There is a new running back in San Diego, and his name is Melvin Gordon! Alright, maybe not new, but he looks like a completely different player than the Gordon we saw in 2015. Throughout the preseason, Gordon ran hard, decisively, and effectively, showing good vision and burst, plus the ability to break through defenders tackles and finish runs. All of that translated over to the first regular season game against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday. Gordon had 57 rushing yards on 14 attempts, good enough for 4.1 YPC. He also gained on average 2.7 yards after contact. Most of that work came in the first half as he was inexplicably held back on the sideline for a majority of the second half when the team needed him the most.
The Chargers have a nose tackle! Brandon Mebane showed up in Kansas City and what a difference he makes to this defensive line. He was constantly impacting the play, forcing running backs out of lanes and was able to dial up some pressure to boot. It was easy to see Mebane moving his man and it’s obvious that he will be an instrumental part of the defense for the entirety of the season, health permitting.
The Corners Trio
The Cornerback trio of Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers, and Casey Hayward did not disappoint in the season opener. Verrett played pretty much the way we expect him to at this point, blanket coverage with no easy catches. He did give up a touchdown to Jeremy Maclin in the second half, but before that he had one of the most magical interceptions you will see. I cannot figure out how he managed to come away with that ball. Hayward played well all game, getting his hands on a couple of passes for deflections. So far he's looking like a tremendous addition to the team. Flowers also had himself a nice day. He looks so much quicker and smoother than he did in 2015. Health is the name of the game.
The Coaching Staff
New season, same gutless Mike McCoy. The blame for this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of McCoy and his staff. The thing that is most sad about that statement is that no one is surprised by it. Or at least they shouldn't be. Up three scores in the second half, McCoy chose to punt on 4th and short in Chiefs territory instead of trying to put the game away while their offense was in rhythm. It was all down hill from there. Defensively, the play calling got soft and the Chiefs took advantage of it. As soon as the Chargers had a nice lead its like Pagano forgot he was allowed to blitz without counting to ten. The defense before that was actively getting after Alex Smith and there was no reason to go away from that. Too many games since McCoy took over have been lost because of coaching errors. The self-destructive coaching is not just a blip on the radar here and there, it is a pattern. It is predictable. And its hard to see it getting any better anytime soon.
My biggest concern heading into the season was the safety position, and on Sunday Dwight Lowery showed why. He was constantly in poor position no matter his assignment and whiffed on a number of tackles. Lowery’s play needs to improve drastically and in a hurry. And that's all I have to say about that.
Drew Kaser's performance was a far cry from what we had seen out of him throughout the entire offseason. His kicks were short and didn't have anywhere near the hang time he had been getting. The worst one of the day came at a critical moment late in the game. With the Chiefs comeback attempt in full swing, and the offense having just gone 3 and out, Kaser was called up to try and pin the opponent back and give the Chargers defense a fighting chance. Instead, the punt was shanked and took a nasty back roll, in the end, netting only 17 yards and giving the Chiefs possession in Chargers territory. The Chiefs would go on to score a touchdown. This is not the Drew Kaser we should expect to see every week. The rookie just had a bad game.
Bonus: The Chargers injury luck
Keenan Allen looks to be out for the season after suffering a non-contact knee injury during the second quarter in Kansas City. This is extremely unfortunate for the Chargers and the fans who have come to love Allen over the past few seasons. That said, I can't begin to fathom how disappointing and frustrating this is for Keenan himself. After missing 8 games in 2015 with a lacerated kidney, Keenan was ready to come in and set the league on fire. And for the first half in Kansas City, he was uncoverable. There is nobody on the Chargers roster who can replicate what he brings to the team. Here is to Keenan Allen. Get well Keenan, you have the support of an entire fan base.