Good is actually an understatement here. Allen has been the league's best rookie pass catcher by far, and he has arguably been the best rookie offensive weapon. He did lose a fumble in this game, but with 8 catches and yet another 100–yard performance, he more than made up for it.
He now has 843 yards with 4 games still left to play. He currently moved up to number 3 in Pro Football Focus' Race for Rookie of the Year, and is having one of the best seasons ever for a rookie wide receiver. The best part? He is just 21 years old. The future is very, very bright for Mr. Allen.
61 snaps! Green did not have the best game, but he did get a long touchdown for the second straight week and more than doubled his career high snap count. He only missed 6 snaps, largely filling in for slot receiver Eddie Royal. He is averaging over 22 yards per reception, and at only 23 years of age looks to be part of a dynamic duo with fellow youngster Keenan Allen for many years to come.
In what has been an up-and-down season, Weddle had a strong game against the Bengals. He made a big play intercepting a floating duck from Andy Dalton. Weddle was doing what he does best, playing center field in deep zone coverage. He has been asked to do quite a bit this year, including playing more in the box and trailing tight ends. Weddle can handle that duty, but he is best when he can sit back and play deep coverage to help out the corners. San Diego will need to find help on defense to allow him to stay in his best role.
Speaking of young receivers, this was supposed to be the year that the third–year receiver was supposed to break out. Despite playing in at least 46 snaps every game this season, Brown only has 33 catches for 350 yards, with 117 of them coming in one game against the Raiders.
He played only 340 snaps in his rookie year but still had 329 yards. The new coaching staff praised Brown for his route running skills, but he has trouble beating press coverage. This breakdown from fellow contributor Kyle Posey is from a few months back, but still holds true. Here is an example of what Brown can bring:
Brown has a few yards of cushion at the snap.
Here he gets past the second level of the zone coverage. The deep Safety is back respecting the deep route.
His smooth route running gives him and Rivers a ton of room to work with as they pick up a first down.
I know, I know, this has been beaten to death, but Gates does not have a whole lot left in the tank. After a fumble and an interception was ripped out of his hands, Gates' career appears to be hitting an all–time low. The future Hall–of–Famer has had an amazing career and is one of the all–time greatest Chargers, but his days of being a top–tier Tight End are over.
That's not to say he has no value, however. Although he has slowed down, Gates still has the ability to move the sticks on third and moderate or so and can still be valuable in the red zone. The Chargers should keep his snap count down and give way to the future at Tight End.
Contract Year Players
Charger fans thought they might have their hands full trying to re-sign both Donald Butler and Cam Thomas. Now, is there any reason to think the Chargers front office cares to keep either?
Cam Thomas had an okay game in week 13, but has been a breakout candidate for years and has never come through. Maybe a scheme change has caused some struggles in 2013, but he is not close to becoming the player we all thought he could be.
As for Butler, he was ineffective in coverage and was swallowed up in the run game versus Cincinnati. He has struggled with injuries all year, which may affect his ability to get a big contract after this season. Either way we expect better things from Butler in the future than what he has shown this year.
What happened to these guys? Once a talented young group, is now responsible for one of the league's worst run–defending defensive lines. Oh yeah, and they don't rush the passer well either.
Corey Liuget was a force as both a pass rusher and a run–stuffer in 2012, showing explosion off the ball and the ability to split the gaps. Similar to Liuget, Kendall Reyes was a phenomenal pass rusher in 2012. He has played exactly the same number of snaps this season as he did in his rookie season (547), but only has 18 QB disruptions compared to 33 last year (PFF).
Both of these players are brimming with talent, so I refuse to believe that they simply regressed. The Chargers will have to find a Defensive Coordinator that will maximize their talents in 2014.
D.J. Fluker at Left Tackle
There is something to be said for the idea that there are no "Left Tackles," that either you can play offensive tackle or you can't. With the best pass rushers lining up all over the field, there is no reason to think you can hide a player at right tackle.
While that may be true, there is no doubt that D.J. Fluker is much more comfortable on the right side. He lead the team allowing 7 QB hurries against the Bengals. In games where Fluker has played predominantly at left tackle, his PFF rating is -11.4. At right tackle, his grade jumps up to +4.4. If King Dunlap can't get healthy, the Bolts will need to look for a new left tackle to keep Fluker on the right side.
Yes the Chargers have faced some bad injuries early and often. However, every team faces injury issues and the best ones push through it. Watching Reggie Walker, Thomas Keiser, and Tourek Williams rush off the edge is a sad sight for Charger fans, as they mustered up a pair of QB hurries between them.
The coaches benched Derek Cox, but Shareece Wright has been almost as bad as he got burned by A.J. Green a couple of times. The offensive line, which looked so good at the beginning of the year, does not look so strong when Fluker has to move to the left side and the whole line gets shaken up.
Tom Telesco did a good job in his first offseason, but he will need to continue to build the depth of this team to make them a true contender, as it seems they will always be a team hit hard by the injury bug.