Week 7 Grades: San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time, Mike McCoy's San Diego Chargers finally finished a game on the road against an inferior opponent and came away with a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quarterback: A minus

Another high efficiency game from Philip Rivers, who completed 22 of his 26 pass attempts for 285 yards (10.9 YPA), with a TD and no turnovers. What I'd really like to point out his how Rivers managed to keep his composure under less than ideal conditions - the offensive line injuries - and largely helped to keep the offense on schedule and the Jaguars defense on its heels. Really, the only poor decision was Rivers attempting to score on a scramble at the end of the 1st half... he should have thrown the ball away and preserved either a FG attempt or another attempt at the goal line. Otherwise, he was sensational managing the game, and did a better job of not forcing the ball to any players in particular. Lastly, of his 4 incompletions, only one was due to an inaccurate throw, and it was on a play where WR Keenan Allen was held.

Running Back: B plus

Ryan Mathews had his second strong game in a row, with 110 yards on 21 carries (5.2 YPA), and finally, a red zone opportunity which produced a 3-yard TD early in the 4th quarter to put the game on ice. Mathews continues to do a good job of pushing the pile forward and gaining yards after contact, even if he still doesn't do a great job of reading his blocks or evading contact in space. Danny Woodhead contributed 76 yards on 13 touches (9 carries, 4 catches), including a 2-yard TD run and a 26-yard reception to covert a 2nd & 20 in the third quarter. Ronnie Brown had 3 carries for 14 yards, and FB Le'Ron McClain contributed 2 carries for 4 yards - one of which resulted in a 1st down after a dubious spot by the officials. In pass protection, Woodhead had a couple of issues locating the free blitzer, leading to a couple of hurries and hits on Rivers.

Receivers: A minus

WR Keenan Allen did not have the stats to indicate a great game, but he was strong for the 4th consecutive week. Allen had 3 receptions for 67 yards on 6 targets, 2 of of which were gorgeous sliding catches of Rivers passes. WR Eddie Royal came back after missing time and had 4 receptions on 4 targets for 69 yards, and the TD from Rivers (see One Play below). As opposed to the last few weeks, Royal looked much more fluid and smooth. One of his catches was more like a punt return, reversing field on a WR screen for a 29-yard gain and setting up Mathews' TD run. WR Vincent Brown made the most of limited opportunities with 2 receptions on 2 targets for 26 yards.

Unless I'm mistaken, this game was first time all 3 TEs had a reception in the game. Antonio Gates had 6 catches on 6 targets for 31 yards, and was mostly used to keep the Chargers in favorable down and distance. He also likely got away with a fumble on a shovel pass inside the 5. The bigger plays came from Ladarius Green who had 2 catches on 3 targets for 40 yards. TE John Phillips rounded out the group with a catch for 5 yards. The best news here is that all three TEs were serviceable in run blocking, which means we'll get to see Green's playing time increase - because he's a nightmare in the passing game for opposing defenses.

Offensive Line: B

The bad news came early in the game. The lone sack given up was to DT SenDerrick Marks, who beat a double team after initial pressure caused by DE Andre Branch against RT DJ Fluker. This was also where LT King Dunlap was lost for the game with a concussion. Reserve OL MIke Remmers lasted all of about 4 plays before getting injured and missing the remainder of the game.

Jeromey Clary moved to RT and performed relatively well against both Branch and later against OLB Jason Babin in pass protection, and his technique was solid in the run game, although he drew a couple of penalties for holding and false start. RG Rich Ohrnberger was somewhat serviceable at RG, drawing Marks most of the game, and was also called for multiple penalties. C Nick Hardwick had another stellar game making the calls and making his blocks against Marks and also DT Roy Miller. LG Johnnie Troutman had a better game than the last two weeks, cutting down on the false starts and performing well against Miller when 1-on-1. As usual, he also excelled getting to the second level on running plays. DJ Fluker, after moving to LT, was strong in the running game. He did not give up much pass pressure when facing DE Tyson Alualu, through he struggled a bit when Babin was moved to his side.

Defensive Line: B

DE Corey Liuget had his third strong game in row, matched up against LG Will Rackley for much of the game. He single-handedly blew up a screen pass in the first quarter, and finished the play with a sack. He also pushed the pocket multiple times, and created problems for Jaguars QB Chad Henne throwing left for most of the game. On the other side, DE Kendall Reyes struggled against RT Austin Pazstor, generating only occasional pressure form his side. The Chargers featured a 2 DL-front for much of the game, which meant limited snaps for DT Cam Thomas, who was decent on his handful of plays, but not special. Reserve DLs Sean Lissemore and Lawrence Guy were used to get Liuget and Reyes some down time, but the drop off from the starters was rather steep, unfortunately.

Linebackers: B

This B grade is largely the result of OLB Thomas Kaiser's outstanding game against LT Cameron Bradfield, which included 2 sacks and 5 hurries. As good as he was in pass rushing, he wasn't quite as good setting the edge in the running game, but by no means awful. He has earned himself more playing time once Jarret Johnson returns. That playing time should come at the expense of OLB Larry English, who did collect a hustle sack, but otherwise generally failed to have much impact on the game. He was also left out-to-dry in pass coverage a few times by John Pagano, with one pass to WR Mike Brown covering 43 yards. Reserve OLB Reggie Walker also got in on the fun late, with a sack on 4th down to end the Jaguars last possession.

Inside, ILB Andrew Gachkar continues to do a functional job filling in for Donald Butler. He showed good awareness for the second straight week, and mostly guessed right in both zone coverage and when playing the run, but he didn't do quite enough to make up for his lack of athleticism. He did allow a completion to TE Marcedes Lewis, which turned into a 31-yard gain with bad tackling. At the other ILB spot, we finally got an impact play from ILB Manti Te'o, who stuffed Henne on a 3rd and 1 option run. Te'o is slowly improving both in pass coverage and in attacking the run game, but he still guesses too much on run plays - and his lack of athleticism shows because of it. He also needs to continue working on taking better angles to the ball carrier in space.

Secondary: B minus

CB Shareece Wright was solid for a second straight game, although he was bailed out again by dropped passes (mostly from WR Cecil Shorts). CB Derek Cox was not tested, I think mostly because of the pressure on Henne's left from Kaiser and Liuget, but gave up a few receptions on screen passes and quick looks. He had a nice late 4th quarter pass defense against Lewis in the endzone. As always, his tackling was not good. Nickel CB Johnny Patrick did not have a strong game in coverage, and was repeatedly beaten and/or confused, and did not tackle well.

Among the safeties, SS Marcus Gilchrist came up with the only interception, on a ball intended for WR Justin Balckmon that was overthrown. Gilchrist also knocked away a potential TD reception by Lewis in the 3rd quarter. FS Eric Weddle had a solid day in coverage and run support, although he was a bit sloppy on tackling early in the game. S Jahleel Addae was OK in coverage, but good on some blitz plays, and collected a sack.

All things being equal, the Secondary was decent (and lucky) when it mattered. For those who want to criticize the Chargers based on Henne's yardage totals, note that 149 of his 318 passing yards (46.8%) came in the 4th quarter following Mathews' nail-in-the-coffin TD.

Special Teams: B

PK Nick Novak converted a 20-yard FG, but performed better on kickoffs, generating three touchbacks. Mike Scifres' three fourth quarter punts averaged 44.7 yards, with one dropped inside the Jacksonville 20 - the result of an outstanding punt cover by Darrel Stuckey - and no touchbacks. In the return game, Keenan Allen did not have many opportunities, and took one punt back for 11 yards. Lavelle Hawkins had one return for 18 yards. Aside from one good kick return by Jaguars KR Jordan Todman, coverage units were strong, with more good work from WR Seyi Ajirotutu and Stuckey.

Coaching: B

In this game, Mike McCoy was right to employ "Goliath Strategies," and not take excessive risks. The only questionable call was his decision to allow the offense to score at the end of the half (which I agreed with) and would still have allowed for a FG try if Rivers throws the ball away instead of making like Tim Tebow. I also understood McCoy having a Jim Schwartz moment with the challenge flag, although it was lucky that lost timeout was not needed. The biggest mistake came with roster management, as McCoy found himself without any extra linemen early in the game - he can't afford to take chances on offensive linemen staying healthy the way this season is going.

On offense, Ken Whisenhunt stayed with a fairly vanilla gameplan attacking the Jaguars 2-deep zone. Considering the problems with the offensive line, the Chargers' issues on defense, and the general state of the Jaguars defense, this was a smart decision. The Chargers showed little, managed the game effectively, and generally didn't give the Jaguars any opportunities to make plays. Also, the Chargers' ability to play effectively in this game, considering the shuffling up front, is a testament to Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris.

On defense, a funny thing has happened with John Pagano. The injuries to the linebacking corps has forced him to adjust to the personnel available. In this particular case, Reyes and Liuget have become his best playmakers up front. Therefore, he's changed his front to make them one-gap players, and they (more so Liuget than Reyes) have responded with better performances. He also strategically settled on using base defense looks on first and second downs between the 30s, and getting aggressive on third downs and inside the red zone. This played perfectly into McCoy's Goliath strategy, and the result was Jaguar possessions that resulted in FGs, and the inability to sustain drives.

Hidden Plays (Non scoring - non turnover plays which directly affected the outcome):

  • 4:57 1st Quarter, JAX 2nd and 5 at SD 24. Henne is sacked on 2nd and 3rd down, pushing the Jaguars back to the SD 43 and forcing a punt from Bryan Anger.
  • 1:36 1st Quarter, SD 2nd and 34 at SD 22. Ronnie Brown is stopped for a 1 yard gain, but the Chargers get a 1st down at the 38 on SenDerrick Marks' Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty. The Chargers push the lead to 14-0 seven plays later.
  • 15:00 2nd Quarter, SD 3rd and 1 at SD 47. Le Ron Mcclain runs for what appears to be less than 1 yard, but gets a generous and dubious spot from the far official, resulting in a 1st down.
  • 4:49 2nd Quarter, JAX 3rd and 3 at SD 12. Henne throws a strike to WR Cecil Shorts for a 1st down and possible TD, but Shorts drops the ball, forcing a FG from Josh Scobee.
  • 0:07 2nd Quarter, SD 1st and Goal at JAX 1. Rivers attempts to score on a scramble, but is stopped short of the goal line. With no timeouts, the score remains 14-3 Chargers going into halftime.
  • 7:31 3rd Quarter, SD 3rd and 4 at JAX 5. Rivers throws to Gates for a 4 yard gain, but appears to fumble the ball for a turnover. The play is not overturned, and the Chargers convert a 20 yard FG for a 17-3 lead.
  • 4:04 3rd Quarter, JAX 3rd and Goal at SD 5. Henne throws to WR Justin Blackmon, who fails to drag the back foot for a TD. Jaguars settle for a FG and 17-6 deficit, all but conceding the game.

One Play I Really Liked: Eddie Royal's TD catch

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This one was for all of us complaining about the overuse of Danny Woodhead draw plays.

  1. 11 personnel with Vincent Brown far left, Eddie Royal in the slot, Antonio Gates on the line. Danny Woodhead is in the backfield on Rivers' right and Keenan Allen to the right.
  2. At the snap, Ohrnberger pulls left and Woodhead follows him. This helps Fluker on a long pass play, as DE Tyson Alualu crashes down on the run action. Clary does a nice job protecting against DE/OLB Jason Babin.
  3. Jacksonville is playing Cover 2 behind the play. Brown's shallow cross holds CB Alan Ball on his side. The target is rookie S Johnathan Cyprien, who now has to choose between covering a) Royal's corner route, or b) Gates on the seam.
  4. Just to clear space, Rivers pumps to Gates over the middle, moving Cyprien an extra step or two. Royal comes wide open, and it's an easy reception. Royal diving for the pylon and TD was the icing on the cake.
  5. Just a note. Keenan Allen beat his man so badly that Rivers could have thrown the go route to him and likely beaten the safety help for a TD.

Looking Forward To

A much needed bye week, with the players getting healthy and me getting a full night of sleep on Monday night.

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