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30 Oct 2012

Any Given Sunday: Browns Over Chargers

by Rivers McCown

"It's running weather," quipped CBS color man Rich Gannon.

It really was an ugly day in Cleveland, even by our traditionally perceived low standards of Cleveland's weather. It was drizzling at best throughout the game, a balmy 43 degrees, and high winds were out impacting every kick. It was the kind of moribund backdrop that the Browns are used to: plenty of seats, both good and bad, were available. The only unexpected part of it was that the San Diego Chargers fit so perfectly into the picture.

If you were tasked with creating a bleak portrait of the future of the A.J. Smith Chargers, this game was the epitome of everything you could have hoped to find. Talented feature back Ryan Mathews, of the well-documented fumble problems, fumbled again. Antonio Gates had problems separating. Free-agent acquisition Robert Meachem had a crucial drop that took seven points off the board. Left tackle Jared Gaither made it back in the lineup and Philip Rivers was still forced to spend a lot of time on the move in the pocket. Despite allowing only seven points, the Chargers defense got gashed in the run game.

With 1:41 to play, the Chargers reached the outskirts of Nick Novak's field-goal range, the Cleveland 44. Rivers would have four opportunities to net the crucial ten yards that he needed to give Novak an attempt. All four passes were incomplete.

The first-and-10 pass was aimed towards Dante Rosario in the middle of a zone, but it was thrown ahead of Rosario and he wasn't even able to lay a fingertip on it even though he layed out for the ball. (This was a consistent Rivers problem in this game: it seemed like he was almost aiming the ball at times rather than just cutting loose and throwing it.) On second down, Rivers' first option was well-covered, and Frostee Rucker beat Gaither to the outside, but fell down. Instead of standing in the pocket, Rivers pedaled backwards toward the sideline before throwing it away in the direction of Mathews. On third down, Rivers stood tall and delivered a deep ball to Rosario on an inside seam route despite Juqua Parker barreling down on him. This ball needed to be perfect though, and instead it fell about 10 yards short since Rivers couldn't step into the throw.

Finally, on fourth down, Buster Skrine made an athletic play in underneath coverage, leaping and tipping the ball despite Rivers having an open man beyond the sticks. Cleveland would have its win, and San Diego was left, yet again, with more questions than answers. The main one, naturally, being: What happened to their franchise quarterback?

By the VOA

We're back to work with Mr. Dewey and his decimal system. Wait, wrong Dewey. And wrong system. Here's how VOA scored the Chargers-Browns contest.

Dewey Defeats Browns
Team OFF VOA DEF VOA ST VOA TOTAL VOA
SD -10.9% -21.1% 7.4% 17.7%
CLE -26.4% -15.0% 1.5% -9.9%

Neither offense really did well, obviously. The Chargers did do slightly better on offense, though I think that gap overscores it a bit. For my next trick, let's show you how this game looks in DVOA:

DVOewey Defeats Browns
Team OFF DVOA DEF DVOA ST DVOA TOTAL DVOA
SD -19.5% -4.3% 7.4% -7.8%
CLE -24.6% -3.7% 1.5% -19.4%

See all those San Diego VOA rates dropping? Ladies and gentlemen, I present The Brown Effect. Which is not to be confused with The Brown Note, despite the fact that neither of them are very pretty to watch.

Call of the Game

We had dual calls of the game, and, appropriately for National NFL Coach Grow Some Balls Day, they both centered around early fourth-down aggression.

On fourth-and-1 from the Cleveland 30, on the first drive of the game, San Diego decided to roll the dice and go for it. Despite the fact that it cost them a field-goal chance, I thought this was a pretty decent idea. It was early, the weather was not conducive to easy field goals, and the Chargers had just spent a vast majority of the drive running all over the Browns.

The problem was that instead of sticking with Mathews, who had 30 yards on the first drive alone, they brought in Jackie Battle to tote the rock. T.J. Ward brushed right past Gates, who had problems getting out of his stance on the line, and tackled Battle for a loss. Norv? Norv.

On the ensuing Cleveland drive, Pat Shurmur went for it on fourth-and-1 from the San Diego 28. His weapon of choice was the Brandon Weeden sneak, and it was well-executed. Two plays later, Trent Richardson worked his body out of a weak Atari Bigby tackle on his way to the game's lone touchdown, a 26-yard scamper.

Spotlight on: Philip Rivers

Let's try not to draw any sweeping conclusions based on one game, okay? Let's just consider Rivers' performance here, and not all the whispers of injuries that have been dogging him for the past few years. I'll say it: this may have been the worst game I've ever seen him have.

There are a myriad of problems for the Chargers passing game right now, but the number one problem with Rivers to me is that he just doesn't look comfortable in the pocket. If you force him to throw on the run, the ball comes out awkwardly and is startlingly inaccurate. In fact, despite the poor overall numbers that he had in this game, I think Weeden looked like the best quarterback on the field. Weeden, at least, could throw on the run.

Statistically, the biggest problem in this game was Rivers performance on deep passes. This is the foundation of San Diego's offense. They run their routes deeper than any other team, open up short passes to the running backs, and Rivers takes the underneath stuff until something opens up deep.

The problems the Chargers had yesterday were multi-faceted, but while they certainly miss Vincent Jackson in the deep passing game, his absence alone can't explain some of the bad throws that Rivers is making. On six deep passes (15 yards or more past the line of scrimmage), Rivers had a -129.2% DVOA yesterday. That accounts for almost all of the negative production he produced, and every one of those passes could have easily been completed. The funny thing is, on the season, he's actually been fairly effective on deep balls: he has a 41.3% DVOA on 45 deep attempts for the season. The league average on all deep throws for the season is a 58.9% DVOA, but Rivers' stats don't represent a huge drop from average. He was fine for the first five weeks of the season ... and then we hit the Broncos game:

F--- It, Philip Rivers Is Going Deep
Weeks DVOA Deep Pass DVOA DYAR Deep Pass DYAR
1-5 -11.4% 79.5% -4 162
6-8 -24.4% -66.9% -64 -35

So it seems, if anything, the statistical problem for most of the year has been that the Chargers' short passing game is now relying on Ronnie Brown instead of Darren Sproles (and ignoring Mathews), and that with Vincent Brown hurt, they don't have what you'd call a possession receiver.

But in this game, the problems started with the deep ball. Here's a quick look at the five of them that went 20 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage:

Third-and-16 at the San Diego 21, 13:03 left in the second quarter

Rivers takes about a five-step drop, the pocket gets a little muddy but he wasn't hurried, and he took a shot to Danario Alexander. The ball was underthrown by about ten yards.

Joe Haden had good position to begin with, and Usama Young almost came over and intercepted the ball despite not being anywhere near the picture of the throw when it happened.

First-and-10 at the San Diego 37, 7:59 left in the second quarter

Rivers has play-action, a very clean pocket, and takes a shot at Malcom Floyd despite him being bracketed by both safeties. It's not a completely unreasonable decision, because there is space, but the throw has to be a very good one. It is not.

The ball hangs. Young and Ward combine to nearly intercept it. Ward actually does catch the ball, but he's out of bounds when he does so.

Third-and-9 at the San Diego 49, 8:57 left in the third quarter

Here's the one throw that's on the money. The pocket is clean. Meachem has plenty of separation on a post route and just drops the ball. Game-changing flub.

Second-and-16 at the Cleveland 24, 3:27 left in the third quarter

Rivers gets hurried a bit by Jabaal Sheard making mincemeat of Louis Vasquez on a stunt. Vasquez is not even close to picking it up, so Rivers has to sidestep a bit before his throw. He targets Gates in the middle of the end zone, which would have been a smooth move if not for the fact that there were four different Browns players around him.

Still, it does seem like this is a throw that could be made. It just needs a lot more zip than Rivers put on it. This is what it looks like when the ball arrives.

Third-and-10 at the Cleveland 44, 1:30 left in the fourth quarter

This is the aforementioned third-down play I mentioned in the opening. Rosario is open on the seam, but the ball is underthrown because Rivers can't step into it.

Rosario trips inadvertently on his defender's feet, but even if he'd been standing, this ball would have undershot him by a mile.

As you can see, Rivers wasn't exactly faced with impossible throws here: he just wasn't able to get enough mustard on the ball most of the time to make them happen.

What was even more concerning than any of these passes? The fact that the Chargers had no confidence in Rivers from the get-go. The only drive where San Diego didn't trail in this game was their first one, and on said drive, they ran the ball nine times. They threw it once. Mathews has been maligned this season for his fumbling, and yet the run-pass balance was almost completely even. I know that it wasn't a big lead, and I know that the weather was "running weather," but that's not the kind of game plan you develop when you have confidence in your quarterback.

Obviously, I'm shying away from saying that Rivers is done. I don't know what he's going through. I just know that if you took his nameplate off and attached "VOLEK" to the back of his jersey, the performance wouldn't have surprised me in the slightest.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 30 Oct 2012

44 comments, Last at 01 Nov 2012, 3:27pm by speedegg

Comments

1
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 1:07pm

I've seen a bunch of people saying "blow up the Chargers." Does that need to be done? Obviously some things *coughNorvcough* need to be changed, but the team still strikes me as a team with some very good pieces and some very bad pieces, which is usually easier to improve than a team with a bunch of mediocre talent.

The strengths:
- Even considering his fade over the last two years, Rivers is still a top-15 QB.
- Mathews is a very good RB, and other RBs like Tiki Barber, Ahman Green, and Adrian Peterson have shown that fumble-itis can be cured.
- Antonio Gates is a good TE, although he's probably closer to present-day Tony Gonzalez than early-2000s Tony Gonzalez at this point.
- Eric Weddle is a great safety.
- They have a reasonably young and talented front seven, with Cory Liuget, Donald Butler, Shaun Phillips, and Jarret Johnson.

The obvious fixes:
- Change coaches. If Norv was ever a good head coach, he certainly seems to have lost this team. Plus, Rivers (great accuracy, terrible arm strength) could do better in a short-pass, timing-based offense, and Norv currently has zero ability to creatively use his offensive talent.
- Get a left tackle. Preferably one with two working legs. This deficiency alone cost them at least one game this season.
- Acquire some young receiving talent. Malcolm Floyd isn't a #1 receiver, and Robert Meachem probably isn't a NFL receiver. Even an average #1 would be a huge step up.

2
by Paddy Pat :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 1:28pm

My sense is that poor offensive line play has gotten to Rivers' head. I've seen this with Brady, as in the 2011 regular season game against the Giants, where he seemed to be ducking and running a lot when there wasn't even pressure because he was expecting it so much. Rivers is not effective without a strong line. Period.

As for the team overall, it has seemed like San Diego needed a new head coach for the past 2-3 seasons. I also think they could use a new general manager...

4
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 1:41pm

I don't know that the Chargers are really that talented anymore; it's a team that has been bleeding talent for years. Comparing them to the Chargers of the middle of the decade is almost depressing (probably IS depressing if you're an actual Charger fan).

AJ Smith has done a poor job of talent evaluation and drafting. Jarret Johnson and Shaun Phillips aren't really young anymore, and Liuget has had a good season so far but was not good in 2011. On offense, they've lost Tomlinson, Jackson, Tolbert, Sproles and added no one who is obviously better than league average.

I understand Rivers had a bad game in the rain and wind. That happens to quarterbacks. But his arm strength isn't the problem, his accuracy is. He is missing open receivers even when it isn't raining. He's still better than nothing; he's an NFL starter. But he isn't a star and this Chargers team can't win unless he is.

8
by speedegg :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 2:11pm

Are you serious? Do you even follow the Chargers closely? The Chargers are really close to getting blown up, there are few players to build around in this team (Gates is getting old/ravages by injuries, Matthews gets injured too often and if he could fix his fumbling problems he would have by now, Jammer is regressing, Cason never really had it, Johnson is a fill-in, Shaun Phillips and Spikes are getting old). A lot of players are getting old or just don't pan out (LB Jonas Mouton).

Their receivers haven't been this bad since 2003 and they did have a #1 WR in V-Jax, and AJ Smith let him go. Did he really think if Meachem wasn't productive in the Saints system with Drew Brees throwing, that Phillip Rivers would make him a star overnight?

AJ Smith should have really drafted O-linemen instead of Matthews and Mouton, while finding a way to keep Jackson.

11
by markus (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 2:55pm

You lose me on your Rivers analysis. On the one hand you say he's still a top 15 QB despite everything (DYAR has him at 27th for the year, btw) but on the other you say Norv has no idea how to use his talents. He's put up some impressive numbers in that system; you'd have to believe he's a top 5 QB in the proper system to fault the offense, which is absurd.

3
by Nevic (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 1:32pm

Mythbusters showed that the Brown Note doesn't exist.

7
by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 2:09pm

Mythbusters didn't include the Norv factor in their tests, though!

5
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 1:56pm

Thanks Rivers,

This was pretty much exactly what I was looking. Its funny, I think in the years past, the chargers have been successful when having decent receivers but a good o line, and successful when they've had good receivers and a decent o line. Its when both stink that the chargers basically submarine.

I know Norv and Aj Smith make convenient targets when describing this mess(btw, i think both should be fired), but really, this is kind of the way things go for talented teams. Eventually, you decay and have to restart. Its the same thing that happened to the colts and possibly whats already started to happen to the ravens. Eventually, no matter how great your talent base was, it starts to decline.

This is probably the most unsung part of the Patriots, who've managed to stave off this kind of attrition, with some really big draft hits and continued o line play(in addition, of course to its qb).

6
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 1:56pm

Rivers doesn't seem to be playing the way he has in the past, and that certainly is worrying. What's more, he isn't getting a lot of help from his Wide Receivers and you can see just how much faith the team has in them if you look at the signingings of Ajrotutu and Alexander in the last two weeks.

I know Goodman went down with injury, but you get the feeling that the front office (AJ) is doing everything they can to give that passing Offense help.

Concerning the SD Pass Defense, that looks like a case of teams exploiting the weaknesses they see. Bigby bites on just about every play action, so CBs and LBs (Like Jarret Johnson earlier in this game) who are expecting safety help over the top, are instead unexpectedly left on an island.

13
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 3:35pm

Also, I know a lot of Charger fans are calling for Norv's head right now (and if this offense doesn't improve then I really don't blame them), but I would be shocked if he was fired mid-season. Ever since Chud left for Carolina (yes he is a Norv disciple, so is Jason Garrett and Mike Martz and a few more I'm sure), there isn't anyone on this staff who can take over play-calling duties on the Offense instead of Norv. Hal Hunter is a great OL coach (nominal OC), but I don't see him calling plays, and Bisacchia may be very gifted as a Special Teams coach, but I'm not sure he even has any experience with Offensive play-calling (Assistant HC).

41
by Tim_quitusingmyname (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 5:22pm

As a Packer fan I will be the first to tell you that Bigby is terrible. He can't tackle and can't cover. The only thing he does is hit hard. God I'm glad they got rid of him.

He's like Darren Sharper...just trade the interceptions for hard hits. (Please don't try to tell this Packer fan that Sharper was actually good.)

The Chargers should have picked up Nick Barnett when he was available (and they needed LBs at that time too!) instead of Bigby. Big mistake.

9
by markus (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 2:37pm

"...he has a 41.3% DVOA on 45 deep attempts for the season. The league average on all deep throws for the season is a 58.9% DVOA, but Rivers' stats don't represent a huge drop from average."
_________________________

30% below the league average doesn't qualify as "huge"?

12
by ammek :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 3:12pm

It's 30% of the way between the league average and zero. But there will be some QBs with negative DVOA on long passes.

18
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:12pm

Treating it as a percentage of a percentage makes the numbers look larger. If the league average were 1% and Rivers' was 0%, he'd be 100% below average.

29
by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 7:00pm

Except the league average isn't 1% nor anywhere close to it. I'm not sure it truly qualifies as "huge" but they noted the Chargers' offense depends on long throws more than any other team in the league, so Rivers being 20 points below the league average on long throws is noteworthy. I don't really get why that point was downplayed.

10
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 2:42pm

It is easy to jump on the anti-Norv bandwagon ... but this is 15th season coaching and he's only made the playoffs 4 times ... three of those immediately after taking over the Schottenheimer-Chargers and one of those as an 8-8 team at the expense of the 11-5 Patriots! We should probably give him a pass for his two years at the Raiders.

Norv is a great offensive co-ordinator but as a headcoach he doesn't cut it. It seems to me that there are just moments of sloppiness that let the team down. The odd fumble here, the odd drop there, a penalty or punt block. Nothing dramatic enough to signal a complete collapse but just enough to undermine the overall effect.

To me the guru of coaching is Belichick and you just don't see those kinds of things from his teams. The missed FG against Arizona that would have won the game at the end was a shock that I'd never have expected from the Patriots but with any other team I'd not have been surprised.

As for AJ Smith - he wanted Norv and he's backed him all these years ... his head should roll too.

17
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:10pm

I agree with part of this and disagree with most of it.

"three of those immediately after taking over the Schottenheimer-Chargers"

First of all, Schottenheimer didn't build that team, AJ Smith did. Schottenheimer was the coach of the 14-2 Chargers team that took advantage of an easy schedule in order to underachieve in the playoffs. But I think people who just ignore the history of Shotty's time in SD before that are really getting their facts skewed. No one seems to remember 2002 when, with Schottenheimer as their coach, San Diego pulled the exact same season that got Shanahan fired in Denver. They started the season off 6-1 and in control, only to finish out the season at 8-8 and 4th place in the AFC West. Now, I understand the circumstances, I am a Charger fan after-all, but this is an example and I am sick of Charger fans who seem to think that Marty walked on water and that Norv is useless (in case you hadn't guessed, this rant isn't pointed at you in particular), those are the fans that didn't watch a down of Charger football (or at least didn't really understand it) before they became an "elite" team.

The other thing I see quoted a lot is that the team has gotten continually worse under Norv's watch. What people don't take into account is the difference in talent between then and now. But look at that team in 2006 that Schottenheimer last coached, and there was a ton of talent. Almost all of it was put there by AJ Smith.

That being said, you are right when you talk about the freak things that happen to this team. I mean there is bad luck, but this is ridiculous. And this season it isn't even that. The Offense is looking very poor, and that is a direct connection to Norv. If they don't turn it around, I don't see much point in retaining him at the end of the year provided there are HC candidates (and please don't say Cower and Gruden) that would be improvements to Norv. I think AJ should stay, both given his body of work in years past, and from what I've seen him do the past few seasons.

42
by Tim_quitusingmyname (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 5:45pm

This post seems to say a lot of nothing. You acknowledge that the talent has gotten worse (AJ Smith's fault) but you'd like to keep AJ Smith around. You also state that if the team improves yet this year (3-4) you'd keep Norv around...whoooo! Pretty high standards there!

14
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 3:48pm

I remember when AJ Smith heralded Norv as an offensive genius. After Sunday, both looked like fools. It's not just the sloppy execution, but the lack of adjustments and wrong personnel.

The Chargers two tackles are BAD, why not give them help with TE/FB/HB to chip block? Not to mention, the Chargers haven't spent a high draft pick on their tackles for a few years, which is part of the reason they're bad.

Maybe Norv should get away from those isolation routes and do combinations? Their receivers aren't good enough to win one-on-one. Meachem always had issues catching the ball from Tennessee, why did anyone think he'd be different now? Also, some of the receivers (cough! Royal! cough!) give up on plays. That lead to an INT during the Broncos game. Did some GM forget why teams let those receivers leave?

Really, it's no wonder Rivers is jittery in the pocket and makes bad decisions. Can't trust his O-line, can't trust his receivers.

19
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:18pm

Gaither is not BAD, he just hasn't been on the field enough this year. Here's hoping he stays healthy. Harris was, but he was an UDFA so I would have been very surprised if he wasn't.

Didn't Meachem have something like the fewest drops in the league over the past 3 years (with a healthy dose of targets)? This hasn't been a problem for him since he came into the league.

I also can't recall AJ calling Norv an Offensive Genius. In fact I don't think I've ever heard him call anyone a genius. That would be the voice of some fans and some media making reluctant admissions (I really don't get the hate out there. What has he ever done to the media. And the hate was there before the last couple of years too). And that is because every Offense that he has coached has improved from what it was the year before he was with the team (similar to Wade Phillips with Defense, only with less drop-off after the first year).

24
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 5:00pm

?!? Gaither is BAD. He's been hurt and can't protect Rivers. Did you miss the SNF game against the Saints? Did you not hear Collingsworth saying Gaither needs to come out or he need help blocking? Gaither gave up the sack that ended the game. And this against a Saints crappy defense.

And where are you getting your numbers for Meachem? If you watch the Saints (other than the ESPN Highlights) you'll see Meachem drops balls when he's wide open. He's been inconsistent. Also, you probably missed FO's piece on Meachem and his drops. Have you read Matt Waldman's articles?

AJ hailed Turner as an offensive genius when he was first hired. I'd think that was to justify letting Schotty go after a 14-2 season. That reasoning combined with Turner was suppose to get the Chargers over the "hump" and into the Superbowl. Hard to see them making the Superbowl now.

26
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 5:37pm

No. Gaither is not 'BAD'. Collinsworth was referring to the fact that he appeared to have been injured. And he was. In fact, here is the exact quote:
"Gaither looks lame. He's gonna have to get some help here or Wilson's gonna get a sack to end this game.''
After it played out like Collinsworth suggested it would, he said: ''Nobody saw it. You could see it on the play before. He couldn't move. ... He's limping out there. He's doing his best. He should have turned around to Philip Rivers and said, 'Either I've got to go out or you have to give me help on this side.'"

Also, in terms of where I'm getting my stats for Meachem. Pro-Football Focus did an analysis of WR drops over the 3 years leading up to this season:
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/07/02/three-years-of-drop-rat...
Most of that article is breaking down the stat, but if you scroll to the bottom (above the comments of course) you will see the WRs with the lowest drop rates. Meachem is the 11th best there, only dropping 5.84% of passes thrown to him with a total of 8 drops in 3 years. Compare that to Roy Williams who drops 14.62% of his passes.

Also, I'm not saying that Meachem is an amazing WR, or even an above average one for that matter. Just that drops haven't been his problem for the past few years.

30
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 8:11pm

BWHAHAHAHAHA!!! Are you serious? That says Meachem has 137 "Catchable" passes and 8 drops in the past 3 years. If you check Meachem's career stats in NO, he has 211 TARGETS with 141 CATCHES (per ESPN). That equates to a catch rate of 66% or a drop rate of 34%. Do you REALLY think Drew Brees is that inaccurate?

Why don't you check this link from FO writer Matt Waldman on WR deficiencies and their hands. Ironically, near the end of the piece it lists Craig "Buster" Davis and Robert Meachem as WRs with deficiencies: http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2011/09/07/discerning-errors-from-deficiencies...

Check the link and your data.

35
by Ferguson1015 :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 11:51am

It's possible that I am wrong in that assessment, I honestly haven't looked that far into it. I happened to come across that article before the season, and I was happy to see that SD had 2 of the top possession receivers on that list. My scouting of Meachim consisted primarily of watching all of his 2011 games, so I didn't actually look at his history with the team (SD had a lot of FA signings this offseason, so I had a higher volume than normal, and still not a lot of time to do it). And while I wasn't all that impressed with him, I don't remember drops being particularly awful then, though there were a few that stood out.

36
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 11:55am

The vast majority of incompletes are not drops. There are passes defended, poor throws, throw-aways that are close to a receiver.

37
by evenchunkiermonkey :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 12:14pm

Equating the 66% rate of catches to a 34% drop rate is disingenuous as you fail to take into account passes defensed, overthrown balls, underthrown balls and balls purposely thrown away where Meachem was the closest reciever.
Drew Brees has a career completion % of 65.6% so Meachem's catch rate almost perfectly matches what one would expect from one of his recievers.

38
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 2:22pm

Okay, dudes, reason why I have an issue with "catchable" balls is looking at the Coaches Film in Game Rewind ALL receivers are covered. Cornerbacks are hip-to-hip with receivers when Rivers/Rodgers/etc makes the throw. There's a lot of man techniques even when Cornerbacks play zone, so it's hard to figure out what the defense is doing.

It's the Quarterbacks job to THROW THE RECEIVER OPEN and put the ball where only the receiver can get it with a corner on top of him. That's different from college where the receiver can get wide open and the QB throws to the uncovered receiver.

The receiver needs to read the coverage also, because that will determine where the QB will deliver the ball. Back shoulder, front shoulder, between the numbers on his chest, etc, etc. Imagine throwing a back shoulder fade based on the coverage, then WR turns around expecting the ball in his chest between the numbers. Would that ball be considered "catchable"? That Rivers INT against the Broncos was "catchable", but Eddie Royal gave up on the play. Royal should have never let Chris Harris get in front of him.

As it relates to Meachem, you have to look at how the Saints used him. Was Meachem a true "number one" receiver or was a role player in that offense? If he was a role player, what was his role? The answer might surprise you.

39
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 2:24pm

What you just wrote is very reasonable and well thought out. It is also very different from claiming that Meachem drops 34% of the passes thrown his way.

40
by 40oz to Freedom (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 3:37pm

That's true and having watched Meachem, he's inconsistent. Last year in the Saints-Packers game, there were (at least) two throws Meachem was wide open, Brees hit him in the hands and he dropped both. So, if he's inconsistent with open throws, how consistent do you think he'll be with a defender on him?

Also, career-wise, I think people get caught up with his 2009 season when the Saints won the Superbowl. He had a crazy catch rate of 70%, about a third were on deep bombs. That kind of success is hard to maintain.

Anyway, the best comment about Meachem came from Aaron (Schatz) when he said or tweeted that Meachem's similarity score best matches another Dolphins/Chargers/Chiefs receiver, Chris Chambers. Chambers made the highlight reel, but was not consistent enough to be a "go-to guy."

15
by evenchunkiermonkey :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 3:49pm

Next time you get the urge to criticize Phillip Rivers, I want you to ask yourself this simple question instead:
"What have I done to get Norv Turner and AJ Smith fired today?"
Phil is just taking one for the team, what are you doing?

tangent:Is there a wealthy enough Chargers fan who would pay for a PAC-style attack ad aimed at Norv and AJ? because that would make me laugh.

16
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 3:52pm

How is the Chargers' cap situation? Basically, could they have afforded to keep Sproles and Jackson?

21
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:23pm

Nope. Or rather, they could not have unless they made other sacrifices on the roster. They spend to the limit just about every year. However, they did really want to retain Tolbert, but he wanted to play in Carolina at a discount because he grew up there.

22
by speedegg :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:43pm

You mean if they didn't over-pay for Weddle, they could have kept V-Jax. The Chargers made an offer to Sproles, but he also split for less money.

23
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:52pm

Fair enough. Though I disagree that they over-paid for Weddle. He is an All-Pro and is playing to the same form this year. V-Jax was a good receiver, but very inconsistent. He would show up one week only to disappear the next when they really needed him.

I would much rather have Weddle than V-Jax.

As for the Sproles comment, I hadn't heard that he left for less money. In fact, I heard the exact reverse. One of the reasons he got too expensive fast is that he was Franchised for at least the last year of his contract (and the year before too I believe, but I could be wrong about that) and he was just too expensive to retain. They certainly wanted him still but with both Tolbert and Mathews they felt comfortable at RB without him. Since Tolbert split for the home crowd (which was unforeseen) that position got a lot less steady.

25
by speedegg :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 5:10pm

Hmm, okay I'm not counting Pro-Bowls, but how the team uses the player and his ability. Weddle doesn't have the range of an Earl Thomas or Ed Reed. Reed allows (or I should say allowed) the Ravens to stay in a 3-4 Cover-1. Thomas gives the Seahawks the ability to disguise their coverages with different looks. His closing speed is incredible.

V-Jax is a X-iso receiver, ie a team can have a 3x1 set (3 receivers on one side of the field, 1 on the other) with him at the isolated on the far side of the formation at the X position. Defenses still have to shift coverage his way because he's so fast he can beat the safety over the top. When teams focus and shut him down, it opens up throws to the 3 receivers on the other side of the field. Hence, games where V-Jax "disappears" on the stat sheet, but forces defenses to change their game plan.

And yeah, Sproles took less money to come to New Orleans. A lot of that had to do with Brees talking to him over the off-season.

28
by Ferguson1015 :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 5:58pm

Hmm. Interesting points.

Keep in mind too the supporting casts that Reed and Thomas have in the secondary. Yes they have great range, but both the Ravens and Seahawks have (or at least had in the case of Baltimore) CBs that can allow for more flexibility. Weddle does perform much better as a Cover-2 Safety but he does line up in and perform well in Cover-1. Now, that being said, Reed was better than Weddle is now, but I don't think that reflects poorly on Weddle, rather reflects well on Reed. I haven't watched Thomas, so I can't speak for him, but I do know that they have a very formidable secondary, and I'm sure that Thomas is a big reason for that. I'll have to study them to see how they do.

You make some good points, I just think, that at the moment, Weddle is one of the best Safeties in the game right now. You make a good point about Jackson, and I think what has happened to the Chargers Offense without him is a good indicator that he certainly added a dimension that SD doesn't have now. As for Sproles, I hadn't heard that, I had heard that he took less money than he did in SD the previous season, but not that SD offered more money to him during Free Agency. It looks like I have some research to do!

44
by speedegg :: Thu, 11/01/2012 - 3:27pm

Not sure if you care, but here's a podcast with Greg Cosell, senior producer at NFL Films, previewing week 9 of the NFL. He usually does a podcast with Fantasy Guru on Thursday and Shutdown Corner on Friday. At the beginning of the Fantasy Guru podcast he talks about the issues with San Diego's offense: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fantasyguru/2012/11/01/weekly-matchup

And for those that don't know, Greg Cosell has watched film longer than some people have been alive.

20
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 4:22pm

Not a Charger fan, but my sense is that the relationship with Jackson had been poisoned beyond repair with previous contract issues. He very likely wanted to leave. Sproles got a 4 yr/$14 million contract from NO, which is pretty affordable really. You'd think a team could make that kind of space if they really wanted to.

In either case, whether it was a decision to let them leave, or an intractable salary cap situation, it's still AJ Smith's doing.

27
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/30/2012 - 5:45pm

Was sproles really THAT valuable in SD? Obviously he was useful, but hardly a foundation type of player that SD ex-ante had to pay. Now, obviously hes a great dynamic player, but hes not the kind of back that will excel on any team and NO happens to be that kind of creative in the backfield, formationally diverse type of offense that can really take advantage of his kind of talent. And again, sproles shouldn't account for Rivers' decline.

As far as AJ Smith is concerned, people need to be more consistent with how they judge GMs. Smith absolutely built a very strong SD team with talent across the board. Give him credit. But then he missed on picks and the team has regressed. So what happened? He was great then lost his magic touch? OR more likely, the picks were higher up the draft board and thus harder to get those great players.

If you want to blame smith, blame him on keeping Norv Turner for so long and the poisonous acrimony he built with the players. There are ways to handle this contractually(see the Pats), but Smith seems to attack them with the media as well. It hardly makes you look like a professional and it no doubt hurts future negotiations with free agents and draft picks.

SD looks bad now, but I could see with an appropriate coaching change and some prudent free agent signings, them coming back to being an above average team. Even a half decent o line and one competent receiver will do wonders for their offense and their defense isn't half bad either.

43
by Tim_quitusingmyname (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 5:56pm

I think Sproles is one of the better offensive players in a while. It appears he was THAT valuable in SD. He didn't get used much because of LT. I believe Sproles would be excellent on any team. He is not specialized (like DeSean Jackson is).

31
by Coop16 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 9:01am

As a Browns fan, I'm puzzled by the fact that every single comment posted about this article comes from the Chargers' point of view. Was there only one team on the field in Cleveland this past Sunday? An inter-squad game, apparently?

The Browns' defense deserves at least a mention. Granted, the weather helped the defense (of both teams), but still, the Browns' defense played pretty well. I'm under no illusion that the Browns have a top-ten defense, or a top-ten anything for that matter, but the defensive unit has shown an occasional sign of growing into a solid unit once its components are properly seasoned (the unit is very young right now). Tom Heckert has put particular emphasis on restocking the defensive line and (to a lesser extent) the secondary, and his efforts are starting to show results, albeit rather slowly. I'm not real bullish on the offense's future; Trent Richardson is good but he takes a lot of hits which lessen his effectiveness (especially long-term), and Brandon Weeden will probably never develop into anything more than a mediocrity. But the defense is young and stocked with first- and second-round picks. It could develop into a strong unit in another year or two.

32
by In_Belichick_We... :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 9:34am

The author may not have known of the existance of Brown's fans.
I didn't know there were any. I always thought the seats were sold to Steelers fans who could not get Steelers tickets.

Entitled freeloader

33
by In_Belichick_We... :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 9:35am

The author may not have known of the existance of Brown's fans.
I didn't know there were any. I always thought the seats were sold to Steelers fans who could not get Steelers tickets.

Entitled freeloader

34
by Ferguson1015 :: Wed, 10/31/2012 - 11:44am

I think it is because the Browns haven't yet proven that they are a team on the rise. Whereas San Diego had higher expectations at the beginning of the year (and just a few weeks ago). But back in, say 2001-2003 it was the same story for the Chargers where people were usually more worried about their team if they lost than they were impressed with SD. I think that's probably the case here.

Personally, I can speak for the others, but since I am a Charger fan, I tend to gravitate to them as a subject more than I do any other team.