Monday, December 27, 2010
The Chargers reached their limit Sunday afternoon in a game that showed they had not conquered their early season problems. Playing in an unfocused and uninspired haze, this team does not have the fire, leadership and perspective to properly prepare for every game and play football with passion and a determination to win. The blame here lies with the coaches, players, and AJ Smith.
This team was not prepared to play at a high level early in the season nor were they consistent throughout the season. The blame here can fall most directly on Norv's shoulders. A coach needs to have a strong sense of how well his team will perform in real game conditions based on what goes on in practice. Norv has seemed a bit out of touch with reality this year in thinking this team was going to be one of the best ever in San Diego. The injury excuse has been trotted out time and again, but that seems invalid to me as these problems were evident in the very first game when injuries were not a factor.
In yesterday's game, Norv's call of a reverse on the first play from scrimmage with the Chargers on their own twenty yard-line showed a lack of trust in his team's ability start fast with its standard offense. Most coaches would save that type of play for mid-field situations so that a fumble or large loss wouldn't put the team back at it's own goal-line. The fumble in the exchange between Tolbert and Jackson set the tone for this game, but a team full of players with more heart and faith would have been able to come back from this mistake.
Randy McMichael was quoted in the U-T saying that from the beginning it like "it just wasn't our day." A team with great players and leaders would find a way to make their day. This game, as has already been said many times before, illustrated a microcosm of the season. Lack of preparation, leadership and experience led to terrible in game mistakes; the same qualities led to an inability to recover from these mistakes. This team too often wilted, instead of responded to, pressure.
AJ Smith is at fault here in that he needs to find players with more character. It's fine to draft nice "community" guys who aren't going to get DUI's or weapons possession charges, but a team also needs guys that refuse to lose. It seems right now, despite all its talent, the team hasn't acquired enough of the latter. AJ can rectify some of this, but Norv also has to inspire the players never to give up, prepare for every game properly, and to dominate teams they are superior to. He hasn't done that enough this year.
There are a lot of fans, as expected, calling for the firing of Norv and AJ, but I think things are still salvageable with this group and franchise. Norv will have to reconsider some his coaching practices. AJ will have to show a greater sense of urgency and less complacency in building a team that can challenge for the Super Bowl next year. As safe as their jobs are for 2011, another season out of the playoffs and all bets are off. Even in the midst of mourning this season, I'm hopeful for the next.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
As I said in my last post, the more interesting game for Charger fans today should be Tennessee vs. Kansas City. The Chargers are playing well, have had some extra rest, and should get a win against an inferior Bengals team that may be playing for a first-round draft pick more than anything else.
Cincinnati did win last wee though, and looking at their stats, they fall in the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive categories. They, like the Chargers have had a lot of adversity this season and have found ways to lose with ill timed turnovers and special teams issues. They had a strong performance in beating the Browns last week. If San Diego isn't on, or has a Christmas hangover (they were flying out yesterday afternoon instead of Friday as they usually do so players could have time with families), or don't handle the cold, or overlook these guys in any way, the Bengals could rise up and beat them, virtually ending the season for the Chargers.
With T.O. out and Ochocinco hurting, San Diego should be able to cover their receivers one-on -one and stack the box against bruising running back Cedric Benson, forcing Carson Palmer into third and long situations in which he's given up the ball almost more than any other starting quarterback this season (18 INT's). The Chargers should be able to pressure him enough to get him fantasizing about returning to his offseason home on the beaches of Del Mar and getting out of the frozen nightmare of Cincinnati.
It will be a testament to Norv and the maturity and leadership on this team if San Diego puts in another strong performance today. If they don't? We can speculate about the holes on this team, in personnel, leadership, and coaching that led to the downfall of this season.
In the game that seems even more up in the air in Kansas City, the Titans are holding out on slim playoff hopes in their division. At 6-8 they would need both the Colts and Jaguars to lose out and win out themselves to have a chance. Tennessee is near the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive categories, suggesting they may be worse than their mediocre record implies.
However, they are coming off of a strong performance last week and one could argue (hope?) that quarterback Kerry Collins is shaking off the rust after Vince Young started most of the season. If nothing else, the Titans are a tough team that gets a lot of sacks and prides itself on stopping the run. This could be the perfect combination for stopping the Chiefs. Chris Johnson, though not having a superhuman season like he has the last couple years, is still a great back and also had a strong game last week. If the Titans come to play, they should be right in this down to the end. The Chiefs just aren't that good.
Chargers 27, Bengals 13
Titans 17, Chiefs 13
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Kansas City has two home games remaining against the Titans and the Raiders. Both opponents are coming off fairly strong wins last week and are nursing slim playoff hopes. The Chiefs will be favored in both games, but I think there is a strong possibility they will drop one, if not both. A statistical analysis put out through AP gave the Chiefs an 86% chance of winning the division and the Chargers an 11% chance. Perhaps I'm a bit of a homer, but I'd put the odds at closer to 50-50 with a slight edge going to San Diego.
While the Chiefs are no longer horrible, the Chargers exposed some serious flaws in this team (with or without Cassel). The Kansas City defense is not great and its offensive line isn't going to run over anyone. If an opponent can contain the speed of Jamaal Charles and not make any big mistakes, Kansas City will be incapable of running away with, or dominating any game. This is why both the Titans and Raiders figure to be in their respective games down to the wire in Kansas City the next two weeks. I will be surprised if this Chiefs team can hold it together against the pressure for two games. They definitely fell apart in San Diego. Coming back strongly last week against St. Louis showed some fight and confidence, but the Rams are also a young team struggling with confidence issues and a rookie quarterback in Sam Bradford who admittedly had a bad game.
So in the next to weeks, perhaps Charger fans should pay more attention to what's going on in Kansas City than in Cincinnati or Denver. Fingers remain crossed.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
This game displayed energized offensive and defensive lines that dominated from start to finish. Garay owned the Chiefs interior early in the game, sapping their confidence and setting up the early lead that Kansas City would never recover from with Coryle at quarterback.
Croyle just doesn't have the accuracy, timing, or pocket presence to replace Cassel. If Cassel can't go again next week, I can't see how the Chiefs can win on the road in St. Louis. By winning in the way they did, the Chargers may have created fissures in the Chief's confidence that will cause them to crumble down the stretch.
The game ball for this one should go to both Jammer and Cason who completely shut down Bowe and the rest of the Cheifs' receivers. I don't think either guy could have played better.
On the offensive side, Sproles looked like a new man after his concussion last week, aggressively attacking holes and getting up field without too much dancing around. Tolbert showed his great footwork for a big man, cutting back and twisting through holes that looked too small for his large frame. Ryan Matthews again showed flashes of what he could become. Each game he gets more reps and works on his field vision, the more dangerous he becomes. If the Chargers do make the playoffs he could be real dangerous down the stretch.
Lastly, all the fans that thought VJ was "over" San Diego were proved wrong today. The guy played and made a difference. He's going to help Phillip Rivers run the table and give this season new life.
Looking ahead, Thursday's game against the 49ers is a scary one. The Niners are the type of physical and aggressive team that gives San Diego problems. The fact that the Chargers seemed to avoid major injuries today is a huge plus. The Niners just put a shellacking on the Seahawks though and might be playing for coach Mike Singletary's job. San Diego will have to strap in on and make sure they don't overlook these guys like they did that other team form across the bay.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The Raiders were leading at halftime against the Dolphins last week, but when Miami came out in the third quarter and scored on a 57-yard pass play from Chad Henne to Marlon Moore, you could see the team take a collective sigh. The game was over.
With a lack of leadership or a core of great players to inspire the others, this team will simply fold when things get tough. Now that this season has become rocky, it appears the Raiders have already quit. They may come out with some aggression today, but if the Chargers weather the initial storm and build a lead, the Raiders will soon stop believing they can win.
Oaklands' problems are compounded by the fact that they will be starting a quarterback whose confidence must also be shaky after getting pulled multiple times this season to be replaced by the fiery, but inaccurate and unskilled "gunslinger," Bruce Gradkowski. Jason Campbell seems to have the better temperament for an NFL quarterback, but with a 54% completion rate and a 75 QB rating for the season, he hasn't been tearing things up.
The Chargers pass defense has showed it's for real against Peyton Manning and the Colts. This group is feeling confident and will look to feast on some poorly thrown balls by a desperate quarterback. The Raiders know this and will likely try everything to establish the running game and pound the rock early. The strong play of Anonio Garay in the middle and Rivera's likely decision to stack the box and force the Raiders to beat the Chargers through the air will be the key battle to watch early on.
If the Chargers can build a lead of more than ten points and force the Raiders into third and long situations, this game will be over. The strong play of Cason and Jammer on the outside will let the San Diego put eight or nine guys in the box without fear to stop the speedy, powerful, and best player on the Raiders, Darren McFadden.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Chargers, it should be interesting to see who gets the majority of the carries. Mike Tolbert has become the number one running back, but now that he's ailing with an injured hand, will Norv try to give him more of a break by letting Ryan Mathews take more carries? Ideally, the Chargers would like to have both of these guys close to 100% going into next Sunday's game against the Chiefs.
In the passing game, the Chargers should dominate a defense that is 27th in the league in passing yardage given up. Getting Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee playing back at a high level without pulling hamstrings would be a major victory going into the last stretch of the season and hopefully the playoffs. Antonio Gates will once again be a game time decision. The Chargers probably don't need him for this game, but if he practiced this week and didn't do any more damage to his foot, he might as well go. His injury doesn't seem to get worse through use, it just needs time to heal. For the Chargers to have any chance in the post-season, Gates needs to be healthy.
The Raiders are, after a short period of delusion, again, a franchise in turmoil. They still don't have a true NFL quarterback or head coach, which has been a problem for awhile. The Chargers have looked like a team in playoff form these last few weeks, and as long as they aren't looking ahead to the Chiefs next week (and they remember what happened last time against the Raiders...maybe they should watch the video at the top of this to remind themselves), they should win this one easily at home.
Chargers 34, Raiders 10
Monday, November 29, 2010
The difference of this year's team is the aggressiveness and confidence of the defense. These guys seem to have matured, and they now "get," and believe in Rivera's schemes. The defensive backs aren't giving up big plays, the defensive line is pushing people back, while the linebackers are playing smart, adjusting to the style of each team they face.
Even with the passing game limited with key receivers out or hobbling around in the secondary, the defense and the solid running game pushed through by Mike Tolbert are enough to give the Chargers multiple ways to win games. This is why they are on their way back to the playoffs and the Colts are sliding downward.
Right now, the Chargers are playing with the confidence of a team that is ready to make a run for, and in, the playoffs. The problem? There are still five games left to go and the suddenly stingy Chiefs refused to give any ground this week. Right now, both teams are 1-2 in the division, so if the Chargers beat the Chiefs and lose no other games, and the Chiefs win out aside from losing to San Diego, the teams will be tied in overall record but the Chargers would posses the superior division record, thus breaking the tie for the division title.
The Chargers have the look of a team ready to win out and take this thing, however, we know anything can happen in the NFL. The upcoming game worries me a bit in that the Chargers, even after having lost to the Raiders earlier this season, could come in a bit overconfident after seeing the horrible performance of the Oakland last week. They still don't appear to have a QB and their spirit looked broken after they fell behind just by three points against Miami. I'm sure they'd love to beat the Chargers though just out of spite. San Diego needs to bring their best for the rest of the season. Luckily, while Norv can't seem to start a season well, he's proven he's adept at keeping the guys focused at the end.
The Chargers now have a chance, and that's all that any team should ask for.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Oh, and for the love...Please fire Steve Crosby.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
To begin the game, the offensive line was not prepared for the Rams' blitzes, leading to five sacks and increased confidence for a Rams team that is in rebuilding mode. If the Chargers want to win these games against inferior teams, they have to step on their throats early and stay on them until their confidence breaks. The Chargers seem to simply lack the aggressiveness gene this year. Where is the sense of desperation?
After the Rams went up 10-0, Norv seemed to panic a bit and abandon the run game, passing on first down for several series in a row, but the lack of pass blocking led to the Chargers going backwards instead of forwards.
On special teams, San Diego gave up another long punt return and now the field goal unit failed by allowing a hugely important blocked kick. Steve Crosby's units continue to find new ways to let the team down. The guy should be fired.
The only good news out of this week is that Kansas City also lost, so the Chargers are still within striking distance for winning the division. The AFC West is still weak.
Norv needs to focus his energies on all phases and details of the game to turn this team around. He seems so dialed into what's going on with Phillip Rivers and the X's and O's of the passing game that everything else is going to pot. This season has started HORRIBLY, but is still salvageable.
We'll find out what Norv and these players are made of next week as they face the Patriots at home.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Maybe this kid is now crying over losing Light's Out...
Monday, October 11, 2010
I know it's hard to blame a coach for the poor play of professional football players, but this whole thing needs to be blown up. The Chargers brought in starters and a few free agents in the last two weeks, and the thing is still Pop Warner-style embarrassing. Crosby may have been good once, but sometimes people just lose it, and he's lost it. Kickoff returns, punt returns, now punts? Let's see...what's next? Kaeding would need to have a field goal blocked, or perhaps the field goal blocking team can find a way to give the other guys a touchdown too.
Some of the Chargers have said, we've been good in the past, it's not like Crosby suddenly forgot how to coach. It looks like he has. One would suppose he had some say in which players the Chargers cut or kept from training camp. He's picked the wrong guys. He also should have been able to see this whole thing wasn't working in practice. It's horrible and there has to be someone out there in the world of coaches who is young, hungry and more competent.
On the whole, San Diego has now become the weirdest team in the league. Who else can dominate on offense and defense in all statistical categories (besides turnovers) and still find ways to lose games? One could speculate they have players indebted to the mob, finding more and more bizarre ways to ensure the Chargers don't win.
Rivers, Gates and Floyd are on absolute fire. My other theory (and maybe more serious one than the gambling paranoia) is that Norval is simply focused on the X's and O's of the passing game at the expense of everything else. Chargers fans must consider after the last few years that perhaps the guy is just a really really good offensive coordinator and not a real NFL head coach. Maybe Norv just isn't paying enough attention to ALL the fundamentals and details of the game. Rivera seems to have the defensive side nailed down, but everything else has gone to pot.
Despite all this, we know the Chargers have started 2-3 every year under Norv and usually find a way to right the ship. They are only one game out of first and division is still terrible.
Next week San Diego goes on the road once again to face the worst team so far in the rebuilding Rams. If they can't beat these guys on the road, the season is over.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Today, just like two weeks ago, the game is more about the Chargers against themselves than about the Raiders. Can the young guys go on the road in a hostile environment and play at a high level? The Raiders are wounded and starting back-ups all over the place. The Chargers are obviously the better team. Can they play like it?
Despite all the injuries, Oakland's offense is improved. The Gradkowski to Zach Miller connection is very effective, and Michael Bush at running back can catch the short pass and find the hole in the defense. The Raiders will be competent enough to move the ball and beat the Chargers IF San Diego turns the ball over and plays horribly again on special teams.
I think have solved the worst of their special teams issues, and just by dumb luck they're due not to have more stupid turnovers this week. The Raiders are a little more confident this year, but also a little desperate to not let another season slip away so early.
This could be a close one, but San Diego will pull it out.
Chargers 31, Raiders 24
Friday, October 1, 2010
Think about it. If it weren't for Rivers, this team might just be absolutely horrible. His ability to execute Norv's high flying offense makes the difference week in and week out. But who else is really stepping up and making great plays?
The coaches this week blamed the special teams failures on anonymous "new guys," but the blame really has to fall squarely one the coaches' shoulders. If those guys weren't ready, someone should have noticed and yanked them before San Diego lost to Kansas City and Seattle. Terrible. Or, short of yanking them, coaches should have been able to teach these guys how to play special teams. That's their job. What happened in those two losses weren't small problems needing adjustments, they were complete and utter failures. Special teams coach Steve Crosby and Norval should be ashamed.
The defense has looked good, but we all need to remember that they've looked good against three horrible quarterbacks. They'll get another bad QB this week, so the Chargers should be able to pull out a win, but I wonder if the Chargers are setting themselves up for a shock when they face a real NFL QB. The pass rush has not been all that strong. With English down and Merriman on the permanent post-steroidal gimp train, I'm worried this D may not look quite so good against the upper echelon offenses. The only hope is that Antwan Applewhite starts to do amazing things with regularity now that it appears he's the starter.
On offense this week, we'll get to see a healthy Ryan Mathews again, and we can only hope he has his head together after a devastating start in which he fumbled away two balls, one probably leading to the loss in the KC game. I think he's going to be great, but he's had some bad breaks so far.
The offensive line did not look as solid last week and they need to rebound to show they can be better than below average. With LT lighting it up in New York (5.6 YPC), the excuses for the pitiful run game are looking more and more tenuous. I'm tired of reading about how "determined" the line is this year. We need to see some consistency.
I'm hoping some of the turnovers have just been bad luck and bad bounces, and that the law of averages helps the Chargers actually catch a few breaks at home. They need this one.
Chargers 27, Cardinals 13
Saturday, September 25, 2010
With the Chargers wisely sitting rookie Ryan Mathews with a high ankle sprain, we will all get to see how Mike Tolbert performs at running back over the course of a whole game. While he may have the body of a fullback, he's repeatedly flashed a surprising open field speed whenever he gets his hands on the ball. Might the Chargers have their own version of Jerome Bettis on their team? We find out tomorrow. I'm expecting at least one epic collision between the Seahawks' great middle linebacker, Lofa Tatupu and our own "bowling ball," Tolbert. We'll see who, if anyone, wins that battle.
The Seahawks are currently an inferior team to the Chargers at most positions. However, Qwest Field in Seattle is one of the louder places to play and, once again, it's going to be raining. Many of the younger players looked a bit shell shocked in Kansas City in the rain and rabid environment. This game will provide an excellent test to see if some of the newer Chargers can play at a high level on the road in a hostile environment. Can Malcolm Floyd or Legedu Naanee be consistent and make game changing plays when it counts?
On defense, it looks like Stephen Cooper's action may be limited and Larry English is questionable with a foot injury. Brandon Siler will have another chance to show he can step up and have a great game. At outside linebacker, English's absence will mean more playing time for both Shawne Merriman and Antwan Applewhite. We'll see if Merriman continues to make progress back to his old dominant self (as he's promised us). Charger fans that have been paying attention have noticed that Applwhite just seems to make big plays every time he gets a chance. He seems to have a knack for causing fumbles and getting in the backfield. I'm excited to see what he can do this week.
The Seahawks don't have much of a running game, so if San Diego doesn't get stalled again by the rain, Hasselbeck will be playing catch-up and be forced to throw the ball more and more in the second half. This should give San Diego's secondary another chance to get some picks again this week. I'd love to see this group's confidence continue to grow.
The special teams will be tested by the lightning fast rookie, Golden Tate. After the horrible breakdowns in week one against the Chiefs, San Diego didn't really get much of test last week, with only one punt (which was blocked!). The jury is still out on this group.
San Diego really needs to get a win this week to prove they can play at a high level on the road.
Chargers 24, Seahawks 17
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The offensive line was actually impressive in both the running and passing game. The Jaguars just got pushed around on the line of scrimmage. Maybe Dombrowski will turn out to be serviceable after all. If Louis Vazquez continues to develop at right guard, the Chargers could do some real damage in the run game this year.
In regards to the run game, Ryan Mathews' second game almost ended in complete tragedy, as he turned over the ball then went out with an injury. It turned out the fumble wasn't real and the injury wasn't serious. For a moment though, San Diego fans saw the season flashing before their eyes. The exciting first round back out for the season after two devastating fumbles? Confidence and an ankle unable to recover? The football gods were kind to the Bolts this week.
Mike Tolbert stepped into the gap left by Mathews and showed his surprising speed and vision in addition to his well known strength. Whether or not Mathews is healthy, Tolbert just played his way into more opportunities this season (pick him up for your fantasy squad now...he's probably undrafted).
Even better news came with the continued strong play of the defense. Antione Cason had a monster game and monster confidence builder for a young player. This first-rounder is no bust. He looks like a serious upgrade from the weird hijinx of Cromartie over the past few years.
Larry English made a big play and Shawne Merriman looked fluid and quick on the field, if a bit tentative in his first game back. Lights Out seems to have come out of this game healthy and will probably turn up the heat for Seattle. Brandon Siler filled in for Stephen Cooper without missing a beat. Antione Applewhite came in and caused a fumble. The linebacking corps is coming together.
On the whole, San Diego looks stronger, indicating that perhaps we can call the KC game a wet sloppy aberration. However, it's easy for young players to get on a roll and perform well in a blow out. How will some of these guys react in the pressure situation of a close game? The KC game showed some inexperience and flawed confidence. This week's game against a lesser opponent on the road should be a good test of some of the young players' consistency and ability to perform under a bit more pressure.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This game is more about the Chargers' battle with themselves than it is about Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a tough but average NFL team. At home, if the Chargers are capable of playing near the level they were at last year, they should win. At home on a 70 degree sunny San Diego day, there will be no excuses.
Questions to be answered today:
- Will the special teams be righted? Another poor performance and the special teams coach should worry about his job. Also, Sproles needs to show he can still do it. Has the little guy already lost a step at this young age?
- Will Ryan Mathews get his confidence back? After fumbling and essentially being pulled from the game in the 4th quarter, he needs to come back and have a great game. The guy can be a top performer in the league...if his head is right.
- Will the front seven continue to create some havoc in the backfield or were the Chiefs just that bad? We'll see...
- Can Lights Out still do it? If Shawne Merriman has a good game and doesn't pull his hammy again, the Chargers will suddenly be one of the scariest teams in the league.
- Can the receivers make the the big catches? Teams will double and triple team Gates. Someone else must step up or AJ will hear the Jackson chants for the rest of his career in SD. None of "the replacements" made anyone forget about VJ last week.
Prediction: Chargers 31, Jacksonville 17
If San Diego chokes again and loses this one, I'm not optimistic about a late season run this year. For the sake of the young and inexperienced on the team, they need to have some success now.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Unless Shawne Merriman regains his old form (which isn't looking likely at this point with his immediate gimpiness upon returning to camp) or one or more of the younger guys like Larry English, Darrell Stuckey or Cam Thomas start dominating, this team will mostly likely be bounced out in an early round of the playoffs.
The defense hasn't shown it can be stout enough against the strongest rushing teams, especially in January when it counts. Weddle and Gregory just don't have the physical prowess. The tackles in the middle are inexperienced, and Cesaire and Castillo are just "guys" in there, not adding much special to the mix. Stephen Cooper is a very strong middle linebacker and leader, but he needs more help. Burnett, at the other middle linebacker position is athletic, but not stout against the run. A team that can play solid pressure defense and run the ball will be able to control the clock, keeping Rivers and company off balance and off the field.
Ryan Mathews should have a good year. The guy just looks amazingly strong, fast and determined. He leaves everything out on the field though and doesn't dodge any big hits. An injury to him would be devastating. He' the only running back in San Diego that will make this offensive line look passable.
Phillip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and should have a great year. He continues to improve and this year folks may start murmering about his ability to go to Canton. However, his big play ability will be limited by the lack of a dominant deep route running receiver. None of Vincent Jackson's replacements have the speed, strength and size. Malcolm Floyd is tall, but not as fast, and he gets out-muscled on some jump balls. The passing game will have to rely even more on the magical Antonio Gates, who can seems able to handle any challenge or any pass.
Here's the game by game prediction:
9/13 SD @ KC: This is a dangerous game as the Chiefs and their fans will be pumped up in the desperate hope of not being horrible again this season. With the addition of former Patriots' offensive and defiensive coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crenel (they should rename themselves the Western Patriots), look for the Chiefs to try any crazy thing to get a win. In the end, talent will win out and so will San Diego.
9/19 JAC @ SD: The Chargers should roll in their home opener against the Jaguers, who are still searching for a franchise quarterback, and may technically be in "rebuilding" mode.
9/26 SD @ SEA: Speaking of rebuilding, Pete Carroll jumped the sinking USC ship just in time, but this team has been on the downward slide and Carroll hasn't proven he can succeed in the NFL, although one could argue USC was a quasi-professional team. Chargers win.
10/3 ARI @ SD Arizona should beg Kurt Warner to emulate the classless Farvre and make a tearful heroic return from retirement. It's the only chance they have. I can't believe they let linebacker Karlos Dansby go last year. The guy was a vicious part of their defense. Chargers win.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
- Rookie Safety Darrell Stuckey made more progress, looking a little more comfortable out there, making a few plays and showing his hitting ability. The Chargers need Stuckey to mature, because Gregory, the projected starter, showed that while he's gritty and knows his responsibilities, just isn't up to par physically on an NFL field. He and Weddle are starting to specialize in getting run over by big opposing running backs. This has been a problem in the playoffs the past few years. Last year, while everyone likes to focus on Cromartie's phantom tackle, remember Jets running back Shonn Greene actually ran over Weddle on his 60-yard TD run to end the Chargers' season. A couple years before that, on a crucial third down play against the Steelers toward the end of the game Gregory was run over by Willie Parker on a big run that may have made the difference in the game. The Chargers possess the two least intimidating safeties in the league and need Stuckey to grow into the starting job by the end of the season if they are going to do better than previous years in the playoffs.
- Larry English made a play! English stopped the 49er running back in the backfield on a well read 4th and short pitch play. It still looks like Antwan Applewhite is the better play maker out there. If Merriman proves injury prone again this season, it will be interesting to see if Applewhite eventually pushes for a starting job.
- The new guy looks sharp:Recently acquired cornerback (from Houston), Fred Bennett, made a strong play on a deep ball and took it away from the receiver for an interception. This guy is quick, strong, and athletic, making the rusty Nathan Vashar expendable (I thought Vashar had showed some spark and might regain his first string form with time, but AJ & co. seem to have made the right call here).
- The Chargers generally stood up against the Singletary-toughened Niners, but the defense still looks flawed. San Francisco did not display any passing attack, but the Chargers defense again showed some weakness against the run. To start the season, it's hard to rate the front seven as anything but below average. This fact, added to what was said above about the weakness at safety, should worry fans going into the season. The only part of the defense I'm not worried about is the cornerback position. Jammer and Cason will be great as starters. Strickland and Bennett are experienced and extremely strong nickle or dime backs. If the Chargers could generate any kind of pass rush, this group could get many picks this season.
- The most notable occurrence on offense was the big night of Buster Davis. He showed he could go deep, across the middle and perform tight comeback routes leaving corners five yards up field. Hopefully, he will stay healthy and continue to develop his confidence. I can see Davis in the slot catching slants across the middle in open space and going for 30+ yards as opposing safeties focus too much on Antonio Gates.
The biggest news in Chargerville had nothing to do with Thursday's ugly marathon slog. In picking up wide receiver Patrick Crayton from Dallas, San Diego added some needed veteran experience and talent. They thought former Bill Josh Reed would provide this, but all he showed this preseason was an incredible ability to drop balls. Crayton is reliable and can still get deep time to time at the advance NFL age of 31. All this may be bad news for Legedu Naanee, who may end up as an occasional slot receiver (the same role he's had the past two years) behind Buster Davis. Norv may let Davis and Naanee battle it out at slot for awhile to see who is more effective.
This team may be reverting to the Fouts era Chargers with a nearly unstoppable passing attack, weaker running game, and even weaker defense. That sounds exciting, but that team never made it to, much less won, a Super Bowl either.
I'll post my 2o10 regular season preview later this week.