After the first fourth of games of the 2014 season, the Chargers stand at 3-1 with impressive victories over the Seahawks, Bills, and Jaguars. With their only loss so far coming at the hands of the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, the Chargers seem to be playing at the level of a true playoff contender. With the Bolts playing at a high level, we'll take a look at who's had the best and worst seasons so far.
Winners of the First Quarter
MVP of the First Quarter: Philip Rivers (1,155 YDS, 9 TDs, 1 INT, 70.1% CMP%, 114.5 RTG)
There is no question that the MVP of the Chargers so far has been Philip Rivers. With a decimated running game and battered offensive line, Rivers has not only kept the Chargers afloat with brilliant passing displays game after game, but has executed Frank Reich's offense to near perfection. Rivers has been decisive in his throws, quickly goes through his progressions, and has delivered the football on point to his receivers. With his leading receiver only having 61 yards per game (Keenan Allen) and a running game ranked 30th in the league, Philip Rivers has near-singlehandedly willed this team to win after win.
The Entire Coaching Staff:
Injuries have been a constant problem for the Chargers this year. If the Chargers showed signs of struggle in games, it would be understood through the lack of players on the field. But the Chargers coaching staff have made the injury bug seem like a minor issue with the adjustments made on the field. Frank Reich in particular has progressively shown to be a competent play caller after a rather shaky start in the first game against the Cardinals. Though the running game is struggling this season, he has stayed true to constantly running the ball to keep the defense honest. His mix of using screens and crossing patterns to confuse the defense has proven to be effective for the Chargers offense.
John Pagano has gone from being Tea Party conservative in his defensive scheme to being a bit more creative. During the Cardinals game, the Chargers constantly came out in 3-man rush sets that generated no pressure and was in mid-deep zone protection that allowed for a lot of short slants and digs to gain first downs. In recent weeks, Pagano has dialed up on creative rushing schemes and blitzes not on third and longs. He's constantly confusing the opposing offense with crossing blitzes and lineman switches. Under Pagano's leadership, the Chargers boast the ninth ranked defense in terms of yards and fifth ranked defense in terms of points.
Remember last year when it seemed like even Chad Henne could go for 350+ yards and 3 touchdowns against the Chargers secondary? The defense this year has done a completely 180 and now ranks eleventh overall in pass defense. With the additions of Flowers and Verrett, the Chargers seem to be a competent secondary when healthy. Hopefully Addae and Verrett show up next week and take advantage of the struggling Geno Smith.
Losers of the First Quarter:
The LVP of the First Quarter: The Injury Bug:
Here is a complete list of injuries that the Chargers have suffered this season:
|Manti Te'o||Out Indefinitely||Foot|
|Ryan Mathews||Out, 4-5 weeks||Right Leg|
On that list is six(seven if you count Ohrnberger because of Hardwick) starters and five key contributors to the team. With injuries as significant as those, it's a wonder how the Chargers have stayed afloat.
After inking a seven-year, $51 million contract, expectations were high for Donald Butler this season. But for some odd reason, Butler has gone from a solid inside linebacker to one that has been pretty bad. Butler has missed reads, struggles in pass rush, and has had a problem with tackling. Hopefully Butler gets his stuff together and puts together a great rest of the season because the first quarter has not looked pretty at all.
A well-known problem with the offensive line, Troutman is finally being slowly replaced with Watt in games. But Troutman has struggled in both the running game and pass protection and is constantly being bullied on the line of scrimmage by defensive lineman. Hopefully we see Watt on the field soon because I don't think I can take any more of Johnnie.