The San Diego Chargers open up on National Television against one of the best teams in the AFC. Some are even predicting the Texans to be in the Super Bowl this year. Almost everyone is predicting that they will beat the Bolts on the road. You can’t really blame them, as they are one of the most stacked teams in the NFL.
However, I am not going to make any “Bold Predictions” in this article. Either the Chargers will win, or the Chargers will lose on Monday night. I will not fault them for losing, unless I see certain trends from preseason continued. Or, I see them not using players to their potential. The old adage seems to apply here… “It’s not whether you win or lose… it’s how you play the game”.
I fully expect Mike McCoy, Ken Whisenhunt, and John Pagano to do everything they can to slow down the Texans on both sides of the ball. Make no mistake about it… the absence, injuries, or rustiness of key players on their team doesn’t hobble Houston. They are going to bring their A-Game. I hope we do the same thing, and don’t try to get too cute. Team discipline, and sticking with the fundamentals are a must!
Here are some things I want to see in game one, that we didn’t see (for whatever reason) during the preseason.
The use of Danny Woodhead: First of all… doesn’t Danny Woodhead kinda remind you of “Slater” from Dazed & Confused in that picture above? I hope that he doesn’t get “Von Millered” unexpectedly one day. But, I digress…
Ever since Darren Sproles left, we have not had a threat of his caliber in the backfield. Due to injury in training camp, Woodhead missed practice and preseason games alike. We finally got a peek at him, but not very much. As a fan, it is frustrating to not be able to see a player (who some feel was the best free agency acquisition that our team made) shredding it up for Rivers, like he did for Brady in New England. I have seen a lot of talk around the web about this game being about Gates, Mathews, and Rivers.. making TD predictions, and yardage totals, etc. Although I don’t disagree with those predictions (necessarily), Woodhead can also take the pressure off of Rivers, and I expect a big game from him. After all, we did go out and get him. Now FLY little-big man!!!!
The use of Ladarius Green: We all saw what an awesome preseason Ladarius Green was having! We saw what a HUGE mismatch he can be, and that he has clearly bulked up enough to play with the big boys. What disappointed me, was that he never got a chance to play with the first team in preseason. I’m sure McCoy & Whisenhunt have some reason for that, but WHAT WAS IT?!!!
I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t give him that confidence boost, and make him feel like he is more than just a back up. Especially, when we are short on quality weapons for Philip. Every WR on the team seems to have an injury history, and Green looked so good against the twos. He needs to get snaps with Philip.. and I don’t mean one or two. When a true #1 receiver has not emerged on your squad, you gotta try to get the ball to as many talented ball catchers as possible. Green definitely has potential to be one of them.
Nick Novak’s leg strength: Something that bugged the heck out of me this preseason, was Nick Novak. I won’t go as far as to say he was awful, or not good. In fact, he made the loss of the NFL’s most accurate (regular season) kicker a little easier to digest. We could have done a lot worse. Still, I didn’t see him kick ONE kick out of the back of the endzone! He was giving players like Hester, Tate, and Peterson every opportunity to return kickoffs! If we had a great coverage team in the preseason, I would POSSIBLY change my tune.. but, we didn’t! Either A) he doesn’t have the leg strength B) he doesn’t have depth perception C) the coaching staff asked him not to do it, to test the return coverage. I REALLY hope it’s C.
He also missed a kick from 50 yards out. Granted, he did make another one from 50 yards out, but is that going to be an issue while he is here? The only reason I say that, is that we just locked him up with a new contract. I get a little jealous when I see Zuerlein from the Rams kicking it through the uprights from deep space! Not that I hold him to that kind of standard… but, the opposing team’s kickers (Hauschka, Gould, and Feeley) didn’t seem to have that problem. If Novak doesn’t have the leg strength, it will eventually cost this team. I hope that contract wasn’t premature.
The use of Brandon Taylor: I have to admit.. I was never a fan of moving Gilchrist to safety. I understand that they wanted to try him out, because of his history, and style. I also have to admit that I have been on the record as saying that Taylor wouldn’t & shouldn’t be on the field until after the bye week. I take that back, and admit that I was completely wrong about it.
Watching Taylor come back, lead the team in tackles, and force a fumble let’s me know that he should be the new starter. He outplayed any other safety prospect on the team, and he was coming off of ACL surgery. That speaks volumes to me about the results of the Gilchrist experiment. Can they both be used? Absolutely. Is Gilchrist your first option? I’m not so sure about that.
If they want to take it slow getting Taylor back onto the field, I completely understand. But, if they are going to drag their feet, and give Gilchrist endless opportunities to prove he is the starter over Taylor.. and he fails… it will just make things worse for the team. I will agree that we only have a small sample size of Taylor. But, we have seen what Gilchrist can do, and he is a work in progress at the position. Does the team have time for that, if Taylor keeps improving, and stays healthy?
I like Gilchrist better at CB. We lack depth at CB, and he can always go back to safety if Taylor doesn’t pan out. Taylor seemed to be the better safety to me, and he was only in for limited action. It could be time to put the “Gilchrist back up plan” away, and come to the realization that Taylor is ready to take over. That realization should start to become clear on Monday night.
We have a pretty good team going into the regular season. Outside of Manti Te’O, we are totally healthy. That is a blessing, when you look at other teams around the league. We should use that to our advantage, and let this roster click into place, without complicating things by holding players back. Let’s demand that each player performs to their abilities, and finds their niche on the team!
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!