Bolts Notebook: Switching Things Up

The Chargers have made a few key changes over the last couple weeks that have allowed the team to win the first two games after its bye week. Things will get much tougher from here, starting this week in Baltimore, but it appears the Bolts have figured some things out right in the nick of time. (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

High Wattage

The future is now for San Diego's offensive line.

Chris Watt, who was drafted to take over at center in 2015 when Nick Hardwick's contract expired, started his first game at the hub position against the Rams on Sunday. He was pressed into duty thanks to an unreal run of injuries that claimed not only Hardwick, but also veterans Doug Legursky and Rich Ohrnberger.

"He's a young player who's really taken his game to the next level," said coach Mike McCoy of Watt.

With the Chargers starting their fourth different center of the season, one would think the theme of the day was change. Instead, it was cohesion. The starting five offensive linemen took every snap on Sunday for the first time since Week 3.

The three players on the right side of San Diego's line have all been drafted within the last three years: Watt (third round, 2014), Johnnie Troutman (fifth round, 2012) and D.J. Fluker (first round, 2013).

The new starting five did a phenomenal job against the Rams. Philip Rivers was hit just three times on 38 drop-backs (all on what Rivers described as coverage sacks) while San Diego running backs averaged 6.79 yards per carry.

Watt was not the sole catalyst for the dominant performance by the offensive line, but his enthusiasm and energy caught the attention of his head coach.

"You love the way he plays the game," McCoy said. "He truly loves to come out there and play the game. You can see that when he's running downfield celebrating on big runs or big catches or in the end zone. He's one of the first linemen celebrating with everybody. And you love the way he works."

Law and Order

It is a good thing Watt performed so well because the man he was filling in for, Rich Ohrnberger, was placed on injured reserve this week with back and ankle injuries. To fill his spot on the roster, the team called up Cordarro Law from the practice squad.

The roster-swap was San Diego's second in a four-day span. On Saturday, the team released cornerback Richard Crawford so it could call up guard Ryan Miller from the practice squad. That move was made in anticipation of Ohrnberger being done for the season. Now, the Chargers have Willie Smith backing up the tackle positions, Miller providing depth at guard and Trevor Robinson serving as the reserve center.

It was a shame to see the Chargers give up on Crawford so quickly. A seventh-round pick by Washington in 2012, Crawford showed some big-play ability as a rookie. A knee injury cost him the 2013 season and the Chargers were hoping he could rediscover his swagger in San Diego.

There is still a chance the Chargers could bring back Crawford -- the team only has four cornerbacks on the roster in his absence -- by sending Law back to the practice squad or releasing an expendable veteran such as Reggie Walker or Ronnie Brown.

Weddle Gets Green Dot, Gold Star

Among the changes the Chargers made during their bye week: Eric Weddle has been given the green-dotted helmet, a role previously held by Donald Butler. This gives him a radio headset that allows him to communicate directly with defensive coordinator John Pagano and relay the plays calls to the rest of the defense.

The switch makes sense on a couple levels. For one, Butler has seen his playing time reduced. The Chargers are going with Manti Te'o and Andrew Gachkar in their nickel defense due to Butler's struggles in coverage. Also, Weddle is an eight-year veteran who has long served as the quarterback of the defense. He is better suited to get everyone aligned and then make on-sight adjustments as necessary.

The early results have been good. The Chargers have allowed just 23 points defensively over the last two games while allowing opponents to convert just 31 percent of their third-down attempts (9-of-29).



Can the Bolts finish strong and get back to the playoffs? Talk about it right here.



Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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