As the San Diego Chargers head into the bye week on a two-game winning for the first time this season, what’s the feeling in San Diego for Mike McCoy’s team?
You can definitely argue that mike McCoy is the answer just by looking at the offense. Led by a resurgent Philip Rivers, the Chargers are in the top 10 offensively in total yards (5th, 402.9 yards per game), passing yards (6th, 294.1 yards per game) and third-down efficiency (2nd, 49.4 percent).
Defensively, the Chargers are in the top 10 in perhaps the most meaningful statistic, points allowed (9th, allowing 20.6 points a game). Defensive coordinator John Pagano’s defense also has gone 11 quarters without giving up a touchdown. Top 10 yes, the Bolts have still allowed 378.6 yards per game (23rd in the NFL) and forced only four turnovers. Yes, they have been good, but not dominant (although is there really a “dominant” defense anymore?).
For San Diego, they have a difficult stretch coming up, with three of their next four games on the road and five AFC West divisional games left on the schedule, including two each against Denver and Kansas City. So McCoy understands that while his team is playing better, there’s a tough road ahead.
“It’s a long year, now is a time where you’ve got to start talking to the younger players, because we’re making the turn now, and it’s coming at a good time. But we’ve got a lot of football left. So No. 1, we’ve got to take care of our bodies and enjoy the time off that we’re going to have at the end of this week. I think they are improving every day and have done a lot of good things.”
A look at the numbers after seven weeks:
30,023 – The number of passing yards in Philip Rivers career. By surpassing 30,000 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rivers became just the 37th player ever to top that plateau and the second Charger, joining Dan Fouts (43,040). He reached the milestone in his 123rd game, the fifth fastest ever.
2,132 – Rivers’ passing yards through seven games.
761 – Net rushing yards through seven games.
446 – Yards rushed by team leader Ryan Matthews.
403 – The number of wins in franchise history. The Bolts earned the 400th win in their Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
171 – Total number of first downs by the offense.
60 – Points scored by team leader Nick Novak.
49.4 – Third down completion percentage.
47 – Tackles by team leader Eric Weddle.
42 – Catches by team leader Antonio Gates.
40 – Catches by Danny Woodhead, the most by any running back in the NFL.
33:18 – The Bolts average time of possession.
20 – The number of sacks recorded by the defense, tied for 8th most in the league.
18 – Total number of touchdowns scored.
3 – Sacks by team leader Jarret Johnson.
A Look At the Positions:
Rivers’ turnaround this season has been remarkable. McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whishenhunt have done a nice job tailoring the passing game around his strengths, and it shows in his statistics this season. Through seven games, Rivers leads the league in completion percentage (73.9) and is second in the NFL in passing yards (2,132) and passer rating (111.1).
With back-to-back rushing games of more than 100 yards, the emergence of Ryan Matthews as a focal point of the offense has been fun to watch because he is finally performing up to par. The Chargers have had more rushing attempts than passing attempts in the past two games. Let’s see if that continues during the second half of the season. Danny Woodhead is clearly the best addition during free agency.
Keenan Allen has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Chargers. With Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out for the season, Allen has stepped up big time, posting 26 catches for 399 yards and two touchdowns through seven games, not bad for a rookie. Slot receiver Eddie Royal has created some big plays, with 22 receptions for 285 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns. And Vincent Brown has also been consistent, with 26 catches for 265 yards.
At 33 years old, Antonio Gates is healthy and back playing at an elite level. With a team-leading 42 receptions for 497 yards and two touchdowns, Gates is second in the NFL among tight ends in receptions (believe it or not Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron has 45 receptions). Gates has a great rapport with Rivers, and also has held his own blocking in the run game.
With as many injuries as this group has suffered, the offensive line’s performance so far is very respectable and is probably one of the most impressive feat for the Chargers this season. Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris deserves credit for keeping this group playing at a high level. Center Nick Hardwick is the only member of the offensive line to start every game this season. The Chargers have had five different starting offensive line combinations in seven games, and five different players see time at left tackle.
This group is the most improved unit on the defensive side of the ball, with defensive ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes as the anchor of the group. Both have played well against the run, and have allowed pass-rushers like Thomas Keiser and Larry English to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and sacks.
Starting middle linebacker Donald Butler has missed three games with a groin injury. And even when he has been active, Butler has not made many game-changing plays. The same can be said of rookie linebacker Manti Te’o. Although he missed most of the preseason and the first three games of the year with a sprained foot, Te’o by his own admission has not played up to his potential, with just 17 tackles, no sacks and no forced turnovers in four starts.
Safety Eric Weddle leads the team in tackles with 47, and has been a steadying influence in the back end with his consistent approach each week. But this unit has just two interceptions this season. The Chargers also have given up 27 passing plays of 20 or more yards, which is 4th worst in the NFL. The Chargers have not scored a defensive touchdown this season.
Kicker Nick Novak has only missed two field goals, and both were blocked. However, Novak has just eight touchbacks on 38 kickoffs (21.1 percent) — which is the worst in the NFL. Punter Mike Scifres has 11 punts inside the 20 yard line, but is averaging just 43.9 yards a punt. The Chargers have not gotten much out of the return game to help improve field position.
In his first season, McCoy has paid attention to the little things, instilled confidence in his players and surrounded himself with an experienced coaching staff. He’s made his share of mistakes, but overall has San Diego headed in the right direction.
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