Philip Rivers (1st Round Pick, 2004) - 18/29, 178 pass yds, 1 pass TD
I’m already breaking my most important rule, so we’re off to a good start. Philip Rivers did not perform above expectations. In fact, after the first two drives of the game, Rivers wasn’t even very good at all. However, it needs to be pointed out that Rivers broke a 30-year old record (Dan Fouts’ record to team passing yards) and is probably going to be a starting QB for another few years, meaning we’re watching someone who is making an unbreakable record. That’s pretty cool!
Also, credit to Rivers for getting rid of the ball quickly all night long (and running out of the pocket when he couldn’t get rid of it quickly). His offensive line did a fine job of slowing down the Broncos’ defense, but Rivers and Ken Whisenhunt did the heavy-lifting.
Jatavis Brown (5th Round Pick, 2016) - 14 tackles (13 solo), 1 sack, 1 forced fumble
I’m going to give the San Diego Chargers coaching staff the benefit of the doubt here, and say that the reason Brown was on the bench behind Manti Te’o was because the rookie had a hard time getting healthy and on the field during Training Camp. There is no possible way that men who get paid to be football experts thought that Manti was the better player because Brown might already be the team’s best Inside Linebacker.
There are not a lot of guys in this league that are as fast and as strong as Brown, and he plays with conviction. Between Brown, Denzel Perryman, Korey Toomer (!) and Joshua Perry, the future is bright for the middle of the defense.
Joey Bosa (1st Round Pick)
Corey Liuget (1st Round Pick)
Brandon Mebane (3rd Round Pick)
Evaluating an offensive or defensive line is somewhat difficult. It’s not as simple as “watching the ball” and the stat sheet usually doesn’t tell you the whole story. For instance, the Chargers didn’t have a sack of Trevor Siemian until late in the 4th Quarter despite getting pressure on him nearly every time he dropped back.
You, dear reader, know that I am not typically an optimist. However, this group of defensive linemen, if they can find a way to stay healthy, might be enough to save the Chargers season. When the three of them are on the field, Bosa is the one typically getting the double-team. That leaves single-blocking against Liuget (who looked dominant last night), Mebane (who looked unstoppable last night), and Melvin Ingram (who looked better than normal last night).
(Author’s Note: I would give John Pagano a Bolt here if I were in the habit of handing out Bolts to coaches, but the real MVPs of the San Diego defense last night were the front-seven and Trevor Siemian’s pea-shooter of an arm.)
Hunter Henry (2nd Round Pick) - 6 catches (8 targets), 83 rec yds, 1 rec TD
Hunter Henry might be the perfect Tight End. He is certainly everything you could possibly want in a Tight End.
I mean, sure, he’s probably not the receiver that Rob Gronkowski is or Antonio Gates was. However, I’d argue that Henry is a better blocker and will hopefully stay healthier over the course of his career than both of those guys.
Anyway, more Hunter Henry, please.
Melvin Gordon (1st Round Pick) - 27 carries, 94 rush yds
I mean, it’s better than I expected, but I still think Gordon is getting the benefit of being the team’s only Running Back more than anything. The 48-yard carry was excellent, but then you realize that he averaged 1.7 yards per carry on his other 26 carries. Even then 3.5 yards per attempt he finished with isn’t very good.
I’m not a big huge fan of how Gordon is being used this year. It’s almost like the team had no backup plan if Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead got injured and they’re fine with not coming up with one either. That being said, give the kid some credit for bouncing back for a few horror-story games and not coughing the ball up this week.
Drew Kaser (6th Round Pick) / Josh Lambo (Undrafted)
These two had a rough few days from Sunday until Thursday but made up for it on Thursday night. Lambo was perfect kicking 4 Field Goals and Kaser was either perfectly powerful (launching 60+ yard punts) or perfectly accurate (him pinning the Denver Broncos deep is what led to the late Safety score).
Travis Benjamin (4th Round Pick) - 3 catches (5 targets), 17 rec yds
I feel bad for Travis Benjamin. He thought he was signing up to be San Diego’s #3 WR, a guy who fires out of the slot and flies upfield for wide-open TD catches or to get the Safeties off of Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. He could also help in the return game as well!
Now, he’s essentially being asked to be the team’s #1 WR and their best return man on Special Teams. It makes sense that, with the increased workload on offense, his Special Teams contributions have taken a hit.
That being said, you can’t touch that ball. You can’t come anywhere near touching that ball. That’s a simple mental mistake on a team that can’t afford them.
Kenny Wiggins (Undrafted)
WHAT ARE YOU DOING, KENNY WIGGINS?
Antonio Gates (Undrafted) - 2 catches (6 targets), 16 rec yds
Somebody stick a fork in Gatesy, he’s done. He’s lost the speed that made him a dynamic receiver, his blocking is atrocious, and he has a hard time holding onto the ball when he does actually catch it. The only thing he has left in his bag-of-tricks is pushing off of defenders and picking up 4 yards, and that’s mostly because the refs let him get away with it.
It was a good career, but Gates shouldn’t be on the field anymore except for in the red zone situations and maybe 3rd & long.
(Author’s Note: It’s worth noting here that Gates is playing through some sort of semi-serious injury that he’s refusing to even talk about with the media, so maybe I’m being a little premature in my statements above.)