Week 1 analysis: Knee jerk reaction vs rational thinking
The Chargers open the season with a W. There are many thing’s to like and take away from the season opener and some that should be considered areas of concern, some easily fixed some not. Rookie Drue Tranquill had an impressive game on special teams that included two impressive tackles on kick off team and a blocked punt. Speaking of special team’s rookie punter Ty Long was more than impressive as he not only handled the punting duties he also filled in for an injured Michael Badgley making every attempt. For most people watching the game will say that this should have been a much easier win. This will lead me into the first knee jerk reaction I would like to address.
Knee jerk reaction 1: “oh my god this run D hasn’t been addressed at all, look how bad it is.”
Rational explanation: Yes the run defense was bad; in fact the team gave up a total of just over 200 yards rushing. Too say that the run defense will be this atrocious all season long is a bit drastic, and to say that it was never addressed from last season is also a bit of a reach. First and foremost this team has always been notorious for their slow and sometimes sloppy starts to the season. It is also of note that second year defensive tackle Justin Jones is only in his second year and first year of full time play. This should be of note because of the youth factor and the fact he is still developing. It is not uncommon for players in their first full time starter roles to get better as the season progresses, and I have no doubt nor will I be surprised to see the same out of Jones. The maturity of the youth up front will be a big factor with more than one person. First round pick Jerry Tillery only played on 21 snaps compared to Jones at 41 snaps. Yes that Tillery that was drafted in the first round. (There goes the rational of it never being addressed). As the season goes on Tillery will be eased in more. In fact pairing Tillery with Jones rather than Square on the same package rotations could potentially be the long term answer down the road. Bradley just insists that one of them play the gap and occupy to blockers. So while this is usually Mebanes job Tillery and Jones should be mixed and matched more. Be patient with the adjustments to come.
The return of the team’s hardest hitter Denzel Perryman will also solve a whole lot of the run game issues up the gut of the defense. I still want Kyzir White on the field however in more of a third down role along with mixing in as the strong side backer. Kyzir was waiting for ball carriers to come to him half the time rather than stepping up and coming to the ball carrier in week one. This is one aspect that the stat sheet won’t tell you. Executing this on run plays also leads to the fact that between 2-3 yards less per play will be gained. This adds up over the course of a game and helps lead to more forced punts.
Knee jerk reaction 2: “This team can barely beat a backup quarterback.”
Rational explanation: Despite not having Andrew Luck anymore the Colts where a playoff team that made it to the second round of the playoff bracket. Which means they advanced just as far as the Charger did. Jacoby Brissett is also a good quarterback who happens to be a disciple of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Although in comparison Brissett is what I would consider more of a higher end game manager. Despite all of this the fact remains that if not for a botched punt return and interception in the back of the endzone the Chargers would have won by double digits. Those mistakes are ones that will be cleaned up and worked on as the season progresses.
Knee jerk reaction 3: “This offensive line is atrocious!”
Rational explanation: This may be one of the knee jerk reactions I might agree with more so than the other’s but maybe not as extremely…..yet! I personally had a lot of faith in Trent Scott filling in at left tackle for Russell Okung during pre-season, and now I’m very unsure of that as it may have been wishful thinking. In my opinion the only two current starting lineman out of the five that should stay is former pro bowl center Mike Pouncey and third year man Dan Feeney. Even Feeney seems to have games where he struggles in pass protection but gets killed in pass protection, and in week one it was the same effect only opposite as he excelled in pass protection and struggled in run protection. At least according to his Pro Football Focus grades that is. Yet if I’m using my eye test and judgment based off my own observation, Feeney excels on run plays that require him to pull off the line of scrimmage and make a block on the run. Dan Feeney will have a good season in the end and I’m honestly sticking to that as he has a certain tenacity and hardly ever gets moved off his spots on the line, only pointing to his strength. Even with those two that should be considered main stays, the team can’t sit on their hands until Okung gets back as he may not return at all. One solution that seems to be obvious to everyone except the coaches and management is to simply let Forrest Lamp play weather it’s at guard or tackle as both positions need to be addressed. Weather Okung returns or not it is of my belief that general manager Tom Telesco should bring in a tackle from outside the organization one way or another. My personal preference would be by signing currently released Jason Spriggs from Green Bay. (See previous article). If the team intends on having a successful running attack then they need to get more protection up front as soon as possible.
Depending on how this team handles and executes the struggles right out of the gate and adapts to the numerous injuries that have already taken place will inevitably become a pre cursor for this team moving forward. If they can squeak out a winning record until the majority of players on the injured list get right then this team could make a real strong run down the stretch. Many teams have seen a second half surge propel them all the way to the top. After week 4 people can start going into panic mode if nothing has improved. However as any long term Charger fan knows, the stubble out of the gates is usually the biggest obstacle.