Quality starting left tackles in the NFL are very difficult to find, especially at a reasonable rate. San Diego found a keeper in 2011 in Jared Gaither, but Gaither failed miserably in 2012, crippled by back spasms & injuries. If Chargers new GM Tom Telesco and Head Coach Mike McCoy do stick with Gaither in 2013, they’re going to have to find a quality backup left tackle. And if this “quality backup left tackle” is forced to start a lot of games, he better have some experience too.
Rookie left tackles do not normally excel their first year, unless they’re top tier first round talents (like LT prospects Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher). Those two should do well day one. By the time San Diego picks in the first round, number 11 overall, both top tier left tackles will probably be gone, leaving Lane Johnson as the next top LT draft prospect. Johnson has tremendous upside, but he’s only started one season as a starting left tackle, and if he had to backup Gaither, he could be starting more games at left tackle than he has college experience at left tackle. It could be very overwhelming for Johnson as full time starter/protector of Philip Rivers blind side, but that’s only a guess.
If Telesco and McCoy decide to roll the dice on Lane Johnson in the first round, Chargers fans could possibly see Rivers playing the same as 2011 and 2012 (which was poor). Johnson could excel as a starter, but he’ll need some grooming, at least another half a season learning the NFL position. In that case, I don’t think the Chargers draft Lane Johnson with the 11th overall pick.
Left Guard is another first round possibility but interior linemen are not likely taken within the first third of the first round. O-guard Chance Warmack has tremendous upside in this year’s draft and could be that power pro bowl left guard San Diego really needs, but O tackles should be more coveted in first round. Cornerback would feel the safest pick with #11 (if Cason or Jammer are not brought back), but that’s the way former GM AJ Smith’s drafting philosophy was (as Smith drafted several 1st & 2nd round cornerbacks). The Chargers could be looking for more young pass-rushers too, as outside linebackers Shaun Phillips and Antwon Barns may not return either.
San Diego has several holes to fill on their 2013 roster, and whoever the Chargers draft with their first round pick should be a starter, not a project that can possibly start in 2014. Biggest need (by far) is a new left tackle, but WHO? Since Fisher or Joeckel will probably not be available (with pick 11), SD should pick up a cheap free agent backup left tackle that could start of Gaither has another injury plagued year.
Where will the Free Agent Left Tackles go?
• Jake Long = He’ll demand a lot money & a big/long contract ($10MM per year). I can see him going somewhere that is a winner, for a slight discount. Prediction: Colts (or Packers)
• Branden Albert = KC would love to keep him, but since they have the first pick in the draft, and there are no #1 overall QB’s worthy of that overall pick, they’ll select LT Luke Joeckel (for 75% less of what Albert will demand on the open market). Albert will go to a team you would expect either. Prediction: Titans (or NY Giants)
• Sebastian Vollmer = this guy is good and versatile, which will give him a bunch of money and a big contract (perfect for his current coach). He’s currently a right tackle, but he can play left tackle just as well. New England shouldn’t let him go, but he may demand too much money for New England to match. I can see an inter-divional rival throwing big money at Vollmer, but I’d like to see him as a Charger. Prediction = Dolphins (or Patriots).
• Jermon Bushrod = He’s looking for a big payday, just like his ole’ guard buddies Nicks, Grubs & Evens. But he won’t find it because he’s not that great. He will get a decent offer though, and I’d suggest from his current team. Prediction: New Orleans (or San Diego, as he can play both LT and RT)
• Bryant McKinnie = He’ll stay in Baltimore (for cheap too, but still he’s a stop-gap)
• Sam Baker = has left tackle ability, but he’s only had ONE good year. He should stay right where he’s at. Prediction: Atlanta (or SD if they can get him on the cheap)
Who would you like to see as the Chargers starting left tackle in 2013?
How would you project the Chargers starting offensive line?
LT / LG / C / RG / RT
The Chargers have so many holes to fill, plus multiple free agents possibly leaving in 2013. Multiple offensive guards are free agents, multiple corner backs are free agents, multiple running backs are free agents… New General Manager Tom Telesco may keep a few San Diego free agents but they all were previous GM AJ Smith’s guys, and AJ (and Norv) are gone, fired, kaput…
So, if I could have ONE game changing Free Agent is San Diego for 2013, who would it be? Umm…. Hmmm…
I’m… not…. sure… I don’t really love ANY of them. Sure,there are some quality football players GM Teleco can nab, but most of these “impact” free agents are going to demand a TON of cash, and I don’t see anyone really worth $10 million a year (so, sorry Jake Long). Can San Diego get Vincent Jackson back? Ehhh… not concerned about that rich guy anymore, since WR Danario Alexander looked just like him (and Vincent Brown is coming back from injury).
So, I don’t have ONE free agent WANT or NEED, but I do like three smaller free agent football players. Not franchise game changers (yet), but good football players…
I’d like San Diego to get:
ILB, Leroy Hill, SEA – Spikes is old, and he ended his Chargers career in bad fashion with a temper tantrum vs. Oakland. Hill is a quality linebacker, big hitter, and very intimidating. He reminds me of an ILB Foley. I really like him (AS A FOOTBALL PLAYER) but he just got in trouble with domestic abuse problems, but that shouldn’t matter. IMO, he’s a perfect fit with Donald Butler as an ILB’s the 3-4 defense. I’m rooting for Mouton, and I hope he excels, but that’s an AJ Smith guy too, and he just couldn’t get playing time from Pagano.
LG: Andy Levitre, BUF, He’s a sturdy Californian and blue collar worker, plus started every game in his 4 year carrer. He’s a boardeline pro bowler though, and may get a lot of CASH!!! Get this guy, keep Tyrone Green (but move T.Green to CENTER).
CB: Tracy Porter, DEN: If he can stay healthy, I like the way he plays. But he had some injuries last season but when he played he played well. SD rarely brings in quality free agent CB’s but Telesco may… Especially with Denver’s secondary coach now in SD. SD has two quality young corners that can start, but SD really needs a younger vet to help the kids, in case of injury. Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright should excel (and start) in 2013, but Gilchrist plays very well as a nickel corner.
We all know that the O-Line is San Diego’s biggest problem. Keep Gaither (for 1 more year. He’s nervous and back injuries really do SUCK! – Plus Cheap LT’s are so hard to find) Draft a LT with the 1st round pick for insurance though. Keep Clary and Mike Harris,. Dump Hartwick & Vazquez (both cannot run block and have failed over the last 4 years combined)…
…what an uncomfortable game, with undesirable outcome. San Diego looked pretty good against the Saints, but in the final quarter, the game officials had an alternative agenda, favoring New Orleans. Multiple “home town” penalties seemed to outweigh reality, in favor of the win-less Saints. There were several questionable calls against the Chargers that made fans nauseous and grumble in disappointment (in remembrance of the old replacement refs). The calls (and non-calls) made me question a possible “fixed outcome” of the game.
Sure, the Melvin Ingram personal foul was valid (roughing the quarterback) and was the correct call, but how untimely was that penalty (taking away a Chargers interception). Ingram led with his helmet and hit Drew Brees right smack in the chin which is an instant penalty.
The Phillip Rivers interception was a horrible non-call. Rivers intended target Malcom Floyd was hit in the back before the ball arrived causing the ball to get tipped into the air, causing the turnover. It was a very close play (and possibly missed), but it was pass interference and should have been called pass interference, not an interception.
The Antonio Gates offensive pass interference call was a mystery and a phantom penalty. Gates was called for pushing the defenders hands off him, which is not a penalty. If anything, it should have been call illegal contact on the Saints, resulting in an automatic first down for San Diego.
The very next play was a ticky-tack holding penalty on center Nick Hardwick, eliminated a 25 yard Rivers to Floyd pass and catch. Then the next play was another flag on the Saints with illeagle hands to the face, automatic 1st down.
And with the finale turnover/strip: Chargers Left Tackle Jared Gaither (2nd game back, returning from a back injury and missed all of training camp) was not able to move well (due to stiffness, cramps, suggested groin pull) and Saints defensive end Martez Wilson knew something was wrong. Like a shark and with blood in the water, Martez Wilson blew by the stiff Gaither forcing a Rivers strip/fumble and Saints recovery, ending the game with 14 seconds on the clock, 3rd down on the Saints 33 yard line. In fact, fans watch knew Gaither was injured as television commentator Chris Collinsworth said before the play, to watch Gaither, something is wrong with him. “Gaither looks lame.”
Gaither should have been removed the play prior, since Gaither whiffed on another Wilson block (which hit Rivers after an incomplete pass). Gaither was clearly wounded, yet he could NOT go down with an injury as San Diego would have been charged their final timeout (with the NFL under two minute injury timeout rule). Either way, Rivers turned the ball over and ended the game, with an unused San Diego timeout. Phillip Rivers should have used that timeout to remove Gaither since he was injured. This is a team game, and if your team can’t block for it’s quarterback, then expect disaster.
Regardless of the outcome, timeouts, penalties, injuries & lack of substitutions, Drew Brees has a great game with 4 touchdown passes. Any team that gives up four big touchdown receptions deserves to lose. San Diego’s secondary was picked apart on Monday Night Football and Drew Brees looked very impressive (with a NFL record 48th straight game with a touchdown pass).
Finishing week 4 of the 2012 season has been quite inspiring for the San Diego Chargers. Despite a few players with acute injuries, the teams depth looks very respectable. Three key backup replacements get very good praise: Aubrayo Franklin, Mike Harris and Jackie Battle.
Incumbent Nose Tackle Antonio Garay has yet to play this season, but his replacement, Aubrayo Franklin, has played admirably. Franklin is the heavy anchor of the 3-4 defense, with reputable experience (and has probably earned the starting spot). San Diego has the luxury of having three solid nose tackles on the roster. Franklin, with current backup Cam Thomas, are as good as any nose tackle tandems in league. San Diego’s run defense is outstanding and have not allow a 100 yard rusher this season (like notable opposing running backs Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner and Jamal Charles). Garay’s San Diego’s future is now question, as rumors swirl of his release. Garay is not the player he once was and still remains inactive, but Garay is a club house leader has versatility. He can be moved to defensive end (which can save his job, but probably not longer than 2012).
Undrafted Rookie Free Agent Mike Harris filled in at Left Tackle for the first three weeks and has shown glimpses of starting material, but he is still very raw and needs more training and experience He is a good swing tackle to have on the team and can backup both offensive tackle spots. His combination of coach-ability, foot-work, heart and size proves he will be in San Diego for a long while. It was a huge bombshell to see Harris start the first three weeks of 2012, but he played as well and held off respectable pass rushers in Cameron Wimbley and John Abraham. But starting left tackle Jared Gaither (with new contract) finally returned from a mysterious back injury that had him miss all of the preseason and first three regular season games. Gaither played well in week four against the Chiefs and needs to get back into “football shape.” Gaither is a huge impressive mountain of a lineman, and has a knack of playing well when you throw him into the fire, but missing time protecting Quarterback Phillip Rivers is probably the most important job on the team. Gaither is really is a “plug and play” left tackle and is the best offensive lineman on the team.
Running Back seems to be a mystery in San Diego. Ryan Matthews has shown glimpses of greatness and is a 1st round draft pick, but small, nagging injuries seem to cause him to miss playing time in his brief career. Matthews broke his collar bone on the first play of the first preseason game, causing him to miss the first two regular season games. Matthews much anticipated return in week three showed his explosiveness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but also included a goal line fumble (which may have shaken up trust factors within the coaching staff). Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley and Ronnie Brown are all solid back ups, but neither of them are “complete backs” like Matthews should be (can be). Battle was listed at the bottom of the running back corp but has nows shown some moxie in the power game, got the start against his former team the Chiefs in week 4. Battle had two touchdowns (rushing & receiving), so look for Battle to get more playing time, which can take away some Matthews touches. Both Matthews and Battle can be an explosive 1-2 punch, which will take pressure of the passing game.
Corner back, Nickle back, and the New guy:
Second year backup corner back Shareece Wright looked very good in preseason and has a lot up upside. Wright played very well in the preseason and has great speed that can create an instant impact for the Chargers secondary (who really needs his depth at corner back). Wright’s standout special teams play was expected to earn him additional playing time and as starting nickle corner in 2012. But Wright hurt his ankle very early in week one, and he’s yet to play since. San Diego signed veteran corner back Chris Carr to fill in for Wright for the moment. Carr has starting experience (and can return kicks and punts), so he is much more than a “fill-in” type. Carr can really find a home on this team if he plays well. Starting corner backs Antoine Cason and Quinton Jammer have their ups and downs and are both free agents after this year. Neither have been playing as well as hoped, but Jammer is playing with a broken hand and is very tough . Marcus Gilchrist,the other backup corner back and last years nickle corner, has the ability to eventually become a starter too, but he has been banged up this year too.
2012 depth looks very good for the Chargers, and the future is inspiring for San Diego fans…
Monday Night Football came down to a controversial call/replay, last-second, Hail-Mary Pass that resulted in a touchdown and a come from behind win for the Seattle Seahawks (The Seattle Screw). Blame the replacement referees, blame the instant replay rules, blame the NFL rules in general, but don’t over analyze the results, that catch, the touchdown, the points on the board, or the win.
No one cheated, so it’s a win. Even if the Seahawks did cheat, they still won. It’s the referees call, and the replay could be looked as a legitimate touchdown (by rule). Dozens of MISSED CALLS or FLAGS alter football games every week, so why is this TD so differnt? Replacement Refs are under a microscope, NFL is under a microscope, Packers are widely touted and the national spotlight of Monday Night Footaball will over analyze this games result. There are 32 teams in the NFL that play 16 games each year, and any team would love to take a win every week, any way you can get it. So any team would take this win. Think about if the roles were reversed and quarterback Aaron Rogers threw that ball to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, would this win be so controversial? Probably not, because the Packers are the Packers. If wins gets you into the playoffs, then wins are what you demand. So take the win and enjoy it.
We like to hear those two words. Its like our “football-seasoned” appetizer has just arrived at our table, as our main course is nearing (the regular season). Well, then you have preseason games, which really doesn’t have a positive flavor in our football fix (as a $60 ticket for a game that doesn’t count and doesn’t really taste that good). But still, preseason football is still football (just like bad buffalo wings & burnt fries still get eaten), we do like watching ALL four quarters on our big screen HDTV’s. Watching undrafted rookie free agents SHINE (at least for their quick moment) and watching the superstars socialize with each other and interview with standard cliche’ answers on the sidelines, “…one game at a time…”
Then there are the worries: The injuries You can only hope that your favorite players have shown up in decent shape so that training camp, drills & practices do not create any NEW injuries. JUST STAY HEALTHY and STAY AVAILABLE!!!! Little by little, these high performance machines are getting tinkered, pumped torked & flexed into game shape. Yet if you push their engine too far, car problems can occur and a gasket may blow or a block may get cracked. So we all hope the hamstrings stay healthy, knee injuries are just minor, groin/abdominal injuries are slight and ligaments & bones are normal.
And that’s just the body and the guts – or the tools, motor & parts from the neck down…
What about the HEAD, the BRAINS? Learning the playbook, adapting to new schemes, working well with your teammates, new coaches, new positions (and the good ole’ concussion).
It’s honestly amazing how complicated you may think this 2012 training camp really is & how much rides on it. But in actuality IT’S ONLY A GAME (a race or a course). A game that has changed our culture and dominates our interests. A game that keeps us connected to Twitter daily, fan-blogs and to football-related websites during the entire off-season ( just because we NEED TO KNOW whats happening with our team, the players, Mr. General Manager and every free agent still available).
This game isn’t a game at all anymore is it? It’s a routine. It’s a social outlet, a stalker-fetish, a daily read or should I say: a secondary life…
“…Wait, what’s that? Who got the latest DUI, who has a new non-profit organization, who shot them self, who went cliff diving, who wrecked their motorcycle, who had their 6th child, who remains unsigned, who’s suing him, who retired, he did what to his mother???”
So preseason is next, followed by our fantasy football drafts and THEN we will have our main course (the regular season), only to hope for a sweet desert in the end.