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Chargers needs: Big departures leave giant holes

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Apr 11, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    April 11, 2010
    By Clark Judge
    CBSSports.com Senior Writer

    The most disappointed team in the AFC last season wasn't Indianapolis. It was San Diego.
    The Chargers lapped the AFC West, going 6-0 en route to their fourth straight division title. They finished the regular season with 11 straight victories. And they ran through the always tough NFC East, beating all four teams there -- including the Giants and Dallas on the road.



    So where did all that get them? Nowhere. They lost to the New York Jets in their only playoff game. Talk about stunning. It was supposed to be the year the Chargers went to the top, and it was ... if the AFC West penthouse is your idea of a destination. But another disappointing playoffs has disgruntled Chargers fans wondering why this season should be different, and I'll tell you why: Because this San Diego team is unlike any you've seen in years.

    For one, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the heart and soul of the franchise, is gone -- released after a disappointing season. Star cornerback Antonio Cromartie is gone, too. So is former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jamal Williams. The Chargers believe they're better off without them, and you make the call.

    All I know is that no one in the division challenges San Diego again, and here's why:

    QB: Philip Rivers isn't just the best quarterback in the AFC West; he's one of the best in the league. His 62 touchdown passes the past two seasons rank second only to the Saints' Drew Brees (68), and his 104.4 passer rating in 2009 made him the only quarterback anywhere to surpass 100 the past two years.

    Rivers is a franchise quarterback and, as an enormously popular player with fans, the most likely choice to replace L.T. as the face of this franchise. He is accurate. He is successful. And he is tough and resilient, all of which make it difficult for backup Billy Volek to get on the field. Just another reason third-stringer Charlie Whitehurst became expendable.

    RB: Tomlinson is gone, and there's an enormous hole at this position. Darren Sproles remains, but he's not an every-down back; he's a return specialist who is invaluable on third downs or with the ball in space. Anyway, Sproles is an asset, but only as a supporting player. Fullback Jacob Hester hasn't been much of a factor, never carrying more than 21 times in a season, but that hasn't been his role. Blocking has been. Backup fullback Mike Tolbert is the more logical choice to carry the ball. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry last season and could be the short-yardage option this time around. Nevertheless, that doesn't solve the primary problem, which is finding someone to replace Tomlinson. The Chargers will draft a back early, perhaps in the first round, and not because it's a good idea but because it's a necessity.

    WR: Never has a collective-bargaining stalemate been more welcome than it is with this team. The Chargers could've lost Shawne Merriman, tackle Marcus McNeill and wide receiver Vincent Jackson to free agency. Instead, all are restricted free agents who have been retained.

    Jackson is an elite receiver with size, hands and speed. The past two seasons he exceeded 1,000 yards in catches, and he is averaging 17 yards a catch for his career, including 17.2 last year. Jackson is the best of a respectable group of wideouts that includes Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis. The underwhelming Davis has been a disappointment, but the club believes if he can stay healthy he can make a contribution. Their point: When he gets the chance to play, he flashes.

    TE: Antonio Gates is one of the premier players at his position, drawing comparisons in San Diego to Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow. Remarkably consistent throughout his career, Gates has never scored fewer than eight times in the past six seasons and never caught fewer than 60 passes. He had 79 last season while producing a career-best 1,157 yards and earning yet another Pro Bowl selection. backup Kris Wilson is OK, but the Chargers will miss Brandon Manumaleuna. He was the best run blocker at the position.

    OL: When Tomlinson fizzled last season the perception was that while he wasn't the same, neither was his offensive line. In fact, the line was considered a liability, with Tomlinson's dwindling numbers the evidence. OK, so maybe it didn't open as many holes as it had in the past. And maybe it pass protected better than it run blocked. But now we find out just how bad ... or good ... this unit is, and will the next running back please pick your hole? Tackle Marcus McNeill is solid, and so is Pro Bowl guard Chris Dielman.

    Center Nick Hardwick missed most of last season with injuries but should be fine -– and that's more than good. He has a Pro Bowl résumé, too. The club is high on guard Louis Vasquez, who started as a rookie, and the line should be better for the injuries that forced it to juggle at center and right tackle. Brandyn Dombrowski finished the season as the starting right tackle, but he'll yield to Jeremy Clarey. Scott Mruczkowski started the first 13 games for Hardwick until he, too, bowed out with an injury. From where I sit, that gives the Chargers plenty of options at key positions.

    DL: No position was hit as hard by injuries last season as this one, with the Bolts starting six players, including three defensive tackles. Former Pro Bowl choice Williams bowed out after one game with a season-ending knee injury. Now he's gone, off to Denver after the Chargers released him. The Chargers must replace him, and, no, neither Ian Scott nor Ogemdi Nwagbuo is the answer. Nor is Travis Johnson, brought over in a trade with Houston. To say defensive tackle is a need is an understatement. It's a priority. The club remains solid at the end spots, with Jacques Cesaire and Luis Castillo. Johnson, Nwagbuo, Alfonso Boone and Ryon Bingham provide considerable depth.

    LB: San Diego drafted Larry English because it believed it could -- or would -- lose Merriman to free agency. Then the uncapped year arrived, the club exhaled and Merriman returns for another season. Once considered one of the best young linebackers, his star has dimmed -- with Merriman struggling to regain his form of the first three seasons. In those days, he never had fewer than 10 sacks in any year; now he comes off a season with four.

    It typically takes players coming off serious knee injuries a year to find themselves, and maybe that's what happened here. All I know is the Chargers aren't nearly as high on the guy as they were a few seasons back. Teammate Shaun Phillips was more productive last season, with a team-best seven sacks, 16 quarterback hits and seven forced fumbles. Inside linebackers Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler are solid, with Cooper the team's leading tackler and Siler most effective at short-yardage and goal-line stops. The return of outside linebacker Jyles Tucker makes a position of strength stronger.

    DB: The Bolts' most talented cornerback, Cromartie, was sent to the New York Jets after the Chargers tired of his underwhelming play and off-field troubles. Look for Antoine Cason to replace him, and, granted, it's a gamble. But the Chargers thought enough of Cason to make him a first-round draft pick before turning him into their dime back, so he has talent and experience. He and Quentin Jammer are fine at the corners, with Jammer a terrific run supporter, while safeties Kevin Ellison and Eric Weddle are adequate.

    The midseason switch to Ellison was crucial to the Chargers' defensive rejuvenation, with the then-rookie an improvement over prior starter Clinton Hart. Newcomers Donald Strickland and Nathan Vasher provide depth and experience, but neither should challenge for a starting job. Nickel back Steve Gregory won't, either, but that doesn't diminish his role as the team's nickel back. A reserve safety, Gregory is one of the team's top young defensive backs.


    Five possibilities: Chargers

    Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State: He's not all that physical and doesn't have breakaway speed but he led the nation in rushing.

    Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee: He's tough. He's physical. And he has good hands. What's not to like?

    Anthony Dixon, RB, Mississippi State: He has size, speed and power and he had a lot of productivity for a bad team.

    Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama: Jamal Williams is gone, and the Chargers need a plugger. The massive Cody fits that description.

    Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana: Let's face it: The Chargers aren't going to have a crack at the top tackles. Saffold will be there when they pick.
     
  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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  3. Boltergeist

    Boltergeist BoltTalker

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    Clark might want to do some homework. We went 13-3 last year.

    -Jamal Williams was gone all year. Why is his production from last year going to be missed?
    -Antonio Cromartie is/was not our most talent CB. He's not even close to the all around player Jammer is and never was in spite of his hype from a couple of years ago. He is average in coverage and can't tackle to save his life and was a primary reason the team didn't advance in the playoffs.
    -LT, for as much as I defend him on here, is NOT the heart and soul of this franchise and hasn't been in 3 years. His production from last year is hardly an insurmountable mountain for a good rookie back with fresh legs to surpass. In fact, a different style of runner would actually benefit this offense quite a bit.

    Where are all of these "giant holes" we've created?
     
  4. CoronaDoug

    CoronaDoug Well-Known Member

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    "The most disappointed team in the AFC last season wasn't Indianapolis. It was San Diego."

    This crap makes me crazy!!! Why is that? I will tell you all again!!!! WIDE RIGHT!!!! WIDE LEFT!!!! DAMN PEOPLE!
     
  5. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    Clark didn't say anything about Vaughn Martin, I think he will play a lot more this year and could be a starter next year...
     
  6. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    I think he was pointing out that we won 11 straight to end the season.

    I think his point was the players he listed were part of the face of our franchise.

    :icon_toast:
     
  7. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    :lol:

    Tell it CD

    :icon_party::icon_party:
     
  8. Boltergeist

    Boltergeist BoltTalker

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    You're right...I read a little more carefully this time...I take back what I said about Judge....At first glance, it appeared to be another "window closing" write-up....but he's basically pointing out that while it appears that way, the holes can be plugged and we are heading in a new direction.
     
  9. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    To bad AJ can't plug the wide right hole

    :lol:
     
  10. Boltzlover

    Boltzlover BoltTalker

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    No problem, give Nate a 5 year extension to boost his confidence. :icon_toast:
     
  11. SDDon

    SDDon BoltTalker

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    Didn't this guy used to work for the LA Times or something like that.

    Anyway he needs a fact checker because I stopped reading after he said we went 6-0 in the division. If he can't get that right, then he has nothing to say at all. Total Hogwash from another National Talking Head.
     
  12. TheLash

    TheLash Well-Known Member

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    agreed! I think the big canuck could be solid for us this year:yes:
     
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  13. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

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    You mean the Jamadian. Eh, Mon?
     

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