San Diego Chargers

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2011 NFL Season: 10 Early Questions for NFL QB’s (Week 3)

No time like the present to dig in and ask some tough questions about performance.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

  1. Why is Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco currently ranked 28th (tied with Browns’ QB Colt McCoy) with a completion percentage of 54.1%?
  2. Of the three QB’s that have thrown for over 1,000 yards this season (Brady, Brees, and Newton), which one has the biggest “upside”?
  3. Which QB with a lower completion percentage than Minnesota’s Donovan McNabb should be benched first: Jay Cutler, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton or Sam Bradford?
  4. Quarterbacks averaging less than 7 yards per attempt include Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb. Only Ryan has offensive weapons as deep and varied as Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is it time for a change in Atlanta — and if so, who stays, who goes?
  5. Why is Chad Henne still playing (and why is Tony Sparano still coaching)?
  6. Should we all expect Kevin Kolb to win close games by now? When does his honeymoon end with the national press? Kolb and Cam Newton are the only 2 QB’s average more than 8 yards per attempt with losing records. The Panthers lost to the Cardinals in Week 1 due, in part, to a dropped pass in the endzone at the end of the game.
  7. How many writers had to trash stories about a “gritty, tough, resilient, smart, heady and really, really gritty, tough, resilient, smart and heady” Kevin Kolb positioning the Cardinals for a playoff run after T. Jax ran over both Cardinals safeties to knock off the red birds? Kolb is as unproven today as he was when the Philadelphia faithful fawned over his every move.
  8. When is Ben Roethlisberger going to stop playing down to the level of his competition and author a blowout defense that allows his aging defense to get some rest?
  9. Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Matt Cassel lead the league in pass interceptions. Anyone covering this?
  10. Philip Rivers has thrown two interceptions in EVERY GAME THIS SEASON; his teams have always underperformed; and the Chargers are a razor’s edge away from an 0-3 start, but it’s crickets ALL AROUND the national media. Can Phil get a check up from the neck up? Is it as simple as the loss of a “security blanket”?

EXTRA CREDIT

  1. Tom Brady throws 4 picks and some analysts, I use the term loosely, are blaming receivers for failing to run routes properly…but missing Brady’s failure to finish plays and convert to defense once he surrenders the ball. Play the game the way its supposed to be played.
  2. If you’re running the Rams right now, would you rather have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ndamukong Suh or Sam Bradford?
  3. The Texans next three games are against the Steelers, Raiders and at Baltimore. Is Matt Schaub the guy? Will we know after this stretch, once and for all?

Just one final note: At some point it will be fitting for the NFL family to remember that Tom Brady has essentially had two careers. In the first stage of his career, as his team won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years by a total of 9 points (three point wins each time), Brady was not a dominant passer. He was efficient. He didn’t throw interceptions. He was a game manager, not a game changer. Young Tom Brady didn’t win games with his arm. He won them with his hand offs, and his execution of play action fakes. He had some big passing games (Super Bowls vs. Carolina and Philadelphia), but each of those games was also punctuated by high carry games from Patriot running backs. He threw for less than 4,000 yards in each of the Patriots Super Bowl-winning seasons…and he had QB ratings of under 93.

Rivals of the Era: Closer than Close

In the second stage of Tom Brady’s career, he has emerged as a dominant passer, but his teams have struggled to win post-season games. The Patriots, with an undefeated team, lost a Super Bowl to the New York Giants in which Brady threw 48 passes for a mere 266 yards. He was throttled, hammered and harassed all night long – and it still took a miracle for them to lose. Still, they lost. His passing was unable to carry the day – in much the same way that dominant passing was unable to garner rings for players like Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and others.

It seems as though there is a bit of collective amnesia with respect to these two phases of Tom Brady’s career. The elite passer of the second phase has not won a Super Bowl. Like Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb and Dan Marino and others, he was won a lot of regular season games. However, he has lost a home playoff game to a team that featured an overwhelmed Joe Flacco (4-10, 35 total passing yards, 1 INT). He has lost to the New York Jets and second-year QB Mark Sanchez. And, for what it’s worth, Tom Brady has not thrown for 300 yards in a PLAYOFF GAME since 2005 against the Denver Broncos…and New England lost that game by 2 touchdowns.

It is difficult to separate Brady’s numbers and the regular season wins from his early success as the offensive leader of a team that was actually run by men like Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Ty Law, and Lawyer Milloy. It’s hard. I know it is. But the bottom line for Brady and the Patriots is what it is…and the numbers never lie.

2010 NFL Season: Historic Day for Black Quarterbacks

For Black quarterbacks across the NFL, October 10 is a day that many of them (based on their previous recorded statements) will view as just another Sunday.  But, for observers of the game and others aware of the way that questions of race color perceptions of performance, yesterday was a historic day.  For the first time that I can remember, more than one or two Black quarterbacks faced off against elite non-Black quarterbacks on the same Sunday.  I’m sure it’s happened before, but my memory is not coming up with another such Sunday.  I might have to go all the way back to the heyday of Daunte Culpepper and Aaron Brooks to find such a week.  I’ll take a look and see what I come up.  But for now…yesterday was one interesting day.

Irrelevant Excellence?

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2010 NFL Season: 6 Questions Before Week 3

After two weeks, there are many teams around the NFL with some tough, hard questions at hand.  For those teams that had high expectations entering the 2010 campaign, these questions better get answered quickly.

1.  Minnesota Vikings. Are you willing to meet the demands of the San Diego Chargers for wide receiver Vincent Jackson?  The Brett Favre Experiment concludes at the end of the 2010 regular season.  The Vikings will not compete for a Super Bowl (and may miss the playoffs) without the addition of a high-quality pass catching option like Vincent Jackson.  Sidney Rice, thinking optimistically, cannot be expected to be a force on the field until Week 8 or 9.  While management debates the value of a 3rd round pick in a season that may or may not happen (2011), your offense will gear up to get beat down by and/or keep pace with the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.  It won’t be fun.  By Week 8, Brad Childress could be looking for a job as a color analyst on the NFL Network — covering Viking’s games.

2. Buffalo Bills. Are you willing to trade Marshawn Lynch to ensure that you make one positive contribution to the 2010 NFL season?  This team is going nowhere this season.  As you prepare to face the New England Patriots and their confounding defense, you’ve decided to ditch the “smart quarterback from Stanford” (Trent Edwards) for the “smarter quarterback from Harvard” (Ryan Fitzpatrick).  It won’t make a shred of difference.  If C.J. Spiller is supposed to be the Bills Most Valuable Player on the roster, Marshawn Lynch in the Most Valuable Player in trade. The Bills can retain Coe College’s Fred Jackson and then focus on figuring out a way to get these guys the ball.  The Packers could use a runner with Lynch’s power around the goal line.  It’s time to pull the trigger.

3.  Dallas Cowboys. Are you willing to reign in the Romo-Garrett Show and cede some time to the true triplets of Jones, Barber and Choice?  If the Dallas Cowboys are to win and compete for a Super Bowl title in 2010, they need to run the ball more, pass the ball less, and figure out a creative way to dump Roy Williams.

4.  Baltimore Ravens. Are you willing to start Marc Bulger ahead of Joe Flacco?  The Ravens signal caller ranks 32nd in passer rating at 41.2 and has a completion percentage of 48%.  At this rate, Flacco would have to throw something like 70 passes a game just to post mediocre numbers.  He has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions.  His receiving corps is as accomplished as any in the league.  Will the first matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 determine the long-term fate of this franchise?

5.  Kansas City Chiefs. Are you ready to find out what is behind Door #1?  Over the next four weeks, you will host the hungry, angry San Francisco 49ers; have a bye week; then travel in consecutive weeks to Indianapolis and Houston.  Surely each of these opponents will take you lightly.  You will retain the element of surprise.  Are you ready?  If the Chiefs can get through this portion of the schedule, they have some “winnable games” ahead with Jacksonville, Buffalo and Oakland beginning in Week 7.

6.  New England Patriots. Are you leaning toward Julian Edelman or Aaron Hernandez to replace the injured Kevin Faulk?  The Patriots are going to need another reliable go-to-guy on 3rd down.  Edelman has the experience, but with Wes Welker healthy, are his services really just a duplication?  Is Hernandez flexibility as an in-line tight end and an outside receiver or H-back better suited to replacing Kevin Faulk?  After scoring a mere 14 points vs. the Jets, the Patriots need to come up with answers fast.  Everyone is pouring over that video tape and looking to replicate what New York was able to do.

Is Matt Hasselbeck Done in Seattle?

In 2009, the Seattle Seahawks finished 5-11 and in third place in arguably the weakest division in the entire NFL.  In 2008, Seattle finished 4-12 and in third place in arguably the weakest division in the entire NFL.  In the two seasons before that, the Seahawks won Wild Card games, but lost in the division round to the Packers and Bears, respectively.  Mike Holmgren is gone.  Jim Mora, Jr. is gone.  Edgerrin James is gone.  Walter Jones is gone.  Steve Hutchinson is gone.  Matt Hasselbeck remains, and so does the question.

Is he done?

Down the stretch, Hasselbeck fired four interceptions in back-to-back weeks vs. the Buccaneers and Packers.  Seattle lost by a combined score of  72-17.  The high point of the season was Hasselbeck’s four touchdown performance in a 41-0 drubbing of The Lifeless Del Rio’s (the Jacksonville Jaguars).  Seattle went 3-8 the rest of the way.  The only wins were at home vs. Detroit and San Francisco, and on the road at St. Louis.

Pete Carroll was hired by the Seahawks after team ownership sought the services of Tony Dungy in rebuilding the franchise.  Dungy, who was poised to name Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier as head coach, declined the position of general manager.  Carroll’s arrival, after his success at USC in winning on the field and in preparing players for the NFL, brings high expectations.  Fans in Seattle expect Carroll to bring in talented players; to improve the performances of the current roster; and bring a winner back to the northwest.  The team is less than five years removed from a Super Bowl appearance vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This franchise has committed tremendous resources to supporting Matt Hasselbeck.  Departed guard Steve Hutchinson may be a Michigan Man, but he has underperformed for the past few years.  The Seahawks were wise not to pay an exorbitant price to retain his services.  The absence of Walter Jones, though, damaged this team.  The Seahawks have been abysmal for two seasons and amassed sufficient draft picks to fix some of their weaknesses, but prospects for the quarterback position are not better with a rookie at left tackle.

Bigger than Okung: The Job of Fixing Matt Hasselbeck

Wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and others (Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram, Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson and Ben Obamanu) have all underperformed.  Houshmandzadeh, Branch and Burleson have performed admirably in other circumstances.   The team was enmeshed in rumors around the pursuit of Brandon Marshall.  Entering the 2010 season, Matt Hasselbeck is looking like a guy who needs a game changing wide receiver to mask his increasingly poor performances.

That guy is not on the roster…and maybe Matt Hasselbeck shouldn’t be there either.

Maybe it’s time for the Seahawks to look, once again, to Green Bay for a solution.  It worked when they brought in Holmgren and his prized pupil a generation ago.  Maybe this time, the answer isn’t someone who played for the Packers, but someone like Charlie Whitehurst, a native of the Land that Lambeau and Lombardi built.

A Look Back at the 2005 NFL Draft

Back in April, the NFL concluded the 2010 draft.  This year’s draft was punctuated by the prime time debut of Round 1 at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall.  The draft was extended over a three day period and received wide acclaim from fans and media, alike.

It is too early to say who the winners are for the 2010 draft.  Some draft picks never make it out of camp; some never fulfill the promise of their rookie contract.  Still others exceed the greatest expectations.  It has been widely stated that the average career of an NFL player is 4-5 years.  Given that, let’s take a look at the 2005 NFL Draft.

The Rules of the Game

There are as many ways to evaluate the success of a draft class as there are to evaluate players.  What matters most?  Years as a starter, Pro Bowl selections, All Pro selections, team wins, championships, value at selected position, value over next selection?  There are a lot of criteria to consider.

I’ll leave that final determination to you.  For my own purposes, I admit using a subjective mix of all of those criteria.   Here is a link for you to make your own decision.

Top Dog of the 2005 NFL Draft

1. Dallas Cowboys.   The Cowboys used two first round selections to grab DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears.  Ware has become a dominant defensive force in the league.  He has been selected to four Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro three times.  He is arguably the best player at his position in the entire NFL.  Ware, to the Cowboys credit, was taken just before Chargers LB Shawne Merriman.

DeMarcus Ware: 2005 Draft Cream of the Crop

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2009 NFL Season: The Once and Future Colts

The 2009 NFL season has come to a close.  The New Orleans Saints, chronicled here often throughout the season, won Super Bowl XLIV in convincing fashion over the favored Indianapolis Colts.  For a team that began the season with 13 consecutive wins, the Saints were able to march through the playoffs under the radar because the national press fell out of love with this team following home defeats to the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Colts, conversely, faced increased scrutiny in the postseason because they chose a fate the Saints tried to avoid.  First year head coach and longtime quarterbacks coach of the Colts, Jim Caldwell, pulled his starters in Week 16 (vs. the New York Jets) and Week 17 (at the Buffalo Bills) in a bid to maintain health and build resolve for the playoffs.

"Back to the track...To the Wall...We are Tied."

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2009 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Predictions

If you caught me early last week, I was 3-1 on my playoff predictions.  If you caught me late, I was 1-3.  For reasons unknown to logical minds, I changed my pick in the Eagles-Cowboys game.  I changed that pick from Dallas to Philadelphia — after being down on the Eagles all season, after listing in gross detail the many ways they could not beat Dallas.  I also changed my pick in the Green Bay-Arizona game after hearing that Anquan Boldin would miss the contest.  I originally thought the Cardinals would take advantage of fatigue on the part of Green Bay defenders (specifically, the front 7).

I Could Beat You With One Hand Tied Behind My Back

Dallas Clark Passes John Mackey -- Colts TE Receptions

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Exhibit B: Chargers Offensive Dominance

The San Diego Chargers do a lot of little things right.  Sometimes, those little things amount to very big things.  A few weeks ago, the Chargers headed into a big game vs. the Cowboys in Dallas.  The game might well have been a prelude to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys have demonstrated this year that the December Jinx is over.  After a surprising 24-0 shutout over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys are set up to break the 13-year hiatus between playoff wins.  The Chargers won a close game by doing little things.  Here’s a glimpse.

Dallas opened the game with a 41 yard kickoff return by Felix Jones.  The Cowboys then began a long, powerful 10-play, 41-yard drive into the Charger red zone.  The drive consumed more than 6 minutes at the start of the game.  FOX showed LaDainian Tomlinson sitting on the sidelines as if he were collecting dust waiting to get into the game.  The Cowboys were intent on spreading the Chargers out, but remaining balanced.   On six of those first 10 plays, Dallas was in a shotgun formation.  On three of those plays, they ran the ball with Marion Barber.  The drive bogged down as Romo was unable to hit a receiver in the end zone.  Dallas kicked a field goal and led 3-0.

For quite some time, the Dallas defense has been playing at a very high level.  On the subsequent kickoff, Dallas kicked deep and was able to pin Darren Sproles back behind the 20 yard line.  The drive began for San Diego on their own 16 yard line.  On first down, Philip Rivers completed a short pass to his fullback.  The play lost two yards.  On the next down, LT was stopped for no gain by DeMarcus Ware.  So, with 7 minutes gone in the first quarter, the Chargers were facing a 3rd and 12 deep in their own end.  Moreover, they were facing the prospect of handing Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys a short field.  Compounding all of this was the fact that the Charger defense had been on the field for all but 1:18.

3rd down, 12 yards to go from the 14 yard line.

Third and 12. Spread Formation vs. Nickel Coverage

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Exhibit A: Chargers Offensive Dominance

The high-flying San Diego Chargers clinched the 2nd seed in the 2009 AFC Playoffs this week.  The team is loaded with talent on offense.  The following is just one example of how the Chargers use Antonio Gates and the threat of the run game to totally confuse defenses.

Game Scenario:  Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Diego Chargers.  Week 10.  Second play from scrimmage.  2nd down and 1 yard to go.

Eagles vs. Chargers: Before the Snap

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2009 NFL Season: Week 16 Did You Know?

Hsppy Holidays to all.

With one game on tap for this evening, I thought it would be worthwhile to switch up the format just a bit.  I’ve scoured the internet and my memory for meaningful minutae that may inform your picks for the weekend.  I hope this helps.  But first — the Friday Night (Christmas Day) Special…

The San Diego Chargers (11-3) travel to Nashville to meet the resurgent Tennessee Titans (7-7).  A funny thing happened a few weeks ago.  I noticed that home teams started to win more games unless they were playing against offensive powerhouses.  I think it started around Week 10 or 11.  It seemed like earlier in the season, road teams had a great chance of winning whether they brought a dominant offense to the party or not.  Now, I think we’re seeing something different.

The Chargers bring a lot of offense to the party.  They can score in bunches and they can score with many different types of players from all over the field.  Quarterback Philip Rivers has as many weapons as anyone in the league.  And, his weapons are taller and bigger than everyone else in the league.  No team can match the size of the Charger wideouts.  At 6’5″, Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd pose a stout challenge for any secondary.  The Titans, though, have all the right personnel to match on the corners.  The problem for Tennessee may very well be the season-ending injury to the heart and soul of the defense: Keith Bullock.  I like the Titans to give the Chargers a fight and capitalize on the cross-country holiday blues.  Vince Young continues his magic carpet ride: Tennessee 31, San Diego 19.

And now…Did you know:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes is automatic vs. the Baltimore Ravens.  He has scored a touchdown in every single game (including playoffs) vs. his arch rivals since his rookie campaign in 2006.
  • Peyton Manning has thrown 10 interceptions in his past six games.  Last year, he threw 9 picks in just 6 games.  The year before, he threw 10 in 6 games, including a 6 INT debacle at San Diego (the Colts won anyway).  Manning seems to hit these rough patches every year — but they never topple the team.
  • Eli Manning is ranked 4th in touchdown passes with 26, but 16th in completion percentage at 61.2%.
  • The Dallas Cowboys have surrendered the fewest points in the NFC on defense.  They held the Philadelphia Eagles to 16 points in Philadelphia.  They held the New Orleans Saints to 17 points in New Orleans.
  • The Cowboys have lost only 3 conference games: 2 to the Giants and one to the Packers.  At Green Bay, Dallas ran only 14 times.
  • Neither Ike Taylor nor William Gay has interepted a pass all season.  No Steeler cornerback has intercepted a pass all season long.
  • The New Orleans Saints are ranked 6th in rushing attempts.  The Colts are ranked 29th.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew has 11 red zone rushing touchdowns.  The Eagles tandem of L & L (Weaver and McCoy) have four.
  • The Arizona Cardinals must be driving Ken Whisenhunt crazy.  The team is 2nd in the league with 29 fumbles.
  • New Orleans (5) and Tennessee (4) are the only teams with more than two interception returns for touchdowns.
  • The Houston Texans (7-7) are solidly mediocre again, but QB Matt Schaub is 2nd in pass completions, 2nd in yards, and tied with Philip Rivers for touchdowns with 26.
  • The AFC South has undefeated team and three teams with 7-7 records.  The division has a whopping 35 wins.  The NFC East has 31 wins and the powerful AFC North has only 27.
  • Adrian Peterson hasn’t had a run longer than 19 yards since a game two months ago vs. the Detroit Lions.  Against Arizona and Carolina, his longest run was for 11 yards.
  • Brett Favre has played 3 consecutive games with a rating under 80.
  • Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez have each thrown 20 interceptions.
  • Four rookie wide receivers rank in the Top 10 in yards per catch: Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Mike Wallace (PIT), Mohamed Massaquoi (CLE), and Kenny Britt (TN).
  • Vince Young is averaging more yards per completion than Drew Brees.

Enjoy…Picks will be up before the games on Sunday.