Welcome to the first installment of Bolt Roundtable on Boltbeat.com. First off, I’d like to thank the lead blogger for Boltbeat.com, Ernie Padaon for agreeing to let me do this with him. Each week we will be picking five questions surrounding the team and giving you our take on them. Hopefully by Week 17 our topics won’t be, “Who should the Chargers draft with the #5 overall pick?” and “How much marijuana would we have to plant in AJ Smith’s and Norv Turner’s cars to definitely get them fired?”
Alright, here we go…
1. Did the Chargers do the right thing by releasing Shawne Merriman?
Phil: They did. They had too many hurt outside linebackers – English, Applewhite, Tucker—and needed a spot on the roster to sign Antwan Barnes. If those guys I mentioned were healthy, I don’t think they would have cut Merriman in the middle of the season. But since he wasn’t in their long-term plans and they needed a spot, he was the logical one to let go. I wrote at the beginning of the season that I thought Merriman was done as a player. I didn’t think the Chargers would cut him by Week 6 though. I’m still amazed that a player who was once a fan favorite and regarded as a sure-fire Hall of Famer is ending his Charger career end like this.
Ernie: The Chargers should have held onto him longer through the rest of the season to see what he still has left in the tank. Let him rest up to full strength and let him run wild on the field. He still provides that presence on the field that commands the attention of the defense. Shaun Phillips is having an awesome season so far and I am sure that he would like to have “The other Shawne” on the other side to take the double teams from him. Merriman also added an intensity to the team and some leadership while he was out there. He was once a team captain of the team and he is still a fan favorite. He will just be bringing that pass rush out to another team and hopefully we don’t have to face him late in the season.
2. Do you believe in Norv Turner as a head football coach?
Phil: I believe in him the same way I’d believe in Junior Seau if he were dating my sister: Half heartedly, knowing that I don’t have a choice and with a lot of skepticism, second guessing and dirty looks.
All jokes aside, I do believe in Turner in the month December. I also believe that if you blame Turner for the Chargers’ slow starts you have to give him credit for the way they’ve played in December over the past few seasons. As far as the regular season goes, the guy hasn’t really let us down as fans yet. And until he does I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Ernie: How can I believe in a guy that has all this talent on the roster and opens up the season at 2-4? This is the same guy that has opened up the season slowly for the past 4 seasons straight. He comes out of the gate and looks unprepared for the games and the team looks undisciplined. He is missing the leadership quality that is needed to be a head coach and the only reason that he has been successful the last couple of seasons is because of all the talent that he has had on the team.
3. Do the Chargers have a shot against New England this weekend?
Phil: On paper it doesn’t look good. The Chargers are really banged up. Half their linebacking corps are guys off the street, their top two wide receivers are out and Gates will be limited. But I think the Chargers can put up some points against the Patriots’ young secondary. On the other side of the ball everyone is talking about how the Chargers defense hasn’t played a good QB this year but who have the Patriots offense scored their points against? They put up 38 against the Bengals who are turning out to be frauds and against Buffalo who is terrible. They scored 41 against Miami but their special teams scored two TDs for them and set them up for another one. I don’t think the Patriots offense is same Patriots offense that lit up the scoreboard in 2008. This game, as it should be, will come down to whoever has the better day between Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. I think the Chargers are desperate and Rivers is going to carry them. Chargers 27 Patriots 20.
Ernie: A shot… YEA. Why wouldn’t we, this is why we play the games! In all honesty the Chargers have given us little optimism from the previous weeks. We have starter 2-4 to start this season and all we have played are a bunch of chump teams. Maybe, the boys on the roster just like to play down to their competition. We also are entering the game with injuries to some of our key players, with Malcom Floyd likely to miss the game and Antonio Gates status still in question.
4. Can the Chargers still win the AFC West?
Phil: It’s frustrating as hell to see these guys struggle at the start of every season and then just watching them turn it on down the stretch. But you know what, their schedule this year sets them up to do the same thing again this year. Their next four games are New England, Tennessee, at Houston, and (after their bye week) Denver. Since they play well at home I’m thinking they can win at least three of those games. After that they play at Indy, Oakland, KC, San Fran at Cincy and at Denver. At the very least they win four games there, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them run the table down the stretch again. If they can win three out of their next four and five of their last six, that would put them at 10 wins and I think that’s enough to win the AFC West.
Ernie: Oh yea we can!!! I still don’t think that any other team in this division has the talent or experience that we have. We get to play Kansas City and Oakland again at home and we still have 2 games to play against Denver. History proves that the Chargers play their best football down the stretch and the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t exactly build a huge lead out the starting gates. Our biggest competition in this division will be the Kansas City Chiefs, their defense looks legit, but I still have no faith in Matt Cassel as the leader of that team.
5. Darren Sproles doesn’t look right, does he?
Phil: After watching him the first couple of games I half-joked to my friends that Sproles was sucking on purpose because the Chargers slapped the franchise tag on him a few hours before he was about to become a free-agent (a low-ball move by the way). Of course, this isn’t true but something is definitely up with him. He’s 80% of the player he was the past couple of years. Plays that he used to break for huge yardage aren’t popping this year. To me it’s either A) He’s lost a step–he’s 27 getting near that age for a RB or B) the Jets taught everyone how to defend the Chargers’ screens in the playoffs last year. Whatever it is, one of the big reasons the Chargers have started slow is because Darren Sproles hasn’t been Darren Sproles yet this season.
Ernie: The Lighting Bug definitely looks slower on the field and doesn’t look like he has the explosiveness that he once possessed. He has not been able to do anything in the return game for the Chargers and has been demoted to the 3rd on the running back depth chart. I still think that he can be used differently and would be more successful. He definitely should not be used to run the ball up the middle or on the goal line. He is much better suited for run plays off the edges and on screen plays. He would even be better suited to line up in the slot and get him mismatched on a linebacker. He may have lost a step OR the play selection has not been in his favor.