If only the games were played on paper during the 2010 campaign, it’s quite possible that the Chargers would have enjoyed a few more victories during the course of the season. Finishing first in both total offense and total defense statistically is almost as rare as missing the postseason during a year where those historic numbers are produced.
Every conversation concerning the ebb and flow of the Bolts inevitably begins with Head Coach Norv Turner who has been a perennial disappointment since taking over in 2007. That being said, the standards are quite high in San Diego when a coach yet to record a losing season in his four years with the team is considered to be falling short of expectations.
What prevents most fans (myself included) from buying into Turner as the man to lead this team over the hump and on a deep playoff march is his apparent ambivalence. Obviously a guy like Turner doesn’t maintain employment in the NFL for nearly two decades without having at least some semblance of motivation, but perception becomes reality for those of us watching from the outside in seeing Turner’s casual shoulder shrugs and lack of fire on the sidelines.
It’s easy to be critical of his play calling at times whether it is the predictability of first down stretch plays and third down draws or his tendency to get a bit too pass-happy in the face of adversity. Balance has been something that this Bolts team has been missing for the most part since Turner’s first year with the club. Certainly much of that has coincided with the downside of LaDainian Tomlinson’s career with the team, but even a new influx of talent in the backfield has been unable to revive the team’s fortunes running the ball.
The offensive line is basically the same unit that paved the way for LT’s record breaking campaign in 2006, but Turner’s philosophy seems to have taken the nastiness out of their respective attitudes. With the first step from each lineman play after play being either lateral or backward, the Chargers are putting themselves at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to reestablishing the line of scrimmage. The fact that the team still manages to be a ball control offense while lacking a potent ground attack is astounding, but just imagine the possible dominance if they could regain that mean streak and take it to opponents at the point of attack.
If criticizing a number one offense seemed difficult, it is equally tough to be negative toward the Bolts defense where a patchwork unit managed to compile the statistical résumé equal to a group of seasoned veterans. Several members of that corps are set to become free agents this offseason however which could threaten the team’s ability to maintain a cohesive squad.
There is no getting around the fact that safety Eric Weddle is the most important player to the Bolts defensively and it just so happens that he put together his best year to date leading up the end of his contract. Keeping Weddle is only one piece to a very complex puzzle however as nearly every inside linebacker and safety on the team’s roster is on the open market. A vocal leader like Stephen Cooper is someone that the team would love to bring back, but at 31 years of age they will have to weigh the pluses and minuses of that decision. Younger players like Brandon Siler, Kevin Burnett, and Paul Oliver seem to make the most sense as strong candidates to remain in San Diego.
Don’t be like the Chargers of 2010 and forget about special teams either as this team needs to target some young guys in the draft capable of making an immediate impact on a historically bad coverage unit. The well-documented difficulties of surrendering four returns for a touchdown as well as allowing five blocked punts during the course of the season cost this team dearly.
The Bolts addressed this problem by axing nine-year special teams coach Steve Crosby earlier in the offseason, but its difficult to think that he was anything more than a scapegoat for the more deeply rooted issues.
An infusion of desire and inspiration is what the Chargers are looking for in 2011 and they began that process by pilfering special teams coach Rich Bisaccia from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This addition cannot be the extent of the revamp however as this team needs some new faces willing to give it all they have on each and every play to make the overhaul complete. There may not be a Kassim Osgood replacement in the team’s future, but there is no denying the fact that the Bolts need someone with his desperate nature if they are going to turn around their special teams fortunes in the upcoming season.
If the 2010 Bolts learned anything from being spectators rather than participants this postseason it should be that stats don’t always equate to wins. Although the window-dressing of ranking at or near the top in every statistical category is nice, if the team isn’t as successful in the all-important win column, all of those numbers really just add up to zero.
Now let’s get your input. This feels like a broken record, but is Norv Turner really the right coach to get this team over the roadblock of mediocrity or are the Bolts just spinning their wheels with him at the helm? Can this team regain a more balanced offensive attack in 2011 or will they again be a pass-happy club with a finesse persona? Which potential defensive free agent do you feel is the most important to keep in San Diego? Will a new coach on special teams be enough to change the results for the team in that area or will an influx of hungry, young players be the answer? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Labels: NFL Offseason 2011
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