Not so Special

We have commented at length on how bad the Chargers special teams has been all year. It is amazing when you take a step back and think about it. Special teams is the catalyst for the offense, and is a way to pin an opponent back to allow the defense to work its magic. It all starts and stops with special teams.

How exactly are the Chargers 6-2 then? Special teams is not just bad, it is abysmal.

The facts:

1. The Chargers have had two punts blocked, happening in consecutive weeks.

2. The Chargers longest kickoff return of the year was by Reche Caldwell for 39 yards, good for 25th in the league (Tied with 4 other teams).

3. The Chargers average 5.2 yards per punt return, placing them 29th in the league.

4. The longest punt return has been 16 yards, putting them at 31st in a 32 team league.

5. They allow an average of 15.4 yards per punt return, 29th in the league.

6. The Chargers have had an extra point blocked, the first since 1999 for the team.

7. Wade Richey has booted 2 kickoffs out of bounds, resulting in a penalty that automatically gives the opponent the ball on their own 40 yard line.

8. Ronney Jenkins, the leading return man a year ago, was benched.

9. Tamarick Vanover averaging 5.4 yards per punt return is still active for each game.

10. Numerous penalties have hurt the unit.

The list could go on. About the only thing they do right is cover kickoffs well, that is if Richey can keep his kicks in bounds.

Yet, yesterday Coach Schottenheimer says he will stick with kick returner Tamarick Vanover. Where is the logic in his decision? It is still early in the week, sure, but it is clear Schottenheimer does not think it is the coaching, "We may not have available to us right now the players that we need to have to get it done in that one phase."

Steve Crosby, the Chargers special teams coach is breathing a sigh of relief at that news. Although Crosby has had 25 years of coaching experience only four of those seasons were spent with special teams. The last time, before this year, he coached special teams was back in 1990 with New England, and before that 1982 with Miami. A lot has changed since then, which offers the question:

Has Crosby changed to meet the current needs of the team?

If it is the players though, why is Vanover still in the lineup? Tim Dwight could return kicks again. He is not helping the offense enough, and is a spark on special teams.

"Our special teams are supposed to help our defense, and we didn't do a single thing to help our defense," said Zeke Moreno.

"Our special teams definitely have to pick it up," backup fullback Joey Goodspeed said. "At times, we played pretty bad. We have to be more consistent. I'm sure we'll hear about it tomorrow."

Maybe some trickery is needed then. Maybe a little razzle dazzle is needed in the return game. Try a reverse during a return. Something needs to happen, and needs to happen soon if the Chargers have ideas of making the playoffs.

Other teams have starters on special teams. There is an idea, put the playmakers out there.

The truth is with an ailing special teams that gave the Chargers an average field position of their own 26 on Sunday, and the Jets had a starting field position on their own 44, something magical has to be done. That is, on average, 18 extra yards per series that the offense must go to score. Talk about being behind the 8-ball.

The Chargers even got lucky last week. Vanover fumbled a return to end the half and it did not count since time expired.

"This football team is not where it needs to be in the kicking game in any phase, in my opinion," Schottenheimer said.

No kidding, thanks for stating the obvious.

Now they are set to face off against a St team that is playing some of the best football in the NFL. They need the special teams to provide a spark and shorten the field, otherwise it could be a long second half of the season.

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