Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

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4th And Goal With Jeff Williams

October 25, 2009

charger girlsSince the Chargers lost to Denver last Monday, I’ve had a lot on my mind. Stuff like “throwback jerseys are good, throwback cheerleader outfits are not as good.” Or, “I sure like Jon Gruden when he doesn’t work in Oakland.” But mostly it’s been, “What happened to this team we called a Super Bowl contender?” Many of you have already provided your thoughts on these matters (although I haven’t seen a single word about the cheerleaders), and now it’s my turn.

The most popular reason for the Chargers’ downfall starts with Norv and ends with Turner. Personally, I think you’re giving him too much credit. I’m not a Norv fan, and will not shed a tear when he is fired, but he is still the same guy who led them to the last two AFC West championships. He didn’t win them, but he was the coach when they were won. In my opinion, had it not been for injuries to LT, Rivers, and Gates, the Chargers would have ended the Patriots’ perfect season and won Super Bowl XLII. To lay all blame on Norv is to say that the sole reason that the Broncos are any good is because Josh McDaniels replaced Shanahan. No, there is a lot more to it than the coach.

The players share a lot of the blame for their poor play and lack of consistency, but the one thing you can’t blame them for is injuries. Missing guys like Hardwick and Williams really hurts; as the saying goes it’s tough to replace a Pro Bowler with a Pro Bowler. But having to resort to guys like Dombroski, Mrucskowski, Nwagbuo, and Boone show’s you how little depth you have.

No depth…that brings us to the man responsible for this roster, AJ Smith. Oh AJ, how we loved you so. You put together what has been consistently been labeled as the most talented roster in the league. And because of this belief, AJ has been playing the draft like it’s his own personal game of roulette. Picking players we don’t need in the hope that they turn into a superstar worked once with the Antonio Cromartie pick, but lately AJ has resembled a guy who has lost his touch. Does Bobby Beathard ring a bell?

Norv and his players share their part in the problems with this team, but it all starts with AJ. Instead of addressing needs through free agency and the draft he ignores most free agents and consistently reaches for guys in the draft who aren’t contributing. Regardless of the outcome of this season, he has to have a HUGE off-season or we will stand the chance of falling behind the Broncos AND the Chiefs in the coming years.

Chargers vs. Chiefs- hopefully this game will be as good as the jerseys the Bolts will be wearing. If ever there was a game in which the Chargers can and should establish the running game, it’s this game. These games are always closer than they should be. Defense, if you can’t step it up against the Chiefs, you can’t step it up against anyone.

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4th And Goal With Jeff Williams

September 26, 2009
“After two games, I don’t think right now we’re as good as you that cover us think or expect us to be. I don’t think we’re as good as what our fans want us to be. But I believe we can get there. We have a lot of work to do to get there.” – Norv Turner
Motivating words from an inspiring coach. Not. But at least the coach is willing to to tell it like it is. These guys aren’t as good as we want them to be. Yet, they have won one game they shouldn’t have won. And they lost a close game that they had every opportunity to win.
The Chargers showed some signs life against the Ravens Sunday. Even as their injuries mount (LT will miss his 2nd game, Nick Hardwick will now be out 2-months, and Kevin Burnett is now questionable Sunday), the team is showing flashes of the talent that so many fans believed to be on the roster.
After consecutive slow starts, the Chargers defense stepped up to put the screws to their competition. If it weren’t for a defensive breakdown in the 4th quarter against Oakland that game wouldn’t have been close. Against Baltimore, the defense started slow but buckled down in the 2nd half to keep the game close.
This team can get back on track with a win against Miami this Sunday. To do that, the Chargers needs to follow the lead of a different man, him being outside linebacker Shaun Phillips. Said Phillips, “We need to be more physical and beat the guy’s ass across us. Do it within our system, but beat the guy’s ass in front of you.” Now that’s the attitude we need a little more of around here.
What is it with the Wildcat offense? I don’t get it. You know a huge majority of the time they are going to run the ball out of the Wildcat. Stack the line, stop the run, and dare them to throw the ball against our cornerbacks. That will put an end to the Wildcat real quick.
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LT & Me- A Football Story And So Much More

September 12, 2009

lt and meI’ll admit that I’m hardly a book critic, but I do love an entertaining story. My favorite authors range from Bill Bennet to C.S. Lewis, from Scott Adams to King David.

In the world of sports I have read some interesting books, but they typically don’t qualify as more than average at best in my opinion. So when I began reading LT & Me, a book by LaDainian Tomlinson’s mom Loreane Tomlinson, I did not have very high expectations. But I’m happy to say that this book was a great read and exceeded every expectation that I had. You might be asking yourself, “Why do I want to read a book by LT’s mom?” Honestly, I asked myself the same thing. But I gave the book a chance, and I’m very glad that I did.

After reading LT & Me, two things come to mind. First, this is a great story which focuses on the life of LT, from birth through the end of the 2007 playoffs. I truly enjoyed reading stories about LT’s upbringing, and especially his growth in football- that alone would be enough for any football fan, and most importantly any Chargers fan. It was very interesting to read about his difficulty in securing a spot as a running back, a position he seems to have been born to play. But beyond football, this book is about more than sports. It’s about a real family who had real problems and struggles and worries. This book is about the power of faith and hope, and of a mother who would not compromise her beliefs while raising her three kids. LT & Me is a book about football, and everything that is more important than football- family, faith, and convictions.

LT is the MVP on the football field, but Loreane’s life-lessons, taught through the stories of a struggling single mom, should be an inspiration to all. With strong values and a big heart (qualities that are also visible in her son), LT & Me is a story that shows you what really matters in raising a champion. This book should be passed on to any family with kids who have dreams (I think every kid out there would fit that description).

I highly recommend that you buy, check-out, or borrow LT & Me. If you have read it yourself, please take a moment to leave your comment about the book as well.

 Jeff Williams is a featured columnist on such sites as BoltHype.com, MVN.com, and the Sports Cartel Blog Network.

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Interview With The Oracle: Preseason Edition

September 3, 2009

eddieIn what has become a regular segment, “The Oracle” Eddie Pappani joined me to talk Chargers football, where he made a few bold predictions in the process. For the complete interview, read on…

Jeff: Hey Oracle! If I haven’t mentioned it before, congratulations on becoming a dad for the first time! I think I can assume that you’ll raise her right…to be a Chargers fan of course!

Eddie: Are you kidding? My wife is born and raised in San Diego. She had a Chargers outfit before she was even born. Of course, she is ready.

Jeff: The Chargers have had a fairly uneventful training camp and preseason, although there are a few interesting stories that seem to be developing this week. What would you consider to be the biggest story of the preseason so far?

Eddie: I think the offensive line. The right side is a concern. Losing Mike Goff was not a big deal to me, as long as they got someone to replace him. I didn’t like the idea of going with journeyman Kynan Forney. He was on the team last year and didn’t see the field, and now he has been hurt with a neck injury. So we are gonna go with Louis Vasquez. I like the rookie, but he is a rookie. He is gonna be prone to mistakes. Worries me. Jeromy Clary needs to be better. He has not impressed me since being inserted into the starting lineup. Step up or step off, I say. If the Chargers are gonna go far, they need the O-line to play better. Period.

Jeff: One story I keep hoping to see includes AJ finding some O-line help. After watching the first three preseason games, what else has you concerned heading into the season?

Eddie: I think another big concern is my boy, Shawne Merriman. He looks to be favoring his knee. He may be doing it just to protect it during preseason, but it worries me. Come week 1 at Oakland, I hope I see #56 have that burst back.

Jeff: Have you seen anything that surprised you so far in the preseason?

Eddie: I think the play of some of the secondary has surprised me a bit. I like the way Cromartie and Jammer have been playing. That is kind of expected, but some other guys have looked good too. I am a big Kevin Ellison fan. I think the rookie safety will eventually take Clinton Hart’s job. I think that C.J. Spillman has made some plays. Brandon Hughes looked ok before he got hurt. Steve Gregory looks like he has improved. It’s good to see the secondary playing better.

Jeff: Which positions would you describe as the Chargers biggest strengths and weaknesses at this point?

Eddie: Linebacker is a big strength, so much so that the guys we cut might start for other teams. The addition of Kevin Burnett is huge. That guy will be a Pro Bowler. Larry English will be a nice situational pass rusher. I hope we keep Brandon Siler. He is a monster on goal line and special teams. It’s tough though. Who do you cut? Antwan Applewhite deserves a spot on this team. He plays hard. And you still have Merriman, Phillips, Cooper, Dobbins and Tucker. I would cut Jyles Tucker if anyone, but they signed him to a fat extension and probably won’t. James Holt, the rookie from Kansas would normally make this team but we are loaded. He may be a practice squad guy. Weakness is the right side of the O-line. Gotta improve.

Jeff: I’m with you on the linebacking corp, but another postion that has become surprisingly strong is wide receiver. And not just Jackson and Chambers, but Nanee, Floyd, and even Buster have looked great. Lets step away from the Chargers for a minute and discuss some of the other big stories from around the league. Jay Cutler is no longer a Bronco- what do you think of the big trade that kicked him out of the division and the drama that continues to surround the Broncos?

Eddie: I am fine with the Broncos being in disarray. They are a mess. It started with firing Shannahan. Mistake. He is gonna comeback in the league and win. Cutler was easy to rattle. He will be fine in Chicago though. Kyle Orton is not a good quarterback. They are gonna have to rebuild. Hopefully for a few years.

Jeff: What are your thoughts about the rest of the AFC West?

Eddie: It’s the Chargers and then everybody else. Honestly, I will be disappointed if they don’t sweep the entire division. Broncos, please. A mess. Chiefs? No chance. Bad offense and even worse defense. Raiders? I actually thought they might be better, until watching them in the preseason. JaMarcus Russell is terrible. They better start Jeff Garcia or they are done. Their defense is ok, but the Chargers should still whip them. 6-0 for the Chargers (in the AFC West).

Jeff: Brett Favre is back…again. What’s your take on the man who couldn’t retire?

Eddie: He is a liar. It bugs me. I think it is fine that he still wants to play, but just say that. Don’t do all this ridiculous retirement stuff. Lame. I will say he makes the Vikings a scary team and maybe the team to beat in the NFC.

Jeff: Michael Crabtree- reaction!

Eddie: Not surprised. Whoever is in his ear does not have his best intentions. He was drafted 10th. He doesn’t feel like he is a 10th pick. He feels like he is a top 3 pick. Sorry bud. This isn’t hard. You are the 10th pick. You will get paid accordingly. So stupid. It will only hurt him.

Jeff: OK, back to the Bolts. So we’ve gone a few years now breaking down what some people consider to be “the most talented roster in the NFL,” and I have to say I’m sick of the talk- how about you? Are you getting a similar vibe from the players and staff at Chargers camp?

Eddie: Not this year. The Chargers are playing it very low key. Not a lot of Super Bowl talk. Last year, that killed them. They thought they were better than they actually were. This year, it seems they are letting their talk happen on the field, which is great. The fact is they are super deep. They should make a run but they have to put in the work. Let’s hope they do. Jeff: They have a pretty tough schedule this season. How do you see the regular season playing out? Eddie: I have them about 11-5. I give them 6 wins from the division. That means they only have to win 5 other games to finish with 11 wins. Should happen. I give them wins against Miami, Philly, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Washington. They could beat Baltimore, Dallas, Tennessee, Giants, and Pittsburgh. So any combo of those wins, should get them to 11 wins and easily winning the division.

Jeff: Time to take a deeper look into the crystal ball- who do you predict will be squaring off in Super Bowl XLIV?

Eddie: Wow, so early? I am gonna take the Giants in the NFC. And I will be the homer and pick the Chargers. It will be a rematch of our week 9 game. Rivers vs. Manning. Can’t ask for more.

Jeff: One last question: Hank Bauer- one of the 50 Greatest Chargers Ever?

Eddie: Loaded question. It depends how you break it down. The Chargers are asking fans to vote on their website. They let you pick 2 special teamers. I have a hard time not picking David Binn and Kasim Osgood in that category. But if I am just listing Top 50 regardless of position…sure, I’ll put Hank in there. How’s that?

Jeff: I’m never going to get you on one of those Hank Bauer questions. Oracle, as always, thanks for taking some time out of your day to talk football with me.

You can catch Eddie on the Chargers Countdown To Kickoff Show that starts 3-hours before kickoff, and also weekday mornings on The Mikey Show, both on Rock 105.3.

Jeff Williams

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Preseason Impressions- Week 3

August 31, 2009

o-lineLet me get something out of the way up-front: I don’t make it a habit to watch all four-quarters of NFL exhibition games. I mean, it’s always on in the background while I’m cruising the internet or catching up on the latest Sports Illustrated, but I typically stop paying attention about half-way through the 3rd quarter. Sorry, but how Charlie Whitehurst performs against a bunch of 2nd and 3rd stringers doesn’t do it for me. So what I’m bringing you are impressions from what we saw from the starters and from some of the major substitutions. If you saw something different, if you agree or disagree, please comment and share your thoughts from Saturday’s Chargers-Falcons game.

•The offensive line looked better this week, but was it due to better play from the guys in the trenches, or was it due to a change in play-calling? Probably a little of both, but I’m leaning towards the later. Pass protection was greatly assisted by a lot of quick passes and by Rivers knowing when to move and when to get rid of the ball. Combined with the large number of screen passes thrown, you can’t say the pass protection was bad. As for the run blocking, I didn’t think it looked great but the three primary RB’s rushed for 97 yards on 22 carries- not bad.

•I was staring at Clary for most of the first half, and he seemed to hold his own. But again, I still think the play-calling was a huge help.

•I’m concerned that in all three games so far, the Chargers offensive and defensive lines look a lot worse than the teams we are playing. Is that conservative play-calling or the signs of a slow start?

•Larry English was on the field, and it was about freaking time! Very good to see that guy rushing the QB. He looked like a rookie who was playing in his first NFL game ever- it’s only going to get better from here.

•It’s good to see some yelling on the sidelines. Ron Rivera lit into his guys and I’m hoping to see more of that in the regular season.

•Is it just me or has the NFL pretty much banned teams from playing defense? Or at least pass-defense?

•Is Dan Fouts really that gray? I want him to broadcast with his MFIC hat on, at least during the preseason.

•I love Philip Rivers. Seriously.

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The Greatest Chargers Of All Time: Quarterbacks

August 13, 2009

In case you haven’t noticed, this year the NFL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the AFL. As one of those original AFL teams, the Chargers are celebrating their own 50-year history by inviting fans to vote for the 50 Greatest Chargers and the 20 Greatest Charger Moments. What dan-foutsbetter time than now to break down the candidates for Greatest Chargers?

At the position of quarterback, I think there is at least one obvious choice: Dan Fouts, the one and only MFIC*. The director of “Air Coryell” and the unquestioned leader of the team during his time with the Chargers, he ended his career with over 40,000 yards passing and 254 passing touchdowns, leading to his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1993. It’s tough to argue against a Hall of Fame QB.

Other quarterbacks nominated by the team for Greatest Chargers include:

JOHN HADL

Played 11 season for the AFL Chargers, throwing for over 33,000 yards in his career with almost 27,000 coming as a Charger. He was a 4-time AFL All-Star who led the league in passing yards 3-times and in passing TD’s twice as a Charger.

STAN HUMPHRIES

The 6-year starter for the Chargers took the team to their lone Super Bowl appearance. He threw for just over 16,000 yards with the Chargers while earning a reputation for his strong arm and gutty performances. Stan “The Man” was quarterback during some of the biggest wins in Chargers history in the 1994 playoffs.

JACK KEMP

A Charger from 1960-1962, he led the team to consecutive Western Division Championships before injuring his finger. Apparently in an effort to open a roster spot while his finger healed, Kemp was placed on waivers, allowing the Buffalo Bills to snatch him out from under the Chargers. Kemp later led the Bills to consecutive AFL championships in 1964 and 1965 against our own Chargers. I love Kemp, but I can’t imagine voting for him as one of the Greatest Chargers for that reason alone.

PHILIP RIVERS

 Is there a Chargers fan alive who doesn’t like Philip Rivers? In just his 3rd season as a starter he set team records for passing touchdowns (34) and passer rating (105.5). But as is usually the case, the stats don’t tell the whole story. My favorite Rivers moment that really defined his toughness and determination involves a cold AFC Championship game against the presumed Super Bowl champs (not), where Rivers played the game on a torn ACL…if you are a regular reader, I imagine you remember the moment well. Still, can you vote a 3-year starter as one of the Greatest Chargers?

TOBIN ROTE

Great quarterback and MVP of the AFL in 1963 when the he led the Chargers to an AFL Championship win over the Boston Patriots. He played two season for the Chargers, replacing Hadl in the 1963-1964 seasons. But again, with only two seasons on the team is he really one of the greatest?

In my book this is a race between four quarterbacks for three spots, but all of the names listed here do stand out in Chargers history (especially when you compare them to names like Whelihan, Tolliver, Friesz, Malone…and Leaf). But don’t forget guys like Drew Brees and Doug Flutie, who were fan favorites to some extent and will always hold a place in the history of the Chargers and in jersey collections of the fans (I swear, I have seen both a Brees and Flutie jersey in just the last week). Feel free to chime in with you thoughts and opinions! Next up, the Greatest Chargers Wide Receivers.

*Mo-Fo In Charge. If you still need help figuring that out…well, this just isn’t that kind of site.

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Lo-Neal Looks Better In Blue-And-Gold

May 19, 2009

lo nealWhile not worthy of much attention, the Raiders recently made a move that raised a few eyebrows here in San Diego. Last week, the Raiders and their “Commitment To Geriatrics” signed FB Lorenzo Neal. At first glance, it’s easy to write this one off as a bad team signing another over-the-hill player. In my opinion, I think this signing could actually be more ammunition for the AJ Smith is out-of-touch crowd.

Now don’t get me wrong. Are the Raiders going to shock the world and win the AFC West? Heck no. They’ll be competing with the Denver Broncos for last place in a weak division. But on a team with three strong running backs, Neal could be just what the Raiders need to start turning things around on offense. And facing him twice a year, watching him consistently hitting his blocks… Well, let’s just hope that the big guy really has lost a step or three.

In letting Neal walk after the 2007 season, it was assumed that any decent fullback could fill his aging Pro Bowl shoes. Jacob Hester, a RB/FB, was drafted soon after. And after an impressive camp, undrafted free agent Mike Tolbert was tagged as the starting fullback after injuries took Andrew Pinnock out of the running. Tolbert’s hands were good enough to get him into games, but his blocking was another story. After too many missed blocks and too many lost opportunities for a struggling running game, it was obvious that the Bolts were missing Neal’s penchant for making the block that needed to be made. Due to injury, Hester replaced Tolbert and seemed to get better over time. But were either of those rookies as good as Neal? No, not even an over-the-hill version of him.

On a team that lost seven games by a TD or less and had a problem controlling the clock, it’s easy to see how a few extra sustained drives could have equaled a couple of extra wins. Would it have mattered in the playoffs? Who knows? But that Chargers team may have had a better chance with a better fullback making better blocks.

This is by no means a knock on Hester. I think the guy gets a bad rap because the Chargers spent too much to get him. There is a chance he could grow into an effective fullback, albeit not a Lorenzo Neal style of player. I don’t think that he’ll ever be a prototypical blocking fullback.

Last off-season, much was made about coach Norv’s preference to minimize the roll of the fullback in his offense. Now, after the dust has settled on a disappointing season, the lack of an effective fullback was one of the glaring weaknesses in an otherwise talented Chargers offense. For a position that isn’t that important it sure stands out as one position that could have made the difference offensively. As for the Raiders and their new fullback, I’m not predicting a Pro Bowl for Lo-Neal this season, but I’m not predicting one for Hester and Tolbert either. If you need a blocking fullback, who do you want in your backfield?

Jeff Williams is featured at BoltHype.com and MVN.com/ChargersConfidential