Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Will Philip Rivers continue to look sharp like he has mastered Norv Turner's passing offense?
Will the offensive line look crisp in the run game or sloppy and weak like the last preseason game? Did you realize the Chargers ranked 32nd in rushing after week one of the preseason?
Rookie, Louis Vasquez, out Texas Tech will start at guard. After playing in a mostly quick passing offense in college where you just have to get in the way of the defense for a few seconds, will he be able to run block effectively in the NFL?
Can full back Jacob Hestor knock linebackers back at the point of attack?
Rookie running back Gartrell Johnson did not show much burst in the first game. Was it just nerves and inexperience or were the concerns out of the combines about his lack of speed correct?
As noted in the Union Tribune yesterday morning, this will be a strong test for the Charger corners and safeties, as the first string is expected to play the entire first half. Has Antonio Cromartie healed and is his head in the right place this season to return to 2007 form?
Who will emerge as the favorite at safety in the battle between Clinton Hart, Steve Gregory, and rookie Kevin Ellison? As of now, it appears Gregory has the advantage even though Hart was the starter last year.
Steve Gregory had the flu and did not make the trip. Kevin Ellison made some good run stopping tackles, but his ball recognition on passing plays needs to develop. I don't think the Chargers would feel comfortable putting him in the starting lineup in the regular season. I would say the battle is down to Gregory and Hart.
Will Shawne Merriman look improved over his slow and gimpy performance last week? Hint: Watch him and don't be swayed by the overly hopeful analysis of Billy Ray and Ron Pitts, who were very excited by Merriman's phantom "burst" off the line last week that simply was not there.
Can Jamaican/Canadian rookie, Vaughn Martin, not only push his blocker into the backfield(as he did with regularity last week), but detach from him and make a play on the ball carrier or quarterback?
Can Kevin Burnett turn in another strong performance and win himself a permanent place at inside linebacker? Last week he was all over the field making tackles. I did not see him stick his nose in and make a play on a run up the middle though and I'll be looking for that this week.
Overall: The defense looks much improved and will again have some swagger back in 2009. The offense may be held back from poor offensive line play. Kickoff coverage obviously has to improve, giving up an opening touchdown and another big run back.
Here's what I'm looking for in tonight's game:
- Will Philip Rivers continue to look sharp like he has mastered Norv Turner's passing offense?
- Will the offensive line look crisp in the run game or sloppy and weak like the last preseason game? Did you realize the Chargers ranked 32nd in rushing after week one of the preseason?
- Rookie, Louis Vasquez, out Texas Tech will start at guard. After playing in a mostly quick passing offense in college where you just have to get in the way of the defense for a few seconds, will he be able to run block effectively in the NFL?
- Will LaDanian Tomlinson look more like the 2006 version or the 2008 version?
- How well can Antonio Gates run after he catches the ball? Will the toe injury fully heal?
- Can full back Jacob Hestor knock linebackers back at the point of attack?
- Rookie running back Gartrell Johnson did not show much burst in the first game. Was it just nerves and inexperience or were the concerns out of the combines about his lack of speed correct?
- As noted in the Union Tribune this morning, this will be a strong test for the Charger corners and safeties, as the first string is expected to play the entire first half. Has Antonio Cromartie healed and is his head in the right place this season to return to 2007 form?
- Who will emerge as the favorite at safety in the battle between Clinton Hart, Steve Gregory, and rookie Kevin Ellison? As of now, it appears Gregory has the advantage even though Hart was the starter last year.
- Will Shawne Merriman look improved over his slow and gimpy performance last week? Hint: Watch him and don't be swayed by the overly hopeful analysis of Billy Ray and Ron Pitts, who were very excited by Merriman's phantom "burst" off the line last week that simply was not there.
- Can Jamaican/Canadian rookie, Vaughn Martin, not only push his blocker into the backfield(as he did with regularity last week), but detach from him and make a play on the ball carrier or quarterback?
- Can Kevin Burnett turn in another strong performance and win himself a permanent place at inside linebacker? Last week he was all over the field making tackles. I did not see him stick his nose in and make a play on a run up the middle though and I'll be looking for that this week.
Sadly, we still don't get to see top draft choice, Larry English, play for another week because of a balky hamstring. This injury is starting to look more serious as it limits more and more of his invaluable time out on the field learning how to play defense in the NFL.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
On the the plus side:
- Philip Rivers looked good and ready to go, although Norv kept the passing game very simple
- The coaches were confident enough in the health of tight end Antonio Gates to involve him in several plays early on. His pass catching ability has not changed. I'd still like to see that old burst down field that was missing due to the toe injury last year.
- Free agent acquisition from Dallas, Kevin Burnett, was all over the field at inside linebacker. He appears to be a huge upgrade from the timid Matt Wilhelm released in the off season. Burnett is tall, athletic and speedy getting to the ball. He should have some picks this season. Only one concern here and thing I did NOT see: Is he able to fill the hole at the line of scrimmage on run plays? You need to have tough run stopping middle linebackers in the 3-4 defense.
- 3rd round draft pick Jamaican/Canadian force of nature Vaughn Martin played for the majority of the game at defensive end, picking up some of the experience he needs. He consistently and easily knocked offensive linemen into the backfield on running plays. He seems to still need to work on his ball awareness and pass rushing technique, but this guy could be AJ Smith's find of the year.
On the "jury is still out" side:
- The running game: It was great that LT got some carries and is working on his timing. This will help the team start faster. The run blocking was not crisp, efficient, or forceful. You might say that this is only preseason, however, in years past, when the run game was strong, under Marty, or even back to the Bobby Ross days, you could see that something was different even in the first games of preseason. Kris Dielman, Nick Hardwick, and Marcus McNiell are some of the best in the game, but on the other side, Jeromey Clary and Kynan Forney are unproven. Is this a problem of personnel or coaching? Does Norv Turner put too much emphasis on the passing game, neglecting to practice and stick with the run? If you don't think this is important, think about what the Steelers did to us last year in the playoffs, controlling the clock and confidently wearing us down with the running game. Think about the New York Giants and how they won the Super Bowl the year before...It was not because of Eli Manning. This is a key area of concern that I have a feeling will come up again in the course of this season.
- Shawne Merriman limping? Merriman said he felt great, but he did not seem to have a great burst, despite the optimistic telecast of Billy Ray Smith and Ron Pitts. In fact, he seemed to be limping and a bit tentative. Everyone has assumed Merriman will be back at 100% of his old disruptive self when the regular season starts, but will this injury hold him back this year? Watch him in the upcoming preseason games.
- Rookie running back Gartrell Johnson did not show that burst or instinct for the hole I mentioned in my last post. He did have a bit of that "deer in the headlights" look when he was on the field. Watch to see if he can calm down and progress in the remaining preseason games.
Other areas of note:
- Projected 3rd string tight end Kris Wilson made some great plays including a beautiful, twisting catch of a long pass along the sideline, stuttering his feet in bounds like the most skilled of receivers. He was also flying around on special teams.
- The hit of the game by safety Steve Gregory, jarring the ball loose from the receiver.
- Another big hit behind the line of scrimmage on a run play by rookie safety, Kevin Ellison, out of USC. This guy looks like a real NFL player already and may be the starter next year. AJ Smilth can be credited with another sterling late round find.
- Clinton Hart's starting safety job may be in jeopardy with the strong play of the two above.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
The Chargers have also yet to develop a consistent slot reciever (think Wes Welker for the Patriots). Buster Davis, a high draft pick two years ago, was supposed to fill that role, but has been injured for pretty much his whole Charger career. I'd like to see Legedu Naanee get the ball thrown his way much more this year. He seems to have an uncommon burst, toughness and desire to get to the end zone every time he touches the ball. Part of the "problem" here might be that Antonio Gates is such a strong receiving tight end that he gets a lot of catches that might go to the slot on other teams.
Look for all these guys to have good years as Philip Rivers masters his position. My biggest concern for this squad is the health of the aging Chris Chambers, who battled injury much of last season. Despite all the talent of the other guys, he provides that veteran go-to-guy type of experience when you really need a first down.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Al Davis found the only coach in the NFL, Tom Cable, willing to ruin his reputation by sticking with Russell no matter what. Davis has ruined this franchise with his stubbornness and long dead football instincts. Charger fans can rest easy as long as these two inept folks head Raider Nation.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
One of the lynchpins of my predictions for a San Diego Charger Super Bowl this season rests with the health of LaDanian Tomlinson. He was hurt much of last year and many began to proclaim that he had lost a step. On the contrary, I think it was a key part of our offensive line, guard Mike Goff, who had lost a step. Left Tackle Marcus McNeil was also dealing with a severe neck injury that held him back for the entire season.
Improved line play and a healthy LT will show the league he truly is not just one of the greats of his era, but one of the all-time greats. His superior training, focus, and desire to be great will give him two more years before we see any true erosion of skill. Look for LT’s numbers to be closer to 2006 than 2008 this season.
Darren Sproles emerged as a sensation in the league last year, still definitely in his prime, he will electrify fans and gain yards in big chunks. The difference between this season and last will be that Norv now knows what he can do and believes in him, so he’ll get more playing time for the entire season.
Gartrell Johnson, a big back out of Colorado State, has been the subject of some buzz coming from the San Diego Union Tribune writers. He will get a lot of playing time in the preseason to show what he can do. The knock on him out of the combines was a lack of speed. Take a look during preseason and see how quickly he gets through the holes. If he’s bursting through for two yards then another two after contact, we may have something.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Rivers started all four years at North Carolina State, setting numerous school records for the Wolfpack. This is important to his Charger career, because emerging studies of extreme success show that those who become masters in their fields do it not through innate talent or genius, but by amassing massive hours of practice (see Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book, Outliers, for more on this). I think Rivers’ physical traits, including his height, arm strength and undervalued Marino-like quick release, combined with his extreme amount of game experience as a starting quarterback, will put him in the league of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady this year.
Norv Turner is known around the league as a brilliant offensive mind and tutor of quarterbacks, which will contribute to Rivers’ continued growth. Rivers’ father is also a football coach, which shows even more how much the sport is in his blood. He’s a football geek. Notice, he’s not dating Giselle, Jessica or in every other commercial you see during the season. He’s not out at the clubs partying. He’s thinking about, practicing and studying football with his free time. It’s fair to say he’s obsessed with the game and being the best.
Lastly, why does the national media underestimate him? I believe it all goes back to two unfortunate moments caught on video: When upset after the loss to the Patriots, he made the “sorriest corner in the league” comment about Ellis Hobbs, and the taunting of Jay Cutler two seasons ago. These two instances gave the impression of an immature boy without the psychological make-up to lead a team. I think though, Charger fans who have seen much more of Rivers than these two incidents, know this is not an accurate picture of our guy and can be attributed to his football “dorkiness” more than anything else, which in the end is more of an asset than a weakness (and Jay Cutler, the baby, deserves to be taunted…Chicago is now cursed, but that’s another story).
Billy Volek and Charlie Whitehurst are both supportive teammates and capable backups.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The San Diego Chargers will win the Super Bowl this season. Skeptical Charger fans who've been burned too many times for believing in recent years and most of the national media underestimate this team. I'll break down all the positions and parts of the team in future posts, but here's why the Chargers will win it all this year:
- LaDanian Tomlinson is not done. He will bounce back from injuries and have Walter Peyton-like seasons this year and next.
- Phillip Rivers is better than people think and getting even better. He will force everyone to realize he's on his way to the Hall this season.
- Ron Rivera is a talented and innovative defensive coordinator who now has full control of this defense now back at full strength and then some with Shawne Merriman back and Larry English added.
Check on future posts for more detailed analysis.