A couple of years ago, I was telling my co-worker Dave (who’s been a San Diego Charger fan longer than I’ve been alive) that the Chargers would not make it to the Super Bowl until this season.
I got caught up in the moment and half-believed that 2009 was the year, but in reality, I knew there was no way a team that couldn’t come close to either running the ball or stopping the run should have even made the playoffs.
The Chargers have such a good offensive system in place that they can beat most NFL teams even while bringing inferior talent to the field which explains why they were able to lose five starters in the first game of the season and still go 13-3.
The Chargers have been in rebuilding mode for two seasons right under your nose. While the national sports writers have been proclaiming that the Chargers’ window of opportunity is closing, Chargers general manager AJ Smith has been plugging holes with draft picks collected over the last few seasons.
For years, LaDainian Tomlinson was the Chargers’ most highly regarded offensive player and Jamal Williams was the most highly regarded defensive player. When those guys fell off, the offense became pass happy and the defense couldn’t stop anybody on the ground.
Running the ball and stopping the run wins championships.
AJ Smith knows it, head coach Norv Turner knows it, and de facto team owner Dean Spanos knows it. National sportswriters, otherwise known as male gossip columnists (Mike Florio anyone?), overlook obvious things like this.
Writers who do not follow the Chargers casually gloss over the facts. They haven’t noticed that the Chargers have been grooming Vaughn Martin, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, and Antonio Garay. They forgot that the Bolts traded for solid veteran Travis Johnson and recently drafted massive defensive tackle Cam Thomas.
Run defense woes solved.
They totally missed the solid power running back who can put a defense away in the fourth quarter known as Mike Tolbert. Then proclaimed that the Chargers reached for Ryan Mathews. Anyone for baloney?
Rushing attack woes solved.
The Chargers were without those key aspects last season and could still hang with the top teams in the NFL. They swept the NFC East and went 8-2 outside of the AFC West.
Enough with the “they play in the AFC West” crap. The Chargers could have gone 2-4 in the AFC West and still made the playoffs.
The Chargers rebuilding appears to be complete, so I am sticking to my prediction. Now we will just have to see if they are good enough to beat the NFC heavyweights. If you don’t know who that is, I will tell you.
Guess what those NFC powerhouses have in common? They will never see Vincent Jackson wearing their uniform! More on that later.
Now about that kicker…
The upcoming preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys should have a very interesting first half.
The Chargers rookie running back Ryan Mathews will be looking to impress the home crowd once again at the expense at the Cowboy defense.
Mathews may be surprised to find that the Cowboys defense is not only very similar to the Chargers’ bunch, but they are very familiar with the Chargers’ offense since the Cowboys run the exact same system as the Bolts on both offense and defense.
I will be looking for Mathews to continue to show off his impressive balance, speed, agility, and power. With the dark visor, he was looking like a young LaDainian Tomlinson against the Chicago Bears.
The Chargers swarming defense looked like the wrecking crew of old against the Bears. They racked up six thunderous sacks, caused turnovers, and wreaked havoc on the potentially disastrous Bears offense (meaning don’t get overly excited about the dominance).
I will be closely watching this game to see if Tony Romo fares any better than the Bears quarterbacks. While linebacker Antwan Applewhite should continue to declare war on the backfield while working his way back from major injury, Shawne Merriman will likely miss the game due to a minor hamstring injury.
A lot of “experts” are overlooking the rebuilt Charger defensive line, but the Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t. They should be well aware of young lions like Vaughn Martin and Ogemdi Nwagbuo. Their development could be the difference between a solid defense and one that smashes opposing offenses.
Rookie defensive tackle Cam Thomas will be put to the test in the first half against the Dallas starters, who should play about a half. The Chargers coaching staff kept Thomas on the bench for the first half last week and he proceeded to dominate guys who will be working at Dominoes soon. Now he’ll get his test against the big dogs of the NFC East. I will be looking to see how he fares this week.
With the recent news that Vincent Jackson has had discussions with the Seattle Seahawks about a potential trade, Charger fans, players, and coaches will be taking a hard look at the other wide receivers. There is no receiver in the league with V-Jax’ combination of speed, size, and power, so the Chargers offense will have to change if Jackson is no longer a part of it (and it will probably need to change for the better).
Anyone who has objectively looked at receiver Craig “Buster” Davis when he’s been on the field knows he looks like the best player out there when he has the ball in his hand. He has some sort of superstar swagger that could be something like a dagger through the hearts of opposing defenses. The only problem is Davis is usually injured within a play or two of his first couple of catches. I don’t just want, but I need to see Davis make it through this game healthy.
Listen to the Audio Version of this Article: Ryan Mathews Could Be the Missing Link
If there is one thing that made San Diego Chargers fans cringe, it’s the one yard and a cloud of dust running game that plagued the Chargers’ high powered offense with 2nd-and-nine far too often in 2009.
The addition of Ryan Mathews may change all that if he can stay healthy. In last Saturday’s game against the Chicago Bears, Mathews continuously gained yardage, against a vanilla Bears’ defense.
Norv Turner is known as a quarterback guru, but his offense starts with the running back. With a new high powered engine driving his attack, quarterback Philip Rivers should have an easier time dissecting defenses. Even scarier for defenses is the notion that they may have to play eight man fronts even more often which will leave defensive backs one on one with Chargers receivers.
That’s not good for opposing defensive coordinators.
As Steve Mariucci would say, the Chargers may hang a couple of “50-burgers” on opponents in 2010.
On display in the game were Mathews speed, power, and balance.
He repeated blew by surprised defenders who were seemingly in position, but found themselves standing still as Mathews went by. Mathews leveled a couple of guys (on the same play) with effortless stiff arms. On one play he was nearly leveled by Charger guard Kris Dielman only to be hit by Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. He bounced off of both guys and exploded for a gain of 18 yards.
Love LaDainian Tomlinson or hate him, he and fullback Lorenzo Neal (along with fullback Andrew Pinnock) led a Chargers rushing attack that struck fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators. Without a powerful fullback, the Chargers running game was lost. With LT losing a step, it completely fell off the map.
The Chargers scored nearly 500 points in 2006 with a powerful rushing attack to compliment a solid passing attack. If the Chargers can regain their powerful rushing attack to compliment a now spectacular passing attack, the Chargers could surpass 500 points in 2010.