It’s officially the doldrums of the NFL offseason, the lonely time between mini-camps and the start of training camp. Made worse by the fact that the NBA and NHL seasons are over, this could be considered a sports fan’s darkest hour. Coaches and players are on “vacation” until the last few days of July. For many players this is the only time they will have to take care of important personal business like buying and selling houses and cars, renewing or obtaining driver’s licenses, and other important “housekeeping” duties.
For other players, it party time! The next four weeks are their last bit of freedom to let loose before another grueling season begins. Let’s hope our Bolts can focus on staying in shape and the playbook instead of “making it rain” and the local clubs.
Usually during this time sports news is hard to come by. Most local sports talk show hosts and news reporters are on vacation, and aside from the occasional story of some bonehead NFL player getting into trouble outside a local strip joint or night club, NFL news is fairly non-existent. So I was delighted to see an interesting NFL story break recently.
The Associated Press published an article about how a few NFL teams are using beeping footballs to help their running backs hold on to the ball more securely. The footballs are equipped with pressure sensors and an audible beeping device that emits a sound when the runner holds the ball by key positions tight enough to avoid being dislodged via a hit. The article states the ball could reduce fumbling by nearly sixty percent. The article also states that the Tampa Bay Bucs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are all using the device. More interestingly, it also stated that the Chargers are reportedly going to start using the football when they commence training camp on July 30th.
This is something worth taking note of when camp starts. Running back Melvin Gordon’s fumbling issues were well known last season. Putting the ball on the ground is unacceptable, especially this season for a team in “win now” mode for several reasons, including a potential stadium vote in November. The ball helps with muscle memory, training backs to grip the ball properly as well as with the correct amount of force. Instead of thinking about holding on to the ball, they can think about hitting the hole in front of them.
One potential hiccup I foresee is Mike McCoy will have to turn down the training facility’s boom box during practices. A staple of McCoy’s practices, and one of the few things he does that I actually approve of, is playing loud music during practice. Blaring rhythmic tunes over the facility’s speakers helps simulate loud stadium environments the Chargers play in on a weekly basis such as Arrowhead Stadium. I am not sure how Gordon and company will be able to hear a beeping football over Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit screaming expletives. If the new footballs help reduce fumbling I am all for shelving McCoy’s playlist and listing the boom box for sale on Craigslist.
Hopefully these new balls can help Melvin Gordon, who has many facets to his game that need improving, as well as the other running backs on the roster. I would actually give this device to any players who handle the ball such as receivers and return men, maybe even the whole team. It will be interesting to see if this new training tool will make an impact for the teams using it this year, especially our Bolts!
What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
The San Diego Chargers look to improve a defense that ranked 10th in total defense (4th vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Of the Chargers’ five draft picks, four were made on defense. Today we’ll take a look at the cornerback position and how the Bolts will look to improve on a pass defense that received little support in the form of a pass rush from the front-seven. Here’s a look at who the Chargers have in camp at the present time:
Brandon Flowers: The 29-year-old made an instant impact after he signed last offseason after being released by Kansas City in a cost-cutting move. He made the most of his one-year ‘prove it’ contract, and re-signed with the Chargers on a four-year, $36 million deal.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was the number one cornerback in the NFL for the first eight weeks of the season before he missed games with numerous injuries including concussion, groin and ankle maladies. He managed to perform in 14 of the Chargers 16 games despite being banged up, recording 52 tackles (48 solo), three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Now entering his eighth season, Flowers looks forward to continuing his ‘big brother’ role to the Bolts’ young group of cornerbacks.
Jason Verrett: The 2014 first-round draft pick was having an excellent season opposite Flowers until his year was cut short by a torn labrum in week six. The resilient rookie tried to return in week eight against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but only succeeded in aggravating the injury. The Chargers placed him on IR after week 10.
Flowers and Verrett ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pro Football Focus cornerback ratings while they played together. Losing both, at times, forced others to step up and fill some “large shoes.” Verrett compiled 19 tackles (18 solo), one dramatic, game-saving, late fourth quarter interception versus Oakland and four passes defensed in six games. A healthy Verrett is going to greatly improve the secondary and he is most likely to man the right corner position opposite Flowers.
Patrick Robinson: A 2010 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson signed a one-year contract with San Diego in March. In five seasons, he’s logged 180 tackles (150 solo), one sack, nine interceptions with one forced fumble and 46 passes defensed. Robinson bounced back strong in 2014 after rupturing his patellar tendon in week 2 and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
Last season, Robinson defensed 11 passes with two interceptions and 39 tackles. Robinson also found his way into New Orleans head coach Sean Paytons’ doghouse as he was benched repeatedly. Hopefully, his tenure in San Diego can mirror the second chance Brandon Flowers received. He will be the leading candidate for the number three cornerback in the rotation at this point. It is worth noting that after struggling on the outside, he picked up his play once given the opportunity to play the nickel-spot in the New Orleans’ defense. Robinson may end up be a sleeper signing for the Charger defense.
Steve Williams: Looking to get his career on track, Williams finally found the field in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury. He played in 13 games, recording 10 tackles with two passes defensed. Drafted by the Chargers alongside his college teammate Keenan Allen, the Cal Bear got onto the Chargers radar after exhibiting freakish athleticism at the combine with 4.25 speed in the 40, 10’8″ broad jump and 40.5 inch vertical jump. The Chargers still hold out hope that their 2013 fifth-round choice can fully apply his skills and stay on the field. He should see an opportunity to compete with Robinson for the nickel role, and continue to see snaps on special teams. His speed makes him an asset on both defense and special teams.
Chris Davis: Entering his second year out of Auburn, Davis played in 12 games for the Chargers, contributing mostly on special teams. The team found value in Davis in the kickoff return game, where he averaged 25.1 yards on 19 returns. After assuming those duties in the November 2nd Dolphins’ game, Davis may have found his role as the team’s return specialist. Known for what will arguably stand as the greatest return in college football history in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Davis looks to repeat his success in San Diego while also playing more on defense. Davis has shown flashes of playmaking capability, and he can be an important piece to a championship team if he can sustain his health and continue to improve in 2015.
Craig Mager: When the team’s 2015 third-round draft pick name was announced on day two of the draft, it came with a collective chorus of “Craig Who” on social media and team message boards. But fans, and the league, will soon know his name. The Chargers are very high on the Texas State cornerback. At the combine, Mager ran a 4.44 in the 40, broad-jumped 10’10” and had a 38-inch vertical jump. Mager developed a reputation as an aggressive tackler in the secondary while in college, as he was named to the second team All-Sun Belt Conference for 2014. If he can adjust to the immense jump in talent from a mid-major conference in college football to the elite level of the NFL, Mager will pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Richard Crawford: A new face that will be ready for action, Oceanside native Richard Crawford is a third-year pro. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford had a successful season culminating with an interception of Tony Romo in week 17; one that clinched the Redskins a playoff spot. His momentum came to an abrupt halt, as he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in the 2013 preseason that caused him to miss the entire season.
Crawford was eventually cut by the Redskins, and then added to the Chargers’ practice squad in week nine of last season. In his one season in Washington, Crawford recorded 18 tackles (13 solo), two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one interception and also contributed on special teams. His 64-yard punt return against Baltimore secured the field position needed to kick a game-winning field goal. As a result, the ‘Skins got the overtime win over their in-state rival. Crawford will provide healthy competition for cornerback and punt return duties.
Greg Ducre: Still looking to make an impact, Ducre is a second-year pro out of Washington. Last season, Ducre signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was signed off the practice squad by the Washington Redskins. In a two-month span, he played one regular season game and was then released by Washington the next day. The Chargers then re-signed Ducre to the active roster where he has remained ever since.
Ducre adds a much-needed speed element to the Chargers secondary. At Washington’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 and 4.34 seconds. He recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and 10’6″ broad jump. In the one game he played for Washington against San Francisco, he recorded an interception of Colin Kaepernick. His athleticism speaks for itself. But can he do it if called upon to do so in San Diego? Ducre faces an uphill battle to find his way onto the roster.
Manuel Asprilla: The undrafted free agent out of Boston College did not miss a game after getting to play three games into his freshman season at BC. A tackling machine, gathering 201 tackles (142 solo) and 15 tackles for loss. Asprilla had four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 23 passes defensed over his collegiate career. It will be a long shot for Asprilla to make the 53-man roster, but the Chargers have a long history of finding undrafted free agent gems. Practice squad is always a possibility.
This crop of cornerbacks has a boom-or-bust feel to them. If Flowers and Verrett can stay healthy all season, they can again be an upper top-10 tandem that could give the Chargers a legitimate top-10 defense. With a year of experience in the system, it stands to reason, that both will be even better than last season. San Diego missed the playoffs by one game last season. That tandem could have made up that one game.
Robinson was a great signing and will contribute right away. The rest of the field are all athletic freaks with speed to burn and off-the-charts leaping ability. When you consider the fact the Bolts don’t have a single member of the secondary that stands six-feet-tall or better, physically gifted athletes are a necessity when you look around the league at the tall, fast wideouts in the league now.
This is a group that will be charged with facing the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson, in week one. In week two, they will have to cover A. J. Green. They stand 6’5″ and 6’4″ and run 4.35 & 4.5 respectively. Add in a double shot of Demaryius Thomas, plus Jordy Nelson (both 6’3″), and it’s easy to see the Chargers’ secondary will be tested all season. Paired with Eric Weddle and the group of safeties he leads, the Bolts will boast a formidable secondary; if they can stay healthy and improve on their woeful takeaway totals (seven interceptions, one safety, 11 fumble recoveries).
This is a group that is full of promise, but can they deliver? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
In a move that went largely unnoticed on Tuesday, the Chargers signed offensive guard Michael Huey. The 25-year old Huey is 6’5, 315 lbs. and has played for three seasons. All of Hueys’ three seasons have been in the Arena Football League playing for the Arizona Rattlers. He played for the Texas Longhorns in college, appearing in 47 games, 20 as a starter.
According to Arenafootball.com, Huey was first team All-Arena last season and in his rookie season in 2012. He was All-Arena second team in 2013. The Rattlers have won the Arena League championship all three seasons and Huey has started all but four games during Arizona’s dynastic championship string. Center Jeff Baca and nose tackle Chas Alecxih were waived by the Chargers to make room for Huey.
Huey’s signing adds depth to the offensive line overhaul GM Tom Telesco has undertaken this offseason. He started by resigning left tackle King Dunlap to a long-term deal then followed it up by poaching offensive guard Orlando Franklin from the Denver Broncos and inking him for five years. Include the two-year deal the Chargers gave to center Trevor Robinson and Huey becomes the fourth signing to the offensive line in a month.
Telesco knows protecting Philip Rivers is priority one and the Chargers were decimated all over the offensive line last season, especially at center. It’s better to have too many bodies ready to go than too few and too unprepared bodies. These signings should be encouraging to Chargers faithful hungry to see the Chargers return to the time they were perennial playoff favorites.
Huey was an attendee in the recent NFL Veterans Combine held in Phoenix during the week of the Owner’s Meetings. This isn’t Huey’s first look from an NFL team, he was on the Washington Redskins practice squad last season and was also on the Chargers practice squad in 2011. With the offensive line issue more dire now than it was then, he’ll get another shot to live his dream and help the Chargers solidify the line without having to mismatch players.
I like this signing a lot. Unlike other players who were at the Veterans Combine, Huey has not been out of the game for an extended amount of time. He’s been a durable offensive line mainstay for the reigning, defending three-time Arena League champions. Many will unwisely discount him for the fact that he’s from the Arena League.
Keep in mind they play at twice the speed the NFL does in the AFL. The number of plays are greater and time between plays are much less than in the NFL. An offensive lineman has to be in prime physical condition to handle that type of workload. The players aren’t any smaller than they are in the NFL and there isn’t that great a disparity in talent. The NFL wouldn’t invite these players if there was. Don’t be surprised if Telesco adds another name to the offensive line mix before the draft rolls around. In the meantime, welcome Mr. Huey to San Diego via twitter; @themichaelhuey.
The Greg One
Here in the middle of the free agency signing period, the San Diego Chargers brass find themselves having already made significant headway to improving the team. Offensive line has been an area of woe with all the injuries and quarterback Philip Rivers has paid the price for that instability with his body. The offensive line allowed 37 sacks and 75 quarterback hits last season, up from 30 sacks and 60 hits in 2013.
The Chargers started with signing left tackle King Dunlap to a four-year deal. A couple days ago the team signed hulking guard Orlando Franklin from the Denver Broncos to a five-year deal. Center Trevor Robinson was signed to a two-year deal. The offensive line is already in a lot better shape than it was at the end of last season.
GM Tom Telesco is in the midst of addressing the wide receiver corps as of late. A few days ago, free agent Stevie Johnson agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the team. Johnsons’ former 49ers teammate Michael Crabtree is next up on the Chargers’ radar. A lot of attention is being focused on bringing in veteran wideouts. Johnson will be entering his eighth NFL season and Crabtree is entering his seventh season. Even if Crabtree does sign, it’s not going to keep the Chargers brain trust from choosing a prospect from the very deep wide receiver talent pool.
What the position does need is an upgrade and depth. Malcom Floyd is on the last year of his contract and in the twilight of his career. Eddie Royal bolted for Chicago. Keenan Allen was the focal point of opposing defense so his production decreased last season from the added attention. Veterans are going to help bridge the gap that is Allen’s ascension to a legitimate number one receiver and the draft picks that will benefit from their presence.
Crabtree was the tenth pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. At 6’1, 214 he is a great possession receiver. The 27-year old was a recipient of the Biletnikoff award given to the nation’s best college football receiver in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008. He also was the number one receiver during San Francisco’s march to the Super Bowl in 2012. Crabtree was the leader in touchdowns and yardage in the 2012 posteseason.
The biggest issue with Crabtree are injuries. An ACL injury took him out after only five games of the 2013 season. He returned last season and played all 16 games. The 49ers never got on track offensively and Crabtree suffered his worst season statistically, only averaging 10 yards per catch. A foot injury upon entering the league robbed him of five games during his rookie year. Otherwise, he’s only missed one other game.
Although he’s only finished with over 1000 yards receiving once, he’s the big body receiver Rivers prefers. Never a speed burner, he still exhibits sharp route running and possesses the ability to stretch the field vertically. He brings a toughness and a swagger to the team. As of this writing, Crabtree has garnered interest from the Chargers and Washington Redskins but has only visited the Dolphins. He still hasn’t signed a contract with the ‘Fins even though its been reported he’s spent the last two days in Miami. Perhaps new signee Johnson will help the Chargers recruit his former teammate to America’s Finest City.
Fanatic: ( noun) 1. A person with an extreme or uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.
Another NFL season has come to a close and as a devotee of one of the 31 teams that did not acquire the brass ring, there is nothing to do but reflect. Instead of the usual breakdown that will and has already been done ad nauseam, I thought I’d use this space to purge my Chargers thoughts. Confessional style.
When it comes to sports I am, above all things, a Chargers fanatic. My earliest childhood memories come as a seven-year-old, sitting on my dad’s lap every Sunday. His drinking buddies came over because we had the biggest TV on the block. A giant, Zenith floor model unit that probably weighed some 200 pounds. While I was taught the game by the guys and learned some things by osmosis (like how to count by 7’s. I can still count by 7 without end when moved to do so).
The guys always asked who I wanted to win and until I finally got a grasp on players and teams, my best logic was the team with the best helmets would win. The Chargers always had the best helmets, hence they became my first favorite team and it’s always been that way. Regardless of sport, the Chargers are #1, everyone else is jockeying for a distant second.
Growing up in North Carolina, the Redskins and Falcons were always the closest in proximity. Most were born Redskins or Cowboys fans in the south but I always gravitated to the Chargers because they were always the late game and the last image of a football team I saw that day. The Chargers teams from then on were not different from what we experience now. There were strings of really awful seasons and there were streaks of really great seasons with the Air Coryell era being the first I was there to live through.
Not coincidentally, that was the birthplace of my disdain for the Raiders. That was the time when the Raiders were the most intimidating team in the league. Guys like Lyle Alzado, Ted ‘The Stork’ Hendricks, Lester Hayes, Howie Long and others were known for being dirty. Those guys made Ndamukong Suh look like a boy scout by comparison. My love for the Chargers is only matched by my hatred of the Raiders.
At this time, the fabled Air Coryell passing attack was revolutionizing the NFL. I enjoyed watching legendary Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts shredding the league even though I didn’t at the time realize the enormity of what I was witnessing. Today, I and many pundits recognize Fouts as the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL never to play in a Super Bowl. It’s a hard point to argue. Fouts was a first ballot Hall-Of-Famer, league MVP in 1982, six-time Pro Bowler and Offensive Player of the Year among many other records and accolades.
Fast forward to present day.
The Chargers have another quarterback who is a sure-fire first ballot Hall-Of-Famer in Philip Rivers. The similarities are obvious. Both are tough as nails, humble team generals. Neither were fleet of foot, they prefer to stand tough in the pocket and deliver strikes downfield. Both known for their accuracy and were featured in pass happy offenses. Granted, after phenom running back LaDainian Tomlinson arrived the Chargers became a run-first offense it only made Rivers more dangerous. I’ve always thought of Rivers as Fouts 2.0. My only wish is that his career doesn’t mirror Fouts in the Super Bowl appearance department.
In the deep, dark recesses of our sports conscious that we dare not speak aloud to like-minded fanatics, the questions loom like a thundercloud.
What is wrong with my team? Why can’t we ever stay healthy? What is it going to take to get Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Eric Weddle and the long-suffering fans of the Chargers their long overdue Super Bowl championship? A winning season is not enough. The promise of a new day is not enough. Every team has this song and dance at the beginning of every season. We, like sheep, dance along settling for mediocrity.
There’s nothing romantic about being a long-suffering fan. It’s painful. It’s gut wrenching. It’s mood altering. We should demand better from our team and from the front office from the owner to the equipment manager. We are nothing if not loyal and loyalty should be rewarded.
I have these questions not because I question my devotion to my team, I have these questions because I care. I care more than I should about a collection of multi-millionaire athletes and coaches who wouldn’t know me from a hole in the ground but that’s the definition of a fan. We fans share a deep, emotional attachment and that’s why we cheer, boo as loud as we do and scream for vengeance when our team is wronged.
Looking at YOU, Ed Hochuli. Looking at YOU, Marlon McCree. Looking at YOU, 1994 San Francisco 49ers. A fan never forgets. The emotional scars may heal in time but they stay with us like nicks on a plate of armor. The only way to smooth them out is a Super Bowl win. We’re fans, a shortened form of fanatic. We’re not fanatics because by definition a fanatic is uncritical. We are definitely critical, sometimes overly or unjustly critical.
The Chargers have brought in some experience and knowledge to the coaching staff, adding former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan as the linebackers coach. He replaces Joe Barry who left San Diego to become the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins.
Nolan comes to the Bolts with a rich coaching background. Most recently, he spent the last three seasons at the defensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2012, he was able to improve the defensive from a 21st overall ranked unit to 9th in the league all while making an impressive playoff run.
The veteran coach has also spent some time with the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins. He spent three seasons as the linebackers coach in Denver from 1989 to 1992 which he coached Simon Fletcher and Karl Mecklenburg; respectively some of the best linebackers in Denver team history. Additionally, Nolan was Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2009 when Mike McCoy was offensive coordinator.
During his stint from 1997 to 1999 in Washington, he was able to improve the defense to an overall 2nd ranked unit. It’s safe to say that he has a niche for building stout defenses.
Nolan comes to San Diego already familiarized with the current 3-4 base defense; he ran the same scheme last year in Atlanta. The transition should be relatively easy for the young and talented linebacker unit that he will inherit.
The Chargers ended the 2014 season as a top 10 ranked defense. Now the team looks to top the NFL with an experienced coaching staff guiding a stealthy defensive unit.
As a fan of football, I could not be happier to be able to say that I was at the Chargers vs Redskins game this past Sunday. As a Chargers fan, I wish it never happened.
It was a great on Sunday. Sitting on the visitors side, I was among a surprising number of Chargers fans considering FedEx Field is cross-country from San Diego. Most Bolts fans were residents of the metropolitan area, but I did speak with a strong number of fans who made the trip to this side of the continent.
From the shortest pick 6 you will ever see, to Keenan Allen’s late touchdown in regulation, there was nothing more I could have asked as an NFL fan attending only my second game. Unfortunately, there was an overtime.
Just about every Charger fan shook their head with the “here we go again” attitude as Nick Novak punched in the tying field goal to send the game to extra time at 24 a piece.
The Chargers lost the coin toss, which would be a foreshadowing of the final result. Washington drove down the field and gave FB Darrel Young his third score of the game on the goal line. Redskins fans all over the stadium celebrated and shamed all Chargers fans from the seats to the parking lot.
Loss aside, I was excited to be able to see my favorite team play in a great contest. It was a great day overall and the Redskins fans with some sense were actually fairly pleasant to talk too until the conclusion of the game.
It is fair to say I have not attended my last Chargers game. It is also fair to say this loss probably hurt the most seeing it first hand.
As a Maryland native, I always look at the Ravens and Redskins schedules to see if there are any games I would be interested in attending since the proximity to either stadium is beyond reasonable. This year, there was no need to look at the Redskins’ schedule to know which game I would be attending.
November 3rd, 2013 at FedEx Field is the day I look forward to the most this season. I have yet to see the Chargers play live which is a huge factor as to why I am ecstatic to go. Secondly, it will only be my second ever NFL game (3rd if I can make it to the season opener in Philadelphia).
The Redskins are no longer pushovers as they have found their franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III, therefore slating our Week 9 match up to be one to remember.
Let me know if you will be there also. I’ll be glad to give out a couple of autographs, lol.
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