On Saturday, I criticized Larry for having a terrible game against the Chiefs and basically not living up to the spot where he was drafted. I felt a little weird about it, knowing that the coaches had been talking about Larry still recovering from surgery and not being all the way caught up, but I went for it anyway. On Sunday, Larry put up the stats of a #16 overall pick and gave hope that maybe he can be that impact pass-rusher with a healthy foot.
A certain local morning sports radio show cracked wise this morning about A.J. Smith being real good at drafting 3rd rounders, but not so great with those 1st rounders. I'm thinking today wasn't the best time for them to be making that joke. Not with Ryan Mathews, Philip Rivers and Larry English playing maybe the most important parts to a Chargers victory yesterday. Here's the point I'm trying to make: The local morning sports radio show is terrible. Monkeys could do better.
Now, on to Mathews. Just when the Chargers are without arguably their most important offensive weapon (Antonio Gates), Ryan Mathews develops into the players that the Chargers always hoped he would be. Two consecutive games of being the definitive #1 RB, the work horse that he was labeled as when the Bolts drafted him, and two consecutive games of 149 yards. That's an impressive feat, not just the yardage but the exact same yardage in both games. Roughly 150 yards per game and 3 TDs for every 4 games and Bam Bam will be in the MVP conversation.
NICK FREAKING NOVAK. I was so afraid of this guy when the Chargers picked him up, but he's been nothing short of stellar. The anti-Nate Kaeding fans shouldn't get too excited just yet, there's a lot of season left and zero proof that Novak will handle clutch situations any better than Nate Dogg. Still, 4-for-4 on FGs (with the longest being 48 yards) is damn impressive and makes the Chargers offense that much more potent.
I pointed out on Saturday's High Boltage Radio that Jackson had a big game the last time he faced the Dolphins secondary. I was right, even though I was going off my fault memory. In 2009 against the Dolphins, VJax caught the ball 5 times for 120 yards. This time, he caught fewer passes (3) for almost as many yards (108) but added a TD. The man is, quite simply, impossible to cover. He's having a Pro Bowl year both on and off the field, and I think the Chargers front office has noticed.
I still haven't seen his play in the end zone (but I've heard about it) or his interception, but I feel like it has to be more impressive than Eric Weddle's (let's face it, Eric's two picks this year have been thrown right at him).
Those things aside, Gilchrist was given a big stage against a good group of WRs to prove that he was ready to contribute for this Bolts team. He took that opportunity and shined by creating a turnover — which the defense was struggling to do — tied for the lead in tackles on defense, which seems nearly impossible for a CB, and lead the team in defended passes. What the box score tells me is that the Dolphins' offensive gameplan was to attack Gilchrist, and he shut that plan down.
I always say this: Championship teams need contributions from rookies and backups in very big ways over the course of the season. If 4 weeks from now we're still talking about the Dolphins game as the one where Larry English and Marcus Gilchrist came to life, this team could go very far. It could have an identity on defense.