Lately trying to get any bit of football news that is not related to No. 4 or Brady is harder than calculus. So I've decided to do my own research and write this article about the position standings (or battles) in our division; The AFC West.
In writing this article and doing my research, I have tried to stay completely un-biased toward the team that I adore, which is the Denver Broncos. This, above all,was the hardest thing to do, but I have stayed the course and I believe that I have written and researched a fare and balanced article, one which I sincerely hope you enjoy.
I decided to work from the top down, meaning I will start with the division winner San Diego Chargers and end with the last place Kansas City Chiefs. I will break down each team including coach and rate them on a scale of 1-10. I will break the teams down in the following manner, HC, QB, RB, WR, OL, DL, LB, DBs and ST.
Coach: This is where the Bolts' biggest weakness is. Even most Charger fans will agree that while Norv is an outstanding OC, his head coaching skills are lacking. Norv is just to passive to be a good HC in this league, let me elaborate.
While most HCs in the NFL are defined by a certain style, i.e. emotional, mastermind, quite, ect... Norv does not fit into any of this qualities. He has been the reason, at least on paper, for the Bolts slow starts.
His lack of aggressiveness at the start of the season and "safe/predicteble" game plans at the start have caused the Bolts to fall behind early. It is only when the Chargers have their backs against the walls and people start questioning why is he a HC only then does he go into attck mode and takes advantage of the Bolts' talent.
The Chargers let Marty ball go so they could take the next step, then they hire Norv. If you look at his play calling as an OC while in Dallas and San Fran, you'll realize that the Chargers made a lateral move, and did not get the HC that will max out the talent that they have.
QB: When it comes to young QBs the Chargers, as much as it pains me, have one of the best if not the best. Rivers' accuracy and decision making have kept the Bolts from falling apart. He has also cooled his mouth off as of late. He has the arm, accuracy, poise and vision to take the next step and be completely dominant in his position.
The one negative that I see in Rivers, is his ability to deal with pressure up the middle. Rivers is one of the best at avoiding pressure from the edges and stepping up in the pocket to make the throw, he is particularly good at always knowing where his outlet is, but when you cover the flat and collapse the pocket from the middle his numbers change dramatically.
This is where he will have to improve, to truly be in the upper echelon of QBs.
Another chip in the armor is, ever since Rivers came into the league, defenses have very rearly game planned around Rivers. It has always been stop LT and Gates first then we worry about Rivers.
How is Rivers going to handle defenses game planning soley around him, and trying to take advantage of his weaknesses ( side arm throwing, lack of mobility, inability to deal with pressure up the middle). I believe he will fare well.
RB: This is another area of concern for the Chargers. LT is on the decline whether fans will admit it or not, the numbers don't lie, and Sproles' lack of size worries me a lot. They will share backfield duties this coming season, that means for the first time since LT arrived the Chargers will truly have a two back system.
The main problems I foresee in this particular situation are, will LT stay healthy? How will the extra carries affect Sproles in the return game (Hester)? And finally, will Sproles be up to the task when it comes time for blitz pick up? This are the questions that still bother me at this point.
WR: When it comes to WR the Chargers don't have much in terms of proven players, however, they do have talent. Jackson has the ability to be a fine receiver in the league, not great but well above average. Chambers is an enigma, sometimes he shows up and others he doesn't.
Also I think is safe to say the Osgood and Craig Davis are not as good as advertised and will remain special teamers, while Naanee and Floyd have shown flashes they need to be more consistent to be factors with this team.
All in all the chargers have a pretty average group here unless Gates can get back to his previous form and dominance of the middle of the field, the WR will continue to be just that, average.
OL: Here is a big question mark for the Bolts. Will the new acquisitions translate, or will they take another step backwards? Last season the Bolts OL was lacking. They were good, but not as good as in the recent past. The lack of depth and experience in this area makes it a big question mark.
At center Hardwick is coming of an average season and his back up looks to be McDonald a rookie out of Illinois. The guard position is in worse shape, Dielman for some odd reason took a step backwards while Forney is getting up there in age, worse yet, there is nothing but rookies behind them.
The tackles are a mystery to me, age shouldn't be a factor, yet, both McNeill and Clary digressed last season, with their lack of depth at this position, this could be a real problem for the Bolts.
DL: The loss of Igor is not a big deal, he was serviceable at best. Luis Castillo in the other hand, has a loads of talent yet he seems incapable of translating that talent onto the field.
Jamal Williams is and will again be a beast at NT, which is good news for the Bolts since they have virtually no body behind him. All that said, there is not much to report in this area, besides that Williams will again dominate and make this DL seem a lot better than they will look without him.
rest of DL: 5
LB: This is the area where San Diego both shines and gives reason to cringe. Their entire pass rush depends on the return to form of Shawn Merriman. Last year proved that while Phillips is great with Merriman on the other side he is ordinary with out him.
History says that athletes with the type of injury that Merriman had, are never the same, Shawn is special and with toady's medical advances he does have a great opportunity to come back and be a dominant force against the pass.
At ILB, however, there is a different story. Cooper and Burnett are average at best and while Wilhelm is better against the run he is a liability in coverage. More often than not he gets burned and beaten by backs and tight ends. I will hold my grade of Merriman until we can see him play, so I will score the LB core without Merriman.
DB: Jammer. He is the only bright spot in the defensive backfield for the Chargers. Cromartie said he played with a hip injury most of the season, while rookie Cason outplayed him yet is un-proven. This year Cromartie will be on a short leash, especially if Cason has a good pre-season.
At safety, the Bolts have two young players that have proven to be liabilities, both against the run and pass, they are constantly out of position and are overly aggressive against the run leaving cut back lanes for the opposing RB.
The Bolts will let the youngsters at safety develop for another season, but there is little hope that they will. They actually got worse as the season went on and when Rivera took over as DC they kept switching them in and out with their respective back ups.
DB: 5 (7 depending on pass rush)
ST: The Bolts have in my opinion the best punter in all of football and one of the better kickers. The return game is where the questions are. As I previously stated before it all depends on Sproles. Will he be able to handle the extra work? History says no. Other than Sproles the Bolts don't have another explosive returner in their roster.
Returner: 5 (it depends on Sproles ability to handle the extra work in the backfield)
Well Hope you like part one of this four part series.