What is wrong with the San Diego Chargers?
Strange question to pose to a team that is 4-2 and first place in the division but it bears to be asked. These are not the Chargers I know and love. Something is off. Someone took the 93 octane the offense usually runs on and poured in 87 octane. The offense which has averaged 28 points per game since the days of Martyball is averaging in the low 20′s. Philip Rivers isn’t dissecting defenses the way he has his whole career. For the first time in two years the Chargers entered the season with a full compliment of weapons and although they are 4-2, the offense has looked egregiously out of sync. Rivers is throwing interceptions, backs are putting the ball on the turf and in the red zone the Chargers are getting more field goals than touchdowns. Unacceptable.
The defense is looking unsteady and giving up too many big plays. Look no further than last week’s Jets game and the explosion of Plaxico Burress. Burress had three touchdown catches. These weren’t 40-yard bombs he was catching where he broke tackles or got behind the corner with a burst of speed, those touchdowns were from 3, 3 and 4 yards away. Point blank range. What happened to the attacking, aggressive defense new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky promised? After six games the Chargers have ten sacks, good for 30th in the league. Winless St.Louis, Miami and Indianapolis ALL have more sacks than the Chargers. The Chargers have six interceptions. Three have come from safety Eric Weddle and one each from ends Donald Butler and Shaun Phillips. Rookie Marcus Gilchrist is the only Charger cornerback to have an interception on his record. Kansas City had six interceptions LAST WEEK! They did get the six picks against the pitiful Raiders and their collection of scrap heap quarterbacks. Carson Palmer has been eating Fritos on the couch for nine months and Kyle Boller has been irrelevant since 2004. Still, six interceptions are six interceptions! The Chargers have forced two fumbles while the opposition has forced eight. Unacceptable.
I’d like to give another Greg the benefit of the doubt but the bend but don’t break approach to defense won’t win the Super Bowl. I say again…
What is wrong with the San Diego Chargers?
On offense, the Chargers have yet to go two straight games with Jackson, Gates, Floyd, Mathews and Tolbert so there has been a continuity problem. The Chargers are a veteran unit and they have beaten the teams they should beat in Kansas City, Minnesota, Denver and Miami. Against the two good teams on their schedule New England and the Jets, the Chargers stayed with the Patriots and were undone by turnovers. They were in control of the Jets to the tune of a 21-10 lead until they were undone by turnovers. In short the Chargers would be undefeated and getting lots of national love if they could stop turning the ball over! Bad play calling (see last two minutes of Jets game) is also part of the problem and part of the reason for those turnovers. Norv Turner is as much to blame for the offensive woes of the Chargers as the turnovers. He calls a great game for a half and goes into cruise control in the other half. As a result, games that should be 20-point blowouts (Denver, NY Jets, Kansas City) end up being a lot closer than they should be or a flat out loss.
Defensively, something can be said for the revolving door of players with all the injuries that have hit the roster. A lack of a training camp has lessened the effect of the players brought into the system. That being said, there is plenty of veteran leaders on the defense and the lapses on defense should not be accepted. Penalties have undone the defense, including 11 defensive penalties last week against the Jets. The pass rush has been horrid. Where have you gone Darryl Gamble? Gamble was a star in the preseason and has been invisible since. Donald Butler is emerging but still coming in off the bench. Laboy has missed more tackles than he’s made. Corey Liuget hasn’t had his name called been invisible. Cason and Jammer haven’t rose to the occasion against the better teams, especially Cason in his coverage of Burress last week. These seven weeks have been on the job training for the new recruits and now is when Manusky needs to put the defense together into the rock solid force it needs to be if the Chargers are going to contend in the playoffs.
The good news is no one has made a peep about special teams since week one! The special teams are not giving up return touchdowns and not a single punt or kick has been blocked! New special teams coach Rich Bisaccia has done an excellent job bringing special teams back to respectability. Kicker Nick Novak has been a huge score as he hasn’t missed a kick all season. Props to the scouting department for unearthing him from the ether.
To answer the question, there is a lot wrong with the Chargers but its nothing that can’t be fixed if the brain trust are as good as they want us to believe they are. It starts with Norv Turner and his play calling and ends with Manusky releasing the hounds so the Chargers can get the 40+ sacks they’re accustomed to having each season. Both sides of the ball have been playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Seven weeks is enough of a learning curve even in a lockout season. It starts with this game in Kansas City on Monday night. If the Chargers can bring their A game, get Rivers on track and blow the Chiefs out of their own stadium (a tall task at Arrowhead). The Chargers are head and shoulders above the Chiefs and they need to play like they are. Gates, Floyd, Jackson, Mathews and Tolbert will all line up together Halloween Monday night. Will the Chargers TRICK or TREAT?