Are The 2010 Chargers Better?

Are the Chargers better today than they were in the playoffs? It is an interesting question to ponder because for as many changes as the Chargers have made, much of the Chargers roster remains the same. And that in itself could be an improvement. Confused? Let's discuss...

Starting with where the action begins on the gridiron battlefield, the offensive line faced much adversity during the 2009 season, and should be improved this year over the team that we last saw in the playoffs. Last season, the Chargers lost center Nick Hardwick, rookie right guard Louis Vasquez, and right tackle Jerome Clary to injuries for multiple games throughout the season, and left tackle Marcus McNeill was fighting injuries throughout the end of the year. By the January 2010 playoff game against the New York Jets, the Chargers had a hobbled Hardwick starting at center and undrafted Brandon Dombrowski starting at right tackle. The Chargers had serious depth concerns on the offensive line (not much has changed actually), but a healthy group of starters will be a marked improvement over the MASH unit that played much of 2009.

On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, the problems on the Chargers' defensive line can be primarily blamed on the losses of Jamal Williams and Ryon Bingham. Williams, the anchor of the defense, and his backup were both lost for the season by the end of the first game in 2009, and the Chargers had a rough time filling that void. Ian Scott, Travis Johnson, Antonio Garay, and Aaron Boone were all used in various packages on defensive in the playoff loss to the Jets- hardly a dream team at the defensive tackle position, but a rotation (along with Ogemdi Nwagbuo) that was effective enough until the postseason, where they got manhandled by the Jet's offensive line. This season, following a draft where the nosetackle position was an obvious need but was not addressed until the 5th round, the rotation on the defensive line seems to be here to stay. Rookie 5th round pick Cam Thomas will be asked to be an immediate contributor on a defense that needs to get better at stopping the run, but it is unknown whether he is up to the challenge on a consistent basis. Overall, the defensive line is not worse than it was in 2009, but whether or not it can be significantly better has yet to be determined. And if the Chargers face another team like the Jets in the playoffs, you had better hope that this defensive line can play better.

Continuing with the Chargers' defense, the linebackers and defensive backs each welcome some rookie competition in LB Donald Butler and S Darrell Stuckey. The linebackers also welcome back from injury solid contributors in Jyles Tucker and Antwan Applewhite. Depth was a problem at a number of positions for the Chargers last season, so bringing back players who can contribute in a back-up capacity can be considered an improvement over last season, especially if Merriman's stay in San Diego does not make it far into the 2010 season.

The Chargers secondary may be the team's biggest question mark going into 2010. Generally speaking, with every other position on the team you know what you're going to get. But with the Chargers' defensive backs, you have a new starter at cornerback in Antoine Cason or possible Nathan Vasher, and a battle for the starting safety position opposite Eric Weddle. I'm not ready to call the trading of Antonio Cromartie addition by subtraction, because I'm not confident that Cason will better (although I think he has the talent to surprise a lot of people). At safety, the biggest question is whether or not Stuckey can beat out Kevin Ellison, and prove to be a marked improvement over what the Chargers have had in years past at that position.

Back to the offense, the biggest acquisition for the Chargers in this offseason was the drafting of RB Ryan Mathews in the first round. For a running game that was ranked second-to-last in the league, the addition of Mathews can only be an improvement. I am still of the belief that the problems with the Chargers' running game were equal parts offensive line and running back, but with a healthy offensive line, a fresh running back should do wonders for bringing the Chargers offense back into balance.

The QB position remains basically the same, with Rivers, Volek, and a 3rd stringer who really doesn't matter. The receiving corp remains relatively unchanged (Kassim Osgood was not a productive WR but his exit to Jacksonville obviously hurts our special teams). And speaking of special teams, Kaeding, Scifres, and Sproles all return, bringing with them high hopes for another solid regular season and a post-season that we hope does not come down to a field goal.

So are the 2010 Chargers better than the team that lost to the Jets in playoffs? Based on health alone I would say yes, but health can be a fleeting thing in the sport of football. All things considered, the running game has to be better with the addition of Mathews, because it would be hard to be much worse. Another year with the rotation at nosetackle should be improved as long as Thomas can step up and improve their defense against the run. From a team that went 13-3 last season, to only lead to a quick exit from the playoffs, it's hard to find a position where the Chargers got worse. Can they eliminate the slow start and mental mistakes that have become their trademark in recent years? Only time will tell, but it will make for another entertaining season.

May 13, 2010

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Anonymous said... May 13, 2010, 3:26:00 AM

i would say yes, they are better. because obviously, they didnt need much. they were the best team in the last two thirds of the regular season, sweeping the highly rated nfc east and beating the upstart titans just as examples for that.

you pointed it out nicely. the O-Line isnt improved from a personnel-point-of-view. but if they can stay healthy (and last year was very unlucky), i think the run game can easily go to 20th place or so (with the addition of mathews), and we dont need more. passingwise, nothing should change too much. i would be surprised if the chargers dont finish among the top5 passing teams. protection should be even better, with the O-Line possibly getting in sync (as i said before, if they can stay healthier than last year).

DLINE wasnt that bad actually. of course, at the beginning, they had problems stopping the run. but CJ2K was stopped. the best runner of the season was contained. so i dont think that this will be a problem, especially with cam thomas (he was a projected 2nd to third rounder) adding to the rotation.

linebackers getting some depth back and if merriman and philips can bring the pressure like in some games last season, LBs shouldnt be a problem. butler should see some snaps on ILB.

secondary is suspect, yes. but to be honest, apart from the wk 1 game against the raiders, they gave up very little big-plays (at least, nothing jumps to my mind). and that is the most important thing imo. limit the 50 yd, 80 yd TD, make the offense go 12+ plays for points. maybe stuckey is the ballhawk that they need. as i said, the chargers secondary is (imo) based on playing your assignment, do what you are meant to do. so i am not sure how a guy like ed reed or darren sharper would fit in there, but 1 pick more per game wouldnt hurt.

so special teams. this is the only part i could see a dropoff. yes, its only a gunner, but what a good one. coverages may give up 1-2 yards more now on average which is ok, but do you remember all these scifres-punts which osgood literally awaited standing on the 1-yd-line?? i hope somebody can fill these shoes, because i think its a very underrated position, maybe not from the actual benefit, but from the mental benefit. you know how it pumps up your D when the ball is on the 5 or 10 instead of the 20 all the time, how the offense is hot when they start on the 35 or 40. and without their longtime special teams captain, i think these areas will suffer a little.

but overall, this team is good enough to win the division with ease. could get a tough division in 2-4 years, but right now, its a weak one and the bolts will have a first-round bye, no doubt. hopefully, they can finish. because, seriously, the jets game wasnt about that one long TD run (aside from that, the jets ran nowhere), or nates misses. it was about stupid penalties and individual errors. and nobody talks about how VJ got 100+ yds in that game against revis island. bolts were way better as the jets, but just too stupid to take advantage of it.

Anonymous said... May 13, 2010, 7:45:00 AM

bMr Jeff Williams, as a redactor for a bolts blog, is it too much asked to write the goddamn name of the players properly ? MATHEWS. Come on!

Rob Zepeda said... May 13, 2010, 8:39:00 AM

@anon above: I took care of that spelling mistake, an easy one to make actually. All that aside, what's your take on the difference between the 2009 Chargers and the 2010 Chargers at this point? Are the Bolts a better team now than they were coming in to the playoffs?

Jason said... May 13, 2010, 9:33:00 AM

I'm cautiously optimistic, if only because of the staggering amount of injuries last season...I just can't see that happening again.

I think the DBs are the big question mark here. I have a gut feeling Cason is ready to be a starter, and the competition he gets from Vasher will help. I got tired of Cro's act midseason (gets toasted on a play, then points at the safety)...I say good riddance, his absence will help them play more as a solid unit.

LBs will be our strongest link, especially with Merriman playing for a big contract, and Butler will have a year to learn without the pressure of having to play every down. I kept waiting for Dobbins to break through, but he never really did, maybe a fresh start in Miami will help him-but with the depth we have here, he was expendable.

I sure would like to see Cam Thomas make an impact and clog up the middle so the LBs can do their job, but even if he doesn't make an immediate impact, we have enough bodies to compensate, especially with a year of on-the-job training under their belts.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm downright GIDDY about the offense. If the OL stays healthy, the sky's the limit...I'm envisioning 30+ points per game. Ryan Mathews looks like Norv's missing link, and genuinely seems like the kind of "good guy" and hard worker that we need at RB.

Are the Bolts better? My answer is YES, unless we get decimated by injuries again. If that happens, we should fire the trainer.

Anonymous said... May 13, 2010, 10:11:00 AM

@ Everyone! Ok this is a preview of the 2010 season. Here it goes, we start off slow but then we get super hot. we end up 12-4. We get first round bye everyone gets rested and ready to rock and rolltokickbutt in the playoffs. But much to everyone's surprise, it's no surprise. The Chargers will choke in the big game and lose just like last year. They suck. Remember when they played the 49ers in the SB, or how about 7-8yrs back when they had first round bye and choked? Yep it's official. The San Diego Chokers!

Jeff Williams said... May 13, 2010, 11:32:00 AM

LOL Anonymous #1- you got me, but thanks for adding so much to the conversation.

Jason, I'm not nearly as high on this offensive line, but they pass block well enough and that's what matters here. I'm very concerned about their depth because they are becoming injury-prone, but that is a concern on most teams.

Overall I see it being fairly status quo in 2010- slow start, great finish, and what happens in the playoffs is anyone's guess. My days of predicting Super Bowl wins are behind me.

Anonymous said... May 13, 2010, 3:58:00 PM

YES! And then it is off to Dallas to deal a crushing blow to the NFC in the Superbowl. Nothing like our first Superbowl victory being played in tax payer funded 1.4 Billion Dollar stadium with stripper poles.

Anonymous said... May 13, 2010, 5:07:00 PM

Rob, every year we lose our proven players hurt our football team. This year is no exception, losing Jamal Williams, Tim Dobbins and Antonio Cromartie will be reflected on the field. You can put me down on record for saying it’s not in the Chargers best interest to trade Shawne Merriman in 2010, as it is rumored. He puts loads of pressure on the opposing QBs. I don't get it, AJ I urge you to let this one play out before you pull the hatchet on # 56. I was the only fan wearing a Michael Turner #33 Jersey the year he left for Atlanta. I thought it was common sense to keep young proven RB. “I’m mistaken there was another guy wearing same jersey but it was cause his last name was Turner.” My point is that too many proven players are allowed to leave. This has neg. effect on positives gain from acquiring new talent. I’m excited about Matthews but feel we wasted draft opportunities with 28th and 40th picks.

Our O line will be fine mainly due to the emergence Dombroswki and Mruckowski. Nick Hardwick had been pushed way too much to be effective last year. Clary and Nick’s play should be closely scrutinized in 2010. What’s up with all the ankle sprains …we need better job with wrapping our guys. With more experience and conditioning I feel Luis Vasquez can immensely aid O line. Defense ...Cooper needs to make interceptions or remove those big ass gloves. Kevin Burnett and Travis Johnson didn’t cut it in 2009.The Jury is out on weather 2010 will be better than this past season. It is not easy to match a 13-3 record. Stay tuned. Best Wishes Bolts in 2010.

Lighting 72

arnie said... May 13, 2010, 7:55:00 PM

do know what the definition of madness is?
answer: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
the chargers have virtually the same roster, same coaches, same GM running the show. and every year they insist we don't have many needs and as soon as the season starts, injuries, slow start, in the playoffs and out. start over next year.
the roster is littered with "overachieving" low round picks, UDFA, back-up's, scrubs, and practice squad regulars. why should you, me, or any other charger fan expect this team to win a championship?

peace out

Anonymous said... May 14, 2010, 5:12:00 AM

Let's see, hmmm, low round draft picks. Well, draft picks go by where you ended last year (rankings). So, if we want higher draft picks then we have to lose games to have a worse winning percentage. High draft picks don't always equal all star, see ryan leaf, ja markus russell. Also, Antonio Gates went un drafted and he's a pretty good player. It's up to the scouts and the general manager to identify those college players they think have "the right stuff" and draft the ones that are available. You also have to decide whether to pick the best player available at a need position or the best player available period for future seasons. It's the old, do we plug holes this year or build for next year? Usually, you can't do both.

Anonymous said... May 14, 2010, 7:44:00 AM

Hard to say we will be better record wise. Not too many 13-3 seasons happen for any team. Question is can we get and win a superbowl. Injuries will happen. Maybe after a couple of big injury years in a row we will have a year with lessor injuries. This is also why AJ's philosophy is to be three deep at each position because it is hard to say where the injuries will happen but you know they will.

Hardwick is undersized and plays with tremendous heart and therefore has had his fair share of injuries.

McNeill has also had a lot of injuries but played pretty well through them. My concern here is that we may not sign him to a long term deal because of the injuries. His back was a concern out of college which caused him to drop to the second round. His back hasnt been the issue though thus far.

Mathews is definitely an upgrade but you can question what was given up to get him. If he produces it was worth it. If O-line still fails to block, it would not have been worth it.
I'm excited about Cam Thomas but it typically takes a few years for D-linemen to adjust to NFL. Good thing is that he may just be another part of the rotation. And perhaps Vaughn Martin and OG will be better. Garay also looked good.

Merriman is likely not going anywhere. AJ probably still thinks he can be very productive...but thinking that isnt enough to give him the rediculous contract that I am sure he wants. Let him play it out. We can always franchise him next year, get him long term deal, or trade after franchise. Worse case he goes as UFA and we get a 3rd-4th round compensatory draft pick.

I think Butler will really contribute.

Dont know what to think about Stuckey but hope that he can atleast contribute on Special teams.

I am also interested to see which Undrafted FA's make the team. Tutu, McNeal, and Lang are very intriguing. The FB Jackson is interesting too but we have both Tolbert and Hester.
All said I think we will go further in the playoffs and hope that it's Superbowl time for the Bolts!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Anonymous said... May 14, 2010, 9:41:00 AM

WOMP WOMP WOMP.... The Chokers are going to choke like they do every year. The only thing they play for is a good season record and then they feel they've made it but in true essence winning the SB means you've made it. San Diego Chokers will always choke. AJ's system only works for regular season games. Besides we all know if we ever do get a good player from the draft we won't sign them. Were a cheap franchise no one wants to pay a little. Aj is always trying to pay everyone the league minimum salary because Spanos family wastes all their money getting rid of the rat infestation at the Q. Lets face it the chokers are going to choke this year and the years to come no superbowl will ever be brought to this town. Worthless I say, Worthless.

john said... May 14, 2010, 12:17:00 PM

thats why your writing through anonymous always talking smack probably a raider fan hiding his face as it should be find your own team and make comments on them if you hate the chargers no one needs you here.

Anonymous said... May 16, 2010, 11:24:00 AM

I agree with Mr.WOMP WOMP WOMP.No matter how well the Chargers play in the regular season,they will self destruct with some stupid,brain fart personal foul.See head butting in the NFL referees rule book[ Draton Florence and Sean Philips] or a player will have the chance to put the game away with an interception that all he has to do is fall down but instead goes for personal glory running around trying to make a Sports Centers highlight film and gets stripped of the ball.That's just recent history.I'm a native San Diegan and a life long Charger fan.I had season tickets for nine years during the Dan Fouts era.As great as the team was during the season,the playoffs would start and the black cloud would appear.The "Holy Roller"play.Houston coming into town with no starting QB,RB,TE,or WR and our Hall of Fame QB throws 5 interceptions.The team has to go to Cincinnati to play in 50 below 0 windchill.Let's not forget the absolutely worst possible timing for "Iron Hands Muncie" to show up and put the ball on the ground.I'll always be a Chargers fan but I've seen enough Charger football to know one thing for sure.They are a great team to root for and a fun team to watch but, until they play the same type of disciplined football in the playoffs as they do during the season they will always come off looking like the post season is just to big for them.

Billy said... May 16, 2010, 11:33:00 AM

Chargers will definately bE better as long as they hold on to merriman

Jeff Williams said... May 16, 2010, 8:36:00 PM

Anonymous from this morning (you guys really can't use a name?), I hate your post, mostly because there is not a thing I can disagree with. The Chargers have beaten themselves more than they've been beaten in the postseason. Are the Chargers better? I think so. Are they more disciplined? I wouldn't bet that they are.

Anonymous said... May 17, 2010, 10:42:00 AM

Again the San Dogs are highly rated but, will get their rear ends kicked again in the Playoffs. The team needs DEPTH in their Defense and maybe just maybe Rivers can keep his big mouth shut so he won't look like the moron he is.

arnie said... May 17, 2010, 5:05:00 PM

dear, Anonymous said... May 14, 2010 5:12:00 AM
i am aware of How the draft is arranged. but AJ has made a standard of letting good veteran players walk, and replacing them with practice squad scrubs. or we draft a player in the 5th round, get upset when he dosen't live up to expectations, and replace them with a 6th round pick the following year. there is reason players are ranked in the draft. you don't need 1st rounders at every position. just four or five, from the first three rounds, spread around on both sides of the ball.

let me remind you, that we lost, to a team, in the playoffs that had the#1 ranked Rushing Offense and the #1 ranked Run Defense. how did they accomplish "most" of this? getting four 1st round picks, on your offensive line is a start. drafting Shon Greene (whom the chargers passed over for Gartrell Johnson) brining in a free agent like Terrell suggs. drafting Darnel Revis, trading up to get mark Sanchez, and surrounding them with good players and coaches, Rex Ryan (that knows what a good defense should play like) and Brian Schotenhiemer as your Offensive coordinator (fired from the chargers as PR's quarterback coach). as far FA's go, i say picking up Santonio Holmes. is far better than any of the FA's the chargers acquired.

Antonio Gates, Chris Deilman? fluke players. nobody could have predicted what they would become. but those are a few players that you will not be able to repeat. drat picks a are 50/50 at best. however, the statistic show there are more successful players that come from the first three rounds, than busts. and there fewer players that succeed from the lower rounds.

so why not increase you chances of winning a championship and get your key players in the first three rounds of the draft?

Anonymous said... May 17, 2010, 11:40:00 PM

arnie, have you seen the same game? the bolts didnt lose because they were inferior. they have a good team and hopefully this aggressive draft was the missing piece.

Ed said... May 18, 2010, 12:27:00 AM

The Jets surprised some people last season. This coming season they are everybodys radar, so lets see how good they really are? No free wins. Football is a team sport, you can have all stars you want but if they don't mesh togetheir they are not going anywhere.

arnie said... May 19, 2010, 6:32:00 PM

yes i have seen the games. and what i saw was chargers beat up on .500 teams in that 11 game win streak, and lose, in the playoffs. they struggled against .500+ teams, all 3 of them

here's what i'm getting at, the chargers looked good against bad teams, or teams that weren't playing well. and my concern at the end of the season was, what happens when they get to the p[layoffs, and plays teams that are well above .500? the result was 17-14. now this wasn't one playoff loss, this is the fourth straight early exit. the roster is virtually unchanged and the chargers have had ample opportunities to address the needs of NT, SS, RT, DE, CB for the long term. the only need they met was RG last year, and RB this year.

what the like to do is play the numbers, get a lot UDFA and some cheap draft picks into camp and see who stands out, then try to build them into starters. look at your needs, be agressive, like most other teams in the NFL, and go get the players. Ryan Matthews alone, is not going to change their fortunes if the can't block fo him.

back to my original point, the results don't lie. if you keep scraping the bottom of the barrel for players, why should they expect different results?

peace out

Ed said... May 21, 2010, 1:39:00 AM

the Chargers are 4 times Western Division Champs in a row. I say the offensive line is fine.When L.T. came down to his golf tournament, he said he tried to get hold of the members of the offensive line to assure them he did not calling them out.THAT SAYS THE OFFENSIVED LINE DIDN'T LIKE BEING L.T.'S ESCAPE GOAT.So they are going to be fired up. They had two rookies playing last year,look out they are fired up. They won 11 games in a row last year, to be honest with you the odds were againist them to win 12 in a row. They were better off losing one or two in between. That way they be on edge. So all these so called fans that talk s**t, don't jump on the bandwagon when they win!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said... May 22, 2010, 7:55:00 PM

My take on the 2010 Charger team is very good! Considering all of the LT fans dissapoitment in letting him go. There is a saying: Life goes on.....Ryan Mathews whom I've followed since he was a Senior at West Hi in Bakersfield. In which he led the entire nation in rushing and total yards, plus he seta new Ca hi-school record for scoring 44 TD's in his fial year! We al know how great he played at Fresno State which some people consider a Mid Major college in athletics, but I can insure you they played Wisconsin, Cinncinatti, and Illonois all on the road and Boise State at home! So all the doubters can see its not an easy schedule for any college team. Mathews can catch the ball, rest assured on that. He has soft hands and was used alot on flare outs and screen plays. Some might doubt his speed, but believe me he can outrun most DB's and Safeties once he gets thru the first 2 waves of defensive players! Being a SF Niners fan, I was hoping they would get him first but for you lucky Charger fans your in for a very special treat this year. He was the best running back in the draft, including the overated CJ Spiller. So my hats off to you people in San Diego, I'll be watching as many Charger games as possible because of Ryan! You'll all forget about LT by about the 3rd game of the season. Hopefully your offensive line can get healthy so Mathews can show what he's got in his Aresenal of Weapons including Rookie of the Year...without a doubt!..Jeff from Morro Bay, Ca.

Ed said... May 23, 2010, 9:16:00 AM

Jeff(Morro Bay,CA) You should become a Charger Fan! Show some these so-called Charger Fans how not to be so negative. These fans remind me of ex-vice president Dick Cheny. When Obama took office, the Generals said Dick was talking like he wanted the USA to be attack, just to prove the Obama wasn't the man for the job. These fans seem to want Mathews,Thomas, and the Chargers to fail , so they can call them "chokers","another A.J. bunder". These Fans need to check themselves, and dig deep inside to see if they are really Charger Fans. I checked other teams blogs,websites. You know what? They don't even talk negative about their team, even if their team is below 500. Charger so-called fans(negative ones) need to find another team.If I am not happy with some thing, I get rid of it or wouldn't waste my time on it. I hope these fans give the True Charger Fans a break and find a new team.

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