San Diego Chargers: The Good, Bad and Ugly of the First 4 Games of the Season
A lot of speculation spread during the offseason in San Diego about this franchise's future. After two years of disappointment, Norv Turner and A.J. Smith remained with the Chargers. Don't ask my take on that decision, we don't need a rant.
Receiving the sixth hardest schedule in the league, losing Ryan Mathews and Vincent Brown in the preseason and being blown out in the final exhibition game against the 49ers didn't make the regular season any more enticing for fans. The Chargers were at the bottom and needed to work their way up fast.
Through four games, the Chargers are 3-1. Their only loss was to the Atlanta Falcons, one of the three undefeated teams in the NFL. San Diego still needs to prove themselves against an elite team and will get that opportunity on prime-time during Sunday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints. They may be 0-4, but they're too good to be taken lightly.
THE GOOD: The Defense is Doing What They Said They Would.
John Pagano was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason after Greg Manusky failed to improve the area last season. He, along with the defensive players, said the defense would make plays and show vast improvement in 2012.
Through four games, they have.
San Diego has played against four elite running backs: Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner and Jamaal Charles. On average, the Chargers are holding backs to 79.2 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the NFL. The pass defense should be better, but with Shareece Wright injured, being ranked 17th isn't so bad. Chris Carr will help out this week. Teams are averaging 237.2 yards per game through the air against the Bolts.
The biggest stat of them all is their takeaways, where they have nine. San Diego has recovered four fumbles and intercepted five passes. Six of their nine takeaways came in their win against the Chiefs Sunday. If the defense keeps making big plays and stops the run effectively, the Chargers will continue to win.
THE BAD: Malcom Floyd is the Only Wide Receiver Producing.
We all know the story here. Vincent Jackson signed the contract he always wanted, and was not offered in San Diego, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal were his replacements. Through four games, they have a combined 15 receptions for 137 yards and one touchdown. Malcom Floyd, alone, has 15 receptions for 250 yards and one touchdown. He's outplaying the two receivers by himself.
As mentioned in a recent article I wrote, an argument can be made that Philip Rivers isn't getting the ball to Meachem and Royal. Their chemistry needs work and it will get better. Hopefully Robert Meachem will breakout against his former team this week.
Here are the target numbers from Philip Rivers to his receivers/tight ends, according to ESPN.
With Vincent Brown still out, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal need to step up their game and make big plays.
THE UGLY: Running Back Situation
Ryan Mathews made his season debut in Week 3, and fumbled away his carries. After coughing up the ball on the four yard line, Mathews has rarely seen the field. San Diego began the game against Kansas City with Jackie Battle starting at running back and Ryan Mathews watching from the sideline. In fact, Mathews didn't touch the field once on their opening drive, where Ronnie Brown was also involved.
Mathews ended the game with more yards on less carries than Jackie Battle, but fewer touchdowns. Jackie Battle is the Mike Tolbert of 2012 in San Diego.
The headlines spread earlier this week when the Chargers listed Jackie Battle as their No. 1 back on the depth chart on their website. San Diego said the reason Mathews isn't the starter is because they do not want to rush him back after recovering from his broken collarbone.
Seeing Ryan Mathews finish runs last week by lowering his collarbone into opponents is a clear example that he's ready to work. He's recovered and should be a 20+ carry back. His fumbling issues are a concern, but he's not going to learn to protect the ball from the sideline.
Simply put, the running back situation is a mess. Ronnie Brown is the best pass catcher out of the backfield and Curtis Brinkley is not being involved at all.
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