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Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Athlon Sports


    San Diego moves on without LaDainian Tomlinson, whose nine-year run as the face of the franchise ended in the offseason due to age and salary cap concerns. The Chargers will try to win their fifth straight AFC West title behind a supercharged offense led by quarterback Philip Rivers (pictured), tight end Antonio Gates and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. They’re also looking to reestablish a defensive identity behind outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who wasn’t the same old “Lights Out” last year as he returned from knee surgery.
    The Super Bowl remains an elusive goal for the Chargers, who have lost three of their last four playoff games, including a mystifying pratfall against the Jets. The window of opportunity hasn’t closed on the Bolts, but it’s certainly getting smaller for Southern California’s only NFL team.
    Some people, including some opposing coaches, continue to insist that San Diego is the NFL’s most talented team. That might be the case, but it hasn’t translated into recent success in January.
    The Chargers quietly gave coach Norv Turner a three-year contract extension through 2013 a day after the playoff loss to the Jets. A large segment of the Chargers’ fan base still hasn’t warmed to Turner after three years, and getting outcoached by Rex Ryan in the playoffs didn’t help his cause. Supporters point out Turner’s three straight AFC West titles and 3–3 playoff record with the Chargers. Detractors point out that while he did get the Chargers to the AFC title game following the 2007 season, he has failed to get to the Super Bowl with a team that was 14–2 the year before he replaced Marty Schottenheimer. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera uses aggressive schemes. Offensive coordinator Clarence Shelmon helps with the gameplan, but Turner calls the plays on Sundays. GRADE: B
    Rivers has solidly established the Chargers as a passing team and himself as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. Although the addition of rookie running back Ryan Mathews from Fresno State will give the Chargers some balance, they’re not about to veer away from their high-octane passing game. In fact, Rivers’ status as one of the game’s best quarterbacks means Mathews won’t carry quite the burden Tomlinson did when he was a rookie in 2001 and the Chargers were awful. Rivers will be looking for his third straight 4,000-yard season, something only Hall of Famer Dan Fouts has accomplished in San Diego. Rivers has settled in nicely as the team’s leader and seems to do less yapping at opponents. Billy Volek remains the solid backup, although he doesn’t see much action. The Chargers traded third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst to Seattle and drafted Tennessee’s Jonathan Crompton to be his successor. In a perfect world, Crompton will never take a snap for the Chargers. GRADE: A
    Tomlinson is out and Mathews, who led the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing at 150.7 yards per game in 2009, is in. The Chargers liked Mathews so much that they spent big-time to move up 16 spots in the draft to take him 12th overall. The Chargers view Mathews as a fresh set of legs with a between-the-tackles style to replace Tomlinson, who had clearly lost a step and, coincidentally, was Mathews’ idol growing up. Mathews has been wearing No. 21 since he was a sophomore in high school. He won’t be getting Tomlinson’s old number, but he will get the chance to prove that the Chargers’ belief that he is a complete back is accurate. Speedy little Darren Sproles returns for at least one more season. The Chargers still intend to use him as a third down back, a receiver out of the backfield and a return specialist — but not the every-down back Sproles thinks he can be. Fullbacks Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert get a touch or two most games, but they are blockers first and foremost. GRADE: B+
    The receiving corps is clearly the team’s strongest unit. There are times when the Chargers can seemingly score at will, and Gates, Jackson and Floyd are almost always involved. Gates, now a six-time Pro Bowl tight end following a season in which he had a career-best 1,157 yards on 79 catches, still gives defensive coordinators headaches trying to figure out how to cover him. The 6'5" Jackson can jump up and get anything that Rivers throws in his general vicinity. Jackson played in the Pro Bowl for the first time and will be looking for his third straight 1,000-yard season, though that will be tougher for at least one reason, and maybe two. First, he was suspended by the NFL for the first three games after a second DUI conviction. Second, he has threatened a contract holdout after refusing to sign his restricted free agent tender. Gates and Jackson became the first Chargers receiving duo to top 1,000 yards apiece since Lionel James and Wes Chandler in 1985, and their 2,324 combined yards were the most by two Chargers since Kellen Winslow and John Jefferson in 1980. Floyd isn’t at Jackson’s level, but he’s also 6'5" and can make big plays. Sproles actually was the team’s third-leading receiver, tied with Floyd, and can bust a long one, too. Veteran wideouts Legedu Naanee, Craig Davis and Josh Reed (a free agent signee from Buffalo) provide solid depth. GRADE: A
    Above all, this group is looking for good health. Left tackle Marcus McNeill and left guard Kris Dielman were the only offensive linemen who made every start last year. McNeill rolled an ankle in the season opener and had to stay in the game because there were no backups left. Center Nick Hardwick sprained an ankle in the opener and missed the next 13 games. Right tackle Jeromey Clary missed the final six games with an ankle injury. The injuries did provide valuable playing time to players such as Scott Mruczkowski and Brandyn Dombrowski. Mruczkowski filled in admirably for Hardwick until he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in mid-December, and Dombrowski started two games at right guard in place of rookie Louis Vasquez early in the season, then started the final six at right tackle after Clary got hurt. Rivers’ numbers didn’t seem to suffer, but the injuries contributed to problems in the running game. This is a talented line, but it would be a lot more evident if the players weren’t ailing — and if there weren’t uncertainty about McNeill’s availability. McNeill, like Jackson, did not sign his restricted free agent tender and the team is proceeding as if he won’t be around this season, a possibility that will be easier to deal with following the free agent acquisition of veteran tackle Tra Thomas from Jacksonville. GRADE: B+
    The Chargers hope that rookie Cam Thomas will eventually become the replacement for departed nosetackle Jamal Williams — and the quicker the better. Williams was the run-stuffing anchor of San Diego’s defense for the better part of a decade, but he suffered a season-ending arm injury in the opener last year that the Chargers never really recovered from, and now he has moved on to division rival Denver. The Chargers drafted Thomas in the fifth round and will throw him into the mix along with Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Ian Scott. As is the case on offense, the Chargers would love to find some consistency up front. A revolving door across the line worked for a portion of the season, but injuries limited this group’s effectiveness. Even though they each had a solid season, ends Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire will be more effective if the Chargers can get a strong presence in the middle. The Chargers welcome back Ryon Bingham, who can play either end or tackle and missed all of last season with an arm injury. GRADE: B
    This is the group that defines the Chargers’ defensive identity, and last year it hardly overwhelmed. Merriman might have moved on by now if not for the uncapped year, and this is perhaps his final season in San Diego. He’s looking to regain the form that led to 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons. He had four last year as he returned from knee surgery that cost him the majority of the 2008 season. On the other side, Shaun Phillips (seven sacks) is now best known as the guy who head-butted a Jets player in the playoffs. Larry English remains in waiting, perhaps as Merriman’s eventual replacement. Brandon Siler and Stephen Cooper do a solid job inside, where rookie Donald Butler is expected to add some depth, especially considering the Chargers gave up two draft picks to move up in the third round and grab him. GRADE: B+
    This is always an interesting group, one that’s either reviled or revered (often the former). Antonio Cromartie went from having 10 interceptions in 2007 to freezing up when New York’s Shonn Greene hit the hole en route to a 53-yard touchdown run in the playoffs. Cromartie was shipped to the Jets a few weeks later, having become a liability both on the field and in the locker room. Antoine Cason, the team’s 2008 first-round pick, has a chance to win Cromartie’s job, although the team brought in cornerbacks Donald Strickland and Nathan Vasher to compete for the spot opposite the ever-solid Quentin Jammer. The Chargers drafted safety Darrell Stuckey of Kansas, perhaps to light a fire under Eric Weddle and Kevin Ellison. GRADE: B
    All eyes will be on kicker Nate Kaeding after he inexplicably missed three field goal attempts in the Chargers’ 17–14 playoff loss to the Jets. Kaeding’s 87.2 regular-season percentage (150-of-172) is the best in NFL history, but his playoff record is a shaky 8-of-15. It will take another postseason opportunity for Kaeding to redeem himself. Punter Mike Scifres remains a tremendous asset with his booming kicks. The explosive Sproles returned a punt for a touchdown last season, and he has two punt and two kickoff returns for scores in his career. GRADE: A
  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    An 11-game winning streak to end last season didn’t mean anything once the Chargers were beaten by the Jets. The same will hold true this year, when winning the mediocre AFC West is almost a given. Avoiding another face-plant in the playoffs is what really matters to this team. The Chargers have gotten better about not talking openly about reaching the Super Bowl, but even that focus hasn’t paid off. The fans who get fired up reading predictions of Super Bowl glory get really grumpy when their team gets sent home in the early rounds of the playoffs.
    “Ryan Mathews is a good player, but to go that high (No. 12 overall) for him? He’s not the same type of running back that LaDainian Tomlinson was in his prime, and he’s not the same type of guy as Darren Sproles, either. He doesn’t have their lateral quickness. He’s a chain-mover. It’s going to be interesting to see how they do relying on a guy like that. … I like Philip Rivers. I like what he’s been able to do for them. There were plenty of times when they could have folded and gone in the tank. He’s a fighter. He just doesn’t quit. … The combination of Marty Schottenheimer and Cam Cameron, getting rid of those guys, that was their mistake. They’ve never duplicated what they did. The reputation he has as an offensive coach, Norv Turner has still never matched what Marty and Cam did. That was a major, major organizational faux pas. … On a consistent basis the last five years, there has been no better team, talent-wise, than the San Diego Chargers.”
    Rd., Player, Pos., Ht., Wt., College
    1. Ryan Mathews, RB, 5-11, 220, Fresno State
    3. Donald Butler, LB, 6-1, 245, Washington
    4. Darrell Stuckey, SS, 5-11, 205, Kansas
    5. Cam Thomas, DT, 6-4, 330, North Carolina
    5. Jonathan Crompton, QB, 6-3, 222, Tennessee
    7. Dedrick Epps, TE, 6-3, 250, Miami
    GM A.J. Smith spent liberally to move up and get both running back Ryan Mathews and linebacker Donald Butler. Mathews is expected to replace LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers like Butler because he can play both inside positions. Smith also moved up to grab defensive tackle Cam Thomas, who is expected to be in the mix to replace Jamal Williams. The Chargers had been expected to take a defensive tackle with their second-round pick, but that was used in the deal to get Mathews. However, it turned out that Thomas was a good find in the fifth round, considering that many people projected him to go higher.
    Player, Pos., 2009 Team
    Randy McMichael, TE, St. Louis
    Josh Reed, WR, Buffalo
    Donald Strickland, CB, N.Y. Jets
    Tra Thomas, OT, Jacksonville
    Nathan Vasher, CB, Chicago
    Player, Pos., 2010 Team
    Antonio Cromartie, CB, N.Y. Jets
    Tim Dobbins, ILB, Miami
    Brandon Manumaleuna, TE, Chicago
    Kassim Osgood, WR, Jacksonville
    LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, N.Y. Jets
    Charlie Whitehurst, QB, Seattle
    Jamal Williams, DT, Denver

    2010 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS PREVIEW http://www.athlonsports.com/pro-football/19391/nfl-2010-san-diego-chargers-preview

    2010 OAKLAND RAIDERS PREVIEW 2nd http://www.athlonsports.com/pro-football/19388/nfl-2010-oakland-raiders-preview

    2010 DENVER BRONCOS PREVIEW 3rd http://www.athlonsports.com/pro-football/19385/nfl-2010-denver-broncos-preview

    2010 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS PREVIEW 4th http://www.athlonsports.com/pro-football/19383/nfl-2010-kansas-city-chiefs-preview
  3. CoronaDoug

    CoronaDoug Official Hater

    Feb 14, 2007
  4. AnteaterRaider

    AnteaterRaider Carpe Diem et omni Mundio Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

    Jan 19, 2006
    I can understand the basis of not dropping letter grades based on one game, especially when someone had such a high percentage accuracy throughout the year. Still, come on, knock it down to at least a B+ because of Kaeding. Scifres is still money regardless, Kaeding better get it together and fast
  5. MasterOfPuppets

    MasterOfPuppets Charger fan since 1979

    Aug 8, 2006
    first off, this article assumes McNeil and Jackson will be on the team:icon_shrug:

    second...why do critics say that the Chargers window is closing? it most be because they have been on top for so many years that they assume they'll come back to the pack

    But if you look at the roster only one key player is close to the end of his career (Jammer) the others are in their prime (Rivers, Gates, Dielman, Hardwick, Phillips et.) or on their way up (Mathews, Floyd, Nanee, Vazques, Cam Thomas, Martin, OG, English, Stuckey, et.) not to mention the the Chargers will have (at least) a first, a second and 3 third round picks or (more likely) a first, 2 second and 2 third. If AJ did well with this draft, does well with next year's draft, as long as Rivers is the QB this team's window will be wide open
  6. sdbound

    sdbound Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    For the same reason that analysts spent several years pratteling on about what a winner Jay Cutler is...it fits the narritive. It doesn't matter that it's complete baloney.
  7. Aggieman

    Aggieman I bleed blue and gold

    Aug 14, 2008
    The author's quite generous with the grades, especially because there's alot we simply don't know and can't evaluate yet. That said - "Mathews is a chain-mover." You bet, and he's going to pay dividends moving those chains and allowing Rivers to dominate teams through the air. Also, Mathews is going to dominate the red zone, that is if the teams even gets there scoring from outside the 20 as they so often do these days...
  8. RM24

    RM24 BoltTalker

    Jul 27, 2007
    Well thank goodness for that comment. We actually WON a playoff game! :lol:

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