So, since training camps started, we've all been having a hard time concentrating on work. I know I need to be sending emails and fielding calls, but I really just wanna watch two giants collide into each other during "Oklahoma Drill."
Richard Wade is a writer at boltsfromtheblue.com, a site that covers the Chargers. I've been reading them recently because my Texans are playing the Chargers week 1 and I want to make sure I'm ready as far as X's and O's (yes, I know how ridiculous I sound).
The content at Bolts from the Blue is great because they give you pretty hard core analysis, but they do it with a writing style and a prose that doesn't take itself too seriously (unlike most local newspapers). Good example is Richard's recent article on which Chargers made Bill Barnwell's "All Bad Contract Team."
I came to Bolts From The Blue through my pre-existing relationship with BFTB's network, SB Nation. I had been working with their MMA blog, BloodyElbow.com, for a little while when BFTB was founded. As I'm a lifelong Chargers fan I was thrilled to have an outlet and began writing FanPosts, which are how non-staff members can post on the blog. I was pretty quickly added to the staff after that.
The BFTB post Zach linked to mentions your hope that the new regime will do a better job than Norv & Co. of using the Chargers' "bad contract" WRs.
Taking a step back to look at the larger picture:
Norv and A.J. Smith FINALLY got the boot after another disappointing season. Does the new regime turn things around right away, or do the Chargers first have to go into rebuilding mode? The team's Vegas over/under is at 7.5 (with most of the money going on the under).
I think they have already started turning things around, but Smith left a pretty substantial mess for them to clean up.
The offensive line in particular was an incredible disaster in 2012, and while Telesco has plugged the holes as best we could hope for, that's not going to be enough to have an above average unit on the field in 2013. Also, the only pass rusher left from Smith's team was Ingram, and they'll be lucky if he can come back late in the season from his injury.
The over/under on this team feels really solid because although this year's team looks better on paper than 2012, that team's record was better than its talent thanks to a soft schedule. It pains me to do it, but I'd take the under.
This really depends on whom you ask. I was initially disappointed when the Chargers selected Melvin. I was personally hoping for Chandler Jones. My concern with Melvin was his relatively short wingspan that I thought would make it more difficult for him to beat blockers and get sacks.
He looks out of his element rushing from the outside. His closing speed, particularly in the middle of the field, is impressive and I'd like to see him get more chances blitzing inside. His block shedding is frequently terrible.
I'm not ready to give up on him because he's athletically gifted and by all accounts is a tremendously hard worker. His success on special teams speaks to this. That said, I don't trust Pagano to get creative enough to use 54 to his full potential.
The Chargers have gotten worse in four consecutive years. In four consecutive years Phillip Rivers' yards per attempt, QB rating and QBR have each gotten worse, as well.
In his first four seasons as a starter, Philip Rivers went 46-18, threw for 14,803 yards, 105 TDs (against 44 INTs), and a 96.3 QB rating. No quarterback in NFL history has started a career like that. In fact, the only quarterbacks to match those numbers over ANY four year stretch are future HOFers Peyton, Brady and Rodgers.
But Rivers' last season as a great quarterback was 2010. Now he's turning 32 and, according to pro-football-reference.com, the player his career most closely resembles is Trent Green. Can he turn it around, or have we seen the best of Philip Rivers? And if it's the latter, what is the ceiling for this team, not just this year, but for however long Rivers is the Chargers' QB1?
If 2012 is the new normal for Philip then the Chargers aren't going to win anything as long as he's QB1. Fortunately, if that's the case they can cut him next season with no cap penalty. Even more fortunately, there's no reason to think that 2012 is necessarily the new normal.
Looking at FootballOutsiders.com's advanced metrics, on a per play basis, Rivers was #1 in '08 & '09 (with '09 being his finest season as a pro). In '10, the talent around him started to deteriorate and Rivers fell from #1 to #3. In '11, things got even worse and Rivers fell all the way to #8 (still a better rank than either of his first two full seasons as a starter).
Unfortunately, in 2012 the bottom fell out as the Chargers lost entered the season starting an undrafted free agent right tackle at left tackle, a career back up and left guard and a slow footed right tackle that was only able to succeed when he was the only weak link on the line and could receive all of the help.
This was compounded by Norval Turner's refusal to go away from seven step drops and leaving his overmatched tackles one-on-one against top pass rushers.
Eventually, Rivers started reacting as though he expected to get hit on every play and would respond to phantom pressure on the few downs where he actually had time. Also, his receiving corps for most of the year was comprised of Malcom Floyd and some scrubs.
This year, things are theoretically different. The offensive line is staffed with qualified professional football players. The wide receiver group looks like it could be a strength. And Ken Whisenhunt and Mike McCoy are known for playing to their players' strengths. If Rivers doesn't rebound this year we'll know he's cooked, but everything points to him being in a position to succeed in 2013.
The part of that I really want to address is this idea that most NFL fans know the personality of Philip Rivers. The perception most seem to have of him as some sort of a loudmouthed punk is just hilariously off base. The guy loves to compete and he loves to talk while he's competing, but he's never foul or profane. Players on the team actually have talked of trying to get him to swear, and he just won't.
The most infamous partier left on the team is the starting running back Ryan Mathews who was famously not arrested earlier this off season, but managed to get reported as arrested just the same.
I'm going to give you a terrible answer to your question though and just say that they've assembled a lot of good guys (including some addition by subtraction, Shaun Phillips) and I won't rat anyone out for being more interesting than they're already known for being.
Richard, you seem to think highly of Rivers both as a player and a person, which is fine and all, but a snarky a-hole like me wants to know which of the internet's many nicknames for Rivers you and your fellow San Diegans (Diegites? Diegoans?) prefers. Marmalard? Laserface? Something less printable?
Basically, fill in the blank as you will the next time Rivers throws a pick-six: “DAMN IT ____________!”
Alex, I've always been partial to the Laserface nickname (and more importantly the Twitter account), though Marmalard tickles me as well. Honestly, the only one that actually annoys me is "Phyllis." It's simultaneously uncreative and sexist. That's probably why you mostly hear it from Chiefs fans, who are among the worst people on the Internet. Also, it's San Diegans.
Typically when I'm cursing him after a pick-six, I'll stick with calling him Philip, as though I were scolding a child because, well, I don't have a reason. It flows. Yeah, that's a reason.
Zach, Chargers fans have had plenty of experience reacting to pick-sixes lately, too. I can still see that horrible throw he made against Tampa. "Damn it, Philip! What the hell were you looking at?" It boggles the mind. Seriously, go watch that play 50 or 60 times. It's insanely bad.
I have a different reaction myself. With as slow as the ball leaves Matt Schaub's hands I usually EXPECT a pick six.
Do I have any reason to expect my Texans to lose on opening MNF against the Chargers. I'm a very nervous NFL Fan, so I'm expecting JJ Watt to get injured for the season on the first play of the game and the Chargers bring back Arijotutu (or is he still on the Roster?) to torch the Texans again for 250 yards ala 2010.
Zach, You should expect a loss because you're a fan and that's what we do. Realistically, though? No. The Texans should win handily. The Chargers still don't have anyone that can block Watt (does anyone?) and you'll have Cushing back this year.
The Chargers are running out an offensive line with four new starters, and their first game is going to be against a Wade Phillips-coached defense? That just isn't fair.
Rarely on Twitter, but pretty regularly in real life once people realize I write about the team. For the record, I'm bad at fantasy sports, and you take my advice at your own peril.
Also, a tip to those people: asking questions about what you should do in your fantasy league isn't any less obnoxious than just monologuing about your fantasy league. And the latter should be a hanging offense.
I appreciate your Eli dig. As a son of the Midwest living in New York, I'm inundated with idiotic Eli worship.
I've long asserted (from 2005 through the end of the 2011 regular season at least) that Eli was a worse quarterback than Rivers, Romo and many others, albeit one who put together a great four game stretch when it really mattered in the 2007 playoffs. Of course then he went ahead and did it again in the 2011 playoffs, and Philip Rivers has struggled two years in a row, so it's a bit tougher to make that argument today.
(Though I'd like to think that Flacco's most recent performance proves to Giants fans that just because a decent QB turns it on for one playoff run doesn't suddenly merit him superstar status.)
More importantly, Richard, what's the best San Diego urban legend about the carousing duo of Dan Fouts and Ron Burgundy?
Eli Manning's best regular season (on a per play basis) would be Philip Rivers' fifth best season. He's also had two seasons worse than Rivers' 2012. Playing on a more talented team for a better coach and not being asked to do nearly as much will make you look better than you are.
The Joe Flacco love is even crazier than the early career Eli love. Flacco was below average in 2012.
Anchor Man references are arguably the worst thing to ever happen to San Diego.
While I concede your native right to be annoyed by Anchorman (and it also explains why you didn't respond to the Anchorman references I embedded in previous questions), I would think that as a San Diego sports fan you'd at least appreciate the Gene Tenace shoutout, which was an inspired but surprising choice. You'd think a movie set in 1970s San Diego would sooner reference Dan Fouts or the Conquistadors, especially since Well Ferrell is an established ABA fan who would have appreciated Wilt's prowess with the ladies. But I digress.
Turning back to football, can you tell us what you expect to see from the defense this season? The two highest profile additions both come from Indiana and are seen by most outsiders as a has-been (Dwight Freeney) and a never-will-be (Manti Te'o). Are those big names empty or the key to improving this defense?
The Gene Tenace reference was inspired. I'll give them that.
The defense was, statistically speaking, the 18th best in the league last year. I believe they're better going into this season.
Several big names have moved on. Quentin Jammer, Takeo Spikes and Shaun Phillips are all gone. Some think that's reason to expect the unit to regress, but I think that's addition by subtraction.
Jammer was once a very competent cover corner, but that was some years ago. Similarly, Shaun Phillips was one of the best all-around outside linebackers in the NFL. He sucked last year and will probably suck again this year. Spikes wasn't that bad, but he was limited and Te'o should be an upgrade.
The losses on defense that I think will actually hurt are Aubrayo Franklin at the nose and Antoine Cason. Franklin is one of the best run defenders in football and Cason is an athletically gifted corner that is replaceable, but hasn't necessarily been replaced.
Franklin's role will be filled by a combination of Cam Thomas and an undrafted free agent. Thomas is a talent, but his weakness was Franklin's strength: sucking up double teams and shutting down the run.
Cason and Jammer have been replaced by a Derek Cox and Shareece Wright. That's probably a net positive, but we're relying on guys reaching potential they haven't yet reached on a consistent basis.
Dwight Freeney is a Hall of Famer. He's not the player he once was, but after he recovered from injury last season, he showed he could still play and that he could adapt to the demands of the OLB position. Unless he suddenly got old over the off season, he should be just fine.
I know I already mentioned that Te'o is an upgrade over Spikes and I'll just flesh that out a bit more. He has great instincts, good short area quickness, leadership skills, and if he can just learn how to get off blocks a little better he could be a beast. Some people don't see him as a three down linebacker, but I think that's overly pessimistic given his skillset.
Yes, it's maddening. Antonio Smith's a good football player, but if anything Watt is going to make it even more difficult for him to get recognition. Partially because he'll overshadow him and partially because people will suspect his success is just a result of the attention given to Watt.
It's more annoying than anything given that the LA situation isn't particularly close to happening. It's very difficult to get public funding in California these days.
I mostly tune it out unless we're covering the story ourselves, which we mostly leave to our writer, Jeff (sliderockmpc). He's done an excellent job breaking down where things stand and honestly we're in store for a lot more waiting and nothingness.
You watched the Broncos quite a bit last year. Do you think 13-3 was a tad inflated. Is Peyton Manning really going to have another stellar year? To me it looked like a lot of his success came against weaker opponents.
The Broncos are awfully good. Peyton Manning looked like Peyton Manning. They're still going to have six near-gimme wins just from the division this year. Unless they continue getting bit by the injury bug, I don't think there's any way that they finish the season with fewer than 10 wins.
Manning looked great against bad teams. He looked not so great earlier in the season against better teams. I guess the question is whether he was still rusty at that point, or if Manning is at the point in his career where he can only torch bad defenses.
Btw, since San Diego is probably a better place to live than anywhere else in the country -- can you share with us how people there watch the game? I like to imagine that you all set up flat screens in your front yard facing the Pacific Ocean while ladies hula dance in the background (how did I I just turn SD into Honolulu?).
Well, the Broncos had an Offensive Passing DVOA of 27.5% or higher every week except Week 2 against Atlanta and Week 11 against San Diego. 27.5% would have been good for 7th best passing offense in football last year. I'd say he did just fine against pretty much everyone.
I like to watch the games at home, alone, with a glass of bourbon and all of the sharp objects in a different room. I can't speak to what the rest of the Chargers fans are doing.
Richard, thanks for joining us for the conversation. This has been absolutely splendid and I feel like I'm better prepared to watch Texans/Chargers (right up until I get drunk before the game and began slurring). I'll try to hit you up with some friendly smack talk during week 1.