This epidemic of attaching the word “wild” to a particular formation and then inserting a mascot’s name after is getting out of hand. Now that the Bolts have turned the page from the “Wild Frog” days with former TCU Horned Frog LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield, the team has replaced that element with the “Wild Dog” in honor of rookie Ryan Mathews’ collegiate stomping grounds with the Fresno State Bulldogs. Mathews is such a dynamic player with the ball in his hands that it only makes sense for Head Coach Norv Turner to look for more opportunities to do just that.
Ronnie Brown of the Miami Dolphins is perhaps the most famous executioner of the “Wildcat” offense ripping off chunks of yardage between the tackles, having the speed to hit the edge, or even dropping back in the pocket and throwing a pass or two on occasion. Even though he was a running quarterback in high school, it remains to be seen whether or not Mathews possesses the arm for the quarterbacking half of the “Wild Dog” formation. His Head Coach Norv Turner believes that Mathews has a solid enough arm to catch some defenses off guard, but it would be crazy to expect many planned throws from the “Wild Dog” formation in the near term.
What this formation could afford to the Bolts is an even more diverse offensive attack with three solid tight ends on their current roster in Antonio Gates, Kris Wilson, and newcomer Randy McMichael. Fans are already well aware of what kind of weapon Gates can be in the Bolts wide open offense, but the team’s other two tight ends are no slouches either. Both have proven to be highly productive at the position in years past and the Bolts feel that 2010 could be another repeat of those numbers.
As if the “Wild Dog” idea isn’t off the cuff enough for the team’s innovative offensive guru/head coach in Turner, he claims to have a new package installed in the team’s playbook where all three tight ends are on the field at one time. This heavy personnel look could add yet another scary dimension to the Chargers offense even without Vincent Jackson in uniform. Running and passing are both legitimate threats with three capable blockers on the field disguised as receivers, the Bolts could have potentially eight offensive linemen on play for Mathews to run behind. The team’s most versatile player at tight end is unquestionably Gates who has more than enough athleticism to split out into a wideout position and run routes with precision rivaling plenty of receivers in the league. This could help to nullify the loss of a big bodied target on the outside for quarterback Philip Rivers by simply shifting some bodies around.
The fact that the Bolts informed both V Jack and offensive tackle Marcus McNeill that they intend to take the recourse necessary to force both onto the field by week 7 in order to be eligible for free agency in 2011 shows that the team would still rather have both players in uniform for the bulk of the 2010 season. As required by the league, the Chargers organization sent written notification to both players informing them of the team’s intent to place both on the “roster exempt” list if they don’t sign their restricted free agent tenders by August 20th. This seems more like an announcement rather than a threat as neither McNeill nor Jackson plans to sign their respective tenders at any time in the future. The team’s beat writer Kevin Acee expects both players to stand by their word and sit out the entire year ahead.
Obviously this isn’t the ideal scenario for a team with Super Bowl aspirations like the Chargers, but the team has rallied together from adversity in the past and this is yet another opportunity to do just that. The good news is that linebacker Shawne Merriman has decided to end his hiatus from the team and sign his tender offer joining the Bolts after their preseason opener with the Chicago Bears. As for the bad news, well that remains rather self-explanatory as any team without their number one offensive weapon on the outside and blindside protector is one with issues. The real question is will these problems be overcome by the ingenuity of Turner’s offensive mind during the course of a sixteen game season?
So what do the fans think, is Ryan Mathews the right fit to quarterback the “Wild Dog” offense? Will Antonio Gates bring enough versatility to the wide receiver position to overcome Vincent Jackson’s absence? Could the Chargers actually be better off without these two players (Jackson and McNeill) during the 2010 season? Sound off in the comments section below with your take.
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