’m thinking about going WR (like Antonio Brown).
Booga: I asked the fans to submit some fantasy football questions. Here is one from Thomas Powell. “With the Chargers adding to their offensive line, and, especially, the drafting of Melvin Gordon, how will this affect Philip Rivers’ numbers as a fantasy quarterback?”
Adam: Rivers average draft position is in the ninth round. That’s a tremendous value for a guy I have a lot of confidence in.
Everybody is going to pass on him in drafts because they fear his best days are behind him. But as long as Chris Watt continues to develop, Rivers will have another fine season. To me, that’s the key. Making sure that center position is all square and ready to go. People outside of San Diego don’t get how great Nick Hardwick was. It’s a pretty jarring transition to go to a new center.
Booga: Another fan question. Nick Millican asks, “Can you please rank your top-five rookie fantasy players for the upcoming season?”
Adam: This is an interesting one. I think the key to this is, who is the best fantasy running back out there. And I really like T.J. Yeldon in Jacksonville. I know, the Jaguars get besmirched a lot by NFL fans. But they are a pretty fun team. As a former Chargers season ticket holder, I can vouch for the Jags fans. They are a lot like you. Laid-back, but passionate and better fans than they (and you) are given credit for. Why do people think just because we have nice weather, we can’t care about the NFL?
But I digress because none of that really has anything to do with why Yeldon will be good. I like his situation down in Duval County. The Jaguars have made some improvements on the offensive line with Jeremy Parnell and Steve Wisniewski. Plus the team is going to want to run the ball an absolute ton. Which will be great. Yeldon doesn’t have the break-away speed, but he can be that Emmitt Smith-type of runner. I’m pretty high. Oh, and I’m pretty high on him.
After that I like Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, Todd Gurley (he’s going to be a stud at the end of the season) and Ameer Abdullah. I met Ameer at the Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles (I know, I’ll stop name-dropping at some point. Actually, I probably won’t), and I really liked him. I have this irrational thing where I’m drawn to people who are pretty cool.
Remember that when I (expletive) can Amari Cooper. Actually, if you want to mix in a rookie receiver, Kevin White is pretty damn good. Cooper’s ADP is the fifth round, White is the seventh. Nelson Agholor is right around the seventh. I’d take both of those guys over Cooper.
And for the record. If the unthinkable happens and the Chargers fold, and a new team springs up in Los Angeles called the “Chargers” (which is weird because the same stuff happened with the Rams and St. Louis), I would endorse you becoming Jaguars fans. They are cool fans. But let’s not think about such awful things.
Booga: It seems as though we have all been waiting for Ladarius Green to break out and make an impact at the tight end position, both on the field and in fantasy football. Is this the year that Green should be slotted as high as past expectations would see him drafted?
Adam: It seems like we’ve waited years for Laddy Green to make his impact. Enough to make me wonder if it’s ever going to happen. So I would end up taking a pass on him. I don’t like to stockpile tight ends anyway, and so I feel like he’s out of the Top 12 right now. I know Mike McCoy has said he wants to get Green more involved in the offense. But I have to put it in the “believe it when I see it” category.
Booga: With the turmoil surrounding Adrian Peterson and his time with the Vikings, is he still a player that should be drafted in the top three?
Adam: Oh yeah. Like I mentioned previously, Eddie Lacy is my top guy. I feel good about that. Peterson is my No. 2. He’s motivated. And he has a great coach in Minnesota. Look at some of the running backs Norv Turner has worked with (as an offensive coordinator). I mean, as awful as Norv can be as a head coach, dude is an exceptional offensive coordinator (which is why he continues to get these head coaching gigs).
I still can’t believe the Chargers passed on Rex Ryan to hire Turner. I know Ryan’s time in New York ended poorly, but he didn’t have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, either. I say he would have brought a fresh attitude to the Chargers during his tenure and I surmise he would still be the coach here in San Diego. Or down there in San Diego. I’m in Los Angeles right now, but you get my drift.
Seriously, why do the Chargers want to come to L.A.? San Diego is so much better. I’m telling you, I would take a gig in San Diego if the Chargers are committed to stay. I’ll go work for Fox Sports San Diego, do a show on XTRA 1360. I’d go to the Viejas Arena and support the Aztecs unless they are playing the Titans or Rebels. I’m in! But why does San Diego want out? I blame the Padres for building a beautiful stadium, and then not having a competitive team for so long.
But there I go again.
Booga: Chargers wideout Keenan Allen, despite having more receptions last year than he did as a rookie, experienced a sophomore slump of sorts. Where do you believe he should go in fantasy drafts? Is he only reliable in PPR leagues?
Adam: Allen is going to be a great value this season. I’m ready to kind of write-off last year, not so much as a sophomore slump, but as a bad season for the team in general. There was a turnstile at the center position. Danny Woodhead and a host of running backs got hurt. The team was a mess. So everybody suffered accordingly. Allen unfairly gets criticized because people over-drafted him and were burned. That’s the way fantasy enthusiasts operate. Hell, I’m still a little wary to draft Adrian Peterson because he nearly wrecked my team last year.
But I was surprised to see his ADP was in round five so far. Realize the only people doing drafts right now are the marks, the inside people who are super serious about fantasy. If those guys (and gals) are serious about Keenan, I feel very good about it.
Booga: Antonio Gates surprised so many last season, recording 12 receiving touchdowns. What should fans expect for his fantasy output in 2015?
Adam: I honestly don’t know, dude. I mean, you can continue to predict a drop-off for Gates every year and you will be right at some point. He has an ADP of the late-ninth round right now, which is a pretty good. I can live with that. If you are the type who likes to wait for a tight end and see what happens, that’s a good move. You can handcuff him with Laddy.
But if I’m projecting out for Gates, I can see about eight touchdowns. He’s still going to be a valuable asset for your team. He might not get double-digit touchdowns again, but he’s going to be good.
Booga: How does the trading of LeSean McCoy to the Bills affect his fantasy status? Is it safe to say that he will thrive in Buffalo’s offense?
Adam: I liked this deal. It was a good move for Buffalo. (And another fine set of football fans, too.) I really like the volume he’s going to get with the Bills. Ryan is going to want to run the ball a ton. Or more to the point, he’s going to have to run the ball a ton. And you’ve all read the reports the Bills want McCoy to lead the league in carries, much like DeMarco Murray did last year. So that’s encouraging.
The only downside is Fred Jackson. The guy always seems to find a way to weasel into our fantasy hearts. Watch, McCoy will end up getting dinged a little bit and here comes Action Jackson to get like 200 touches. It’s uncanny.
Also, McCoy was kind of salty because I gave him a fun little ribbing during the Madden Bowl. Geeze, dude. Why do you have to be so sensitive? He can’t take a little good-natured ribbing?
Booga: Odell Beckham Jr. posted phenomenal receiving numbers as a rookie in only 12 games played. If Beckham Jr. plays all 16 games, where do you believe he should be drafted?
Adam: OBJ’s rookie season was kind of like Guns-n-Roses debut album, “Appetite for Destruction”. You might want to Google that, kids. It was a big hit when I was a young boy, and trust me, it was huge. But the follow-up, well, not so much. I mean, I could go through tracks on the Illusion albums and find some hits. But it’s never going to be Appetite.
So it’s hard to expect OBJ to reach similar type numbers this year. Especially if he’s got this hamstring problem that lingers. Still, though. I love OBJ. Loved him at LSU. I’m probably going to overspend for him. Just because he was so amazing last year. Eli Manning is going to have a full offseason to get familiar with Ben McAdoo’s offense. So I see some big things. Plus Victor Cruz should help ease the pressure off OBJ a little bit, too. Hell, if the Giants can establish a ground game, he can be even better.
Great, now my expectations for OBJ are similar to the expectations I had for “Chinese Democracy” I just hope I don’t have to wait more than a decade for it.
And for the record, “Chinese Democracy” is a pretty great album.
Booga: Last year’s rushing leader, DeMarco Murray, crushed opposing ball carriers by almost 500 yards rushing in 2014. Now that he is in Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia, sharing the workload with newly acquired Ryan Mathews and former-Charger Darren Sproles, what type of fantasy impact do you think he’ll have in 2015? Where should he be drafted?
Adam: He currently holds an ADP of the second-round, just ahead of C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill. And I would take both of those guys ahead of Murray. I just fear a guy who was unhealthy for most of his career, suddenly found a magic elixir that made him healthy enough to run behind the best offensive line in the game. Now he’s got to share the load with your buddy Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (another one of your buddies!), so there might not be enough of an opportunity for him.
At least he will be motivated in two games against the Cowboys! So there is that. But I’m going to find another direction in Round 2, and if he somehow makes it to the third round and he’s sitting there? Fine. But I don’t anticipate that.
Booga: Charger fans everywhere, myself included, are extremely excited about the drafting of running back Melvin Gordon. With a big, run-blocking offensive line, what are your expectations for the rookie runner out of Wisconsin?
Adam:Remember when I said that I have this thing where I will always lean towards the guys I meet in person and favor them? I really liked Melvin when I met him. So that is either good or bad depending on your perspective.
The big thing is the offensive line. Can it play well enough to open the holes for Gordon? The sizeable holes he enjoyed at Wisconsin? If the o-line plays well, Gordon will be the top rookie running back. The team is already trying to work him into the passing game. Listen to McCoy, he talked about pass protection when it came to Gordon and that’s a huge sign. So take this as a good thing.
Booga: In an effort to give you a bit of bragging rights, how many fantasy football championships do you own? And, please, be specific when it comes the ‘ships that were obtained among your peers at the NFL Network and NFL.com.
Adam: Oh stop, it’s not about the championships. I’ve done great on the NFL Fantasy Live League. I’m the Patriots of that league, replete with pushing the rules. But there is one league that continues to hang over my head. It is a keeper league. Over the last five years, my team has been: Tom Brady/Andrew Luck, Peterson, Forte, Le’Veon Bell, Alfred Morris, Brandon Marshall, Josh Gordon (his good year) and Rob Gronkowski. I never won that league. I always lose on the worst circumstances. Two years ago, I lost to the guy who played Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith that one week against the Raiders. I was going to win last year because I did pretty well with my waiver wire guys (I had CJ and Hill), but Luck put up a donut. It’s the best because I can never win it.
I would like to thank Adam for taking the time to do this interview. As expected, his responses were intelligent and humorous. You can follow him on Twitter @adamrank and you can catch him on NFL Fantasy Live on NFL Network.
Thanks a lot for reading.
The San Diego Chargers find themselves between a rock and a hard place. With the words of franchise quarterback Philip Rivers ringing in their ears, they know they have a choice to make.
To paraphrase, Rivers said he’s going to play out his contract, which concludes at the end of the upcoming season, and what happens next happens. He has no interest in playing in Los Angeles and he’s simply going to focus on this season. His decision to play any further for the Chargers rests on what happens with the stadium issue and relocation to Los Angeles.
What’s a front office to do?
The rumor mill has been abuzz with talk of the Chargers possibly trading Rivers to Tennessee in exchange for the number two pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, affording them the ability to draft Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota to be the new quarterback of the Chargers. Other rumors are circulating about Rivers being dealt other places and for any combination of picks and players but that’s all they are, rumors.
Would the Chargers front office really trade Philip Rivers?
We all know football is a business before all things. No player is untouchable. Anyone can and has been traded. All-time legends of the game like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, Ronnie Lott, Deion Sanders, Brett Favre and countless others all saw phenomenal careers end in a jersey other than the one they were drafted in. The Chargers are well within their rights to do their due diligence in searching out options in case Rivers decides to leave if the Chargers relocate.
Obtaining Mariota with the second pick and then a game changing running back like Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley with the 17th pick has to look attractive on many levels. It’s a hyper speed rebuild with the intent of keeping up with the Joneses (Denver) at the same time. The Chargers would be taking two of the most dominant players at their position in college football over the last four years, rolling the dice and hoping to come up roses.
Here’s the problem. They’re still rookies. It’s still too much to ask them to take on such a huge task and expect immediate results. Quarterback and running back are arguably the two most difficult positions to come in and be the day one starter. There will be growing pains. There will be flashes of brilliance some days and startling ineptitude in others until they adjust to the game at the NFL level and some gifted players coming out of college never do. Ask Johnny Manziel how easy it is to go from being a big shot quarterback in college to playing against NFL defenses.
That is the very reason San Diego should not entertain the thought of trading Philip Rivers.
Rivers is the face of the franchise. He is the Captain, the undisputed leader of the team. As he goes, the Chargers go. No team feeds off their quarterback more than San Diego. Rivers has been the consummate team player. Seemingly every offseason the Chargers revise his contract to free cap space to sign players and he does so without complaint. He’s the first man in the facility and the last to leave. Rivers is the player every man in the locker room, rookie or veteran, can look up to and draw inspiration from. Philip Rivers is the heartbeat and the soul of the Chargers and the San Diego fan base.
In the San Diego county, Rivers has made himself at home and become a pillar of the community. He is a role model. Never do you hear of him getting into trouble at the club, getting arrested, bashing media or rival players in social media or falling prey to any other trapping of success afforded to a multi-millionaire athlete. Rivers began a humble son-of-a-coach and has stayed that way. He comes with a blue collar mentality. A true grinder in every sense of the word, he shows up with the traditional lunch pail and hard hat in hand, leaves it all on the field and quietly goes home to his family at the end of the day.
If only more players would follow his example….
I feel a strong connection to Rivers on a number of levels. Being born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina I literally grew up on the N.C. State campus. I saw all of Rivers games at NCSU. There hadn’t been a successful quarterback out of N.C. State since Roman Gabriel back in the 60’s. Logically, Rivers became my favorite player and I was elated when the Chargers fleeced the New York Giants in the Eli Manning fiasco to bring Rivers to my favorite pro football team in 2004.
Few players are more fun to watch than Rivers. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He feels the way we feel sitting in the stands watching the action unfold before us. We live through him. Ironically, I have to admit, Marcus Mariota is my favorite college player since Rivers. Mariota shows the same poise, accuracy, score at any moment capability Rivers did in college. All eyes stay on him and he does not shy away from the big stage. Mariota is going to be an amazing pro and the Chargers have every right to wine and dine him and work him out. That being said, I don’t want Mariota if the cost is Philip Rivers.
It is alarming the Chargers haven’t made significant strides to assure the fan base that Rivers isn’t going anywhere. Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. GM Tom Telesco has said he wants to do everything to make sure Rivers retires a Charger. We’re all wise to front office speak by now and what happens at the draft will speak volumes.
I will be attending the draft in person with my Rivers jersey on as it is every year on day one. A nightmare scenario will be hearing that the front office pulled the trigger and sent Rivers to Nashville. Soul crushing would be the phrase that comes to mind. I grew up a Chargers fan. I bleed Navy and Gold. I thought nothing would ever change my allegiance to the one team I hold on a pedestal above all others regardless of sport.
However, I find my faith has been shaken. I’ve honestly had to sit down and reevaluate my allegiance to the Chargers if a trade were to happen.
One man is not bigger than the team but Philip Rivers is the embodiment of the San Diego Chargers. A move like this would make me question the decision making of the front office. Franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees. Ask the Browns, Jets, Cardinals, Rams, Titans, Raiders how hard it is to find a quarterback you can rely on day in day out, year in year out. Once you get out of the top ten quarterbacks in the league every team remaining would give anything to have a signal caller as great as Rivers.
To trade Rivers means they have given up all hope on keeping him even if they have signed and sealed documents confirming a move to L. A. sitting on their desk. It means they’re not willing to exhaust all avenues to convince him to stay. I know a lot of this rests on Rivers shoulders also, he is not without blame in this. Philip has painted the Chargers front office into quite a corner. However, aside from Rivers himself coming out and telling the world through TV, newspaper or radio that he is asking to be traded will I be able to forgive the Chargers brass for letting him go.
What are the Lakers without Kobe? Nothing. What would the 90’s Chicago Bulls have been without Michael Jordan? Nothing. What are the Patriots without Tom Brady? Nothing. What are the Chargers without Philip Rivers?…
Would YOU remain a Chargers fan if Rivers gets traded Thursday?
After long thought on the matter I arrived at this conclusion: I have been a Chargers fan since day one and that was three and a half decades ago. The Chargers are part of who I am. I have seen them all come and go both ceremoniously and unceremoniously. I have seen good, bad and inbetween. Without the Chargers I am a man without a country sports-wise. There’s no NBA team, no baseball team, no college team aside from my Alma Mater, N.C. State, that I root for nearly as feverishly. Leaving my Chargers would be like losing a family member.
I’ve been in the trenches with this team too long. I’m past the point of no return with this team. I want my casket to be in Chargers colors and the date(s) we win the Super Bowl to be inscribed upon it. Love won’t allow me to leave but I understand more practical, less emotionally invested fans leaving the Chargers ranks over a move like this. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that.
The Greg One