So far in 2011 there are some players who have done an excellent job of disappearing on the field. Houdini would be proud, on the contrary Greg Manusky, Norv Turner and Charger fans are sometimes left wanting more. At this point in the season it may be time to experiment with other options at certain positions. Bolthype examines some players who have played themselves off of the bubble.
Travis Laboy OLB 11 Tackles 0 Sacks- Laboy came in hoping to solidify the OLB position as a run stopper and situational pass rusher. He seems to lumber and lack edge speed that we have seen from other lineback options (see Antwan Barnes). Laboy is consistently engaged in blocks on running downs and needs to make more plays all around.
Larry English OLB 7 Tackles 2 Sacks- Like Laboy, English’s play seems to be overshadowed by the overwhelming dominance of Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes on passing downs. Yes, English had two sacks against Miami. We need to see more explosive plays and contributions on pass rushing downs. He is too easily blocked.
Stephen Cooper ILB 1 Tackle 0 Sack. Released.- Cooper is someone that Charger fans are used to seeing on the field a lot. In 2011 his opportunity to play has vanished and has now been cut. With one tackle, Cooper has given way to Donald Butler, Takeo Spikes, and newly signed Niall Diggs. A sharp, sharp drop off so far. Remember, he was injured to start the season.
Analysis: At outside linebacker playing Barnes and Phillips in all passing situations is optimal. Without improvement it may be reasonable to give undrafted preseason standout Daryl Gamble an opportunity to perform over Laboy and English. Somebody other than Phillips must start making defensive plays, especially as teams begin to help block his side. Inside Linebacker play has been solid, Spikes and Butler make it especially hard for the Charger Veterans to see the field, an Injury could change that in a split second.
Patrick Crayton WR 7 Catches 60 yards- A trade with Dallas last year provided another option for Rivers. Crayton has seemed to regress from the lineup. His best week coming most recently at Denver, there just doesn’t seem to be a solid rapport in 2011 with Rivers who was intercepted for a Touchdown because of a miscommunication between the two.
Antonio Gates TE 8 Catches 74 yards- Mr. Gates and his foot. Unfortunately this year has been completely compromised because of this injury. There is optimism for his return after the bye week, but how optimistic can you be with a chronic injury to the foot of a player that relies so heavily on cutting to get open? A great talent, rendered unusable in a warm up on the sideline. Let’s hope he is back against the Jets.
Richard Goodman KR Long Kick Return 27 Yards/Bryan Walters PR Long Punt Return 13 yards-
The new kickoff rule greatly hinders all return specialists, Goodman is no different. He has to watch as kickoffs sail over his head for touchbacks. When given the opportunity however, the Chargers returners lack the confidence to make the first man miss. Poor blocking schemes are also partly to blame, but its time to start seeing longer returns from both parties.
Analysis: Fortunately on offense the Chargers have depth to mask the Injury of Gates, and the ineffectiveness of Crayton. McMichael and Sperry deserve much praise filling in for the future hall of famer. Both may even block better, leading to the increased productivity of Mathews. Floyd and Jackson are thriving, it would be nice however to see Crayton or Vincent Brown aptly step into that third receiver role. The returners need more opportunity and continued improvement on scheming should increase return numbers through the finals three quarters of the season for Walters and Goodman.
Can replacing some players in the lineup improve the overall production of the Chargers? Where do you see changes that need to be made?