I give up trying to predict Chargers games.
I've posted my predictions on Bolts from the Blue for 6 out of the 8 Chargers games this year. I'm 1-5. (Thank you, Jacksonville).
The Chargers could potentially win out this season, and make the playoffs at 11-5. They could also lose out, and have a top 3 draft pick again. Both would only be surprising in that they were so unsurprisingly Chargers. This is a team who can beat the best in the NFL, before turning around and losing to the Browns the following week.
It's the same story as usual, with injuries, bad coaching, and bad luck making this very much a 'what if' season, and I've given up on the idea that the Chargers will still be playing meaningful football in January. It's not impossible, but the Chargers can only afford to drop one game - and even that's a maybe. I just don't see this Chargers team going 7-1 or 8-0.
There's also the Philip Rivers viewpoint, which is essentially that there are two home games (winnable ones) to take the Chargers to 5-5 at the bye, giving them a six game season after. I like his viewpoint more.
Regardless of whether you lean closer to my view or Philip's, just enjoy the rest of the season. We're already halfway done. All too soon, we'll be without football again, and spending our days desperately arguing that 'The Chargers will be dangerous next year with all their players healt-'
*BREAKING NEWS ENTIRE CHARGERS OFFENSE TO MISS THREE YEARS WITH FOOD POISONING*
1: Korey Toomer
Once again, Tom Telesco has found a steal. The Raiders knew Toomer was talented, but, happy with their ILB depth, were prepared to run the risk of him getting stolen off their practice squad. Thanks, Oakland! Enjoy watching him be a big role player for your division rivals for the next few years!
Korey Toomer isn't as good as Denzel Perryman or Jatavis Brown, but he's probably better than Manti Te'o (yes, I said probably, not definitely). He'd gotten off to a fantastic start as a San Diego Charger, but if there was any doubt about whether he'd be here long term, Sunday's game should have vanquished it. Against the Broncos, Korey Toomer came up with one of the best defensive plays I've seen in a long time.
The Chargers had just turned the ball over at their own 7 yard line. The score was 17-7 Broncos. If the Broncos score a TD, it's all but over. The Chargers weren't going to come back from a three score deficit against the reigning Superbowl champions (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit calling them that). Fortunately, the Chargers had Korey Toomer around.
DeVontae Booker was running harmlessly out of bounds for a short pickup, but Toomer was closing in behind him. Even if Toomer manages to strip the ball, it's just going to roll harmlessly out of bounds. Except - somehow - it didn't. Toomer ripped free the ball with such force that he was also able to defy the laws of physics, sending it spiralling back into the open field and Jatavis Brown's waiting arms.
In many ways, it was the perfect play at the perfect time. I do have one problem with it, however, because it instantly reminded me of another great play made by a Chargers ILB against the Broncos. It's the 2013 Divisional Round, and the Broncos are driving on the Chargers just before halftime, looking to get a score that would make the game almost unassailable for the Chargers. Peyton Manning throws it to the endzone, but Donald Butler makes an unbelievable play to intercept it, and keep the Chargers alive.
Korey Toomer's performances mean he's going to get paid. Donald Butler got paid and stopped caring. That won't happen to Toomer, because he won't see anywhere near that kind of money. But, instead of being paid a basic practice squad salary, Toomer's earned a two or three year deal that will guarantee him a salary in each year. That's a big deal for a 27 year old who hasn't seen a load of money from the NFL so far - especially considering it's likely the last 'big' deal he'll receive before he hangs up his boots (or cleats, because you Americans stole our language wrong).
Toomer hasn't made enough money from the NFL to never need to work again. He's going to need to head into the ‘real world' once his NFL days are done. Thankfully, his play throughout this season means he's going to earn a good deal from the Chargers (or indeed somewhere else). It won't last a lifetime, but it will undoubtedly make the transition a lot smoother. Considering how all too real a post-NFL depression is for many players, that's a huge deal.
Congratulations, Korey. You've earned what's going to come your way. I hope you’re a Charger for many more years.
2: Drew Kaser
I'm never giving this up. When some/most Chargers fans were calling for Kaser to be cut, I defended him, saying that he had all the talent in the world - both physically and mentally - and that being patient with him would pay off.
So, how'd he do against the Broncos? Not bad, I guess. 5 punts for 285 yards - that's an average of 57 yards a punt. FIFTY. SEVEN. Only two teams currently have an average of over 50 for the season, to put that into context. The highest average in a season is only 51.40 - and that was set back in 1940. That was Sammy Baugh, and he's the only person to ever average over 50 yards a punt on a season. Oh, and the highest ever average for a rookie season? Just 45.92 yards
Look, I'm not saying that Kaser is going to be the best punter of all time
(even though he is). I'm just trying to make the point that Drew Kaser is a damn good punter. Would I use a sixth round draft pick on him if the draft were today? Yes. Without hesitation. As we've seen so often this season, Special Teams are hugely important. Drew Kaser may have made his fair share of mistakes, but he's going to be one of the best punters in the league for the next decade. I guarantee it.
3: Jahleel Addae
This may anger some of you - but Jahleel Addae is going to get paid, and paid big. That's not because he's necessarily deserving of it, but it's because the Chargers just can't afford to lose him. I said at the time he got injured that he was the best safety the Chargers had, and Sunday - unfortunately - made that abundantly clear.
Dwight Lowery isn't terrible, but he's not exactly good, either. Lowery is a below average starter, and you can find guys like him a dime a dozen around the league. Adrian Phillips just looks lost out there. There are way, way too many plays where he genuinely has no idea where he's supposed to be. As for Dexter McCoil? He played just 8 snaps on Sunday. Phillips played 60.
If the Chargers lose Jahleel Addae, they head into next season with their starting safeties as 31-year-old Dwight Lowery and JAG (Just Another Guy) Adrian Phillips. That's a terrifying thought - especially for a team with enough talent to make a Superbowl run, but who's window is closing quickly.
Tom Telesco isn't stupid, so there's no way that's going to happen. Sure, the Chargers could let go of Addae and bring someone else in, but there are a few reasons why I don't think it'll work out like that.
First of all - this coaching staff really, really like Addae. That much has been obvious from Day One. He's not going to be hugely expensive to resign, and I think the team will be able to come to a deal that both parties agree with to bring back one of their most heralded players.
Secondly, he's a leader with his positional group. Flick back through any Chargers game since Addae’s been out. Every time a DB makes a play, Jahleel Addae is getting fired up on the sidelines congratulating them. Here's something you may not know about Addae - his brother, Jahmile, is a DB coach at the University of Arizona. It's pretty clear that Jahleel has inherited a lot of those leadership qualities his brother his. When it was painstakingly obvious before Brandon Mebane came in from Seattle that the Chargers were short on locker room leaders on defense, can the Chargers afford to let another one go (especially if Manti Te'o isn't resigned)?
Lastly: Even if the Chargers wanted to bring in a high profile name at safety, I don't think they'll have the cap space for it. Melvin Ingram is going to be a priority FA, and he'll most likely demand north of 10m/year. Whether the Chargers pay it or not remains to be seen, but this is a team with not much cap space and lots of places to use it on (not that I'm looking at the offensive line or anything, but...). I don't see the Chargers making any huge moves in Free Agency, which means either resigning Addae to a fairly expensive deal that doesn't break the bank or looking for another stopgap safety to play alongside a stopgap safety. To me, at least, that's an obvious choice.
4: Dontrelle Inman
I didn't understand people wanting Dontrelle Inman cut in preseason. I know that players like Dom Williams or Isaiah Burse are more exciting because of their upside, but there's a reason that they're not on the roster and Inman is. While Dontrelle Inman may have a low ceiling, there's just not a chance you can throw away his high floor to take a pot shot on a player with a very low chance of paying off. Besides, that's what the practice squad is for.
Inman is a solid WR. That may not sound like it, but that's a big compliment. He has decent hands, a good catch radius, good size, and - most importantly - good chemistry with Philip Rivers. (He's also a really good run blocker). Against the Broncos, Inman had 4 catches for 79 yards. I don't need a crystal ball to know that Isaiah Burse wouldn't have been able to do the same against the Broncos secondary.
Inman is exactly the kind of WR the Chargers need, and he proved that on Sunday. He's been shoehorned into a role that's too big for him, but he's a fantastic complement to Keenan Allen (sigh), Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. He might never be more than a #4 WR, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a place on the roster. He's a valuable part of the team.
If you cut Dontrelle Inman, who replaces him when the preseason hero doesn't work out? Or, to put it like this: Would you rather have Dontrelle Inman or Griff Whalen?
That's what I thought.
1: Joe Barksdale
Last week, I said that the worst part of writing these posts was always having the biggest loser as a season-ending injury. Well, I was wrong. This one's made me more angry.
Joe Barksdale had a terrible game against the Broncos. I'm not sugarcoating that. Von Miller will do that to people, but the four penalties he had are inexcusable - especially considering two of them were for not lining up on the line of scrimmage. Barksdale has, pretty clearly, taken a step back from his play last year. That's not a good thing, but there's a right and a wrong way to deal with it. The wrong way won out on Sunday.
It's fair enough to criticize Barksdale. It's what I did last week. There's a difference between criticizing him, though, and tagging him in a tweet just to tell him how bad he is. Imagine coming home from a tough day at work and switching on your phone - only to find 217 messages telling you how bad you are at your job. Look, I get why it happens - I don't agree with it, but I also don't have a huge problem with it. Unfortunately, that's not where it stopped.
Some (and it is only some) Chargers fans decided that it would be a good idea to make the insults more personal. I mean really personal. I saw racial slurs being thrown at Barksdale pretty frequently - all because he had a bad day at work.
In fact, the abuse got so out of hand that Barksdale had to delete his Twitter and Instagram. If you followed Barksdale on either of those, you'd know how much he loved spending his free time on there, either posting videos of his (really impressive) guitar playing, sneaking up and ruining teammates interviews or just generally having fun. He can't do that anymore.
It's hard to convey just how angry what happened to Barksdale made me. Because he struggled to contain the best pass rusher in the NFL, people thought that racism and personal abuse were completely justified responses. Barksdale had to completely stop one of his hobbies - and a way to relax after practice - because the abuse got so bad. That's f***ing unacceptable.
2: Mike McCoy/Ken Whisenhunt
This is the first time I've ever put anything but a player on this list, but there's just no way around it this time.
What was that?
You have first and goal from the Broncos 2 yard line. Your RB has over 100 yards on the day in his best ever performance as a pro. Your WRs are extremely banged up and your QB isn't having his best ever day.
Pass. Pass. Pass. Pass.
It just makes no sense. At all. So much was wrong with what they did.
First of all, obviously, is the playcalling. Melvin Gordon is the one who got you to the red zone in the first place. Throw it on first down, sure, keep them honest. Don't throw it on second, third and fourth down, too. It honestly baffles me how coaches who get paid millions of dollars can make decisions this blatantly terrible.
Melvin Gordon leads the league in TDs, and most of those were hard-fought runs from 1 or 2 yards out. Not many defenses can stop him from that close - and I don't know a single one that could stop him getting 2 yards with 4 chances.
Not only was the pass/run choice horrible, but so was the way it was executed. The Chargers came out in the shotgun on each of the four plays. As soon as the Broncos see that, they can gear up more to stop the pass, because you don't line up in the shotgun if you're trying to punch the ball in from close. If you are passing from such a short distance, you want to have the defense playing the inside run, so that you have WRs one on one with defenders, or maybe even uncovered.
Instead, the Chargers essentially announced that they were passing the ball, meaning that their injured WRs had to find a way of creating separation with very little room to work with. If you are going to pass the ball, why not run a play action from under center on 1st and goal?
That's not the end of it, either. See, Philip Rivers has the option to change the play call at the line of scrimmage if he doesn't like it or if he sees a defensive look that he thinks he can take advantage of. It sounds great in theory - but the play call was coming into Rivers so late, that by the time he had everyone lined up, he was lucky just to get the ball snapped in time.
This, in my opinion, is the worst mistake of them all. In the NFL, you can't just be thinking on a play by play basis. You need to be two or three plays ahead of the game. Whiz and McCoy needed to call that first play knowing what their plan was for the next one if they were unsuccessful. They should have seen that the pass was incomplete, and instantly called in the next one so that Rivers could get them lined up and take a look at the defense. They didn't have a clue. They fumbled something together just in the nick of time for four plays in a row, and - unsurprisingly - it failed each time.
If you can't think ahead of the present, you don't deserve to be a coach at any level. You definitely don't deserve to be a coach in the NFL.
What a joke.