Coming home from the Meadowlands, the Chargers were looking back at what could have been. A 5-1 record that was flirted with, but rejected by. Although the offense failed in the second half, the defense was blamed for the loss as well. Mainly, 3 touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress, covered by Antoine Cason. While that was the biggest failure, since it stood out more, most of us may have overlooked failures on the front 7. For the second game week in a row, the Charger defense allowed a 100 yard rusher. Let's take a look at what happened.
First, lets look at the first and second half grading:
Good stuff up there, right? No? Some bad stuff, yes. Point to special teams all you want, but the fact that Ron Rivera's defense last year led the league in 3 and outs and was second best in sacks is proof that this defense wasn't overrated as much as people claim it was. Greg Manusky has done many good things with this defense, but without Luis Castillo and a normal Antoine Cason, and a rookie starting at an unfamiliar position and 2 new rookies (team-wise) starting at inside linebacker, I'd say Manusky has done a very good job so far. Some people remembered me saying this a few months ago when I scouted Manusky:
Greg Manusky is definitely an "attacking" coach. He likes blitzing; a lot. He blitzes relentlessly, to the point where sometimes, he's stubborn with the constant blitz playcalling.
Some people may think I was wrong, or that Manusky has changed since his San Fran days. Well, his stubbornness with blitzing showed on Sunday, calling blitzes back to back, and at one point, 4 times in a row. Many times it worked, and then there were times when it worked but was ruined by one of the 3 questionable penalties. I like seeing the blitzes coming. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we haven't seen too many of them because the shortened offseason meant less time to practice all the bonus features of the playbook. He's trusting the corners in man coverage and as long as they don't fail, the blitz will keep coming. On to the players.
Let's get him out of the way first, like the coaches did on the roster (low blow?). Aside from the 3 end zone touchdowns and the one play where Plax broke his ankles, Cason actually had lockdown coverage the whole game. Though in press coverage, he only managed to slow down Plaxico Burress twice. If your success rate at something that critical is at 8% you should think about not doing it. In man coverage you read the receiver, and Cason was much too slow in seeing Plaxico's eyes light up on the back shoulder pass. I blame Manusky for assigning Cason to Plax, but also blame Cason for failing where he should have at least made it difficult to beat him. Grade: D-
Tommie Harris needs to start at DE. There. I said it. Vaughn Martin just isn't doing it well enough. Harris is disruptive, has great push, and looks like a true DE. Well what about Luis Castillo? Don't you want him to have his spot back? What about Castillo? He's got a broken leg. I doubt he'll come back in and play like he did the first 3 quarters of the Minnessota game. Preserve him until he's truly 100%, like for the playoffs (hint hint). Let him play nickel and goal line. Let him be the veteran on rotation. That's when his presence really opens it up for Shaun Phillips and the secondary blitzes on third down that were effective last year. I hope Tommie Harris is kept for the next 3 years. He still looks like a dominant player on the line in all situations. Garay has struggled ever since Castillo got hurt. He flourishes when he's not the guy who's doubleteamed. So does Harris. And Castillo, for that matter. Could you imagine if both Barnes and Phillips or Garay and Phillips or Harris and Garay were each blocked one on one instead of doubled? Back to the game, Garay was fooled by the same backside block 3 times. All three times the runner got successful yardage. Martin and Cesaire were both crushed many times in the run game, allowing big chunks of yardage and leading to a second straight 100 yard rusher, Willis McGahee being the first. Because of the failures against the run, they get a C-
Speaking of change, I'd like to see Donald Butler and Na'il Diggs as the nickel players. No disrespect to Takeo Spikes, but he can't cover unless he's on a fullback or 'blocking' Tight End. Dustin Keller and slot receivers toasted him on Sunday, and it's been the same all year. I like Na'ill Diggs when he blitzes; for an older player, he sure has a great burst of acceleration. Spikes is a decent blitzer too, might as well use him to his strengths, since coverage isn't one of them. The pass rush out of the Linebackers is strong, and playing the run hasn't been an issue, but when they fail, boy do they fail. It's like they risk a big run in order to go for the stop for no gain or loss. Communication is usually good, but sometimes they look at each other and say nothing, then hit the wrong holes and allow linemen to open up a running lane. C+
I hope to see Gilchrist play well, and more than that, I hope to see Cason bounce back. He's talented and needs to put this bad performance behind him. Gilchrist was brought in to replace Jammer in a few years (right?) and Cason has a chance to hold down his spot for a good long time. Now is the moment to claim it.
Leave your questions and comments below and be sure to rec if you enjoyed the read, and If you want me to buy Orz a cookie for his wonderful help.