Yesterday, I did quarter-season report cards for the San Diego Chargers offense and defense. Today I'm tackling the Special Teams unit, and sometime before Sunday I'll hand out grades to the Bolts' coaching staff as well.
Charger Kickers this season have made 7 of 7 FGs, with one of those being kicked by Mike Scifres and the rest being kicked by Nick Novak. Scifres did a decent job on kickoffs as well after Nate Kaeding was injured on the first play of the season (a Percy Harvin kickoff return TD), but Nick Novak has been stellar.
Lots of touchbacks, not a ton of big returns, no missed FGs and no blocked kicks. Can't ask for much better than that.
The Pro Bowl-caliber Punter that's never been a Pro Bowler continues to produce at a high level. Mike Scifres is again averaging about 45 yards per punt, which is absurd, while still being deathly accurate. Of his 9 punts this season, 4 have pinned the opposing team inside of their own 20-yard-line. 3 of those have pinned the opposing team inside of their own 10-yard-line. Scifres couldn't be punting any better if he were a robot.
Kick Returner: B
After patiently waiting for Darren Sproles' time as a Charger to run out, Richard Goodman has gotten his chance to be the main kick returner for this team. What we've seen is lots of speed and excitement, without any big mistakes, but no big plays have resulted yet. With kick returners, you're often just waiting around for those 1 or 2 big players per season. Right now, Goody is ranked above Leon Washington and Javier Arenas (and a bunch of others) in terms of their kick return stats this season, so he's been very good without having a big play to his name.
Punt Returner: C
This is a C because of Bryan Walters, who is mostly on the team for Punt Return depth. Bryan Walters did a terrible job on punt returns (Patrick Crayton took the responsibilities back over against the Dolphins). He fair-caught when he was wide open, and didn't fair-catch when there were 4-5 guys around him trying to knock the ball loose. When he caught the ball, there was enough dancing going on that he didn't get many yards.
Crayton averages about 2 full yards more on average for punt returns, and is much smarter about when to fair-catch. As long as he holds onto the job for the next 4 games, this grade should go up by time the mid-season grades roll around.
This goes for punts and kicks. The lines and blockers keeping the opposing team from blocking the Chargers' punts and kicks have been very good, and are getting better by the week. Against Miami you would've sworn the Bolts were playing with 13 guys on Special Teams. Heck of a turn around for Bisaccia's men.
Kick Coverage: C
The Percy Harvin TD counts, even if you have to factor in rust and all that. The Chargers have been pretty average on covering kicks, all things considered, but are getting better at the fundamentals. Against the Dolphins, Davone Bess could've had a big return if it wasn't for the Chargers players staying in their lanes and not over-pursuing in one direction.
Punt Coverage: B
There are two simple reasons why this is a B. Number one, no punt return TDs allowed. Number two, Richard Goodman has been abusing people on punt coverage the last few weeks. Against the Dolphins, he looked like Kelly Washington. Richard could be a Special Teams star in the making, ala Kassim Osgood and Hanik Milligan.