Ladarius Green - 4 catches (5 targets), 81 rec yds
A career high in catches and targets for Ladarius Green has everyone feeling as if the team had finally listened. Well, almost.
75 Total Offensive Snaps (Week 10 vs. DEN):
- Antonio Gates: 65 snaps
- Ladarius Green: 22 snaps
- John Phillips: 15 snaps
65 Total Offensive Snaps (Week 11 vs. MIA):
- Antonio Gates: 64 snaps
- Ladarius Green: 20 snaps
- John Phillips: 12 snaps
So, the distribution of playing time among the tight ends remains the same. 33 year old Antonio Gates remains the team's top target offensively each week, and gets more playing time than anyone besides the quarterback and offensive line despite being more one-dimensional than Ryan Mathews. Hopefully, as the team gets further away from playoff contention, that will change.
It was nice to see Rivers targeting Green a little more, and there was even a roll-out pass (why does this team have roll-out passes in its playbook?) that seemed to have Green as the first option. So, while he may not be getting more playing time, he's getting more opportunities to put up numbers and is delivering.
Ryan Mathews - 19 carries, 127 rush yds, 2 catches (2 targets), 16 yards
This was probably the best game of Ryan Mathews career, in the middle of what is probably the best season of his career. He went over 100 yards rushing for the third time this year, he hasn't fumbled in nine games of regular use, and he's finally starting to break the long runs that have always been missing from his game. This week, he set a new career high with a 51-yard run behind D.J. Fluker and Johnnie Troutman.
Mathews was drafted to be the focal point of the Chargers offense, the one that keeps it balanced and punches the ball into the end zone when the team is inside the 10 yard line. Unfortunately, now that he's reached the point where he can be relied upon to be that guy, the coaching staff doesn't trust him (yet). I'm almost positive each great Mathews game prices him out of the range that Tom Telesco would be willing to pay for him after 2014, so the team might want to try and build a championship contender next season.
(Note: The Chargers remain 4-0 when Mathews and Danny Woodhead combine for 30+ offensive touches. In this one, the finished with 28.)
Seyi Ajirotutu - 2 catches (2 targets), 38 rec yds
Tutu came in after Keenan Allen injured his knee, and immediately outperformed starting WR Vincent Brown. I still don't understand why Ajirotutu seems unstoppable when Philip Rivers is throwing to him and completely lost when it is somebody else, but that is certainly the case. I wouldn't mind seeing him on the field a bit more this season.
Eric Weddle - 7 tackles (7 solo), 1 sack, 1 pass defended
I don't love giving credit for plays that were wiped off the board by penalties, but the only play in which Weddle looked particularly bad was when Charles Clay left him grasping at air near the goal line. Somehow, Eric recovered and forced a fumble on the 1 yard line that the Chargers picked up. If it weren't for a late hit by Corey Liuget, which in no way affected the fumble Weddle forced, that would've been the play of the game.
One of the issues I do have with John Pagano this year is his use of Weddle. In the past few years, Eric has proven himself to be the best free safety in the league. Nobody was better at covering deep and guessing right to break up a deep pass. Marcus Gilchrist, who was good close to the line as the nickel CB and a trainwreck playing deep, has been the one getting all of the deep coverage in 2013 while Weddle has played strong safety, inside linebacker, outside linebacker and nickel CB (his sack on Sunday came out of a normal 3-4 formation, with Weddle as an OLB).
Pagano has taken his best weapon and stretched him so thin that he's barely average most weeks. This would be like if the Bears had turned Brian Urlacher into a defensive end because their pass rush wasn't working, or if Haloti Ngata was asked to play linebacker. It's a waste of talent and it continues to cost the defense at least a few big plays in each game.
That being said, Weddle made the most of what he could yesterday. He was usually the first one to meet the ballcarrier on running plays (always a terrible sign for the front 7) and his man coverage on tight ends was slightly above-average (mostly because of the forced fumble).
Johnny Patrick - 3 tackles (3 solo), 1 interception
The lone cornerback that hasn't been terrible all season long, Patrick shined in limited snaps against the Dolphins. His interception belongs half to him and half to Coach Pagano, but half of a turnover more than anyone else on the defense had on Sunday.
Sean Lissemore / Lawrence Guy - 3 tackles (3 solo), 1 sack
I'm glad to see that Corey Liuget, who was miserable in this game against an undrafted guard making his first NFL start, and Kendall Reyes, who has been owned by everyone this season, are finally starting to (slowly) lose some snaps to Lissemore and Guy.
Lissemore came to the Chargers via a trade at the tail end of the preseason, and Guy was claimed off waivers a few days before the Colts game, and both have consistently made plays when they're in the game. On Sunday, they combined for 23 snaps (compare to 98 combined snaps for Liuget and Reyes) and put up better stats than the starters (who had 3 tackles between the two of them). Someone needs to figure out what's going on there, because that's the sign of a huge problem.
The offensive line
Vincent Brown - 2 catches (6 targets), 17 rec yds
It's time to give up on the Vincent Brown dream, SDSU fans. There may be a place for him in the NFL, but it's not as a starter in Ken Whisenhunt's offense. His drops and poor play have been costing the team points. His mistimed jump caused Rivers' lone interception of the day. He only seems to be able to fight for the ball in the fourth quarter, after he's already made a few mistakes along the way.
Whisenhunt has tried to make Brown his Anquan Boldin. However, Brown isn't strong enough, quick enough and he can't run the proper routes. I can't see a way that he'll be back in 2014, which means he should start losing snaps and targets right away.
Manti Te'o - 5 tackles (4 solo)
I can still see where Manti can become a really good player. Maybe that's the residual effect of watching a lot of him in college. However, I don't think he's the type of playmaker that is going to make an impact in the game with his talent. Instead, he needs to be put into a perfect situation where he can play without fear or hesitation. That was his biggest strength at Notre Dame. Basically, on a dominant defense Te'o would rack up a lot of tackles and probably pick off a few passes as well.
However, without a great pass rush or great cornerbacks or a great defensive line in front of him to keep him clean, Te'o is very ineffective. His hesitation and aversion to risk keeps him right where the offense wants him, and usually ends up with him getting blocked out of every play. When he does end up in the right place, it usually leads to missed tackles.
This is not a man with elite speed or strength or decision-making. However, he's smart and he's young and he's eager to learn. I feel like he's gotten some of the leftover Tim Tebow hype, and trading up to get him in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft didn't help with that, and he'll never be able to live up to it. With time, he could become an average cog at a position that generates great stats for average cogs surrounded by above-average talent, but right now he's doing nothing that Andrew Gachkar or Reggie Walker couldn't do.
Corey Liuget & Kendall Reyes
See the write-up in the "Bolts" section for Lissemore and Guy.
Liuget and Reyes were expected to be the anchor for a strong Chargers defense this season. If you're looking for reasons as to why the defense is the worst in the league, it's best to start with their weekly no-shows.
Shareece Wright & Derek Cox
I hesitate to put this pair on this list because, at this point, missed tackles and poor coverage is what our expectations should be for them. However, here they are because they deserve our scorn for their poor performance all season long.
For what it's worth, the fanbase only hates Cox more than Wright because of their contracts. Both players have been equally terrible.