Sep 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall (31) recovers a fumble in the end zone during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Charger’s Depth: Getting Better, or Getting Lucky?


 

Sep 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) fumbles the balls as he tries to get into the end zone while being hit by San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) and cornerback Crezdon Butler during fourth quarter action at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers recovered the fumble. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

 

I have to be honest… every game we go into lately, I am preparing for the worst, as our starting players seem to be dropping like flies. On top of this, we have been labeled as having one of the worst depth situations in the league. Against a terrible salary cap situation (left behind by AJ Smith), Tom Telesco was forced to rely heavily on his scouting department to bring in the best Undrafted Free Agents available, and had to find some low dollar gems through Free Agency. During preseason, we watched helplessly as three different teams pretty much man-handled our depth. It wasn’t pretty, but as Arnie would say.. “Let’s put it into context”. We were playing the Bears, Seahawks, and 49ers.. all of whom will probably finish the year within the top ten.. or possibly even top 5 defenses.

Then the regular season came around. Manti Te’o, was sidelined, and we watched Bront Bird get schooled, and Reggie Walker fill in decently.. but, he is no Te’O or Butler (who was also sidelined at the same time as Te’O for a game). The Texans ran right at Bird, and he was a huge factor in that 2nd half meltdown. The Eagles also made chopped liver out of our linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. Gilchrist & Addae couldn’t stop the bleeding at strong safety. Cox, Wright, Patrick, and Marshall also struggled…. but we squeaked out a win against the Eagles. Addae will only get better over time. Gilchrist isn’t technically a depth player, but he is new, and the plan is to start Taylor, eventually.

The Tennessee game made us all want to hang ourselves, as Jake Locker was moving up & down the field like Joe Montana in the final minutes. He put up a bunch of rushing yards, as nobody seemed to be able to contain him in the backfield, once he was flushed out. The Charger faithful only had a handful of explanations. The biggest reason was poor depth, which seemed to be rearing its ugly head.

Entering the season, the mantra was “we can be competitive, as long as our starters remain healthy. The drop off in talent after that is substantial”. Perhaps the comment I have seen mentioned the most is “Dwight Freeney HAS to stay healthy”. Well, that hasn’t worked out on either account. Not to mention, our biggest horror story from last year was the offensive line, where we had three starters sidelined against Dallas. THREE starting o-line players.. that’s insanely bad luck!

Yet, despite the abject despondency that most fans felt going into the Cowboys game… we won. AND, we won convincingly. In fact, if it wasn’t for a pick six on a play where pressure finally got to Rivers… and his arm was hit… Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Demarco Murray were stymied to just 14 points! Meanwhile, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, and Danny Woodhead managed 3 TD’s, and looked amazing! How amazing? “Fed-Ex Air nominee of the week” kind of amazing!

So, that opens up a pretty valid conversation. Is the depth as bad as we think it is? Of course, this could have been a “lucky game” for the Chargers. You might argue that perhaps Dallas was on the road, and not firing on all cylinders. Personally, I don’t believe in luck, and we held off one of the NFL’s premier pass rushing teams… WITH THREE BACK-UP O-LINE PLAYERS! If you would have told me that going into the game I would have said that it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility… but pretty unlikely. Apparently, “next man up” isn’t just something people say to make themselves feel better about losing key players.

The back-up o-line deserves a HUGE amount of credit for that win! They kept our best player (mostly) upright, and allowed him to make good decisions with the ball. Can they do it every week? We’ll find out, but we should get our starters back as soon as this week. Dunlap should be returning soon. So should Clary. Not sure about Rinehart yet.

Then, let’s take a look at our defense. The big story was Manti Te’O returning. That was the only thing that some fans were hopeful about going into the game. Reggie Walker was used a lot, which was not a popular move among fans. But, we DID hold the Boys to 14 points, so we can’t get too upset. Reggie Walker played well, and Te’O will get his snaps as time goes on. However, the biggest was the play of our secondary. They looked shaky at times (as usual), but they were the ones who put the dagger in the heart of the Dallas offense. Dez Bryant made an amazing catch for a TD that NFL Network has been replaying ad nauseam, instead of showing the Charger highlights (what’s new?). But, I have to give Richard Marshall credit.. who is perhaps our most fan-hated CB… for giving maximum effort. He had his hand in there, and played Bryant well. Romo just put the ball where only Dez could get it, and he made a great catch.

The most impressive part of the game came from newly acquired Crezdon Butler (Who?)!!! His “heads up” play popping the ball out, when Dallas was about to go in for a TD, was nothing short of AMAZING! Then, who recovered it? Richard Marshall. Gilchrist defended a pass right before that, and Weddle had a nice defended pass on Witten earlier in the game. Our pass rush is still a work in progress, and we will not have Freeney for the rest of the year.. which sucks. But, we still managed to get Tony Romo off of his mark in the second half, even after Dwight went down. We are going to see even more depth players now, as Thomas Keiser & Tourek Williams are now going to be leading the charge, as OLB’s. English has become a starter, for God’s sake! A pleasant surprise, is that Double J has also ramped up his pass rushing skills. This is as “depth” as it gets, folks!

Next up, we are heading on the road to play a banged up Raiders team, who have arguably even worse depth & injury issues than we do. Then we play a tough Indianapolis team, but we get them at home. Then we face the lowly Jags before we go into the much needed bye week. If we can return healthy, we play a struggling Redskins team, who barely scratched out a win against Oakland! Could we possibly go into the bye week 5-2? Even 4-3 wouldn’t be horrible. But, after that we enter the “meat & potatoes” of our schedule. If we could go into that stretch 6-2, before facing the Broncos, Dolphins, Chiefs, and Bengals.. that would give us a lot more room to breathe. Our depth MUST hold strong!!!

So, Charger Fam-Bam…. What do you think? Is our depth improving, or did we just get lucky? Is the defense starting to gel a little bit, or are we still in deep trouble? Can we still continue to manufacture wins, until we get starting players like Ingram, Rinehart, Taylor, and Te’O back & up to speed? What are your thoughts about how the offensive & defensive back-ups played against Dallas? Did TT do a good job choosing the depth players he has been using, and acquiring.. based on what he had to work with?  Please sound off below.

 

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  • Stan Zab

    I think its too early to put a label on the depth. I think the Chargers are winning in large part due to McCoy and Wiz having a great game plan in place. Rivers gets the ball and its out 1-2 seconds later. No constant 7 step drops like Norvs offense. No question the O-line has played better than expected.

    The Chargers are going to have to pull off a few upsets in order to possibly get a wildcard spot. Im pleasantly surprised with this team so far. The only factor that was unknown prior to the start of the season was the playbook and type of offense we were going to see. That part has turned out to be great ane has made a big difference for PR especially.

  • Daryl Peek

    I say it’s getting better. It wasn’t that bad to begin. Every team needs reps together before they get it together. Mike Harris and King Dunlap are the perfect examples. Good offensive lines take time to gel. Losing the continuity of Randy Mac, Dielman and the other big ugly’s was more of an issue than I realized. PR is on it, proving me wrong so far.

    The defense will continue to come around. SP95, Barnes, Cason, Jammer, Garay and Spikes were leadership staples that were missed in defensive chemistry. Sunday was a big step forward. The new regime’s plan is coming to light favorably.

  • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

    Don’t forget to “like” my Facebook page. It’s new, and could use a little love, and support. Most of my FB friends are from the Pacific NW, and are Seattle & Denver fans. Go show some love, if you got it. I will do giveaways on there at some point, and you wouldn’t want to miss that ; )
    https://www.facebook.com/BoltingTowardExcellenvce?ref=hl

  • TheReturnOfMrBlanks

    I think the secondary somehow came together as a group that last 2nd half, a few dropped passes helped but that happens to all teams almost every game. With Wright & Taylor eventually playing again I really think they can only get better, especially with Te’os ball hawking skills, he is going to help Alot over the middle.

    The game against the Raiders is a huge opportunity for the secondary to gain some confidence, even if Pryor is playing his accuracy is pretty bad and we should see (God willing) a INT or 2 for somebody other then Cam Thomas lol. It is also going to be a Huge ego boost for our pass rush, wouldn’t be surprised if JJ gets a couple sacks and Kielser and English/Reyes and Liguet all get 1 or 2. Imagine last years Jets game all over again, Pagano should change things up this week and draw up some insane blitzes to scare the crap out of Flynn/Pryor and have them running for their life.

    • Stan Zab

      Pryor has a 65% completion ratio. Pretty good for an extremely mobile QB. Lets hope Flynn is playing. If Pryor starts we’re not getting sacks.

  • Tazzster

    I think TT has done a great job.

    Finding the pieces for the O-line looks brilliant right now.
    The defense has not looked all that good, but reality is they are 21st in the league, in the stat that matters – points allowed. So, mediocre, which is not bad when you consider it is put together with a lot of scrap pieces.

    I think as the year goes on the team will only get better. There are a lot of novice players out there, that will get better as they learn the scheme, learn to play with each other and get the experience of being NFL players.

  • Ioane

    C. Butler, Marshall, Cox, Walker. What do they all have in common? They are all first time Chargers. These guys just joined the team. Outside of Cox, the other were signed after the season started. I think these guys are starting to get comfortable with the system and should only get better.

    Wright, Gilchrist, Thomas. What do these guys have in common? They are all first time starters. They are being asked to play a lot more than what they are used to. As we saw from that last game against Dallas, Gilchrist was finally making plays and Thomas and the D-line was finally pushing the pocket and getting after the QB.

    We have a ton of new players on both sides of the ball from Rookies, undrafted rookies to FA signings who are all expected to start.

    I think all of these guys are starting to learn the system and get more comfortable with it. Like I said, they should only get better.

    Our offensive line has really impressed me. We don’t have any star studded names on that line, but they are doing such a great job with protection. I credit that to Coach Joe-D. He was able to get our guys ready to play against that Dallas D-line. This was something that Hal Hunter was never able to do.

    As far as our depth. It’s not great. We all know that. But we are just good enough with the players we have to challenge any team and beat them in this league.

  • arnie

    I think Depth is mostly a matter of perception or lack there of. Don’t get me wrong, there are different levels of talent, but “skills” can be improved with practice. Acee wrote an article stating “the best 53″ were not in San Diego. I dis-agree. To go back even further before the draft, Telesco was asked was he looking at the best tackles in the draft, his response, “…Who’s the best tackles? You have opinions and we have opinions about who those players are…”. The Jags have both Jockel and MJD two of the best players in their drafts classes. The Chiefs sent 6 players to the pro-bowl, yet they only managed 2 wins last season. What changed? Coaching.
    norv relied “heavily” on his veterans, even in training camp, the rookies and “camp bodies” saw very little snaps. So when a vet went down, aj would go shopping for a FA “to start”. Not fill in. To Start. Why? Simply because the Rookies weren’t ready, not because they sucked, it’s more likely they didn’t have much practice time and it would show. So the Chargers were essentially trying to win with 22 players, with norv an aj at the helm.
    McCoy is the exact opposite of this. His camp was run were “EVERY PLAYER” got an equal amount of snaps. Why? Next Man Up. Injuries will happen and T&M know they will have to turn to the bench. Doing this, you have players that “know” what the plays are and will only help your chances to win Football games. Bird an Walker are no Te’o or Butler, however because they were given the same opportunities/snaps to make this team, they at least played well enough, to allow the starters to rest and get healthy. Instead of Butler having to play “through the pain”, and end up playing at 70% whole season. That is part of the reason this team is 2-2 and not 0-4. This for the short term is called “DEVELOPING YOUR PLAYERS” which is something i was critical that norv did not do. In the long run as the starters come back, this teams “depth” will now have experience and will help in the rotation.
    I don’t think it’s “luck”, it more like T&M may know what they are doing.

    • Stan Zab

      Cowboys were outcoached in that game. Our depth didn’t manhandle anyone or performed way above expectations. Too early to put labels on the depth after 1 game of them playing well. I agree the approach of everyone getting more snaps with the 1′s is a good thing but I’m not ready to say this team can make a push for the playoffs with this roster.

      • Tazzster

        Shun the non-believer….SHUN!

        • Stan Zab

          I know right? People who don’t make sweeping conclusions about the depth chart after 1 good performance are assholes.

  • navw21

    While I hate all these injuries that are piling up. The one good thing about it that our backups really only get better with more snaps and playing time under their belt. So I feel for the now it does hurt us having our starters down, but in the long run hopefully it will make the team all that much better.

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  • Gunnar Martin

    I tell you what, if TT keeps improving our team like he did this offseason, then we will be a contender in no time. Seriously, it’s freaking amazing how well he’s done with the crap he was given to start with. This team can/will go far.