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San Diego Positional Grades Against Houston Texans

Rick DevereuxContributor IISeptember 10, 2013

San Diego Positional Grades Against Houston Texans

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    It could be said the San Diego Chargers were in mid-season form for Monday night’s season-opening loss to the Houston Texans.

    After all, it was not until Game 6 in mid-October when the Bolts blew a 24-point lead to the Denver Broncos.

    On Monday, the Chargers jumped out to a 28-7 lead, only to eventually lose 28-31 on a last-second field goal.

    There were some positives fans can hold onto with hope for the future, but there were some negatives that fans must be worried about moving forward.

Quarterback

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    Philip Rivers was much-discussed this offseason. Is he washed up? Is he past his prime? Are the turnovers his fault? Can the new coaches “fix” him?

    Rivers completed only 14 of his 29 pass attempts (48 percent) for 195 yards. He had four touchdowns and one costly interception. His numbers would have been better, but several receivers dropped passes.

    He looked good, even when the pass protection collapsed. His touchdown pass to Vincent Brown at the end of the first half was completed against a delayed safety blitz by D.J. Swearinger, who was also corralling Rivers’ feet. But Rivers was able to stay cool under pressure and flick the pass to Brown on the drag route. Rivers’ 18-yard scramble at the end of the first half was not only the longest run of the game for either team, but it was also Rivers’ longest run in his NFL career.

    Rivers was calling audibles at the line of scrimmage and usually getting favorable matchups, such as Ryan Mathews against Brooks Reed on the first offensive play for San Diego.

    He also used the hard count to keep the defense off-balance and unable to guess the snap count.

    Hindsight is 20-20, and it was a fantastic diving catch by Brian Cushing, but Rivers will be lambasted for the interception near the start of the fourth quarter. Rivers was trying to dispel rumors he turned the ball over too much, so any gaffe would have been frowned upon, but a momentum-turning pick-six was infuriating and can not be tolerated.

    GRADE: B

Wide Receivers

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    Eddie Royal had a pair of touchdowns.

    Malcom Floyd had a long pass to start the second half.

    Vincent Brown had nice effort on his touchdown.

    Those may be highlight-reel plays, but the truth is the receivers were far from fantastic.

    There were way too many drops, especially in the fourth quarter when the team needed some momentum. The Chargers went three-and-out on three of the team’s four fourth-quarter possessions. The other drive was the one-and-done pick-six by Brian Cushing.

    The receivers were willing and able to block, either on run plays or screen play, but the lack of consistent threats in passing game hampered the offense.

    GRADE: C

Running Backs

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    Ryan Mathews ran hard. He only amassed 33 yards on 13 carries, which is a surprisingly low 2.5 yards per carry average. Mathews looked good and seemed to run with determination and desire, always falling forward, which is why his low average is surprising.

    The former Fresno State star also caught both passes thrown his way, gaining 22 yards, including his 14-yard touchdown to start the scoring.

    Ronnie Brown gained 51 total yards on seven total touches (two receptions for 24 yards, five carries for 27 yards).

    Danny Woodhead caught two of the balls thrown his direction for 16 yards.

    The running backs as a group (including fullback Le’Ron McClain) did a nice job in pass protection and picking up blitzers.

    It is hard to ask for more out of the group, except it would be nice to see a home run touchdown and an ability to break out of some of those ankle tackles.

    Still, without massive running lanes, the Chargers were able to pick up a fourth-and-inches thanks to constant leg drive.

    GRADE: B+

Tight Ends

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    Antonio Gates proved he is still a threat in the passing game, hauling in a team-leading 49 receiving yards.

    Reserve tight end John Philips was a solid blocker throughout the game. On one running play, right tackle D.J. Fluker completely missed Houston’s J.J. Watt, but Philips was able to seal off the reigning Defensive Player of the Year allowing Ryan Mathews to gain seven yards on the play.

    Ladarius Green saw extensive action, as well. Green had a good effort on a throw early in the game, but it was ruled incomplete. Green was also used as a lead blocker on a sweep to the left that gained nothing. Green is the worst run blocker of the group, and that play exemplified it.

    GRADE: B-

Offensive Line

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    The biggest concern heading into the 2013 season for the Chargers is the offensive line. The group was awful a year ago and a whole new crop of blockers is being asked to open holes.

    Despite J.J. Watt only registering three total tackles and one deflection, San Diego did not do a great job neutralizing the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Watt should have made plays in or near the backfield for losses on at least five different occasions, but runners were able to run out of his grasp.

    The unit did an OK job on pass protection, but was worse on run blocking.

    Rivers was only sacked once, a play with a delayed blitz and pretty good coverage downfield. There were times, such as on Vincent Brown’s touchdown and Cushing’s INT, when blitzers were at Rivers’ feet, but, for the most part, the offensive line performed well in pass protection.

    The same could not be said for run blocking.

    Running backs averaged 3.2 yards per carry, and most of that was on personal effort. There was not a whole lot of push or aggression on run plays.

    Left tackle King Dunlap was very tall in his blocking and failed to sustain his blocks on different occasions early in the contest. Fluker routinely missed his mark and fell on the floor.

    Guards Jeromey Clary and Chad Rinehart were decent when pulling and Rinehart was particularly nasty on a run play at the start of the second quarter when Rinehart put a defender on the ground.

    Center Nick Hardwick was steady.

    GRADE: C

Defensive Line

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    The game started wonderfully enough for the defensive linemen.

    Rarely do defensive linemen, especially nose tackles, get interceptions, but Cam Thomas pick off the ball on the very first play from scrimmage.

    It was mostly bad news after that.

    The d-line was getting pushed backward. Sometimes the blocked d-line would end up inhibiting the linebackers from flowing to the ball.

    For a group receiving so much offseason praise, the defensive linemen may have had the worst game of any unit.

    The d-line rarely added to the pass rush. Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget each got into Matt Schaub’s face once. Cam Thomas was getting double-teamed by the offensive line and was usually getting driven two to three yards off the line of scrimmage. Thomas was penalized for hitting the long snapper on the Texans field goal that eventually become a touchdown.

    Reserves Kwame Geathers and Jarius Wynn played OK on defense.

    GRADE: C-

Linebackers

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    Outside linebackers Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney were the only San Diego players able to generate a consistent pass rush. Johnson also batted down the ball that fell into Cam Thomas’ lap to start the game.

    Inside linebackers Donald Butler and Bront Bird led the team in tackles (nine and 10 total tackles, respectively).

    It was hard for linebackers to make tackles on running plays because the d-line was pushed two to three yards off the ball. Still, there were some pretty wide running lanes for Houston ball carriers to travel.

    GRADE: C+

Secondary

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    The only unit possibly as bad as the defensive secondary was the defensive line.

    Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers of the past decade, but the former University of Miami star had 12 receptions for 146 yards. In comparison, Philips Rivers completed 14 passes for 195 yards.

    Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans were able to convert four third downs of five yards or greater.

    Receivers were routinely wide open and only a few receptions were contested by defenders. Defensive backs also missed several tackles in the fourth quarter.

    GRADE: D+

Special Teams

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    Mike Scifres and Nick Novak kicked well and Mike Windt did a fine job snapping for them.

    Fozzy Whittaker had one kickoff return for 42 yards. The other kickoffs were touchbacks.

    The kickoff coverage unit was not bad. It did allow one big run (46 yards), but kept Houston returners in check.

    Eddie Royal only picked up five yards on his lone punt return. The punt coverage unit allowed an average of seven yards on return.

    GRADE: B+                     

Coaching

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    Head coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator John Pagano called a nice game.

    The game plan should have resulted in a win.

    The offense had at least two blockers keying on J.J. Watt every play and tried to establish the running game.

    The coaches did not tell players to drop crucial passes late in the fourth quarter. The offense only ran 51 plays while the Texans ran 51 pass plays alone. McCoy had stressed in the offseason how he wanted the team to be balanced, but the first game was tilted slightly more pass (29 plays) than run (20).

    The defense mixed up blitzes from multiple players. The defense ran zone and man-to-man coverages, but Andre Johnson was still able to get wide open.

    GRADE: A-  

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