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.