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The First Quarter Report: Evaluating the Chargers After Four Games

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With one-fourth of the season in the books, it's time to look at how the San Diego Chargers have fared and what's still to come.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Well you blinked and, just like that, it's already Week 5 of the NFL.

Through four games the Chargers claimed two wins at home, bookending a pair of losses on the road and sit at 2-2 with 25 percent of the NFL season in the rear view mirror.

So what exactly can we make of this team - other than that it appears it will once again be plagued by injuries and questionable coaching decisions - after just four games?

But before I get into that, first a recap of the first quarter of the 2015 season.

Week One: 33-28 Win over Detroit

The 2015 season gets off to an inauspicious start as the Chargers look awful for the first 22 minutes in their matchup with the Lions as they fall behind 21-3. However, the defense tightens up and Philip Rivers is nearly flawless as he, Keenan Allen, and the rest of the offense score the next 30 points of the game in a dominant second half showing.

Week Two: 24-19 Loss at Cincinnati

In a rematch of San Diego's most recent playoff victory, Cincinnati gets the upper hand this time as Andy Dalton takes advantage of Brandon Flowers on multiple occasions in tossing three touchdowns. Rookie running back Melvin Gordon flashes, running for 88 yards on 16 carries but the offense struggles on third down and can't get much going. Still the Chargers are in position to win the game late, but an ill-advised throw by Rivers ends up in the hands of Vincent Rey to seal the game.

Week 3: 31-14 Loss at Minnesota

The Chargers turn the ball over two more times and look awful offensively as Philip Rivers takes a beating behind a patchwork offensive line. Adrian Peterson once again puts San Diego on the highlight reel to the tune of 126 rushing yards and two scores.

Week 4: 30-27 Win over Cleveland

San Diego gets an unexpected shootout from Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns as Rivers is sensational playing behind a couple of guys he had met 15 minutes before the game. The Browns take advantage of poor tackling and coverage on the part of the Chargers inside linebackers but it's San Diego's running back Danny Woodhead who really shines with 138 yards on offense. Josh Lambo misses - then connects - on the game winning field goal and the Chargers survive.

First Quarter MVP: Melvin Ingram

Philip Rivers is obviously the real answer but that goes without saying. Ingram meanwhile, has arguably been the Chargers biggest impact player on the opposite side of the ball. His hit on Matt Stafford led to a Kyle Emanuel interception while a deflection at the line a week later would have led to another turnover if Jason Verrett had held onto the ball. He forced and recovered a fumble last Sunday and was responsible for 1.5 sacks. Through four games Ingram appears on his way to having the season the Chargers hoped he was capable of.

Biggest Disappointment: Inside Linebackers

Some would probably argue that it's Melvin Gordon who should be here, but I refuse do that because being disappointed in Gordon would be like being disappointed in your new car when there's five feet of snow outside. The car is fine. It's not the car's fault you haven't been able to drive it around. To this point, Gordon has had to run behind either a beat-up offensive line incapable of opening up holes against even the most porous of run defenses or one that is under performing (looking at you Orlando Franklin) when the starters are in there. What's more is that Gordon - due to playcalling - hasn't really had a chance to get into a rhythm. For instance, the rookie carried the ball a combined four times for 39 yards on the Chargers 4th and 5th drives of the first half, the final of which came with 5:33 left in the second quarter. His next carry - three drives later - came with 5:49 left in the third. He carried the ball three times on the next drive and two on the next and that was it.

It's critical that Gordon improves his pass protection if he is to see more consistent time on offense. He will always lose some snaps to Woodhead - and rightfully so - but it's important that defenses don't key on the run when Gordon subs in for No. 39, and that means becoming more of a factor in the passing game.

Meanwhile, Donald Butler and Manti Te'o have been factors in opposing teams' passing attacks for all the wrong reasons. After a strong outing against Detroit, Butler has been so-so and finished last Sunday with just two tackles. Similarly, Te'o has been at times painful to watch. He struggled mightily in space against Cleveland's backs and when he was in position to make the play he often missed the tackle. Te'o's saving grace is that he has been able to read and diagnose plays, he just hasn't mastered that whole tackling thing just yet, which, and experts agree, is still important in football.

Unsung Heroes: Steve Williams and Patrick Robinson

While the starting duo of Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers has failed to materialize regularly on the field, Williams and Robinson have been pleasant surprises after both have been forced into the starting lineup each of the last two weeks. In years past, the Chargers barely had 1 quality cornerback, and now it appears they have four thanks to the play of Robinson and Williams.

NFL Ranks
  • Total Offense: 411 yards per game (3rd)
  • Passing Offense: 309 yards per game (2nd)
  • Rushing Offense: 102 yards per game (20th)
  • Third Down Conversion: 21/50 42 percent (T-10th)
  • Time of Possession: 31:53 (10th)
  • Turnover Margin: -2 (20th)
  • Total Defense: 351.8 yards per game (15th)
  • Passing Defense: 225 yards per game (10th)
  • Rushing Defense: 126.8 yards per game (29th)
Second Quarter Preview

10/12 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

10/18 @ Green Bay Packers

10/25 vs. Oakland Raiders

11/1 vs. Chicago Bears

With three out of the next four at home and Antonio Gates back in the fold, the Chargers have ample opportunity to be above .500 at the end of week 8. The Steelers are less than 100 percent without Ben Roethlisberger, the Bears are one of the worst teams in football, and while improved, the Chargers should be able to take down Oakland at the Q. Don't get your hopes up about the trip to Lambeau.

The opportunity is there for the Chargers to get on a bit of a run, provided their ever-depleting, Donald Brown still-having roster gets healthy.