The sky isn't falling after the San Diego Chargers lose to the Arizona Cardinals.
Relax, you guys. It's so easy to focus on the negatives that happened. Trust me, there were a whole bunch to focus on. The mental mistakes piled up for the Chargers. I'll highlight these issues but also let you know why there's no need to panic. Not yet, anyways.
Six. That's the number of passes that hit receivers in the numbers only for them to drop it. The frustrating part was that a couple of these were easy first downs and would've kept the chains moving
Anomaly? I think so. Last year the team as a whole only dropped 15 passes, that was good for third in the league. It's hard to imagine this trend keeping up given that these passes are on target. It also would help to feature your best players on key downs, but we'll get to that.
Issues Up Front
The offensive line certainly over achieved last year, as they were a top-five unit in adjusted line yards. Regression coming was obvious, but I charted twenty blown blocks as a team. Twenty. We knew Chad Rinehart was going against one of the better defensive lineman in the NFL, and it showed. He led the way with five blown blocks, all coming in the passing game. Not to be out done, Johnnie Troutman had four to go along with a penalty. Troutman still doesn't play with his head on a swivel and missed a stunt up the middle that allowed Philip Rivers to get hit. San Diego wasn't able to get any sort of movement up front in the run game.
Run game diversity and Ryan Mathews. I think Frank Reich needs to ride Mathews until the wheels come off. When there's no holes there, unless he's hit in the backfield, #24 usually falls forward. He moves people. He needs to be featured, with Danny Woodhead sprinkled in.
I think the run game got stagnant. It got predictable. When it wasn't, you saw what happened. That FB smash play where Mathews scored on, that's being unpredictable. The little flip play to get Mathews to the edge where he's 1-on-1 with a defensive lineman, that's being unpredictable. There was far too much running outside of the tackles, and not enough inside zone plays. Mathews had four carries inside the tackles. He had 32 yards on those carries.
Defensive Struggles Continue
While the Cardinals only scored 18 points, they were able to move the ball up and down the field at will. Totalling 403 yards on 6.2 yards per play would've been good for second in the league last year. They were also 6-13 on 3rd downs. Had it not been for a forced fumble and a sacked fumble, the Cardinals score at least 20 points.
The total yardage and yards per play take a spike because of a few big plays given up by Shareece Wright. Wright gave up 108 yards in coverage on five targets. I had him for three blown coverages where he wasn't in a position to make a play and gave up two first downs, and another 9 yard completion. In a surprise to no one,Richard Marshall wasn't very good. It's kind of amazing how they keep trotting them out there. Marshall was only targeted twice, but gave up a first down on a blown coverage, and was flagged for a defensive holding.
You know where I'm going with this?
Yup, that 5'9 rookie corner isn't too shabby after all. Jason Verrett was targeted seven times and gave up two completions. He was in position for each one of those, and on three I gave him credit for a "shut down coverage", where the WR would have to make a circus catch for a reception. He did give up a first down but couldn't have guarded the route much better. He also showed he can hold up in the running game and was a very active, sure tackler.
Darrell Stuckey. He's not Eric Weddle, but he's not Richard Marshall. I'd love be in a meeting room and see the how you come to the conclusion of putting Marshall in over Stuckey. Stuckey is more athletic, more rangy, and has proven he can jar the ball loose when needed. Marshall was bad at CB, so what makes you think he'll be good in playing in more space? Hopefully Jahleel Addae comes back, but Stuckey isn't a liability. Marshall is.
I thought Manti Te'o played well. Aside from just a couple plays where both he and Donald Butler were watching instead of reacting to the play, Te'o played downhill all game. This is the opportunity nose tackle Sean Lissemore provided last year, and Te'o wasn't making these plays. I'm keeping track of "average depth of tackle" this year. Last year Te'o was at 3.7, and this game he was a full yard better. That tells you he is attacking. He finished the game with 6 tackles and 4 stops. Best of all, no missed tackles.
Never, ever, do I want to watch a game where Eddie Royal is targeted more than Malcom Floyd. Floyd brings so much more to the table and has years of repetition with Rivers. We saw how well he played Monday night. The reverses, the forced targets, it's just not part of the offense. Last year, Royal's numbers were a product of scheme, not because he's this unique talent.
Lots of questions as to why Ladarius Green wasn't featured more. I don't have the answer for this. I do know that Green missed two huge blocks in the running game that likely sealed his fate for playing much more against the Cardinals. Do I agree that he was targeted twice? Of course not. He is a unique talent. Reich needs to manufacture targets for a guy like Green.
With Nick Hardwick out for the year, Rich Ohrnberger looked fine. He only had 1 blown block but he didn't look out of his depth, and for a backup that's all you can ask. Hardwick is without question one of the better centers in the league. The center, in this offense, is huge as he has to call out blitzes and is asked to do a lot in the run game. Ohrnberger isn't stepping into an easy situation.
Eric Weddle is really, really good at football.
Rivers started feeling the pressure toward the end and let it affect his throws. He had 8 throws that weren't on target and a few of them were at the end of the game where he wasn't being pressured at all but because the rush was in his head, he didn't step up and make the play.
Chris Watt will be starting before the bye week.
The Chargers came out in the 2nd half and scored a TD, got a stop on defense, scored another TD, and followed it up with another stop. That's when the mistakes piled on in succession. After a 9 yard completion to Keenan Allen here's what happened.
-Green misses a block and allows TFL on 2 and 1
-Gates drops a pass on 3rd and 3
-Scrifes punt only goes 22 yards
-Gilchrist drops interception
Why the sky isn't falling
Mistakes were made all game, but the ones above were all in succession. You can't get away with that against anybody. The team continually shot themselves in the foot, didn't take advantage of good field position, and didn't get off the field on 3rd down. The amount of mistakes made in this game would be tough to duplicate if they played the very next night. There were that many.
I expect Reich to adjust. More Mathews running. More Woodhead out of the backfield on a mismatch. Less Royal. More Green. More run diversity. More horizontal passing concepts. Some might say it's wishful thinking, but I truly believe the offense will get its act together. Defensively, Corey Liuget was lights out and Dwight Freeney picked up where he left off a year ago. If these guys can just finish the play the defense should be okay. Throw in Jerry Attaochu's energy off the edge and Darrelle Verrett in the secondary I can see them getting off the field on a more consistent basis. The Chargers lost to a good team on the road.
Seahawks up next.