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Welcome to San Diego, Bob Sanders March 4, 2011

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“Holy guacamole!!!!!”

That was my reaction last night when I read that safety Bob Sanders had agreed to join the Chargers on a one year deal.  Of course, anyone and their grandmother will tell you how injury prone the guy is.  Still, I can’t help but get really excited about this!  The Chargers rarely (if ever) make “big” free agent acquisitions, and this definitely counts as one of those.  Will he play the whole season?  One of my fellow patrons at Woodstock’s last night was guessing seven games, my admittedly pessimistic guess is six.  However, Sanders might just prove us all wrong for guessing such low numbers and bring a DPOY caliber performance to the Chargers this year.  One can dream!

Offseason Check-in February 16, 2011

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There hasn’t been an abundance of Chargers news to discuss, as only a few major things (in my opinion, at least) have happened with the team since the season ended.

First: Ron Rivera has left to become the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.  This came as no big surprise, as the Panthers needed a new coach and Rivera had been looking to fill such a role before coming to the Chargers in 2007 as the linebackers coach.  His replacement Greg Manusky left the defensive coordinator spot of the San Fransisco 49ers after the 2010 season.  While the Chargers’ defense ranked #1 in terms of yards allowed, they certainly did not dominate consistently and there is always room for improvement.  I am not sure who else was available for the position, and the hiring was most likely for the sake of familiarity.  Manusky was once the Chargers’ linebackers coach, his last year with the team being 2006.

Second: Vincent Jackson has been franchise tagged.  For those who don’t understand what this means, it simply keeps him from entering free agency and is a sign that the Chargers indeed wish to keep him on board for at least this coming year.  With the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players’ association coming to an end, it will be interesting to see how the Chargers will sign VJ to a contract, if at all.  It would seem a certainty that he would hold out of camp for a long-term deal if one is not made, as he had no problem sitting out most of the 2010 season.  I feel optimistic that he won’t have to, but I don’t know how optimistic I am about a new cba being completed any time soon.

Upset Specials Served January 17, 2011

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An improbable run in an even more improbable victory.

I know I’m late to the party when it comes to the Seahawks and their improbable victory over the Saints, but don’t the cool people usually show up late anyway?  It was impressive how the Saints were exposed as an incomplete team in such a wholesale fashion, especially by the first 7-9 team to make the playoffs since the AFL-NFL merger.  How wretched it must have been for New Orleans to watch that happen when their team won the last Super Bowl.

The deepest meaning of this is that it insures that I won’t have to watch that stupid “personality” commercial about customizable Saints NFL gear next year.  Come on NFL, do you really think that “Breesy” is that unique?  People in San Diego were all over that and every other “Brees” pun YEARS before Drew Brees ever played a snap for New Orleans.  But hey, everybody loves a disaster victim and the beach life here in San Diego doesn’t exactly fit that image.  Also, New Orleans won a Super Bowl with him. *sigh*

The Jets beating the Colts was supposedly an upset, but Indianapolis could be in a slowly drawn out decline.  When was the last time the Colts finished a season with fewer than 10 wins?  They finished 2001 with a record of 6-10, but that was the only year from 1999 to present that they failed to make the playoffs.  All those years of making the playoffs means lower end draft picks, and it could just be that they aren’t working out for the Colts.

Aaron Rodgers has dominated on the road.

The Packers are also in the business of handing out unexpected losses this winter, besting both the Eagles and Falcons on the road.  These Angry Birds will have to wait until next season to break out their catapults though, as the Packers have secured the eggs behind impenetrable walls built by Aaron Rodgers.  This guy turned into a playoff stud, absolutely torching Atlanta with 31 completions out of 36 passing attempts.  Who does that these days?  Holy smoly.  I honestly thought the Falcons and Eagles would be big players in the way the NFC playoff picture shaped up and in a way I was correct.  Just not in the way their fans were hoping.

The upset I actually had the most interest in: the New York Jets over the New England Patriots.  I don’t like either team, even if just for the fact that both have recently sent my team packing in the playoffs, several times.  In this case, it seemed like the Patriots were exactly where the Chargers were in 2006.  Looking unstoppable, 14-2 record (same as the ’06 Chargers, both best in the NFL) and coming off that first week bye.  Then laying an egg at home to the underdog.  Fans of New England, now you know EXACTLY how I felt in 2006 when your team came to San Diego and won.  Actually, that isn’t entirely true.  You didn’t have to sit there and watch your players make disastrously poor decisions that cost them the game. Okay, that mini-rant is over.  Rex Ryan has done something in New York, whether I like him or not.  His team comes to play.

I won’t make any clandestine predictions for the rest of the playoffs, but I can offer opinions.  As you have seen, seeding and regular season strength have no bearing on these January performances.  I do think the Packers look incredibly good on the road and the Bears will have their hands full.  The Steelers will not forget the 22-17 loss the Jets handed them in December, and will likely play a better game.  Revis is looking tough to beat right now though, so anything is possible.  We’ll see.

Changes December 31, 2010

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A few changes, mostly cosmetic, were made in preparation for a new year!

I have declared the polls section of the blog to be a failure.  Hardly anyone ever voted, and only six people ever looked at the polls page.  Oh well.

I also changed the theme of the site, to a much simpler and cleaner look.  The header at the top is something I made using paint.net, a great Photoshop type program you can get for free.  I threw it together kind of fast, so keep that in mind when you’re judging the hell out of it.

That is all.

A Cloudy Crystal Ball December 30, 2010

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After having not posted all season long, I’ve finally chosen to do so now, on the heels of the Chargers’ elimination from playoff contention.  There isn’t much to say about how we played against Cincinnati with the playoffs on the line, other than the team as a whole didn’t look like they wanted to win.  I’m not going to launch into any “so-and-so should get fired” kind of talk; I’ll just discuss my thoughts on the season and the future.

The Ugly

Philip Rivers displaying how many Chargers fans feel (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Oakland Raiders beat us…twice.  I have long known that in the NFL any team can win any given Sunday (or Thursday or Monday), and that eventually Oakland would find a way to beat the Chargers and end our win streak against them.  What I was not ready for was how the Chargers simply seemed to play some of their worst football against the Raiders.  A Raiders fan might take this occasion to jab their finger at me and call me a hater, but outside of the AFC West the Raiders are 2-8.  Against their other AFC opponents they are 0-6.  Oakland is a bad team that overachieved in their division, and you would be hard pressed to prove otherwise to me or anyone else who’s sane.  The Chargers certainly didn’t play like they wanted to win against the Raiders, but did anybody else in the west really play that way either?

The Chargers’ special teams play.  We literally lost football games because of errors in our not-so-special teams.  I really don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I do think this is something that having the right players on the field can change.  I don’t believe that Special Teams Coach Steve Crosby should get fired.

I didn’t go to a single game this year.  Not one.  The season ticket-holding Ryan from the days of shot-gunning Heineken until the world was merry, who lived for tailgating and roared throughout the parking lot about Antonio Gates being the next NFL MVP would be ashamed.  I bare my frustration to you all, be gentle with me.  It’s an open wound.

The Bad

Will this man be coaching the Chargers in 2011? (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

Our coaching staff in general.  That’s right, not just Norv Turner.  Even if highly paid professionals should bring their best work to the table every day, somehow boatloads of money aren’t always enough in the NFL.  At least that’s the impression I get when players talk about a coaching staff’s ability to motivate; I think it’s a bundle of excuses.  Still, someone on this coaching staff needs to hold these players accountable, and instill some strong football discipline in them.  Problem is, if it can’t come from our current staff, what can the Chargers really do?  In this statement made by Dean Spanos, he sums up how I feel.  Who the hell would the Chargers hire?  I’m sure we could name a bunch of really great potential coaches, but would our offense get shaken up with big changes?  What about our defense?  Both ranked incredibly well, and aside from some off games, they seemed to maximize production from the players we have on the field.  If the Chargers blew up the coaching staff, would you expect immediate, profound improvement and success?  I’m not sure I could expect that, especially in a division where the other teams’ yearly high draft picks appear to have them catching up (Denver excluded, my personal thanks to Josh McDaniels).  The Chargers will have to find success with what we have, even if it means just fixing special teams errors.  Who knows though, maybe some would-be coach out there could take them from out of the playoffs to Super Bowl contenders over the summer.  We probably won’t find out this year.

The Good

Ending on an optimistic note is more my style, I hope whoever reads my blog can appreciate that. How can I ever heap enough praise on Philip Rivers?  The man is carving his own giant notch in Chargers lore, and it gets bigger with every game.  During the first half of the season, all the talk about him being on pace to eclipse 5,000 yards was nice to hear. Sports media was going nuts over how good he is.  I’m not quite sure why it is, but there is something VERY satisfying about hearing the announcers acting like they are going to name their children after your team’s quarterback.

Another thing I’m optimistic about is that all things cannot stay bad forever.  Our special teams play improved as the year rolled along, and I believe next year it could be a non-issue.

Antonio Gates doing what he does best (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

The defensive line showed great improvement this year, not looking like the welcome mat it was at times in 2009.  Antonio Garay was somewhat of a cast-off before arriving in San Diego, never playing in more than six games in a season.  Signed as stop-gap against injuries in 2009, he took a dominating form in 2010. Clearly becoming the class of our defensive line, his play at defensive tackle helped everyone around him play better as a result.  I have said it several times before, the Chargers defense just about lives and dies by the play of our defensive tackle.  I look forward to what he will do next year!

Antonio Gates may have been injured a lot this season, but when he was playing…watch out.  The man is like a magician, seemingly disappearing at the start of the play, then popping up wide open for a catch.  Once he catches the ball, the man fights for every yard and first down as if it has profound importance to him.  Gates continues to be my favorite Charger, something that hasn’t changed since even before Tomlinson began his decline in San Diego.  On a side note, I got a signed authentic Antonio Gates jersey for Christmas!  It’s totally sweet, with the numbers, name and bolts stitched on.  I’ll post a picture later.

Wrapping it up

Hopefully it won’t be so long before I post again. I have over 1,000 hits now despite not posting since April and I feel guilty for depriving the loyal readers of my commentary!  All egotism aside,  I will get back to posting after every game next season.  Changes in my work schedule and my overall frustration regarding the Chargers’ season had me derailed from posting as I wanted to this year.  Not to worry!  Ryan’s Bolt Blog will be back soon, with (hopefully) witty remarks about the NFL’s playoffs and Super Bowl. Until then!

Saturday Draft Special April 24, 2010

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The 2010 NFL draft is over, and I can honestly say that I am as pleased as one could be with players who have yet to play a snap for the Chargers.  AJ Smith must have read this blog, because he did exactly what I didn’t think he would do, which was moving up in the first round to grab Fresno St. running back Ryan Mathews.  Aside from having a cool first name, he was the running back wanted by many Chargers fans I know.  Because I don’t know much about college players, and instead focus on NFL level production, I will simply go over what each position drafted means for the team.

The new face of the San Diego running game.

First round: Ryan Mathews, RB.  The Chargers needed a powerful between the tackles runner, and from what little I have read Mathews fits the bill.  At first, I expect to see a close split of carries between him and Darren Sproles, as the Chargers could very well be moving to the multi running back system employed by many teams.  I also predict that Mathews will end up shining, and taking the bulk of the load midway through the year or even earlier.  My long-term outlook on this situation is that Sproles may end up leaving for a long term contract elsewhere in the next few years, leading the Chargers to draft a mid round running back to carry some of the load.  No matter what direction the team or players take, I’m in high hopes that Ryan Mathews will be the power we have so sorely needed ever since the departure of Michael Turner.

Second round: Pick traded away to move up in 1st round.

Third round: Donald Butler, LB.  This pick can mean several things, the first one coming to my mind being that AJ Smith is unsure (or as is usually the case, exactly sure) about the future of any one of our middle linebackers.  ILB Tim Dobbins was traded to the Dolphins as part of the trade to move up in the first round, so that move did create a depth need.  Nonetheless, I find myself questioning this pick as simply creating depth on the roster.  Look for Butler to be starting within the next few years.

Fourth round: Darrell Stuckey, S.  I find this pick very interesting on several levels.  First, it reminds me of the pick that brought Kevin Ellison to the Chargers in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, with the strong safety position being a spot that could definitely be improved.  Our strong safety spot is still an area that can be improved, but Stuckey is a free safety.  Second, if all of our current safeties end up making the final cuts, there will be 6 players between the strong and free safety positions, making the Chargers incredibly well stocked in terms of depth.  I find it hard to believe we will go into this season with six safeties on our roster.  The third and perhaps most prominent thing that interests me is that Stuckey plays the same position as Eric Weddle.  Smith held Eric Weddle in very high regard and traded up 25 spots for him in the second round of the 2007 draft.  The Chargers depth chart already has two players backing up Weddle, so I have to wonder why we would select another when other spots on the team are not as deep.

Fifth round: Cam Thomas, DT.  Here we are, the one I was waiting for.  In no way do I abandon Ogemdi Nwagbuo or Vaughn Martin, but with the departure of Jamal Williams our defensive line on the whole is getting revamped and younger.  Drafting another big body is what the doctor ordered.  Last season the Chargers found themselves scrambling to fill depth on the defensive line when Williams was injured for the year; a draft pick like this ensures they are well prepared.

Sixth round: Jonathan Crompton, QB.  I’ll spare you the play on words joke regarding his name, as I’m sure you’ve already heard it.  I don’t know much about this guy, other than the fact that he played for former Raiders head couch and current USC coach Lane Kiffin while he was coaching at Tennessee.  This is a pure depth pick, replacing Charlie Whitehurst who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks.

Seventh round: Dedrick Epps, TE.  With Brandon Manumaleuna gone, the Chargers needed a third tight end to fill the spot Kris Wilson moved up and out of.

Looking back, I wish we had drafted for the offensive line.  Perhaps Smith simply didn’t see an offensive tackle who could replace Jeromey Clary outright or even in the near future.  Even so, I feel that taking an offensive tackle rather than adding a sixth safety to the team would have been a good move to make.  Alas, I am not managing the Chargers, and AJ Smith’s judgement on draft day has helped bring the team out of the depths of yearly losing records.  I won’t question him, as he surely has a plan to keep this team contending for years to come.  As I sometimes say, we’ll see!

Offseason Recap: Thus Far April 12, 2010

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I haven’t posted in a while, mostly because so much of the offseason is speculation and rumors.  I generally like to present my opinions regarding the Chargers, but general manager AJ Smith rarely makes big splashy moves in the offseason.  As such, I shut down on football until the draft, where I actually have a chance  for the excitement of possible trades and the great unknown of who we might draft.  AJ Smith does not follow Mel Kiper’s draft board, that much is certain.

This year, however, saw some very eventful times at Chargers Park.  A future hall of fame player was unceremoniously cut; a monster was released; a once incredibly promising talent was dealt to the very team that defeated the Chargers in the playoffs the past season; our third string quarterback was traded for incredible value…I’d say we’ve been spoiled here in San Diego.

A Chargers legend

Ladainian Tomlinson:  What other than his name needs writing?  No Chargers fan could ever forget that this man was literally the face of the Chargers for almost a decade; an icon to satisfy our thirst for football greatness in the wake of the disaster that was Ryan Leaf.  I could stay awake all night writing about all of the missed opportunities regarding the time the Chargers employed one of the most prolific running backs of all time, but then I wouldn’t be able to wake up for the job I don’t have.  I do need to get this off my chest though: Tomlinson will be missed.  Despite everything that has happened the past couple of years, despite my constant rationalization of why he needed to go – he was once the heart and soul that Chargers fans could connect to.  When everything around him was bad, he was great; when everything around him was good, he elevated his game to the outer reaches of the atmosphere, breathing the rare air that only the greats have.  We will miss you Ladainian.  Please forgive San Diego and come back when you retire, we will always love you.

Jamal Williams: This man was the glue that held our defense together for years, anchoring our once vaunted run defense.  In recent years, Williams’ susceptibility to injury kept him out of the game enough to make a huge difference.  The entire defense suffered as a result, from the pass rush all the way to the secondary.  The domino effect his absence had on the defense received multiple band-aids in the form of free agent signings and a revolving team at the defensive tackle position, but it wasn’t really the same as having a pro-bowl caliber performer on the field.  While I felt he was the most important part of our defense, I can understand why he was released.  We need players who are healthy and on the field.  The thing that truly sucks is that he was signed by hated division rival Denver.

Antonio Cromartie: Babies.  How many does he have, seven?  I’m on my third or fourth glass of Pinot Noir, so I really can’t remember.  My own humble opinion is that Cromartie is one of the biggest wastes of talent ever conceived.  When the sister chromatids were crossing over in meiosis, somehow the gene for intelligence fell off and didn’t show up in either of the gametes that created him.  This guy had one spectacular season for the Chargers, intercepting the ball more often than he impregnated women, and looked to be another excellent addition to the fine talent the Chargers had been assembling.  As quickly as his greatness was becoming apparent, it vanished.  Maybe it was the lack of a pass rush to create bad throws from opposing quarterbacks; maybe it was the thrill of being in the spotlight that made him buy into the hype and stop trying as hard; maybe he partied too hard.  Maybe we’ll never really know, but one thing is certain: I am glad he’s gone.  The dude wouldn’t tackle people.  He’s a freakin defensive player in football!  Tackling is one of, if not the most, important duties of a defensive player in football!  It keeps the other team from scoring on EVERY SINGLE PLAY!  Yet he decided he didn’t want to do it.  Good riddance.

Charlie Whitehurst: There isn’t much to be written about a quarterback who I do believe has not thrown one NFL regular season pass.  He did, however, fetch a trade that moved us up twenty spots in the second round of this year’s draft, in addition to a third round selection next year.  Not bad at all!  The victim of this obvious robbery is none other than USC’s former head coach and Seattle Seahawks’ current head coach, Pete Carrol.  I wish Charlie the best of luck, and I offer Pete my fondest HAHA.

The Chargers made some other moves, but nothing spectacular.  We signed former Bears standout cornerback Nathan Vasher to create some depth in the secondary, and retained the most important restricted free agents on the team.  I look forward to the draft, in hopes that we will adequately address the gaping holes left by the departures of Tomlinson and Williams.

Cromartie March 12, 2010

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He’s the Jets’ problem now, and they have already given him half a million dollars for being irresponsible in the past.

I’m glad the Chargers were able to get anything for him, that’s all I have to say about that.

Looking to the draft February 8, 2010

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Damn you, ESPN.com Insider only articles.

With the Super Bowl in the books and the city of New Orleans satisfied with the outcome, it is time to look forward to the draft.  Every year at this time I kick myself for not following college football more closely.  I have absolutely no idea who is who at each position and ESPN.com doesn’t let me look at all of Mel Kiper’s draft projections because I’m not an Insider.  Lame.

Have no fear, my fan-ness is safe when it comes to the Chargers and I know exactly which positions I want the Chargers to draft.  If they go with all defense and a running back and offensive lineman, it would be just fine with me.

The Chargers desperately need a tough, nasty defensive lineman to complement what I hope Vaughn Martin will become.  My ideal situation there: Martin takes over at the tackle spot and develops into a top run stopper like Jamal Williams did, and we draft a mean sob to play the left defensive end spot opposite Luis Castillo, who will hopefully return to his 2005-06 form.  I know this involves a lot of “hope” but what else can you do as a fan when it comes to the draft?

The other issue as stated before is the obvious lack of a running game.  Whether he is in San Diego or not next year, Ladainian Tomlinson will have to take a seat.  We need a solid running game bad and he just can’t do it anymore.  I see both him and Darren Sproles somewhere else next year, as there’s just no way we keep Sproles either.  A running back taken in the top three rounds is the way to go here.

Another area of need is the offensive line, at the right tackle spot.  It’s time to draft a behemoth who can manhandle pro bowl pass rushers.  Do it Chargers, pull the trigger.  If none are available in the draft, find one in free agency.  I’m sick of watching the Chargers twiddle their thumbs, and doing so has caught up to them.

So there you have it, my super-awesome and yet super-simple draft wishlist.  Defensive line, running back and offensive tackle.  To be honest, I won’t be surprised if AJ Smith doesn’t draft any of these.  If he drafts all linebackers and receivers and a 2nd string wide receiver/kick returner in the second round I won’t even blink.  Extra bonus points if one or more or all of them have injury/character-flaw issues.

The Not-So-Pro Bowl and the Super Duper Bowl January 26, 2010

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Forget David Garrard, the NFL should have invited these lovely ladies to Miami. (From Jaguars.com)

I know this is the same drill as every other year, you most likely read similar articles elsewhere, but bare with me here to get to the more original material.  We are less than a week away from the Pro Bowl, where the best players as voted by the fans and players converge to clash on the gridiron in a Hawaiian island paradise. Except this time they will not meet in a Hawaiian island paradise, but a Miami suburb one week before the Super Bowl. And the best players?  Many of them are injured, in the Super Bowl, or don’t really want to play, clearing the way for the likes of David Garrard and Vince Young in a clash of players who don’t care about the game being played. The NFL is hoping that holding the Pro Bowl in the Super Bowl city a week before will help drum up public interest, but what they ought to do is sell the tickets for the two events as one package.  That would be two games for the price of the one that you actually want to see!  I have to wonder if maybe one day an NFL executive will stumble across this post and think to themselves, “This Ryan guy has a great idea! I’ll rip it off and take all the credit!” I wouldn’t really mind their idea thievery either, I’m just looking out for the fans who spend their hard earned money to travel and attend the Super Bowl.

Get ready to watch the Colts march up down and all over the place on February 7th.

This year’s Super Bowl has the match-up that many talking heads and sports writers had predicted mid-season, but not yours truly.  Year in and year out I viciously cling to the hope that my team will someday make it over the hump and take the plunge into Super Bowl glory.  Maybe next year?  In the meantime, this year belongs to the Saints and Colts. And by that I mean it belongs to the Indianapolis Colts, who I believe will win by at least two scores.  The Saints have to be loved by many millions of people right now, having become a symbol of New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the disaster management fiasco that ensued.  I see people here in San Diego rooting for them on Facebook for multiple reasons, from Drew Brees to pure compassion for the inhabitants of New Orleans. The problem is, the Colts are like the Death Star about to blow up Alderaan, no matter how much you want to believe Princess Leia can save them.  That’s right, Peyton Manning is Governor Tarkin and Drew Brees is Princess Leia.  I haven’t decided who is playing Darth Vader, but that’s beside the point.  The Colts are a machine, as demonstrated by the way they steamrolled the NFL’s “#1 ranked” defense in the second half of last week’s AFC Championship Game. New Orleans doesn’t have a bad defense, but a good defense is not enough to win here.  One must truly have an epic defense to beat the man who has “perfected the art” of playing quarterback, and no such defense appears to exist at the present.  I don’t intend to sound like a hater, but it will take some kind of fairy tale miracle for the Saints to pull off a victory and the US used up it’s miracle powers in the 1980 Miracle On Ice.  While the Chargers are yet another year away from immortal glory, I can take comfort in knowing that the coming Super Bowl will be nowhere near as painful for me as it will be for Saints backers.

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