Just like all Norv Turner led teams have shown a propensity to do in the past, this Chargers squad reverted to a marshmallowy soft group in the trenches during last week’s debacle at the hands of the Oakland Raiders. The main difference is that this Bolts team has waited until the postseason to allow their true colors to show in previous years rather than collapsing in the latter weeks of the regular season schedule.
Clearly the big difference between the Chargers and the Raiders was in the trenches where Oakland simply manhandled the Bolts and ran the ball down their throat for the most part. On the other side of the ball, San Diego was just as inept when it came to running the ball themselves managing just 21 yards on 8 measly carries during the course of the game. This lack of grit and toughness inside is a fundamental flaw with Turner teams where the offensive linemen are consistently taking their first step backward from the line of scrimmage rather than attacking defenders to push the pile forward.
As for the defensive side, the passive nature of the Bolts defensively has been nearly just as disturbing. San Diego’s 3-4 alignment generally just asks the front three to consume blockers allowing the linebackers to roam free and fill holes to make tackles. Not only have the linemen been unable to keep blocker occupied, but they have actually been driven backward into the laps of the linebackers. This prevents the main tacklers from getting through traffic and taking down ball carriers as routinely as they should. What ultimately results from this is a changing of the line of scrimmage, a lack of help from the second level, and the secondary left on their own to try and take down much larger offensive skill players. Matt Cassel’s potential absence from the game this week with the Chiefs could mean even more running from the KC stable of backs as the Chiefs’ signal caller recovers from an appendectomy. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera really has his work cut out for him as he prepares the Bolts for the league’s top rushing team in both yards and number of attempts.
Both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball were addressed in theory by General Manager A.J. Smith during the NFL Draft, but Smith’s class has been a belly flop to this point. With neither 5th rounder Jonathan Crompton nor 7th round selection Dedrick Epps even making the practice squad, those to picks have to be considered wasted. The jury is still out on both 4th rounder Darrell Stuckey and 5th round pick Cam Thomas, but judging by the fact that neither can even make the 53-man roster from week-to-week, things don’t look great.
Certainly it is difficult to expect too much from first year players coming into the league right away, but the Bolts have gotten next to nothing as 3rd round linebacker Donald Butler went down to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and 1st round tailback Ryan Mathews has been hampered by an ankle issue nearly all season long. Unless these players are going to be lining up with their hands in the dirt and colliding with some big uglies in the near future however, it seems like the emphasis has been put on the wrong areas of this team to make a noticeable difference immediately.
What this club has to focus on now is making the most of the situation currently on their plate and that task is a tall order. Having been forced to go back to the proverbial drawing board by most accounts, the team realizes that this week’s tilt with the Kansas City Chiefs (as are the remaining games on their schedule) is a defacto playoff game. Winning is a necessity from here on out if the Bolts want to have a chance at making the playoffs and they will still require some assistance to do so.
There is plenty of leadership inside of the locker room and those traits need to shine through the mundane and uninspiring pep talks that Turner is undoubtly attempting to channel. Philip Rivers has taken this team on his shoulders nearly all season long as a field general and now his fiery command needs to be equally present behind closed doors. The best way to cure the soft and uninspired nature that ails this Bolts team is for someone to light a fire under each and every player to motivate them in the pursuit of their final destination.
Now it’s your turn. Which area of concern is the most pertinent, stopping the run or running the ball? If the Chiefs are without Matt Cassel this week, how will the Bolts fair against their number one rushing attack in the league? Has A.J. Smith’s lack of success in the 2010 NFL Draft negatively impacted this team’s success (or lack thereof) thus far this year? Can the player leadership on the Bolts overcome the lackluster motivational skills of their head coach moving forward? Please leave your opinions in the comments section below!
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