What Can Be Learned From Week 17

With the Chargers playing for little more than pride in week 17, it would be assumed that several starters will see nothing more than a series or two of action before taking a spot on the sideline for the remainder of the game. Some of the lesser known components of the team are likely playing for jobs however and this game could be their audition for keeping a spot with the Bolts or earning one with one of the other 31 teams in the league.

In essence, the focus has shifted from the 2010 version of the Chargers to just what the 2011 installment could look like when August rolls around next year. Plenty of potentially franchise changing decisions have to be made concerning critical players on the roster and coaches on the staff moving forward.

The subtractions will likely begin with some big ticket items on the roster that either just haven’t lived up to expectations or have failed to make a good impression on team management. It doesn’t take much to figure out the two names topping this list, but both wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Darren Sproles figure to be free agent casualties this offseason.

For Sproles, the franchise designation given to him last offseason by General Manager A.J. Smith seemed a bit bold at the time and certainly proved to be a hasty decision. Although his speed and big play ability have the potential to be game-breaking at times, Sproles also has shown the propensity to disappear in big moments and certainly cannot be expected to be an every down back.

As far as Vincent Jackson is concerned, his approach to negotiations and his representation in super agent Neil Schwartz have been very non-conducive to progress. Schwartz and Jackson were steadfast in their contract demands preventing any trades from taking place prior to the trade deadline and those lofty numbers near or surpassing Brandon Marshall type of money are just not going to come from the Bolts. Sunday will likely be the last time fans see Jackson in a Chargers’ uniform unless some drastic changes happen during the offseason.

Aside from the assumed departure of Sproles, one place where there won’t be many alterations is the Bolts’ backfield where the team will look to test out rookie Ryan Mathews in a full-time role this week with Mike Tolbert out due to a sprained neck and shoulder. Aside from his durability concerns, fans have to be relatively enthused about what the Fresno State product has offered to the lineup when healthy. He runs with a purpose and really attacks the hole quickly and decisively which is a definite positive for a first year player.

All of this information will be dissected repetitively over the next four to five months leading up to the NFL Draft in April of 2011, but the key lies in the fundamental approach of this team. Head Coach Norv Turner brings a pass first mentality which serves the wideouts and quarterback Philip Rivers well, but doesn’t really appease the guys in the trenches much. In Marty Schottenheimer’s final season in San Diego, the Bolts had pretty much the same offensive line and were able to push teams around up front with brute power and strength. That element of the game has been missing from this team since Marty’s dismissal and this team has gone sideways as a result.

The Bolts claimed to be looking at a revitalization of the running game coming into this past season and obviously injuries derailed that thought process to some degree, but the coaching staff still veered from that path far too easily. It’s nice to see Rivers and his outside targets hook up for big chunks of yardage every now and again, but when a team relies on that as their bread and butter for moving the chains it then becomes a problem.

Finger pointing is an empowering feeling at first, but eventually you realize that nothing is going to change unless steps are taken to improve the team. The philosophical issues still lie in the system that the team employs where the linemen all take their initial step from the line of scrimmage backward rather than looking to shift the line forward. Until the Bolts address the quandary of achieving true balance offensively, no personnel changes are going to make much difference for the outcome of this team.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think either Vincent Jackson or Darren Sproles will be back with the Bolts in 2011? What do you expect from Ryan Mathews in week 17 as the Bolts take the training wheels off and look to see what they really have in their rookie running back? Is it Norv Turner’s fault that this team cannot generate a consistent running game or is the personnel not the right fit for a ground based attack? Do you expect any philosophical changes from either the organization or the coaching staff in 2011 or will they be content to remain the same? Please weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below!

December 31, 2010

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unhappy season ticket holder said... Jan 1, 2011, 8:00:00 AM

I have no doubt that Jackson and Sproles are on the block, however the rocket scientist that own the team needs address the real resin for the crap season. AJ Smith and Norv Turner! Norv couldn't motivate a group of 5 year olds to go to Disneyland, little lone a group of ego-ecintric adults! Every time Norv does a press conference to justify his own incompetence as a head coach he bores me to the point that I switch him off. Great players need great leadership, Norv and AJ are not it.
On the lighter side of a crap season and crap management, it makes it harder to shop the team to the people of Los Angeles. 4 seasons of "kiss'n your sister" and this could have, should have, but didn't season the fickle fans of Los Angeles would be looking to "tar and feather" Norv & AJ. You two can't produce a championship team in San Diego, but we fans continue to support you. That would never happen in Los Angeles. (Ask that other guy that moved from here to there)

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