It's hard not to overreact to the Chargers loss on Sunday. Bad games happen, and this was a bad game for the Chargers. It's very hard to pick out many individuals who played well, and two of the team's best players in Philip Rivers and Jason Verrett were extremely disappointing. You get games in the NFL where a team just doesn't really produce. The important thing is to move on and get the job done next week.
The problem is, this was a game the Chargers couldn't really afford to lose. They're now 1-2 on the season, and it's becoming harder and harder to see a way this team can get to 9 wins (or even just back to .500). I'm confident that they'll beat the Saints next week. I'm just not sure how much it'll really matter.
Regardless, this is a weekly post I do where I break down who gained or lost the most with their performance in a game. So let's talk about that. First, though, are some quick notes about players who didn't necessarily gain or lose a significant amount, but who's performance was noteworthy in some way:
- Dexter McCoil. Remember how I said Jahleel Addae was the best safety on the roster? I’m sticking to that. I noted that McCoil had trouble finishing tackles sometimes, and that was unfortunately proved true on Sunday. McCoil missed a few tackles, but the most notable was failing to wrap up T.Y. Hilton, allowing him to speed forward for the game winning TD. McCoil will get better - a lot better - but his first showing as a starter left a lot to be desired.
- Dontrelle Inman. This game typifies why Inman is still on the roster. He was solid, rather than spectacular, which is exactly what you'd expect from him. He had 3 catches for 32 yards, and had some good blocks on downfield runs. I'm very comfortable with Inman as a WR #4.
- Tourek Williams. I get that the coaches want to heavily rotate to keep things fresh, but I see absolutely no reason why Tourek Williams is getting so much action. A tired Jerry Attaochu would be a lot more effective. A blind, one legged Jerry Attaochu would probably be more effective.
- Philip Rivers. Rivers had a bad game. It happens. If he'd play better, the Chargers probably wouldn't have lost, but it's irrelevant. Games like this won't come too often for #17, so don't worry about it. If a bad performance for your QB is 330 yards and 0 interceptions, you're in good shape.
1: Manti Te'o.
In many ways, Manti Te'o personifies what it means to be a Charger. He's not the most athletically gifted, but he fights. He's got where he is by hard work, determination and a will to win. And, just like almost every other Charger, he gets injured. A lot. His ligaments are made of Lucky Charms.
This couldn't have come at a worse time for Te'o, either. He's now heading into contract discussions with a team only too aware that, not only has his play not reflected the second round pick that the team spent on him (not to mention the fourth that they traded up with), but he's now going to have been with the team four years and not been healthy to play 16 games in a single one.
Will Te'o be here next year? I have no idea. This is probably the least certain I've ever felt on what a player's market value is. Te'o's play has been disappointing and JaMarcus Russell is probably in better football shape than he is right now. Despite that, the team clearly like him. He's a leader of the defense. He was 'their guy' at MLB. How much is that worth? And how hard will they fight to keep him? We'll have to wait and find out, but one thing's for sure: Te'o being injured against the Colts has cost him a significant amount of money.
2: Chris Hairston
If you don't follow Chris Hairston on Twitter, you should. He's interesting, intelligent and funny, and always speaks his mind.
Right, now the positives are out the way. Chris Hairston is bad at football. As a run blocker, he's poor, but his real problems are as a pass blocker. He's ridiculously slow to get out of his stance. A pass rusher could drop back into coverage, go to talk to their coach on the sideline, grab a drink of Gatorade, walk back on the field and then rush the passer, and they'd probably still get around Hairston before he's reacted to the snap. He's a liability at LT. He probably won't be on the roster next year.
Also, he disagreed with a call, so he decided to jam his face into the nearest referee's and, I imagine, did a pretty good job of intimidating him. That's unacceptable.
3: Jason Verrett
Oh boy. Verrett was not good against the Colts. T.Y. Hilton just had the beating of him all day. I don't know what was up with Verrett. Was he injured? Maybe? He has been on the injury report already this season, but I didn't notice anything wrong with him until after he got hurt recovering Travis Benjamin's muffed punt late on. He had to respect Hilton's speed and often slipped when trying to cut back and defend a curl or comeback.
The bad news is it happened. The good news is that this won't happen often. Verrett's chances of making the public believe he's a top 3/5 corner diminished with this game, but that doesn't matter a single bit. He'll be back with a vengeance against the Saints. I see a pick six coming for #22.
4: Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry did not lose the Chargers the game. In the first three games, he's done a lot more good than bad. He's still been one of the Chargers best players and had a great game even with the fumble.
Hunter Henry is on this list for three reasons. The first one is that the fumble - stupidly - will be all people remember him for so far. As aforementioned, he's been superb so far. But try convincing most fans that. Fairly or unfairly, Hunter Henry will be known as 'the guy who fumbled the game away' until he makes enough plays in the receiving game to stop that happening.
Secondly - confidence. Rivers might lose confidence in him, but the main worry I have is that Hunter Henry loses confidence in himself. Go back and watch his reaction after the fumble. He was distraught and close to tears. That's a good thing. You want players who care. At the same time, he needs to have a short memory, put the fumble behind him, and get back to work on Tuesday to have a great week of practice and get better. Everyone makes mistakes. He needs to get past that, rather than psych himself out and lose confidence.
Lastly - I think Hunter Henry has a fumbling problem. It's his first fumble in an NFL game, but he wasn't adverse to putting the ball on the ground during Training Camp. and there was one day where Manti Te'o actually stripped him twice in quick succession. The good news is, a fumbling problem can be fixed by adjusting the way he runs with the ball. It won't be an instant transformation, but with the right coaching, he'll be able to erase the problem. For now, though, it's definitely something to keep an eye on.
1: Jatavis Brown
If you guessed Jatavis Brown would be number one, congratulations! You have at least one brain cell. You still choose to support the Chargers, so more than one might be a stretch, but anyway. Jatavis Brown was clearly the standout player for the Chargers yesterday. He came in to replace the injured Manti Te'o (as is Chargers tradition) before leaving himself in the same game with an injury (as is tradition) but made a real impact during the time he was in the field.
While many Chargers fans were clamouring for Brown to get more playing time earlier this year, personally, I was pleasantly surprised by how much the Chargers were actually using him, considering he was a fifth round pick (when a fourth round pick in the same position is seeing absolutely no time) who was injured throughout most of Training Camp and Preseason. It turns out Jatavis Brown is just too talented not to use.
Brown was absolutely everywhere against the Colts. Unsurprisingly, he showed up well in pass coverage and when rushing the passer (his sack was absolutely beautiful, although the Chargers can count themselves lucky the referees didn't rule the play dead before he was able to rip the ball out), but what surprised me most about Brown was his performance against the run.
At just 5'9 and 211 LB, Brown is one of the smallest MLBs around, and I worried that he'd be pushed around on running plays. What I didn't expect was for the opposite to happen. He was an absolute force against the run, consistently able to 'stay clean' (meaning that he avoided contact from a blocker) and make the tackle.
We need to not get ahead of ourselves. Brown is good, but he's far from the finished product. Far from it. He's one of the most talented players the Chargers have had in recent years - and his performance against the Colts only reinforces that - but he's still got a lot of work ahead of him. He's not making the HOF just yet.
If he keeps playing like the way he did on Sunday, though...
2: Caraun Reid
Can a backup DL be one of your favourite players? Because Caraun Reid is quickly becoming one of mine. The intensity that he plays at for a 300-pound man is ridiculous. Reid will give you 100% on every snap - and for a backup DL, he's damn good.
Reid had a highlight reel play against the Colts. After Jatavis Brown stripped the ball from Andrew Luck, Caraun Reid scooped it and ran 61 yards to the house. 61 yards! For someone who weighs 300+ LBs! That's not even the impressive part, though. He actually outran his pursuers. Go back and watch it again. Reid is faster than the people chasing him. He gains a good few yards on Anthony Castonzo and Joe Reitz, and I'm not sure that Dwayne Allen actually closed the distance between the two all that much.
Dwayne Allen plays TE.
Caraun Reid is awesome.
3: Tenny Palepoi
Can you tell I'm already struggling to come up with players who 'won' something? Palepoi goes here, and he finished the day with zero in every column on the stat sheet, save for one QB hit. So, why's he here?
Well, he actually played fairly well. Palepoi needs to do a better job in finishing plays, but against the Colts he showed why he deserves to keep his spot on the roster and not be lost on the bubble. He had a nice day rushing the passer, consistently getting to Andrew Luck - and pretty consistently failing to bring him down, but still. Palepoi isn't going to ever be a starter in the NFL (well, actually, if Cam Thomas can be...), but it's nice to have some backup DL who aren't completely hopeless after the shambles the Chargers have had at that position for a few years.
4: Asante Cleveland
It's time to talk about footballers, rather than football, for a second.
The stereotype of NFL players is that they're extremely well off. Sure, that's true for some of them. But for guys on the roster bubble - guys like Asante Cleveland - the opposite is true. These are young guys trying to fulfill a dream. Since they were little, they've always dreamt of playing in the NFL. And now it's reality. Only reality is a lot less glamorous than fantasy.
They've made it in the NFL! Except they haven't. Asante Cleveland was undrafted out of college. He was picked up by San Francisco, before being traded to New England (and later released), with the latest stop on his NFL journey taking him to San Diego. As much as Cleveland is trying to keep his dreams alive, the harsh reality is that he's probably not good enough to stick around in the NFL. In a year or so, he'll be out of the league. What does a 25-year-old with a degree in business but no experience in that field do with himself now that his NFL dream is over?
(As an aside - Cleveland actually seems like he's well prepared for that eventuality. He's already interned with the 49ers marketing department and Comcast. So while I'm talking about Cleveland, just know that I'm also talking about every single guy on the NFL bubble, rather than just Cleveland specifically.)
Well, he'll need money to support himself while he stays in shape, desperately hoping for another NFL team to take a chance on him. Free Agents are unemployed. When a team releases him, he earns no more money from the NFL until another team picks him up.
Do you know how much money players on an NFL Practice Squad earn? The minimum is $6,600 a week, which I have to imagine was what Cleveland was making (or a figure close to that, anyhow). If that sounds pretty good to you, remember that the NFL isn't a normal job. He's only working from August-January (and that's if he's still there by then). $6,600 for 17 weeks? He can survive off of it, but it's hardly the luxurious life that many think NFL players lead.
Just for being active on Sunday, Cleveland earned $31,117 (if my maths is correct). For a guy on the bubble like him, that money is huge. He’ll be able to support himself while he looks for another chance in the league after the Chargers inevitably release him. And once he gives up on the NFL - or, more accurately, the NFL gives up on him - he'll have enough money to live comfortably while he gets accustomed to working in the 'real' world.
That's why Cleveland was a winner on Sunday.