The Chargers look to rebound from another mediocre season but are now faced with the challenge of filling some significant voids. Can they finally live up to the potential that has eluded them over the past two seasons?

 

24 JUL
Chargers At Full Gallop

By: Craig Tattan

 

After Mike Tolbert bolted to Carolina upon signing a 4-year deal, the Chargers were desperate for a backup to starting tailback Ryan Mathews. With Curtis Brinkley having virtually no NFL traction on his tread, the front office realized they could not stand pat. 

On June 8th they signed former Miami Dolphin Ronnie Brown to a one year deal. Brown was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft and, although he made the Pro Bowl in '08, he has never lived up to expectations. That being said, he is certainly a more than adequate backup player. 

Even though they drafted Michigan State running back Edwin Baker in the 7th round and invited running back Michael Hayes out of the University of Houston to camp, San Diego, still not content, successfully inked former Chiefs back Jackie Battle to a one year deal. The Chargers now have a superior tailback in Ryan Mathews and a proven veteran as his backup. In addition, they also have some legitimate prospects in case injuries befall either Mathews or Brown. 

San Diego ranked 12th in yards per rush attempt last season; these additions should assure them that their ground game will be equipped enough to keep their opponents from keying exclusively on the elite arm of Phillip Rivers.

 

18 JUL
Eric Who?

By: Craig Tattan

 

Eric Weedle is one of the best safeties in the game, but not too many outside of San Diego even recognize the name. He is a monster at shutting down receivers as evidenced by the opposing quarterbacks' 25.0 rating when throwing in his direction. That stat places him high among best in the NFL. If the Bolts are going to have any success on the defensive side of the ball, then Eric Weedle must be the same guy he was last season.

How does the departure of Vincent Jackson translate into more touches for the talented but, some say, underutilized Ryan Mathews? Well, Norv Turner mentioned that he would like to get the ball into the hands of the talented running back much more often. With Jackson no longer an option for QB Phillip Rivers, it may evolve into a more focused ground game for the Chargers. Naturally, Mathews would love the playbook to revolve around him, but Rivers is too talented a quarterback to be relegated to handing off the ball play after play. 

However, if coach Norv Turner does indeed reemphasize the ground and pound, it will take the heat off of Rivers and allow him to be more successful through the air. Rivers had a penchant for throwing to the wrong jersey throughout much of last season; those happy feet of his may be able to relax a bit more with Ryan Mathews shredding defenses.

 

11 JUL
Powder Blue Meets Silver & Black

By: Craig Tattan

 

Norv Turner realizes this is his last hurrah if the Chargers don’t perform this season. They once again enter the season loaded on offense but their defense will be the big question. They were ranked only 20th against the run last season and will open up on the road in Oakland. 

The Raiders will count on a healthy Darren McFadden to tear through the Chargers defensive line, and his success - or lack thereof - will go a long way in determining how well the Chargers will fare on opening day. Early indications are that the Chargers’ two top picks in this year’s draft, linebacker Melvin Ingram and defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, will contribute immediately to the Chargers’ pass rushing attack. 

If San Diego is to right their ship, quarterback Phillip Rivers will have to be much sharper than he was early last season when he tossed more picks than TD’s. The Raiders were not adept at stopping the pass and last season split the series with San Diego. But, if the last regular season game of the year between these two is any indication, then the Chargers may very well replicate their 38-26 victory in Oakland. 

Play the Chargers -1.

 

04 JUL
Wheeling and dealing

By: Craig Tattan

 

The Chargers played hardball with 32-year-old nose tackle Antonio Garay in the offseason, reaching an agreement to pay the veteran $6.6 million over two years.  While that may not look like chump change everything in the NFL is predicated on how the contract is structured and guaranteed money.  When you factor in the tenuous nature of multi-year deals in the NFL, then it must be considered that only $750,000  of that figure is guaranteed.  This is not major league baseball where all the player has to do, once the ink is dry on the contract, is show up and collect every penny.

Perhaps that tepid level of commitment by the Chargers is due to the potential the team sees in backup defensive lineman Cam Thomas.  The 2010  5th rounder out of North Carolina started just two of sixteen games last season but collected 20 tackles and had four sacks, second on the team behind leader Antwan Barnes.  The time may be now for the third year veteran as evidenced by the structure of Garay's contract.  Of the $6.6 million being shipped to the incumbent starter, $5,000,000 is to be paid next season.  If Thomas continues to progress, Garay may never see the big money of his recently signed contract with the Chargers.

 

26 JUN
Chargers Get A Positive Jolt

By: Craig Tattan

 

As important as Vincent Jackson was for the Chargers offense, he wasn’t a speed merchant who could streak down the sidelines, extend his arms and simply wait for Phillip Rivers to launch the ball to a spot on the field. He was and is, a physical receiver who ran precise routes with a knack for making lightning quick cuts to shake receivers and ultimately gain yardage. Certainly Jackson is the kind of target that any quarterback loves but Jackson is now plying his trade in Tampa Bay, courtesy of a big money offer from the Bucs, and Rivers will now have to look elsewhere.

Enter veteran wideouts Robert Meacham and Eddie Royal who are now members of Rivers’ air assault team as replacements for the talented Jackson. These two are bona fide burners and will give Rivers the luxury of stretching the field and thus creating space in the middle for Antonio Gates and dump offs to Ryan Mathews out of the backfield. Having one receiver who can stretch the field, let alone two, will be a luxury that Rivers is gifted enough to exploit. It could be a twin tandem that puts up plenty of crooked numbers this season for the Bolts.

 

13 JUN
Replacing Vincent Jackson

By: Craig Tattan

 

Vincent Jackson has been a prime target for Phillip Rivers over the past several years but he had over 55 million reasons to leave one sunny destination for another. Jackson is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and former Saint Robert Meacham was signed to fill the void. Meacham was not the first option in New Orleans but he is counting on being “the guy” in San Diego.

Head coach Norv Turner watched Meacham, Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown and Malcolm Floyd get into a groove at the OTA’s (Organized Team Activities) this past week.  Brown was reported to be a standout, making circus like catches and hauling in everything thrown his way. But Turner knows what we all know; this offense will take care of itself. If Rivers can cut down on the errant passes, opposing defenses will have their hands full, especially with a healthy Antonio Gates.

However, Turner liked what he saw of his defense as he made the following observations, “I like that a lot (the offense clicking), but what I like better is seeing (cornerbacks) Shareece Wright and Gilchrist a year into it, knowing what to do. I like seeing (outside linebackers) Barnes and Shaun Phillips healthy and (Melvin) Ingram in there, rushing.”

“We did not make enough big plays on defense. We did not create enough negative plays for the other side. I think we have more guys who are going to make those kinds of plays."

 

06 JUN
Some Help For Rivers

By: Craig Tattan

 

Philip RiversIf the Chargers are to redeem themselves for the recent failures their defense will have to improve mightily. San Diego gave up 23.6 points per game last season which placed them 22nd in the NFL. Although it’s too early to tell who will be a difference maker and who will be a bench warmer, head coach Norv Turner had this to say about what he has seen at the voluntary OTA’s (Organized Team Activities),

I like that a lot (offense looking sharp), but what I like better is seeing (cornerbacks) Shareece Wright and (Marcus) Gilchrist a year into it, knowing what to do. I like seeing Barnes and Shaun Phillips healthy and (first round pick, Melvin) Ingram in there, rushing.”

“We did not make enough big plays on defense. We did not create enough negative plays for the other side. I think we have more guys who are going to make those kinds of plays."

The Bolts will be counting on free agent acquisition Jarret Johnson and top draft pick Melvin Ingram to bolster a pass rushing corps that ranked 27th in the league in forced turnovers over the past two seasons. Perhaps that is the one statistic that tells the tale of their recent playoff drought. 

 

23 MAY
Same old story for the Chargers?

By: Craig Tattan

 

Phillip Rivers led the Chargers 6th ranked offense last season but undid all those perfect spirals and touchdown passes with 20 interceptions which ranked him tied for 3rd in the dubious category of most interceptions with 20.  The offensive line has been retooled and defense was a major priority as the Bolts added first round pick Melvin Ingram to wreak havoc in enemy backfields as well as augmenting their defense through free agency with the additions of outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Kendall Reyes. 

Norv Turner’s squad has disappointed mightily over the past two seasons, failing to make the playoffs with a talented crew that should have locked up the vulnerable AFC West two years running but he gets another bite at the apple this year and many Bolts backers were shocked that the front office decided to give the veteran coach another opportunity.  Fans of both Norv Turner and the San Diego Chargers are about as rare as unicorns and leprechauns but if they make the playoffs and go deep then all will be forgiven.

 

11 MAY
Bolts Shore Up D In Draft

By: Craig Tattan

 

The Chargers management had their eyes on Alabama safety Mark Barron but early indications were that he was coveted by other teams as well and would be picked higher than many expected. The Tampa Bay Bucs nabbed him as the 7th overall pick and from there general manager A.J. Smith held his breath and waited for his pick at eighteen. And when he finally exhaled, South Carolina pass rusher Melvin Ingram had unexpectedly fallen into their laps and onto their roster. 

Smith stayed the course and tapped Connecticut’s versatile defensive lineman Kendall Reyes in the second round to improve their pressure on the quarterback. The Chargers then got frisky and traded up, giving up their 3rd and 6th round picks, to get an aggressive safety and LSU’s defensive captain Brandon Taylor in the third round as the consolation prize for not getting Mark Barron. 

Tight end Ladarius Green of Louisiana-Lafayette is a workout warrior and NFL Combine darling who is undersized at only 238 pounds, but his 6’6” frame will give him the perfect size to grow under the current incumbents Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael. 

The Chargers wrapped up the draft with Johnnie Troutman (offensive guard, Penn State, 5th round), David Molk (center, Michigan, 7th round) and finally Edwin Baker (running back, Michigan State, 7th round).

25 APR
Stealing Thunder: Chargers 2012 Draft Prospects

By: Craig Tattan

 

The Chargers have told anyone willing to listen that trading down is not an option. Like many other teams, they desperately need a pass rushing threat and are hoping Thursday night is a bonafide bonanza even if they are picking 18th overall in the first round of the NFL draft. Gone are the days when they had Shawne Merriman patrolling the middle and creating chaos in the backfields of opposing offenses.

While some have singled out the physical Alabama product Mark Barron as a perfect complement at strong safety to their current free safety Eric Weedle, this appears to be a luxury they can ill afford particularly when you factor in their pressing need for a speedy edge linebacker or an imposing defensive end. 

If Norv Turner wants to hold on to his job - it is thoroughly amazing he still has one after a talent-laden roster has failed in consecutive years to make the postseason - then he needs to focus on a player who can blow up an offensive line and lock down the quarterback.  Maybe a superstar like that is hard to come by at the 18th pick but, no matter who they get, it needs to be someone who will upgrade their pass rush. 

Based on this, it would appear that coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are likely looking at several candidates who may still be around when Roger Goodell announces that "the San Diego Chargers are on the clock." 

The current UFC Light Heavyweight champion of the world, and one of the world's most dangerous men, Jon Bones Jones, could very well be making a coastal commute to watch the Chargers play if little brother Chandler Jones, former defensive end at Syracuse, gets the nod. In addition, pass rushers like Melvin Ingram of South Carolina (if they trade up or get very lucky), Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Shea McClellin of Boise, or even Nick Perry of USC are also definitely in the San Diego mix.

 

25 MAR
Will Lightning Strike In 2012?

By: Craig Tattan

 

Frustration

Underachievement, unfulfilled potential and disappointment are all words that would fit the description of the San Diego Chargers.  If you are a Chargers fan, well you have my condolences.  In a climate that Phillip Riverssees owners changing coaches like most people change their socks, it is amazing that Norv Turner has been retained.  I am not one that usually calls for the coach's head because, try as they might, there are a multitude of issues beyond their control.  However, I cannot help but look at this San Diego roster over the last few seasons and not think of two words...playoff bound. 

Just when Bolts fans thought 2011 would be the year of redemption for an agonizingly frustrating 2010 campaign, Norv and his crew did it all over again.  They started the season at 4-1 and looked poised to win the AFC West.  But then the roof fell in again and they went into a six game tailspin, emerging with a 4-7 record as the season entered the homestretch.  But instead of dying they felt the need to torment their fans even further and won four of their last five games only to get nipped by Denver in a tiebreaker for the division crown and a trip to the postseason.  It ain't easy being a Bolts backer.

Changes

Phillip Rivers lost his biggest weapon as Vincent Jackson took his talents down south to Tampa Bay.  It was the biggest defection for the Chargers but not the only change to their roster this offseason.  Perennial Pro Bowler Kris Dielman retired due to head injuries which leaves a gaping void at left guard.  The Chargers must now decide if either Tyronne Green or Brandyn Dombrowski can step in on a full time basis and protect Rivers' blindside. 

If losing your star wide receiver and premier offensive lineman isn't enough, then how about one of your featured running backs?  Well Mike Tolbert may fit that bill as he took the money and ran all the way down to Carolina.  Defensive tackle Antonio Garay is still unsigned however Bolts management did lock up two key offensive linemen in Jared Gaither and Nick Hardwick to contracts this offseason.  

Superstars Antonio Gates and Phillip Rivers have entered their 30's and the uber talented Takeo Spikes is now 35 having played his entire career, spanning 14 years and five organizations, without a postseason game to his credit.   Soon you will hear the whispers about the window of opportunity closing.  Some might say San Diego slammed that window shut when they hired good old Norv but of course, I would never say that.  Nope, not me.

The Odds

5Dimes currently lists the Chargers at 22-1 in the to win it all and most shops have the Chargers win total slated at 9.5.  I'm not sure that a team that has lost two top players as well as a skilled running back should be considered better than they were last season or even in 2010.  Perhaps the NFL odds makers are convinced that San Diego will finally live up to their vast potential and that another implosion is simply too unlikely.  We will monitor the Chargers progress throughout the offseason and into the regular season. 

Come join us by commenting and sharing your own opinions.  We may just use it right here in our Chargers blog so chime in!