The San Diego Chargers just came off of an impressive win against the Tennessee Titans that boosted their record to 4-5. Although distant, the playoffs are still a possibility as the Chargers have overcome injuries and questionable coaching decisions that have cost them a share of victories.
The team has been led by strong performances by rookie defensive end Joey Bosa, running back Melvin Gordon and quarterback Philip Rivers. However, a few players have slipped under the radar that are making a massive impact. These players are key contributors that have helped turn this season around for the Bolts. If there is any hope for a late season playoff push, these players need to continue to step up.
Korey Toomer - ILB
Just take a quick look at the Chargers inside linebacker position, injuries have pretty much decimated it. Manti Te’o blew out his Achilles earlier this year, and Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman have been dealing with injuries a few times this season. This has forced Korey Toomer into the starting lineup.
At times, Toomer may make a mistake or miss a tackle, but he has made some tremendous plays this season. He has forced three fumbles in just six games played this season, and they have all come in big spots. Two of his forced fumbles have come against the Denver Broncos and his most recent came on Sunday against Tennesse. Tennesse was driving down the field and looking to take the lead and Toomer poked the ball loose allowing Dwight Lowery to pick it up for a scoop-and-score.
When his number has been called, Toomer has stepped up big time for the Chargers. Toomer may be the unsung here of this Chargers team.
Matt Slauson - C
A large contingent of Chargers fans immediately recognized how important the Matt Slauson signing was. The Chargers had a revolving door at center before his arrival, and it hurt the offense terribly. With his arrival, both the passing attack and the running game have looked much better.
Obviously, Philip Rivers isn’t a mobile quarterback. The only way he really moves around is by stepping up in the pocket, and Slauson has now provided him with that luxury. Slauson can take on the big nose tackles and pass rushing inside lineman and give Rivers that extra second to find an open receiver. Slauson also reads the defense and tells the offensive line their assignments at the line of scrimmage. He and Rivers have built trust, and the combo seems to be working extremely well together at this point in the season.
Another plus with Slauson is his ability to open up holes in the run game. A big part of Melvin Gordon’s success this year is his ability to run in between the tackles again. Slauson is the big man in the middle who is giving Gordon the space he needs to get into the end zone.
Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams - WR
Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell “Moss” as many have begun to call him, have played very well in the absence of Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. The pair has become some of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets on the outside combining for 65 receptions, 960 yards, and four touchdowns through nine weeks.
Inman may not have that sky-high potential that Williams possesses, but he has been a solid option along the outside for Rivers. Over the last three games, Inman has played much better than anyone could have expected and has caught some passes in crucial spots. Thankfully, Inman has been good enough to allow Rivers to spread the ball around to more than just Williams and the tight ends.
Now, Williams may not be under the radar to some Chargers fans, but the chemistry that is building between him and Rivers is scary. Rivers and Williams connected six times against the Titans, and the two looked to have great timing with each other. Williams has the potential to be a perfect fit across from Allen when he gets back. And the way things are going with him and Rivers, the two will be a successful combo.
Who would have thought that after losing Jason Verrett the Chargers cornerbacks would look so good? Thanks to Casey Hayward the cornerback position has played very well.
Right up there with the addition of Matt Slauson, Hayward has been tremendous so far this season. There were assumptions that Hayward was going to be the slot corner for the Chargers this season and that hasn’t been the case. Defensive coordinator John Pagano has decided to move him to the outside, and the move has paid off. Hayward has had five interceptions this season including a big pick-six against Denver a few weeks ago. Hayward has been making plays on the ball all season and has stepped up in the wake of Verrett’s season-ending injury.
The reason Hayward’s play is flying under the radar is because of how bad the Chargers are at the safety position. They have been without Jahleel Addae since week two and Dwight Lowery, Dexter McCoil and Adrian Phillips haven’t been very good. This has left Hayward in some tough positions and still, he makes play after play.
With all of these players looking great, it’s hard not to imagine a healthy Chargers team. What if the Chargers avoided some key injuries and weren’t so stubborn with Joey Bosa? Would this team be up there with Oakland and the rest of the tough AFC West?