Offensive Line Matters: Three starters on the offensive line didn’t practice this week – center Chris Watt, left guard Orlando Franklin and left tackle King Dunlap. Right guard D.J. Fluker practiced in full Wednesday but was limited Thursday, and looked as though his ankle was still acting up. Tuesday, the Chargers signed veteran center J.D. Walton, who is tasked with quickly learning his new teammates and coaches, and could be thrown into the fire immediately. In addition, the team promoted rookie tackle Tyreek Burwell from the practice squad. Walton and Burwell join Chris Hairston, Kenny Wiggins, Joe Barksdale Trevor Robinson, and Fluker as likely candidates to play.
Head coach Mike McCoy wouldn’t tip his hand to what the starting five will look like Sunday against the Browns.
“We have a very good idea, but there will be some decisions like every week that we’ll wait as long as possible,” he said. “It might be before I have to turn in the list of the seven guys being down before game day and work some guys out maybe before the game. We have a couple days before we have to make those decisions. But we have a good feeling on who’s got an opportunity and some other guys who might be a question mark. It’s not any different than any other week.”
Stop playing from behind: The Chargers have been playing from behind far too much as of late. They haven’t held a first quarter lead since week 12 of last season. San Diego is 2-5 in its last seven games dating back to last season, and the two wins against the 49ers and Lions, were miracle comebacks. Given the injury marred offensive line, playing from behind against the Browns is an absolute no no.
“We haven’t yet flipped the script to where we put (opponents) in a must-throw situation and us, in a real balanced, control of the game attack,” Philip Rivers said. “It’s not a situation you want to be in week in and week out.”
Run Gordon Run: The Browns have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, giving up an average of almost 160 yards per game. This is a very good thing for running back Melvin Gordon, who’s racked up 190 yards on 44 carries through three games. Sunday’s game could prove to be prudent for Gordon, who notched gains of 20, 26 and 27-yards against the Bengals. With the Chargers offensive line banged up, now is as good a time as any for the first round draft pick to establish a rhythm in the run game and also find the end zone (something he has yet to do officially this season).
“I’m hungry to score,” Gordon said Wednesday.
Good. The Chargers need to give their young back the rock. Rivers shouldn’t have to pass 30 plus times (or get hit on 12 dropbacks like he did against the Vikings!) in this game.
Sack the Quarterback! The Chargers defense has one sack in three games. ONE! And that lonely sack came in week one against the Lions. The Chargers pass rush totaled just 26 sacks in 2014, good for 29th in the NFL. Wasn’t getting after the quarterback supposed to be an improvement/priority for this team this year? Young players were supposed to step up. Melvin Ingram, why do we keep talking about potential? He still shows nothing but flashes and then disappears, and it’s becoming more and more frustrating. Cory Liuget, why were you awarded a hefty new contract this offseason? Play like you earned it, man! This reminds me of when Eric Weddle was awarded his last contract, making him the highest paid safety in the league. Everyone freaked out, but the Chargers new he was on the cusp of greatness. He’s since been to three Pro Bowls and is a two time first-team All-Pro. Make it happen, Liuget.
John Pagano, mix up the looks. Get creative. Do. Something. Different.
Turn This Ship Around: The Chargers are 1-2 on the season, having lost the last two games on the road against the Bengals and Vikings. Through three games, they have only led in one quarter (the fourth quarter of the season opener against the Lions). It’s tough to say the game against Cleveland is a “must-win” this early in the season, but it’s a “must-not-lose” game. Better?
Every game counts, and saying “it’s early” when the losses stack up can really bite you in the behind later in the season (cc: Padres). The Chargers need to play this one like their playoff hopes are on the line. It’s important that they not only turn the ship around to put a checkmark in the win column, but also to prove to themselves they can do it. The more they establish winning ways, the more they gel on the field, the more they will be able to recognize and tap into the feeling of victory. Winning breeds winning. Losing breeds losing.
Melvin Gordon should have a breakout game Sunday versus Cleveland. Listen to Annie and Andrew’s game preview podcast here to find out why.