Well the first quarter of the 2009 season is complete and many Charger fans are less than enthusiastic about the Chargers level of play thus far this season. The 2 losses are not the only thing that the fans are upset about, it’s the way the Chargers are losing that have many fans shouting (or more often – posting) their disapproval. Both games they lost were to good teams that played well, but fans were told that their team would be a Super Bowl contender this year, that things would be different.
It was advertised that there would be a vastly improved pass rush and an over toughness on the defensive side of the ball with Ron Rivera now in command. And Ladainian Tomlinson told everyone that would listen that he was healthy and even though he was turning 30, he was no where near done and was still the premier running back in the league. Jamal Williams lost 30 pounds in the off-season and said he felt better than he had in years coming into camp. So what happened? Who’s to blame? What changed? Fans want answers! Let’s take a look at what the fans are saying:
Injuries: The Chargers have been riddled with injuries this season. Three members of the defense have been placed on injured reserve – Jamal Williams, Ryon Bingham and Brandon Hughes. Center Nick Hardwick had ankle surgery and will be out at least 6 more weeks and Shawne Merriman has obviously not fully recovered from knee surgery. Those are just the people that are out. Groin injuries have been increasing almost daily plus hamstring, ankle and knee issues have also been prevalent. Injuries occur on every team throughout the season, but the Chargers have been hit especially hard.
Defense: The chant that used to be heard all over Qualcomm stadium on gameday was “You can’t run” – and they we not chanting it to the Chargers but rather their opponent – well that chant has disappeared along with the Chargers bruising front line and pass rush. The defense looks confused. Last year fans heard things like “there were too many plays under defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell” and they were going to eliminate a vast majority of the plays, simplifying the assignments and play more smash mouth defense. Well fans are not seeing the difference. Defensive players are out of position and getting burned both on the run and the pass. Chargers defenders are looking at and even pointing at each other when a play gets muffed up.
Offensive line: Philip Rivers has been sacked 10 times already this year, and it could be worse. He has had to hurry far too many passes. Rivers seldom has time to just drop back, go through his reads and throw to the receiver of his choice. The pocket is collapsing, he is scrambling (and let’s be honest, not his strong suit) and rushing way too many passes. Also, the Chargers just can’t run the ball. San Diego is last in the league in rushing thus far this year, and it’s getting worse, not better. So far this year Bennett – 37 yards, Hester – 3 yards, Tolbert – 5 yards, Sproles – 90 yards & L.T. – 70 yards. That is a total of 205 yards in four games from the running backs – yikes!
Norv Turner: Norv is an easy target. He didn’t get a lot of love when he was first announced as the replacement to Mary Schottenheimer. Marty ball, even thou it didn’t bring playoff success, brought a lot of wins to San Diego. Norv has never been the most charismatic person, which is fine as long as you are winning (see Bill Belichick), but if you have to stand at the microphone and explain why virtually every aspect of your team is under performing, it can be very detrimental. Fans seem to agree that Norv is a very good offensive coordinator but the feeling is he just doesn’t have what it takes to command the authority and respect of the team that is necessary to lead them to the Super Bowl.
AJ Smith: The buck stops here. Who picks the players, the coaches, and the training staff – the General Manager. AJ has been The Man as far as most fans are concerned, but that tide is beginning to change. The Chargers have been a sexy Super Bowl pick the last few years due to the fact that they employ so many big name players that can make big time plays. And that’s great. But what has become very apparent is that San Diego has nobody to back up the starters on the offensive and defensive lines when someone gets hurt. The Chargers have a great quarterback and great receivers and the great quarterback doesn’t have time to throw to the great receivers and it doesn’t matter who is carrying the ball, there are no holes to run through. So perhaps drafting some “beef” up front should have been a higher priority. Plus it is known throughout the league that AJ does not like to trade for players, he wants to build through the draft. That’s fine, but both lines need help now.
So take your pick who/what to blame. Bad luck with injuries, under producing defense, the offensive line, Norv or AJ. There probably isn’t a wrong answer and the fact if it is most likely a combination of all of them. Fans are watching to see what changes are made during the bye week, and they are watching very loudly.