Scouting the Chargers


This is a collaborated effort developed before Broncobear's situation, (maybe he is prescient) as an experiment to increase the quality of this site through the abilities of many. If it works, you will see, just like our Broncos, that teamwork makes a huge difference. Also, this was set up in an extremely short time, so like the Broncos, we hope to put out a better product each game. so far, this team consists of Broncobear, BShrout, broncofan91, and myself. I am filling in at Quarterback for the time being. As I said, this is an experiment, so audibles are possible. What we've done was to each take one of the Chargers' regular season games and to break down the film. We have correlated our findings into this compendium - we hope that you enjoy it.


Philip Rivers is carrying the Chargers without the benefit of a solid running game. Rivers has a deep threat in Vincent Jackson. Jackson has 5 catches for 20+ yards. He is averaging 93.2 yards per game, and 19 of his 20 receptions were 1st downs. Jackson had a good game against the Steelers with 5 catches for 120 yards, including a 55 yarder. The Chargers are having trouble running the ball, and they can’t stop it either. And while it remains to be seen if the Chargers can continue to win with a one-dimensional offense, the ascension of Rivers gives the team a chance while LaDainian Tomlinson nurses an ankle injury.

LaDainian Tomlinson should be back, but if he can't go, we will see a mix of Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett. Even so, Darren Sproles can cause problems for any team. His elusiveness earns him yards in every aspect of the game. Darren is definitely the Chargers MUP (Most Utilized Player). They will need to utilize him on the quick screen and find a way to buy the extra time needed for Rivers to find Vincent Jackson.


The Bolts aren't getting enough production out of their Defensive Line. Their sack totals are way down from last year and most of the tackles are being made by the back of the defense. NT Jamal Williams is a force to be reckoned with in the running game. He has no problem with the double-team, gets penetration, and does a good job clogging the lane. Unfortunately, the big guy is out for the season due to a torn triceps. Ryon Bingham was lost to IR with a torn bicep, and Travis Johnson injured his groin in the season opener against Oakland. San Diego has to rely on Alphonso Boone and Ogemdi Nwagbuo, the former a Kansas City refugee, and the latter, a player that would be on the Practice Squad for any other team. They are getting pushed around repeatedly, and teams are taking advantage of the fissure in the Chargers D-Line to the tune of 151 yards a game.

SD vs OAK Week 1
Jamal Williams was disruptive, and got a big push, handling The raider Center Samson Satele in the 2nd Quarter and ILB Stephen Cooper got McFadden to cough up the ball. Cooper recovered.The Dolts showed a 5-2 look The DB's looked confused on the Louis Murphy TD play. On 4th and 15, he left them in the dust and CB Antonio Cromartie and FS CJ Spillman looked like they were wondering who's responsibility it was. 31 was pointing fingers like the FS had over the top coverage on that one.

The Raiders held the Chargers to 77 rushing yards in Week 1, but their defense couldn't slow down Philip Rivers, who completed 6 of 7 passes on the last drive. Tomlinson fumbled for the first time since Week 7 of 2006. The Chargers lost two starting offensive linemen to injuries in the third quarter. Guard Louis Vasquez was taken to the locker room with an injured knee. He was followed by center Nick Hardwick, who was carted off in the third quarter with a  leg injury. Raiders DE Richard Seymour, acquired in a trade with the Patriots just days before the regular season, started the game and had six tackles to go with two sacks. He schooled Chargers LT Marcus McNeill and got a sack even with McNeill and LG Kris Dielman double teaming him.

Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell had 12 completions and 6 went to TE Zach Miller. Miller beat Stephen Cooper over the Middle for a 1st down on 3rd and 7. Cooper had him covered pretty well. On his 2nd reception, he was wide open downfield for 25 yds and ILB Kevin Burnett was way out of position. On the 3rd, converted a 3rd & 6 against SS Steve Gregory. The 4th catch was a nice play, Zach made the grab under soft coverage by Cooper. The 5th pass was another deep middle pass that SS Clinton Hart was away from. The Defensive alignment was the CB's playing Man Coverage, with the Safeties and LB's in Zone. LB Brandon Siler got beat on the play.

OLB Shawne Merriman's absence for about 90 percent of the past two games isn't helping either. Coming off of major knee surgery in the offseason, Merriman strained his groin in the 2nd game of the season and hasn't played a handful of snaps since. Def. Coordinator Ron Rivera is still committed to the 3-4, but the lack of personnel has left him reaching for straws. In the season opener vs. Oakland, Rivera employed a 3-4 base look and threw in some 5-2 as well. Now he is relying on a patchwork 4-3 to field a competitive Defense.Merriman returned to the lineup this season after knee surgery sidelined him for the final 15 games of 2008, plus two playoff games. He's been in and out of the lineup this season, and has been affected by a groin injury from overcompensating for the knee injury. The Chargers clearly missed him last year when they finished 8-8. Merriman had 39 1/2 sacks his first three seasons. He is still trying for his first one this season.

The lack of a stout run defense and the absence of a consistent pass rush has left the Chargers’ pass defense with a No. 27 ranking. The secondary has been exploited repeatedly, especially one-time Pro Bowl CB Antonio Cromartie. He's been complaining that they are playing too much zone and that he can’t shine in that system. Sounds like a case of individualism that can further mar the best efforts of the coaching staff. However, it’s clear the secondary isn’t getting the help it thought it would from a pass rush that is fragile. Six sacks in 4 games won't help either.

Coming off a game where they gave up 500 yards and couldn't run the ball, Norv Turner is looking forward to having a relatively healthy team, with the exception of NT Jamal Williams (out for the season) and center Nick Hardwick (out for several more weeks). Having a Bye week at this juncture, is a timely event for the Chargers "walking wounded."

The Chargers added depth to their defensive line last week when they re-signed veteran DT Ian Scott.  A seven-year veteran, Scott joined the Chargers last September and appeared in 4 games with San Diego.  He spent the entire 2009 offseason with the club but was released at the conclusion of training camp. Ian arrived Wednesday and should get a chance to contribute this Monday night against the Broncos.

Ian had a strong showing in training camp but a knee issue kept him from fully contributing. He had his knee cleaned out with a scope after camp. Now that he is stronger, the Chargers see the veteran defensive tackle as a player that can help their team.  In order to make room for Ian Scott, the Chargers released veteran safety Clinton Hart. Two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, four defensive linemen were forced to carry the majority of the workload up front, so the Chargers made the move to add another big body. Prior to Wednesday, the Chargers had six safeties on their roster and were pleased with what they’ve seen from some of their young players at the position, so Hart was made expendable.

SD vs. BAL Week 2
This game came down to the last few seconds. LB Ray Lewis stuffed RB Darren Sproles on 4th-and-2 with the Chargers driving for the win. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had driven his team down to the Baltimore 15-yard line but could not get any farther. Lewis was his typical disruptive self, forcing a fumble, caused Philip Rivers to throw a pick and making the play that clinched the game for the Ravens. Lewis led the Ravens with 10 Tackles.

The Chargers struggled mightily in the red zone, kicking four field goals measuring 29 yards or less. San Diego was without running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who missed the game with an ankle injury. A game that seemingly was going to be decided by Philip Rivers instead was sealed by Lewis, whose big play saved a 31-26 win for the Ravens over the Chargers.

San Diego needed a touchdown to win and had the ball on Baltimore's 15 with 33 seconds left. Lewis came in unblocked and slammed the little running back to the ground for a 5-yard loss, and the Ravens  ran out the clock. Philip Rivers almost single-handedly kept the short-handed Chargers in the game, throwing for a career-high 436 yards and two TDs. But he also had two INTs, and San Diego had to settle for field goals four times when it had the ball at the Ravens 10 or closer.

The Ravens forgot to cover Sproles on San Diego's 2nd possession of the game and he turned a swing pass from Rivers into an 81-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Sproles raced down the right sideline before cutting inside and beating Reed to the end zone. Sproles caught seven passes for a career-high 124 yards and had seven receptions for 124 yards, both career highs. WR Vincent Jackson had six catches for 141.

A week after amassing a franchise-record 501 yards in a win against Kansas City, the Ravens couldn't quite put away the Chargers. San Diego was missing running back LaDainian Tomlinson, center Nick Hardwick and right guard Louis Vasquez due to injuries, and on Saturday put defensive tackle Jamal Williams on injured reserve, meaning his season is over.

Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw two TD passes and Willis McGahee scored two TDs on 15 carries for 79 yards.

The killers for the Chargers were their inability to score touchdowns and a bad decision by Rivers. The Chargers got to the Ravens 5, 2 and 1 in the first half, and had to settle for field goals by Nate Kaeding each time. Trailing 21-13, the Chargers got to the 1-yard line on a 24-yard pass from Rivers to Vincent Jackson. The play was upheld by replay, and then the Chargers were called for delay of game. Rivers threw 2 incompletions, and coach Norv Turner's decision to kick on 3rd down with 10 seconds left drew lots of boos from the hometown crowd.

Kaeding made the 23-yarder to pull to 21-16. He also had kicks of 29 and 22 yards.

It happened again midway through the fourth quarter, after Flacco was hit by Shawne Merriman and intercepted by Antoine Cason. The Chargers moved to the Ravens 10, bogged down -- including another delay penalty -- and got a 25-yard field goal from Kaeding to make it 28-26.

Baltimore's Steve Hauschka kicked a 33-yarder with 2:54 left.

In the third quarter, Rivers was under pressure from Lewis at the Chargers 34,  and tried to throw the ball away. Safety Dawan Landry intercepted and pitched it to Ed Reed for a short return to the 22. Four plays later, Flacco threw a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Todd Heap for a 28-16 lead. Rivers came back and found Jackson behind double coverage for a 35-yard touchdown pass on third-and-18 to pull the Chargers to 28-22 with 2:26 left in the third quarter.

A week after throwing for a career-high 307 yards, Flacco was 17 of 26 for 190 yards. He threw 2 TD passes, one each to Todd Heap and Kelley Washington and had an INT.

Chargers LB's Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips both left the game with groin injuries.  Ravens CB Fabian Washington sustained a concussion.

SD vs. MIA Week 3
The Chargers alternated between two basic line sets: 3 down linemen with 2 LBs crowding the line and 4 down linemen with 1 LB crowding up close. The Chargers were getting good penetration off the edges, but those rushers tended to get pushed to the outside.  The down linemen most often got stood up at the line of scrimmage, and were relatively unsuccessful in being able to shed the Miami blockers.  Tackling by the linemen was nearly nonexistent.  The linebackers gave good support, but were often enticed into over-pursuing the play.  Most of the rushing was straight ahead, very little in the way of stunts, spins or other strategies to clear themselves away from the blockers.  During the first three quarters, the DL and to a fair extent the LBs were vulnerable to runs up the middle.  They were often pushed to the outside which cleared running lanes.  Until Pennington left with an injury, pressure on the QB was relatively light.  San Diego did make some adjustments in the second half, going to more 4 down linemen sets, and were more successful in slowing down the run and pressuring the quarterback.

SD vs PITT Week 4

San Diego Defense vs Pittsburg Offense
On the defensive side, Luis Castillo starts at the LDE spot with Ogemdi Nwagbuo filling in for the injured Jamal Williams at NT and Jacques Cesaire at RDE. Alfonso Boone, Vaughn Martin and Travis Johnson back them up. The Chargers' D-line was manhandled by the Steelers' O-line in the first quarter. Pittsburgh drove down the field at will. Nwagbuo is not the answer at NT. He consistently gets pushed back 4-5 yards from the line of scrimmage. They couldn't stop the run or rush the QB. All 3(mostly 4) linemen were being pushed away from the play with relative ease. On Pittsburgh's second TD, the Chargers showed a 7 man blitz. Big Ben quickly audibled to a screen and when all 7 defenders came rushing it was an easy pitch and catch for the score.

In the second quarter it became clear that a 4 man rush was useless for SD. They switched, almost exclusively, to a 5 man front. They had a little more success getting to the QB but it still wasn't enough. Roethlisberger still had just enough time to find the open receiver and they still couldn't stop Mendenhall from running wild. The only time that they were really able to pressure Roethlisberger was with six men blitzing. On most of these blitzes, an outside linebacker who was showing blitz would drop back in to coverage while the two inside linebackers rush up the middle. Pittsburgh's only score in the second quarter came on a 1st and goal at the 2. It was a Mendenhall run straight up the middle. The NT, Nwagbuo, was pushed back about 4 yards into the endzone.

There was more of the same in the third quarter. SD stuck with 5 men on the line for the majority of the quarter. It didn't work. Pass, run, the Steelers were doing both at will. The chargers defense, at times, looked more like a 5-3 than anything else. They threw in a few 4-3 looks with little to no success. Their pass-rush was virtually non-existent throughout the quarter. Pittsburgh had one score in the 3rd quarter. It came on a 2nd and goal at the 2. SD was able to get some decent pressure on a delayed blitz up the middle but a quick throw to the back of the endzone would make the score 28-0.

San Diego Offense vs Pittsburgh Defense
The Dolts offense was sleepwalking through the first half. Their 4 first half possessions totaled 75 yards with 0 points. The running game was horrible. LDT only managed to get 8 yards on 4 carries in the first half. Now, the Chargers fell behind early which forced them to pass more and run less but still, a 2.0 yards per reception average just isn't going to cut it in this league. Sproles didn't carry the ball once in this game and was barely used in the passing game. Their O-line was weak in run and pass blocking. Philip Rivers was under pressure on almost every pass attempt. Most of the pressure was coming from the left side of the line. SD tried to counter the pressure by either having 2 extra blocking backs or by having Rivers roll out to his right. I watched the game like 4 times and trust me, LDT still has some scary moves. The reason why he wasn't productive was because the holes just weren't there. I don't know if it's the talent on the line or the chemistry or what but if they hope to be any type of contenders this year then they better get that run game fixed....and fast. The passing game finally woke up with a vengeance in the second half. Rivers was still under a ton of pressure but SD adjusted by throwing quick, short-to-mid range passes. Most of them went to tight end Antonio Gates. After being targeted only 4 times with 1 catch for 15 yards in the first half, Gates finished the day with 9 catches, 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was a key component in San Diego's near-comeback. The Dolts proved how fast they can score by getting 3 TDs in the 4th quarter.

The Wild CatHorse

The Dolphins ran the wildcat on the Chargers in Week 3 seven times, to the tune of 42 yards. But they failed to score with it. Josh McDaniels used the Wild Horse to force his opponent (Belichick's) hand in the Broncos vs. Patriots game last week. As hoosierteacher brilliantly explained:

The way it helped against NE was by forcing them to respect what looked like an obvious run play. When NE had to adjust, McDaniels was able to see what NE does to adjust from certain base looks to what is going to be a run. Then when Orton moved back over the center, NE had to "show" by switching to account for pass.

McD did it early, and it was more of what we call a "probe" move, which is to get reads on a defense. Most teams "probe" by putting a man in motion. For example, if a man goes in motion, and nobody on the defense reacts, they are in zone. If a certain player follows the man in motion, that player is assigned to the man in motion. If different players move to follow the man in motion, then stop in front of a different offensive player while yet another defensive player continues to follow, the offense finds out every man assignment on the defense.

These are hard to counter for defenses, and defensive counters to probes don’t really kick in until college level.

What McD did with the "Wild Horses" was less intended to pick up yards, and more intended to read the NE defense’s play book for this game. It probably knocked out 5% to 10% of what the defense wanted to use for this game without being seem.

Brilliant chess play by McD!

A Few Facts

Charger head coach Norv Turner is familiar with Kyle Orton, as Bears OC Ron Turner is his brother.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers is 21-5 as a starter at home.

Rivers tied Hall of Famer Dan Fouts for 3rd-most passing yards in a game, vs. the Ravens. This was his first 400-yard passing game of his career.

The Chargers' 16 yards rushing vs. Pittsburgh was their lowest total since 1961.

They have had such a hard time on defense that starting SS Clinton Hart was released Wednesday to make room for DT Ian Scott.


GM A.J. Smith’s mantra "line ‘em up three deep and let ‘em compete," isn't working this year, and face it, he is becoming a detriment to his own team.

The Broncos can exploit the middle of the Chargers defense by pounding the ball up the middle and the TE's can have a field day on them. Oakland's TE Zach Miller came away with 6 catches off of them in Week 1, and every one of them was for a 1st down. 4 out of those 6 completions were uncontested and Miller was wide open. The Chargers have good Tight End personnel, and Antonio Gates is among the best TE's in the league, but the Broncos Defense stymied Jason Witten recently and Mike Nolan seems to have that perceived weakness covered.

The Chargers’  have had three straight games against playoff teams from last year.

The Chargers bye week came at the right time, giving them the chance to get right physically and mentally. The big question is; was the two weeks the Chargers have had to game-plan and heal up, enough to make the difference in this game? They are at home, it's Prime-time, and it's a divisional game that will determine any future playoff hopes for either team. Win or Lose, it should be a good game to watch.


This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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