¼ mark of the way through the season: what needs to change immediately & other notes
Four games into the season and the Chargers sit at 2-2. So many things have been executed well and just as many things have looked troublesome and even awful at times. It is important to remember that historically this team tends to be slow starters and progress as the season goes on. I’m not really sure why this is, however it leaves all fans with faith and positivity that things will indeed improve. 2-2 is not all that bad considering who the two losses came against. Yet it’s also easy to point to the fact that this latest win was ugly and should have been by a much larger margin. As the evidence shows, that when a team sleep’s on a opponent in the NFL it usually end’s in a upset. Just look at the Bills vs. the Vikings two weeks ago. I believe that this is what had happened Sunday right off the bat against the 49ers. The opponent quickly put up 14 points and the team had to grind it out and wake up in order to rebound before it was too late. Partly what lead to a sloppy game. If things are going to improve vastly as they did last season then some thing’s need to change going forward immediately.
It’s not rocket science; adjustments need to be made if this team plans on trying to live up to the pre-season hype. The first thing that needs to change I have been calling for some time now. Kyle Emanuel should not be allowed or asked to cover tight ends in coverage anymore, or ever again! Almost every play in which he did so it turned into a big chunk play against the defense. It is so blatantly obvious that I’m almost positive Kyle Shannahan saw this on tape and probably made this a point of emphasis in the game plan. It also doesn’t help matters that Jahleel Addae who has been playing single high safety looks lost and not giving any support to be relied on. It is not just the coverage skills that bother me but also his inability to be able to close in on short routes and or run plays in the flats. At least twice just in this last game alone Emanuel had a good angle and read on a ball carrier to the outside and ended up not even being able to lay a hand on anyone. The lack of closing speed is a real concern. Currently rookie Kyzir White is hurt for a short while, yet I would like to see him take over Emanuel’s role on the strong side as he is a converted safety. Fellow rookie linebacker Uchenna Nwosu should also be in the mix for consideration, regardless if he is seen as primarily a pass rusher. His speed is much greater from sideline to sideline as he showed during pre-season, not to mention he is far and above a better pass rusher than Kyle Emanuel. Snap count rotations need to change.
The second thing that needs to change is the fact that the team is not showing their full potential as a run offense and the ability to control the clock. While Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are still showing and putting up impressive numbers, the fact remains that they are getting stuffed way too often to be more consistent. This can change and take a step in the right direction by getting Forrest Lamp on the field immediately! I understand the want and need to break him in slow coming off of injury. It has now been six weeks since he has been fully medically cleared and had six weeks to get in shape and up to speed. They need to thrust him into action as right guard Michael Schofield has been a little below average. Once the injury to the right tackle is factored in one can safely see the entire right side needs work. To make matters worse last week team captain and pro bowl left tackle Russell Okung left the game and the team’s lack of depth at the tackle position showed. Forrest Lamp may be penciled in as a guard however he played left tackle all through his collegiate days and would serve as a much better emergency tackle. It would help if Joe Barksdale came back, yet the thought or idea of him staying healthy is almost a joke at this point. It’s time to cash in on Lamp after all hype that surrounded him as the best steal and lineman in the draft.
The third and most obvious change that needs to be made is, stop me if you have heard this before, the kicking problem. This problem is well documented and it would be a travesty if the team misses the playoffs yet again because they lack consistency at the position. The team has appeared to do little to nothing in regards to solving this issue. Just a few days ago they fired punter Drew Kaser and by doing so they essentially are blaming the kicking problems on the place holder, which was also Kaser’s job. It’s a shame because he was a good young punter. The team should have held onto him and tried to find anyone else on the team who could place hold. You mean to tell me not one player who doesn’t get regular playing time can hold the ball? If Sturgis continues to struggle moving forward I wonder how long they will continue to go with him. Maybe they will just make more excuses, who know’s.
On the flip side, many things have been bright spot’s worth building on. Second year receiver Mike Williams is show casing his talents as a top ten pick and will more than likely only improve moving forward. It is also of note that I am truly impressed with the running game from both backs regardless of the issues on the right side of the line. The inevitable return of Forrest Lamp will only aid this facet of the offense. Possibly the biggest bright spot is in rookie first round pick Derwin James. It seems so far that the team has struck gold with the young safety that by some miracle dropped in the draft to the 17th pick. James has shown the ability to do everything well. He has been excellent in coverage, stopping the run, along with an amazing ability to pass rush for a safety. When speaking of the defense it is hard not to mention the struggles in the run game. I never thought I would find myself saying this but I’m glad to see the return of defensive tackle Corey Liuget. I say this because I have never been a huge fan of him as I feel he takes to many plays off. Yet in pre-season he was playing really well. I think maybe he has a chip on his shoulder with the suspension that maybe we just might be getting a huge addition to the defensive line and best Corey Liuget.