Answers by Bolts from the Blue lead author John Gennaro.
1. The Chargers are a lot better than expected this year, how much of this do you attribute to Mike McCoy?
About 33%. Another 33% goes to Ken Whisenhunt and the final 34% goes to Norv Turner, who made this team seem a lot worse than it actually is/was in 2012 through stubbornness and idiocy. McCoy has seemingly made the right hires on the offensive side of the ball, and his cliche-driven speeches seem to at least be working thus far in getting the players to play for him. I love that he's brought over Peyton Mannin's hurry-up offense and think that's been very effective this year, but the success of the 2013 Chargers is tied to Philip Rivers and I give Ken Whinsehunt's offense most of the credit for that.
2. What is the biggest surprise of the Chargers season thus far?
Just how bad the defense has been. Heading into the season, the common thought process among Chargers fans was that the defense would challenge to be a top 10 defense. The front seven had been dominant in the final month of the 2012 season, and we thought they had finally figured out the right formula. In addition to that, Manti Te'o was being talked up, Dwight Freeney looked like a young Dwight Freeney and the cornerbacks had to be an improvement over the dumpster fire that was 2012's Chargers cornerbacks (especially with Ron Milus coming over to teach them!).
Well, the defense is worst in the league, worse than even the Jaguars. The defensive line has been pathetic, outside of the occasional appearance of Corey Liuget. The linebacking corps through about half of the season thus far has been comprised of guys like Andrew Gachkar (a special team specialist), Tourek Williams (a rookie taken in the 6th round) and Larry English (arguably the second biggest draft bust in Chargers history). Losing Melvin Ingram hurt, but losing Dwight Freeney was worse. Donald Butler has been injured all season, limping around for four games and missing the other four. Manti Te'o looks like a guy that should've been taken in the 7th round so far. And the secondary.....my God, the horror.
3. What part of this team scares you the most?
The passing offense. The Chargers don't have a pass rusher, and all of their cornerbacks together probably equal almost 1 decent cornerback. They're not going to be able to stop the passes, and they're not going to be able to get pressure on Peyton Manning. They stopped the Colts by confusing Andrew Luck and Pep Hamilton, who kept throwing 2 yard passes instead of risk throwing into coverage they were unfamiliar with. They lost because of their conservative approach. I don't imagine that will be a problem with Manning, who seems to know that he only has a few years left and is gunning for that second Super Bowl that will make everyone stop talking about his playoff record.
4. What are your expectations for this season? Can this team make the playoffs?
Maybe! I mean, they shouldn't have a chance because 90% of the team is just awful (thanks, A.J. Smith!), but the offense is so good that it can occasionally win games on its own. Remember Mike Martz' 2000 Rams team that was atrocious on defense and still finished 10-6 because their offense was so great? The 2000 Broncos were a bit like that as well. That could be the 2013 Chargers. They can run, they can throw, and they have playmakers all over the place.
The real key is the anti-Norv Turner part of this offense, where they are happy getting 4 yards per play instead of gunning for the big play downfield, that has lead to the real success. If you want to kow if the Chargers are going to win, just wait for them to have a 9+ minute drive. Their offense is great. Their best defense is their offense. The special teams looks fantastic because of the offense. With the right gameplan, against a team with a less-than-great defense, the Chargers can win.
However, sometimes the gameplan is wonky (2nd half against Texans) and sometimes the opposing defense is really good (Titans) and sometimes the coaching staff can't figure out how to score from the 1 yard line (Redskins), so it's not a fool-proof system. The Chargers are 4-4 now with a tough schedule in front of them, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them end the season with an 8-8 record.
5. If you could take any player from the Broncos (outside of Manning) for this game and put him in a Charger uniform, who would it be?
Von Miller. You can cover up a lot of defensive weaknesses with a great pass rusher, and he is most certainly a great pass rusher. I imagine he would make the secondary look quite good and even free up the defensive line a bit.
Big thanks again to Bolts from the Blue for taking the time to answer these questions!