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What's Right with the San Diego Chargers?

Time to get positive people.  We can't sit around for the next two weeks talking about firing Norv Turner and A.J. Smith.  It's not going to happen mid-season and without a horrible season it's not going to happen period.

Thanks to some people responding calmly to yesterday's post, I have some good ideas as far as what San Diego Chargers fans have to be happy about and should be looking forward to in the future.  So wipe that frown off your face, get ready to support your team again and check out the entire list after the jump.



Passing Rushing Sacks
G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Sack YdsL
2009 - Philip Rivers 4 90.6 88 150 58.7 1245 311.3 8.3 6 3 7 15 3.8 2.1 1 10 63

Philip Rivers - 2nd in the league in passing yards, 5th in pass attempts per game and 12th in QB rating.  Is it a performance as good as 2008's?  Not yet.  However, Philip is facing possibly the most difficult situations of any starting QB in the league on a weekly basis. 

The second time he got on the field on Sunday, the team was down by 14 points and had already shown that they were not going to be able to stop the Steelers offense.  If Norv said to Philip "You have to throw every down and we need to score a touchdown on every possession", it would've been the truth.  And although I've encouraged the Chargers to be a pass-first offense, I'm smart enough to know that the team needs a semblance of a running attack and a defense that can at least slow down the opposing offense.

Those things considered, Philip Rivers has been on fire.  He's gotten a third of his passing yards and half of his passing TDs in the fourth quarter.  He lead the Chargers to wins in Oakland and against Miami with a tattered offensive line that didn't help the weak running attack.  If the rest of the team can improve, and take pressure of Rivers to win every game, Philip will benefit from this time and grow into an even greater QB than he already was.  If they can't, he'll still fight to get this team to the playoffs.

Rushing Receiving
G Rush Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD Rec Yds Y/G Avg Lng TD
2009 - LaDainian Tomlinson 2 20 70 35 3.5 13 1 2 0 0 0 1 0

LaDainian Tomlinson -
I know, I know.  This list is looking awfully familiar.  The fact of the matter is, when LT has gotten the ball he has looked better than he did in 2008.  His 3.5 YPC is a testament to that.  An improvement in the defense, so the offense doesn't have to play catch-up, would get LT more carries and hopefully more 2009 success.

When you're looking for silver linings, having LT look like a solid RB again is one you can certainly focus on.  He had his injury, he took time off, and now he has at least 12 more games ahead of him where he could become a star again.

Health - Not only do the Chargers have a bye next week, but the following week is a Monday night game in San Diego.  That is two full weeks (14 days) without a football game and without having to travel.  In NFL terms, that's ages.  Players that have been struggling with minor injuries, such as Antwan Applewhite, Travis Johnson, Shawne Merriman, Louis Vasquez and LaDainian Tomlinson, should be able to get to 100% or very close to it by time the Monday night game rolls around.  That should help, even incrementally, with stopping the run on defense and getting the running game going on offense.

Schedule - The Chargers opponents over the first 4 weeks of the season are currently 7-9.  Their upcoming opponents are 22-25 through Week 4.  With four games against teams that are currently 0-4, there should be a handful of easy victories for the Bolts during the season that could get momentum on their side. 

San Diego faces each of their division opponents (5-7 combined) in the three weeks following next week's bye.  As bad I felt about the Chargers following Sunday's game, a 5-2 record heading into the New York Giants game would certainly make me feel better about the Bolts' chances at winning the division and being successful in the playoffs. Even if the Chargers lose in New York, then lose to the Philadelphia Eagles the following week in San Diego, that would put them at 5-4 to face the weak remainder of their schedule (@DEN, KC, @CLE, @DAL, CIN, @TEN, WSH).  That sounds like at least 10-6 to me.

There are differences between the Denver Broncos and Chargers, but perhaps the biggest difference is that the Broncos have faced the weak part of their schedule already (first 4 opponents: 6-10 combined record).  Where the Chargers' remaining schedule is under .500, the Broncos' remaining schedule is currently 25-22 and includes games against the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Giants and Colts.  The Chargers have only one game left against a team that currently has 3 or more wins and is not the Bengals or Broncos (it's the Giants).  The Broncos have four.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the Bolts to beat up on lesser opponents and gain momentum, and there should be a legitimate chance to catch and pass the Broncos for the AFC West Championship.

Defense - Some of my favorite times watching the Chargers have been watching players grow and get better.  Luis Castillo, Shawne Merriman, even Stephen Cooper had talent to begin with but seemed to get better with each game.  I know a lot of Bolts fans who feel the same way, but with the current team is seems we've lost some of that love.  A young, developing player that could be great if he was able to start for a full season and gain some experience is looked at as somebody who is taking the spot of a veteran free agent who could be "the final piece of the puzzle".

I'm going back to watching the young defensive guys get better.  The Chargers second-half schedule is easy, and if these guys are getting better now the team will be set up to gain a ton of momentum heading into the playoffs.  Here are the guys that I'm enjoying watching, as they sometimes stumble but always get back up and continue to grow:

  • Ogemdi Nwagbuo - Future star?  Maybe, maybe not.  One thing is for sure, the kid has been better than expected.  He's the reason Ian Scott was cut and eventually he could be the reason Luis Castillo goes back to being single-teamed.  It's ridiculous to try to compare him to Jamal Williams at this point, but if he can continue to grow and then provide 3/4 of J-Will's production for the final quarter of the season that would make the Bolts defense much more solid heading into January.  What I like from him is that he's hungry.  Now he just needs to stay healthy.
  • Vaughn Martin - Kindof the same deal.  Martin has seen more time than he expected to due to the injuries to Ryon Bingham, Williams, Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson.  While he hasn't been a dominating force, he has looked like he fits in.  Just like Nwagbuo, the coaching staff raves about Martin's work ethic and desire to get better quickly.  These are the types of guys that, given playing time, it "clicks" for them in the second half of the season and they start playing like stars.
  • Antoine Cason - As Antonio Cromartie has seemingly regressed, Cason has gotten better.  There is now talk out of Chargers camp, not just from the fans, that the team is considering moving him up to starting CB and Cromartie back to the nickelback spot.  I hope it happens, because every time I see Cason he seems to be getting better (the missed assignment in Baltimore excluded).  I also think it'd be fun to send Cromartie on a blitz from the nickel spot, with his great speed, long arms and soft hands.
  • Larry English - As I said yesterday, I'm currently disappointed in this pick.  Everyone was initially excited because the kid has potential, but we shouldn't have forgotten that there's still a big hole behind LT.  Debating the pick gets us nowhere though.  English has been getting better, little by little.  He looked like a star against the Dolphins, but doesn't seem to be very effective when the Chargers put him as a DE as they did most of the night in Pittsburgh.  The more effective he can get rushing the passer from the OLB spot, the more the defense will be able to play that way.
  • Eric Weddle - I know, it's his second year as the starter and his third with the team.  He's still only 24 and could potentially be in the Chargers secondary for another decade.  I've said it before, my philosophy is that I'm happy as long as I see progress being made.  Not only is Weddle now a very good FS, but I see constant progress out of him.  Whether it's in trying to lay a big hit, his coverage (superb) or even blitzing the QB occasionally.  You can tell by watching him every week that Weddle works at his craft and will be better at the end of the season than he is right now.
  • Shawne Merriman - This one isn't progress in terms of talent, it's in terms of health.  I get excited when Merriman is on the field because I see him getting better.  I see him getting more pressure on the QB.  I see the offense taking notice when he's on the field again.  I don't think he'll be in "game shape" until the second half of the season.  Which isn't to say he's out of shape, but I think a lot of time spent in the weight room and not a lot spent on the field has made him stronger but less flexible.  Flexibility is key for a pass-rusher.  Also, his knee is still not 100% and now his groin is bothering him.  The bye week came at just the right time for him though.  I'm expecting at least 5 sacks in the last 8 games of the season from him, and if English progresses as well it could equal an actual Chargers pass-rush for the playoffs.  Wouldn't that be nice?

So there you have it, kids.  Will the Chargers run over the entire league and be the clear-cut favorite to win the Super Bowl all season?  Nope, but in a way we get the best of both worlds.  A good team that should be able to make the playoffs if they at least maintain their current level of play (which is way beneath their potential), and a bunch of young guys that should make the team get better as the season goes along.  Sounds fun to me.