San Diego Charger Diagnosis: Randall Godfrey

Though Drew Brees is clearly the comeback player of the year, San Diego has revitalized the career of numerous players this season. Many pundits were scratching their heads over some of the free agent acquisition the Chargers made in the off-season. But San Diego clearly had a plan in mind which has played out beyond everyone's expectations.

Randall Godfrey was signed for his leadership and diligence. San Diego is full of young linebackers in need of guidance. Godfrey, though, has shown this season there is still plenty of gas left in the tank and is not ready to hand over the reigns just yet.

From being a back up at the beginning of training camp to what is arguably the hit of the year against the Oakland Raiders, Godfrey has proven to be one of the best new additions for San Diego this season. There were concerns whether Godfrey's health would hold up and it appeared he was on the downswing of his career.

Godfrey put up impressive numbers at Dallas, but since his injury-riddled year for Tennessee the season before last his production has steadily declined. For this reason more than any other the Chargers were able to sign Godfrey for relatively cheap.

Godfrey has two years left after this season, and if San Diego can get the same amount of production from him that they received this year through the completion of his contract than Godfrey (along with Steven Foley) could be one of the biggest free agent steals for the Chargers in over a decade.

Godfrey is currently third on the team in overall tackles while being second in solo stops, which is a significant number because it shows that once Godfrey makes initial contact the opposing player is almost sure to go down. Godfrey is arguably the best tackler on the team which is apparent through his three forced fumbles in addition to his solo numbers.

Since Godfrey is the middle linebacker in the 3-4 defense it should be no surprise he is putting up solid statistical numbers. Most running plays are practically funneled into the middle linebackers if everyone up front is properly doing their job. One of the main reasons San Diego's running defense has been so spectacular this year is because of the tough play of both Godfrey and Donne Edwards. Godfrey is excellent at not only shedding blockers but is extremely disciplined in playing his position. Godfrey is rarely caught in position where a pulling guard or a fullback can brush him from the lane.

The forced fumbles number is also significant because it not only indicates the sure tackling ability but how hard Godfrey lays into opposing players. Foley leads the team in forced fumbles, but for a rush end (or a rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4) to lead the defense in this statistic is not uncommon. One of Foley's main jobs is to swipe at the quarterback as he throws or is beginning his throwing motion. If the player is at least a solid pass rusher, this in itself will create fumbles throughout the season. But for Godfrey to force fumbles is entirely a different animal.

Godfrey's year will most likely be equated to the big hit he put on Jerry Porter of Oakland. In a must win for San Diego, Godfrey almost single-handedly turned the tide of the game. At the time the playoffs were something a lot of fans were thinking about but not saying out loud, at least publicly. Regardless, the game against Oakland was a must win if a playoff dream was to come to a realization. It was obvious the Chargers were not playing their best football coming off the bye week, and Oakland was intent on redeeming themselves. Godfrey saw the opening and laid into Porter, forcing a fumble (which was recovered by Ben Leber). This was the first big play of many by the defense in the coming weeks.

Whether it was complacency or not, the Charger defense was not very effective stopping the run against the Colts. If San Diego wants to have any chance in the playoffs they must do a better job stopping the run than they have in the past two weeks. San Diego has been steadily declining in their run defense, and since both middle linebackers are over thirty years of age, there is a potential red flag for concern. Granted, opposing offenses have come out passing initially opposed to establishing the run, but the numbers both Edgerrin James and Lee Suggs put up are reasons for concern.

Godfrey is at his best when plays are run up the middle. He begins to have trouble on various sweeps and pitch-outs. Ironically it seems James was at his best this past week running off tackle, and that is all Cleveland ran against San Diego. The Charger defense has made plays when they had to, but they still are having troubles playing against a hurry up offense. The middle linebackers usually drop back in pass coverage while one of the outside linebackers tries to create penetration. Though Godfrey can hold his own in coverage, he is the weak spot of the linebacking core.

Diagnosis for next week: San Diego needs to re-establish themselves in terms of rush defense. They have faltered for the past couple weeks and will surely be tested against Larry Johnson and the Kansas City offensive line. San Diego proved they could hang with the best offense in football, but as every other pundit has said this week, there is a difference between playing one's best football for fifty-eight minutes opposed to sixty minutes. Godfrey will be challenged in multiple ways, and San Diego must do a better job when they are in zone coverage. Tony Gonzalez will challenge the linebackers during these schemes but ultimately San Diego must be able to put pressure on Trent Green before he can pick apart the zone.

Diagnosis for the playoffs: If the Chargers do not play better special teams obviously, any hope for a victory is virtually non-existent. That aside, every AFC playoff team other than Indianapolis has a run oriented philosophy. This should play into the Chargers' hand and gives them hope to possibly go far. Godfrey is one of the few players on the team that has been to the Super Bowl. He knows the pressure of the playoffs and how to maintain an emotional equilibrium through every game, especially since any one given snap can be the difference of advancing or going home. Godfrey must make sure the defense re-establishes itself next week because a two game losing streak is the last thing San Diego wants heading into post-season.

Byran Martin can be reached at Byran@sandiegosports.net

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