It would be easy for the Chargers to overreact to 3 straight losses heading into a bye week and look to make wholesale changes. There's been some pretty bad play over the last month of the season. I'm not asking for drastic changes. There are 5 areas where I think San Diego needs to make a change. 3 are positional changes and 1 philosophy change on each side of the ball.
Watt are You Waiting For?
I don't think we underestimated the loss of Nick Hardwick, I think we just under appreciated the value he really has. From making the protection calls up front, to helping out the guards to either side in both the pass and run game. Hardwick kept the QB clean and created holes in the run game. Another thing San Diego was able to do was slide their protections and allow Hardwick to block defensive tackles, allowing the guards to help out. That can't happen this year because Rich Ohrnberger has been a liability. Last year from guard to guard, the Chargers averaged 4.04 yards per rush. This year they're more than a full yard worse, at 2.97 yards. Per adjusted line yards, that's good for dead last in the NFL.
Here's a look at the offensive line's numbers this year
|Player||Snaps||Blown Block(R)||Blown Block(P)||QB Hit||Sack||Penalty|
As bad as some of these may look, it doesn't take into account the amount of times when the offensive lineman has allowed the defender to "reset" the line of scrimmage. By that I mean once both players have engaged, the defender pushes him back a yard or two and re-establishes the line. That's been a problem for the interior line. Except for Chris Watt. While you won't confuse Watt for Kris Dielman he has certainly been the 1st or 2nd best lineman when he's on the field. The sack he gave up versus the Dolphins came after 4 seconds. It's so confusing to hear fans & San Diego media to say there's no difference when Watt is on the field. That's simply not true. He's done his part in the run game when he's played.
Watt has to block down towards the defensive tackle. The end result is what you look for in a lineman.
2 plays after this Watt had driven his man 3 yards off the ball before the running back had even gotten to the line of scrimmage. Watt is the type of player that elevates the play of those around him. If you feel like both guards need help, put Watt at center. If you feel like 1 of your tackles needs help, throw him at guard. Either way, it's time to see Watt full-time on the offensive line.
Kendall is who he is
Kendall Reyes is picking up where he left off last year. In no way is that a compliment. I thought he had a stretch this year where he was receiving unfair criticism and was playing just fine. It's no coincidence that Reyes has played his best games when he has played the least amount of snaps. That's who he was when he flashed as a rookie, a sub-package player. The last month there are guys who have played about 65% of the time as Reyes and have made more impact plays than him. At some point, you have to realize Reyes isn't an every down player and get him out of there. My suggestion is Ricardo Mathews. He's a guy that matches(almost) Corey Liuget's energy and it shows. Like Liuget, he doesn't wait for the double team. He engages the offensive lineman 1st and resets the line of scrimmage. That's his job, and he's been damn good at it the last few games.
Reyes doesn't do his job. He's still running himself out of the play and hanging everyone else around him out to dry. That's when he's not getting washed out of the play by a double team. Here's a look at the defensive line play the last 4 games to put into perspective the lack of impact Reyes has had.
Liuget is a borderline great football player, so this isn't really about comparing him and Reyes. The fact that Reyes has similar numbers to guys that have played less than 120+ snaps than him is a problem. Trotting Reyes out there over and over while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Mathews and Palepoi to a lesser extent bring much more energy when they are out there and it reflects on their play. The 1st series San Diego got a punt went like this. Reyes is out there on 1st down, run his way, he gets blown off the ball, gain of 8. He gets taken out for Mathews and the next 2 plays are gains of 1 and a loss of 1. Here's a look at 1 of his successful pass rushes.
Separately, Mathews hits the QB on another rush as well as missing a sack in the backfield on a separate rush. Mathews gets after the QB much more efficiently and is a superior run defender in this defensive scheme. There's no real reason he shouldn't be seeing the majority of the snaps at defensive end/tackle given his play over the last couple weeks. He's provided a spark when he's in the game. This would in turn keep Reyes fresh and quite possibly give him a wake up call that he needs. If not, you have a talented sub package player that can give you 20-25 quality snaps. But Reyes has shown he can't be a full-time player, and it's time to move on from that experiment.
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