University of Wisconsin
Roger Staubach once said, “In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.”
General Manager Tom Telesco drafted rookies and signed veterans in free agency who have ties to each other. If he did not do this on purpose, then he got very lucky. Players who already have chemistry might be the best thing Telesco has done in the offseason.
The Chargers drafted Joey Bosa of Ohio State with the 3rd overall pick of the draft. As the NFL world was discussing this shocking pick, the Chargers drafted Joshua Perry with the 102nd overall pick. Perry, a 6-foot-4, 254-pound linebacker, was also a Buckeye. Bosa and Perry already have chemistry from playing defense together at Ohio State. This should help them both transition into the Chargers’ defense.
During free agency, the Chargers signed wide receiver Travis Benjamin from the Cleveland Browns. With the 175th overall pick, the Chargers drafted OLB Jatavis Brown from Akron. This pick will not only boost the Chargers’ defense, but also reunite childhood neighbors. Although Benjamin is four years older than Brown, they knew each other because they lived only two houses away from each other in Belle Glade, Florida. Not surprisingly, Brown looked up to Benjamin and he became his idol. Benjamin, in turn, had followed Brown’s high school and college career, becoming one of his biggest cheerleaders. The 2016 Chargers’ offseason brought these two together to play on the same team and they couldn’t be happier about it. This is chemistry that is rarely found in the NFL.
Last year, the Chargers shocked the fans by letting kicker Nick Novak go, replacing him with undrafted rookie Josh Lambo from Texas A&M. This year, the Chargers shook up the special teams again with the release of punter Mike Scifres.
Scifres will go down as the best punter in Chargers’ history! The replacement for Scifres, Drew Kaser, was drafted with the 179th overall pick. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound punter also played for Texas A&M. Kaser will have big shoes to fill, much like Lambo did last year. Lambo, already having a relationship with Kaser, will be able to help him get acclimated to the NFL during his rookie year, as Lambo can share his experience being the new guy replacing the “really good old” guy!
Last year’s first-round pick, Melvin Gordon, had a less than stellar rookie year. Gordon never reached the endzone and was benched a couple of times after multiple fumbles. Many would argue that Gordon would play better during his rookie campaign, and much like he did in college, with the addition of a fullback. Not only did the Chargers draft a fullback, but they drafted Gordon’s fullback from the University of Wisconsin. With the 198th overall selection, the Bolts selected 6-foot-2, 236-pound fullback Derek Watt. This will be the best pick regarding “chemistry” of the 2016 draft. Watt, although a rookie, will bring motivation to Gordon, who is probably still feeling defeated following the 2015 season. Gordon is a workhorse and will do whatever it takes to have a better season. Having Watt as his fullback will lessen some of the load. This fullback-running-back combo is one to watch this season.
Staubach was right about consistency and chemistry being the ingredients to building a great team. Consistency, though, is the key to achieving that chemistry on a team.
The Chargers have added some new unique chemistry via free agency and the draft. The football gods just need to show the Bolts some mercy and allow the team to have a season without the plethora of constant injuries.
Telesco is a smart man. These ties to other players do not seem to be a coincidence. He definitely thought about the impact of having players that already have some chemistry to help individual transition into the NFL.
Let’s hope this science experience, of sorts, helps turn around the 2015 4-12 team in the 2016 season.
The fans of the blue and gold should be feeling pretty good about this year’s draft. Depending on your point of view, either Christmas came early or it came late. Glass half-full or half-empty? Mine is half-full.
The Chargers’ GM, Tom Telesco, addressed two of my biggest concerns for the upcoming football calendar. Those were center and fullback. Yes, I’m aware that there was a hole left in the secondary with the departure of Eric Weddle. However, the two most glaring chasms on the offensive side of the ball were the aforementioned spots.
We expected to see an electrified offense after Telesco moved up two spots in the 2015 draft to take running back Melvin Gordon (first round, 15th overall via trade with the 49ers).
To say that the Bolts’ offense was in tatters for the second year in a row is a fair assessment. They may not have had five centers in-and-out like 2014, but it they were still unable to provide much assistance to either help keep Philip Rivers from being pounded, or create seams for any of the Chargers’ ball carriers.
Whether you like all or a few of the choices the team’s general manager made last week, I hope that seeing Derek Watt lining up in front of Gordon in the Bolts’ backfield is one of them. The two played together at the University of Wisconsin, and both are excited to get that chemistry going once more.
Watt is 6’2″ and comes in at 236 pounds. He had 24 starts in 47 games for the Badgers, compiling 309 yards on 30 receptions and a lone touchdown. He was the 2012 Rookie of the Year for UW, as well as being named to the Academic All-Big 10 every year from 2012 thru 2015. On the down side, he missed five games in 2014 due to a foot fracture. In 13 games last season, he had 15 receptions for 139 yards to go along with 45 yards on nine rushes. It was his second best statistical year going back to his freshman days.
Whatever schemes offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt can put together for his newest two backs, I cannot help but look towards the future with excitement. There has not been a fullback on the roster since 2013 when Le’Ron McClain last played. Prior to McClain, San Diego had the likes of Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester (2008-2011), who blocked for Darren Sproles from 2005-2010. Let’s not forget that Lorenzo Neal (one of my favorites), who is considered to be one of the best blocking fullbacks in NFL history, spent five seasons here in front of good ol’ No. 21 himself, LaDainian Tomlinson!
Should Watt and Gordon be able to get into that groove they had going on at the University of Wisconsin, I think we will see a tremendous leap from ranking 31st in 2015 with a league average 84.9 rushing yards per game.
All in all, it is my fervent wish that the San Diego Chargers get their running game back on track with the one-two punch of Watt blocking for his former college teammate, Gordon.
Thank you, Tom Telesco, for that selection. You recognized that need for the offense to excel this year.
The situation with the stadium/convention center proposal being what it is right now, there is an onus on the team to not only come out strong, but to also stay strong as the season progresses.
Looking forward to minicamp followed by preseason!
Thanks for reading!!
As all of the NFL world knows, rookie running back Melvin Gordon has yet to reach the end zone. Going into Week 6, Chargers fans are anxiously waiting to see his first touchdown. The game in Green Bay at Lambeau Field might be the perfect venue for Gordon to get it done.
Gordon was drafted in the first round. The Chargers traded with the 49ers to move up two spots from 17th to 15th to assure the pick. Many would argue that drafting a running back, and moving up to do so, in the first round was a bad idea. Tom Telesco knew what he wanted, a solid running back after releasing Ryan Matthews, and did what he felt was needed to get Gordon. It is too early to determine if the pick was worth giving up their fourth-round pick in 2015 and the fifth-round pick in 2016.
The former Badger has some big shoes to fill. The Chargers had one of the greatest running backs to ever play the position, LaDainian Tomlinson. LT spent nine years with the Chargers between 2001 and 2009. Tomlinson had 12,490 rushing yards with the Chargers and 138 rushing touchdowns. Ryan Mathews was drafted in 2010 to take the reins from Tomlinson. Mathews was a decent running back registering 4,061 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns in his five years with the Bolts. Unfortunately, he seemed to always be injured and was not re-signed during the 2015 offseason.
It seems a little unfair to expect Gordon to be the next Tomlinson or to pick up where Mathews left off. Tomlinson had one of the best offensive lines in the league during his tenure with the Chargers. He also had workhorse Lorenzo Neal at fullback. With with exception of last year, Mathews also had a decent offensive line. Gordon has been playing behind an offensive line pieced together with duct tape after early injuries this season.
Gordon was not the only rookie back selected in first round of the 2015 draft. The St. Louis Rams drafted Todd Gurley out of Georgia with the tenth pick overall. Due to an injury that had yet to heal, Gurley missed the first two games of the year, and played sparingly in Week 3. In the last two games, the rook has gained 314 yards. Gordon only has 270 yards through five games.
The Chargers also have Danny Woodhead who is getting a majority of the snaps at running back, especially in the red zone. Gordon had his best chance to get into the end zone on a 1st-and-goal against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4. Unfortunately, he was not able to get reach the end zone. The bottom line is that he is a rookie and still getting used to the playbook and the speed of the NFL.
Sunday’s game in Green Bay will be a homecoming of sorts for Gordon. He was raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kenosha is about three hours from Lambeau Field. He also played for the University of Wisconsin. Gordon will have a lot of his friends and family in attendance. He told ESPN that his grandmother will be able to attend this game. He added that it would be too hard for her to fly to California to see him play.
It feels like the perfect scenario for Gordon to get his first touchdown in his home state. While it’s always better to get a first touchdown in front of the home crowd, getting it in your home state with friends and family present is a very close second.
If he does get his first touchdown, maybe the fans will let him do the Lambeau Leap? Probably not, but crazier things have happened!
Thank you for reading.