It's probably been asked too many times this season: "Is this rock bottom?" This past Sunday's debacle in Chicago brought that question to the forefront once again. The way the Chargers' season has transpired it's more likely that this is just the top of the rock at the bottom of the pile. It's just a matter of time before we get to the bottom of the rock. So what does rock bottom mean for this troubled franchise? Another coaching change? A front office move? Surely everyone and everything should be evaluated. The stadium issue looms overhead and dwindling public support could have the organization in a pressure cooker. Who will support a franchise on a losing skid with no end in sight? There will always be loyal fans but only so many. Gaining support in San Diego or even Los Angeles for that matter, will not happen without smart football moves that show the organization is not only committed to winning but capable of doing so. Winning the last 8 games of this season would be a great place to start, but if you've watched the Chargers this season.... well you know.
Not a lot of positives for a 1-7 football team that could have been the "Cinderella" story for the NFL season. Well Cindy didn't make it to the royal ball this year, she's turned into a pumpkin and the party hasn't even started.
If you look hard enough you will see that there are some positives for this struggling football team. The young secondary has made progress. Sammy Davis the rookie corner has flashed the skills to be an excellent cover man. While he has had some nagging injuries that sideline him for portions of some games he shows the toughness to get back in there. As expected he's taken some lumps in pass coverage but he's taking them in stride. He could stand to gain more strength as his tackling and power in press coverage are not yet where they need to be but with time should turn out to be an excellent corner.
While Quentin Jammer hasn't received many press clippings or interceptions it is largely in part to teams opting to throw towards the rookie on the other side. Jammer has progressed since his rookie season and already is a solid corner back. He has not yet lived up to his full potential but this is basically his rookie year and he improves on a weekly basis.
Rookie safety Terence Kiel who missed a good portion while recovering from gunshot wounds is starting to come on. Kiel has good speed and athleticism to go with his solid tackling and fearless attitude. Kiel has seen his time on special teams and as a nickel safety, his instincts get him to the football and it's just a matter of time before he earns the starting nod.
Donnie Edwards has proved to be Mr. Reliable and is undoubtedly the teams defensive MVP through the first half of the season. Donnie gets his 9-10 tackles a game and has an INT and forced fumble to show for his outstanding effort. A very underrated player Donnie will be one of the centerpieces on defense for years to come.
Adrian Dingle and Dequincy Scott are two youngsters that have played well on the defensive line. They are tied for the team lead in sacks with 4.5. Dingle took the starting job at defensive end while Scott is a role playing- pass rushing defensive tackle. Dingle makes plays against both the run and pass, if he continues to play well and improve he could keep the job for quite some time. Scott's specialty is getting after the quarterback despite his un-defensive tackle like size(6-1 280lbs). His quickness on stunts often proves too much for opposing guards and centers to handle.
On offense the obvious is Ladanian Tomlinson, who shows no signs of slowing down in his third year. One has to wander how much continuously slamming him into 8 and 9 man fronts is taking its toll. The team desperately needs to find a way to keep defenses honest with the threat of a passing game. LT gets his yards with a banged up line, ineffective passing game and predictable play calling which has everyone in the stadium knowing when he will get the ball. With all this stacked against him he still produces...remarkable. Wander what he could do in a scheme that keeps defenses guessing and gives him more looks in the open field?
Lorenzo Neal has been everything he was expected to be, a battering ram. Other than providing punishing lead blocks, his veteran leadership and ability to run the ball in short yardage situations confirm that this was a good pick up for a team that has missed on more free agents than it has hit on.
Antonio Gates is the surprise at TE. Injuries thrust the undrafted rookie into battle and his size(6-4 260lbs) and blocking ability have become assets to a struggling offense. Finding a way to get Gates more chances in the passing game should, but probably won't, be a priority. If Gates can prove a reliable threat as a receiving tight end, it could mean the Chargers have finally found a complete tight end and this would allow the team to focus on other positions come draft time.
On the offensive line Jason Ball has carried over his solid play from last season before being sidelined with an ankle injury. Finding a pivot man in the undrafted free agent pool last year was a major plus for the Chargers. Building around him is now the key.
Phil Bogle has been this years version of Jason Ball, an undrafted free agent out of New Haven, Phil has stepped in to the starting line up and held his own. His talent level is fine but he is still making the transition from small school to NFL, which of course takes some time. Phil is gaining valuable experience at guard and if he plays his cards right may find himself vying for a starters role next year.
Third round draft pick Courtney Van Buren was a disappointment in training camp but played surprisingly solid starting at right tackle against the Bears. Right tackle appears to be a better fit for him as his lack of quickness could hinder him at the difficult left tackle position. He is big and strong(6-6 350lbs) and is a more of a mauler type of player. If he continues to progress, somewhere down the road he could find himself as the fixture at right tackle.
A Purple Nightmare
Quick, hide the kids, close the windows and lock the doors. The purple monster is coming. The Vikings offense vs the Charger defense on your computer screen looks like a mismatch of infinite proportions. A big powerful offensive line against an underachieving defensive line. A big powerful quarterback with a rocket arm and great mobility against the 28th ranked defense that allows 26.9 points per game. Then there's the acrobatic Randy Moss against the kids in the Charger secondary. That being said, it would be nice to see Quentin Jammer play Moss tight at the line of scrimmage with some deep help. If Jammer wants to make a name for himself, containing Randy Moss this Sunday would go a long way. If the Chargers think they have their hands full in the passing game they're in for a another treat- the Minnesota Vikings rushing offense ranks 6th in the NFL with 135.6 yards per game. To put this in perspective the Chargers rush defense ranks 25th allowing 128.8 yards per game. After winning their first 6 games the Vikes have lost two in a row at home to the Giants and Packers. A trip to San Diego has the Purple Monster sharpening it's teeth as San Diego is a team in turmoil indeed.
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