Football is an orchestrated war. Fought by coaches using the available weapons at their disposal. Of course, not all coaches have the same weapons. However all coaches can find weaknesses in their opponents weapons system. Or, at the very least, try to contain and neutralize an opponents strongest weapons.
As a Chargers opponent, studying Norval's weapons, you've got a tough game plan to design. Essentially, what opponents do is stay aware of LT and Gates. If Sproles is in the play, limit screens. Tag their best corner on Jackson, and fire their weapons at the weakest link in the Chargers line to try and rush Rivers or stuff LT/Sproles.
Who's the weakest on the Chargers line? That's debatable. Throughout the game, opponents discover who's having a strong game and who's having a bad game. Like lions on the Serengeti, once they find a weak antelope, they coordinate their attacks on that player and try to break into the castle through the fallen wall.
The Chargers will try to patch these potential weaknesses with their two secret weapons. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna and fullback Jacob Hester . That is their primary job. Everybody knows it and that fact can be exploited.
(Editor's Note - Make sure you click the "Continue reading this post" link below the poll. You won't regret it.)
Manumaleuna's entering his ninth season. He's a 2nd generation NFL player (father played for Chiefs) that was drafted by the Rams in 2001 in the 4th round 129 overall. He was traded to the Chargers in 2006. It's no coincidence that was the magic year LT broke the record for most touchdowns in a season. If you see highlights you'll see #86 blocking in touchdown after touchdown. He is respected in the NFL as a great run blocking tight end and his stats back up that fact. He's never gonna be Gates. But here's the thing, to be a secret weapon, he should never shed the perception of anything other than a great run blocking TE. When he's up on the line, the defense thinks "#86 is the strong-side, it's a run" and it usually is. Time and time again.
When the Chargers game is on the line and the coaches need to reach for their star players, LT, Sproles, Gates, and Jackson. That's when Norval and Rivers might reach for Manumaleuna.
A good example of this took place during last years week 16 game against Tampa Bay.
On Tampa Bay's 11 yard line, the Chargers were in one of their favorite formations, the "offset I" with LT in the back and Hester set to block. On the line in front of Hester is Manumaleuna. Jackson is in the Split end position (opposite side of the tight end) wide right.
The play starts and Rivers drops back and fakes the hand off with LT running right, toward the direction of Jackson. Now as a defender in this situation, in the earliest moments of this play, you see the major Charger weapons all headed towards the same side of the field, you're instincts tell you to roll to that side, which is exactly what everyone on Tampa Bay does. and amidst the confusion Manumaleuna slips out of his blocking assignment, rolls left, and is wide open.
Rivers throws a quick toss to Manumaleuna, and with Dielman blocking, they stroll into the end zone. LT and Jackson are 30 yards away smiling 'cause the Chargers just scored. Tampa Bay's scratching their heads. They fought to battle the Chargers weapons and were fully exposed by one of Norval's secret weapons. Brandon Manumaleuna.
See how this works? Jacob Hester exposes the exact same situations as Manumaleuna. Divert attention with the Chargers star players and give it to Hester. Only thing is, Hester is even more suited to actually be a legitimate Charger weapon.
Hester is entering only his 2nd season. AJ Smith traded up into the third round to get him. While some people complained. The coaching staff insists he's a character guy who's versatility is matched only by his passion for the game. which seems about right when you hear him talk or watch him check off on a fake punt against Atlanta last year and storm down 28 yards for a first down. For my money a 28 yard fake punt run is about the most exciting thing you can see in a game and that one play was good enough for me to like him forever. But trust me, you'll see alot more exciting plays in the future because he benefits from having the highest ratio of offensive talent to under the radar blue collar menial tasks. Essentially he's an explosive player who can be forgotten about very easily and that's why he's such a secret weapon.
In week 12 versus the Colts. On the Colts 1 yard line with the Chargers in the I formation, Hester and LT are in the backfield. The snap comes and LT fakes the handoff up the middle. Gates on the right, drives into the end zone and cuts left drawing defenders away from Hester who runs into the end zone right as Rivers throws him the pigskin. LT and Gates are just too potent to be dismissed. The Colts finally recognize the play, but it's too late. Touchdown!!!
These players will develop their skills the longer they play and take advantage of single coverage or no coverage at all, slicing their enemies while there enemies stay busy trying to get a jump on the Chargers major weapons, but they need to remember that Manumaleuna and Hester are weapons too, they're secret weapons. Let's hope opposing defensives learn this lesson the hard way.