The Chargers have reached the halfway point of the season, and if you had said Labor Day weekend, they’d be (5-3) and in the playoff hunt, you would have been satisfied. You shouldn’t, because halfway home, this is half a football team, with many problems, and a mean-street schedule still to come. Here’s my Mid-Season Report card.
Team (C)…We knew they would be strong on offense with Rivers, the wideouts, the tight ends, but we could not foresee the loss of their two most experienced offensive lineman, Hardwick-Clary, and the rash of injuries that took out the 3-Musketeer running backs I wrote about in September. The defense has problems everywhere, and there really does not seem to be a strong solution unless somebody has some Holy Water to offer. Still to come, Baltimore, San Francisco, New England, Kansas City, Denver of the last eight to play.
Ownership (C)…Dean Spanos still has not made any progress for a decade on a Stadium, and that’s what he is supposed to be working on. Sellouts seem to be becoming a problem as we go forward. His son’s accomplishments, AG, is hanging new banners above the stadium, while John acts like a decision-maker in football deals when we all know it is Telesco’s team. When Rivers career is concluded, what happens to the team, and whose team will it be, San Diego or LA?.
General Manager (C)…Tom Telesco continues to whiff in free agency, which is why he tends to avoid it, and this year’s draft has nowhere equal to last year’s haul because of nagging injuries. Refer back to my end of preseason columns where I said they needed a slugger nose-tackle and a tough guy corner. He didn’t get it either and look where they are now. And now it is apparent Manti Te’o is just a guy, with a chronic foot problem.
Coach (B)…Mike McCoy has them ready, the holes in the roster not withstanding. Good coach, good play call mind, good game plan strategy. But he is losing the media, and the fans with his condescending attitude in answering questions honestly. Marty Schottenheimer was straight forward, Bobby Ross was too. McCoy no longer gets the benefit of the doubt, and his blatant answer-non-answer on injuries, leads to his nickname “Mike McFib.” He is big on ‘we’ve got to clean this up’, well he should clean his media relationships up.
Assistant Coaches (A)..Ollie Wilson has done wonders with the running back situation. Coach JoeD is special when it comes to teaching. John Pagano uses what bullets he has is in the gun, you just wish he had more quality shells to launch in his blitz package.
Quarterback (A)…Philip Rivers is a Gold Star player, and a Gold Star person. Fiery, competitive, fearless, bold, passionate, productive.
Running backs (C)…On paper it looked great, now they are all on the injury list with freak, fluke and true football injuries. Will Ryan Mathews return for five quality weeks? They need him. Donald Brown concussion was a terrible cheap shot hit. They miss Danny Woodhead’s diversity. Branden Oliver is a more physical version of Darren Sproles, out in space, but he has had little space to run.
Wide receivers (A)..Malcom Floyd has become the go-to guy now, completely healthy from what I feared was a serious neck injury, however, they don’t run crossing patterns for him any more, just single coverage deep calls. Teams are defending Keenan Allen differently, and he is learning to make adjustments. Eddie Royal has had a great first half-but now the challenge to keep him healthy. Ditto for Antonio Gates, who you hope won’t wear down the second half.
Offensive Line (D)…Captain-my-Captain, losing Nick Hardwick, then not having Jeromey Clary has been a setback. Rivers is taking too many hits, too many pressures, and King Dunlop is nothing like we saw a year ago, and DJ Fluker has not held up well either.
Defensive Line (C)…The GM didn’t address it with veterans in the offseason, and this is the end result, people mugging them at the point of attack. Corey Liuget cannot do it by himself. If he had speed on the side, it would make a difference.
Linebackers (C)..Disappointing. Dwight Freeney’s motor still runs, but he does not have the horsepower he used to have. Missing Mel Ingram has been a blow. MIA-Donald Butler doesn’t look like the same player, and still waiting for the phenom Te’o to be something more than on the injured list. Thank goodness for the professionalism of Jarrett Johnson.
Defensive backs (D)…The good, Eric Weddle’s consistency. The bad, the injuries that torment the others. The ugly, anyone who plays cornerback. Jason Verrett is the future and has shown lots in short spurts but this labrum injury seems to be a significant issue. Wishing and hoping for the older Brandon Flowers won’t make him what he used to be in KC. Shareece Wright has not come back yet post-knee injury. Richard Marshall is this year’s Derek Cox, and Addae and Gilchrist can hit, but they surely cannot cover.
Special teams (A)…Novak-Scifres has been extraordinary. The return game is lacking, which is a surprise, considering all the skill around the league.
Outlook (C)..The national media, which does not pay close attention, had the Chargers atop the power ratings just 10-days ago, not so anymore. Know all the story before you make a judgement should be their code. There are 7-teams fighting for 2-wildcard spots in the AFC, seperated by just 1-game in the standings. The problem, 5-of the power teams still left on their schedule have a combined record as of (25-12) as of this morning. It won’t be easy.