clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Five Good Questions: Injuries, McCoy Holding the Chargers Back

New, comments

Daily Norseman chats with Chargers blog Bolts from the Blue leading up to their Week 3 matchup.

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

For the third straight week, the Minnesota Vikings head into their game with the exact same record as their opponents. That isn't very odd for this early in the season, but this week it seems fitting. The Vikings and the San Diego Chargers appear to be pretty evenly matched--both teams have a healthy amount of talent but also have some pretty big flaws.

So which team will hide their flaws the best and improve to 2-1 Sunday? I talked to John Gennaro, Managing Editor of Bolts From The Blue, to pick his brain about the Chargers so we can learn more about an opponent we only see once every four years.

What are your early impressions of first round rookie running back Melvin Gordon? How do you anticipate the Chargers using Gordon and Danny Woodhead against the Vikings? Will the snaps and touches between the two still be the near 50/50 split we have seen through the first two weeks? (I swear I'm not asking this because I have Gordon on one of my fantasy teams.)

It's actually been less 50/50 than you think. Last week, I believe it was 17/13 in favor of Gordon. That's probably what you can expect in the future, but I'm sure the team would like nothing more than a 20/10 split and some grind-it-out drives with the lead in the second half.

Gordon has been phenomenal, really. For a guy running behind a patchwork offensive line that doesn't practice run blocking very much, and isn't very good at it, he somehow finds a way to get into the second level and rack up yards. Last week he had three runs of over 20+ yards against the Bengals, making him the first Chargers' RB to do that since in-his-prime LaDainian Tomlinson.

Now, due to the offensive line and him being a rookie, he a can be a little inconsistent and the team sometimes goes away from him for long periods of time. There's also the fact that he hasn't scored a touchdown yet, so we don't exactly know if they trust him in the red zone (he fumbled in Week 1). Still, this team will probably go about as far as he can take them this year.

San Diego has had mixed results on the field and in the standings through the first two games of the season. At times they have looked incredibly dangerous (the second half of the Detroit game) and at others they have looked incredibly flawed (protecting Philip Rivers for much of the Cincinnati game). What are some of the bigger issues that you see facing the Chargers after two weeks?

Injuries! Which isn't to blame the whole thing on luck, the Chargers don't do themselves a ton of favors when it comes to staying healthy.

This team was significantly better with D.J. Fluker at Right Guard, but he's out this week and possibly a few more with a sprained ankle. His replacement, a swing tackle by the name of Chris Hairston, struggled mightily to play a position he's unfamiliar with against an All-World DT in Geno Atkins last week. Chris Watt, the starting Center, was apparently playing through a groin injury as well, which probably didn't help.

Ladarius Green, who looked fantastic in replacing Antonio Gates (who is still suspended), missed practice yesterday with his second concussion in 11 days. The team is already making roster moves that point to him not playing on Sunday, which will make the offense move even slower.

Injuries aside, the biggest issue is the run defense, in that it doesn't really exist. Corey Liuget is a beast, but it's not hard to run to the side of the defense he's not on. Manti Te'o has been so bad at tackling (I'm certain he leads the league in missed tackles but I'm not going to bother looking it up because it would hurt too much) that fans are pining for him to lose his starting job to rookie LB Denzel Perryman, but that probably won't happen this week.

Basically, if you have a RB with decent speed and enough strength to run through a wet paper bag, and it's my belief that the Vikings have one of those, expect a good game on the ground against this Chargers defense.

If you were Mike McCoy for a day, what's one thing would you change about the Chargers going forward? Would it be certain personnel? Philosophy? Play calling on offense or defense?

Oh man, can I change who is Head Coach on Sundays? Mike McCoy kills this team every time he's given the opportunity by being (far and away) the most conservative coach in the league. Last week he literally (LITERALLY) let the final minute of the first half tick away instead of trying to score points because he had faith that the team would score in the second half. I'm not joking, that was his actual defense!

Mike McCoy is an excellent (I think) head coach Monday-Saturday, and going 9-7 every year in the NFL is hard, but it's frustrating because he definitely robs the team of at least two wins per season with the decisions he makes from the sidelines on Sunday.

I happen to like the team's personnel quite a bit, although they're not exactly deep. I also mostly like the play calling on offense and defense, although John Pagano tends to be a pussycat when the team falls behind and a fiery helldemon determined to rid the earth of QBs by way of blitzes when the team takes the lead. I guess I'd take that second Pagano a little more often than we typically get to see him.

Give us one Chargers player on offense and one player on defense that most Vikings fans don't know much about but could have a big impact on the game Sunday.

On defense, I'd like to introduce you to Kyle Emanuel. I believe he led the NCAA in sacks last year, but nobody noticed because he was playing for North Dakota State.

[Note: Obviously John was unaware that I am a proud NDSU alum and therefore VERY aware of Kyle Emanuel's college exploits.]

He went from "fringe guy" to "wow, he should be starting" for the Chargers in the first two weeks of training camp, and he got his chance in Week 1 with Jerry Attaochu battling an injury. Against the Lions, in his first NFL game, Emanuel registered a sack, an interception, and played great run defense to boot. Last week, Attaochu returned but seemed to be going at half-speed with a gimpy hamstring. I expect Emanuel to play a bigger role this Sunday.

On offense, I have a name that you might know but may have forgotten about. Stevie Johnson, once the #1 receiver for the Buffalo Bills, is now the slot receiver for the San Diego Chargers. Without Gates or Green, expect Johnson to be on the field for most of the offensive snaps. He has found a great fit in this offensive system and a great rapport with Philip Rivers (he has a TD in each game so far), so I expect big things for him against Minnesota.

Finally, give us your honest prediction of the final score Sunday. Who improves to 2-1 and why?

This is about as even as it gets. I'm going to pick the Chargers, because I think they have the higher ceiling/potential of the two teams and I think they're coming out pissed off and looking for retribution after last week's loss to the Bengals, but that home field advantage for the Vikings can go a long way. I'll say 28-26 Chargers squeak it out.

Thanks again to John for some excellent insight. You can follow him on Twitter at @John_Gennaro. Look for our Q&A about the Vikings soon on Bolts From The Blue.