Sunday, September 23, 2007

Not Quite There... Yet.

Some house-keeping first… To make it easier it comment, its been opened-up to “anybody” - you will not have to register with Google to post a comment. Just hit the "anonymous" button and comment to your heart's content knowing that your identity is secure and that you won't wind-up on Dick Cheney's or anyone else's watch list. Was advised to do so by the site’s defacto ombudsman, B-Daddy. Apologies for lack of blog-savvy in this matter.

Some throwback uniforms sprinkled around the NFL today…. We had heard that the Eagles were going throwback so we were expecting possibly the white helmets from the Chuck Bednarik days. But what were those…? And how far back did they have to throw to get them? Was Ben Franklin the GM…?

In watching last night’s demolition of Washington St. by USC, it was apparent that the game plan was to come out throwing…. Actually, the WAZU defensive scheme demanded that SC throw the ball. The corners were playing at least 10 yards off the Trojan receivers and quarterback John David Booty took advantage of this by throwing out to his big, physical receivers at the line of scrimmage resulting in 8-10 yard gains on every play.

This is one of the things we’ve always admired about the Trojan offensive philosophy these past few years. Yes, in nearly every instance, their skill position players are going to be better athletes than whoever they line-up against but the schemes and play-calling put those athletes in outstanding positions to make highly positive gains.

Offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian and his predecessor and mentor, Norm Chow are out of the Sid Gilman school of passing where you get the ball to your athletes ‘in-space’ and heading toward the goal line. This style has been used effectively by Don Coryell for the Charger in the early 80s and more recently by Mike Martz when he was the evil-genius offensive coordinator for the Rams during their “Greatest Show on Turf” run a few years back (thankfully, the Trojans have left the “Get your quarterback killed” pages out of their own playbook that Martz seemed to have in his).

So this is why the Charger's 1-2 start is so perplexing and frustrating. The team is absolutely loaded talent-wise. They have the best running back and tight end in the game, a young but accurate quarterback and as a set, the two best edge rushers in the league in Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. After 3 games, though, its obvious that those talents aren’t being maximized by the coaching staff.

We did a search and found nothing in the California Penal Code that prohibits playing the team’s two best running backs at the same time. Apparently, the Charger coaching staff does because in what in our mind is a no-brainer, they simply refuse to put dynamic back-up, Michael Turner, in at the same time as LT. Why wouldn’t you do this at least occasionally? Why wouldn’t you put maximum pressure on the defense to devote resources to defending against the best running back in the league, the best tight end, perhaps the best back-up RB and a set of big physical wide receivers? Its baffling. There was a reason why LenDale White and Reggie Bush were on the field together so often at SC… who was the defense going to try to stop?

And on a critical 3rd and 3 in the fourth quarter, the successful conversion of which, probably ices the game, tight end Antonio Gates who had a monster game is kept in to pass protect. Huh???? We could understand if QB, Phillip Rivers went to one of the wide-outs as he did for an incompletion if Gates wasn’t open – but Rivers was not even afforded that option. If there was EVER a situation where you would look to this guy to preserve a lead, it would’ve been this…. and he was kept in to pass-block???? Baffling.

Coming into the game, we figured the biggest key to victory would be to get pressure on Favre. Despite all his greatness, when Favre is pressured he is still prone to bone-headed rookie mistakes. The pressure never materialized and thus the Charger’s Key Stone Cop secondary was even more exposed, especially in that god-forsaken cover-2 zone that they can’t execute.

During the pre-season, the word on new defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell was that he did not like to blitz much. We didn’t want to believe it because this defense, personnel-wise, was tailor-made for getting pressure on the quarterback. We didn’t want to believe it because we knew the secondary would be getting torched without that pressure.

Well… didn’t see a whole lot of blitzing and certainly didn’t see a whole lot of pressure and Favre subsequently went bonkers out there looking like a guy who would one day throw for the most TD passes of all-time. Again, baffling.

If coaches are supposed to put their players in the best position to win then this is not even close to happening for the Chargers, right now.

… that finger edging ever closer to the panic button.

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