To prepare for tonight's Monday Night Football matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, I talked with John Gennaro over at Bolts From The Blue.
I asked questions about the Chiefs run game, the Chargers weapons at receiver and the Chiefs pass rush.
Before we get to that, I have to let you know about a bet I made with John. If the Chiefs win, I'll get my very own front page post over at Bolts From The Blue.
If When that happens, you can help me write it. But if the Chargers win....
Yeah, he'll be over here on the front page. So there's plenty of motivation here for the Chiefs to win because I know you guys wouldn't like him gloating over here on the front page.
It's a risky bet but one I'm willing to take.
Onto the questions....
The Chiefs strength at this point is running the ball. How well will the Chargers be able to stop the Chiefs run game?
The Chargers biggest weakness in the last couple of years has certainly been on defense. The pass rush has been almost non-existent and run defense has been near awful. Don't forget, this is almost the same defense that gave up the most rushing yards in a single game to Adrian Peterson a couple years back. Injuries and age have hurt the Chargers up the middle, where guys like Jamal Williams and Stephen Cooper just aren't as effective as they used to be, and poor tackling has been to blame on the outside with Antonio Cromartie avoiding hits and Clinton Hart playing at a Pop Warner level.
The Chargers gameplan for stopping the run in 2009 was simple: Score a lot of points and force the other team to throw the ball. I imagine it will be much the same in 2010, but with a few minor improvements. The rag-tag group of defensive linemen that were assembled last season look like they're playing a really high level, especially journeyman NT Antonio Garay who somehow won the starting spot in training camp. You could make a case that Larry English, who it looks like will be starting at OLB on Monday night, is better in run-support than Shawne Merriman. Steve Gregory may be a little undersized at SS, but is a big improvement over last year's Strong Safeties Kevin Ellison and Clinton Hart in that he doesn't get stuck in traffic and is a solid tackler.
So, if I'm being honest, your question looks an awful lot like "Is the glass half-empty or half-full?" to me. Do I believe that the minor changes made and another year with the team for some new veterans will suddenly make the Chargers decent at defending the run? I do, but probably only because they haven't played a game yet. Do I think it will matter? Not really, because the best run defense is a good offense.
With Vincent Jackson gone, what kind of deep threat do the Chargers have? Where are the big plays coming from?
Malcom Floyd is every bit the deep threat Vincent Jackson is. From floor to the top of his head, they're the same height, but Floyd has much longer arms and better hands. He has tricky speed, in that his legs don't seem like they're going very fast but his long strides always seem to put him downfield with the defenders behind him. Buster Davis and Patrick Crayton both have excellent speed and will be brought in to stretch the defense a little bit as well, but this is an offense that will have significantly less big plays than it did in 2009 (when it relied upon them for the entire offense).
The Chiefs haven't shown much of a pass rush. If they can't get to Philip Rivers, do they stand a chance stopping the passing game?
No. Do I need to say more than that? Fine.....
Philip Rivers is not only a top 5 QB in the NFL, he might be one of the 2 or 3 most accurate passers in the league as well. He reminds me a lot of Dan Marino in that he has a ridiculously fast release and always seems to put the ball exactly where he wants it. Mix that with his intelligence and leadership and you can understand why Chargers fans believe that this guy will lead us to a Super Bowl championship at some point in his career.
Statistically, Philip is a better QB against the blitz (posting some ridiculous QB rating, like 115, when being blitzed) because he sees the holes before the play and has the quick release to put the ball where it needs to go before the defense gets to him. However, if you're going to give one of the top 5 QBs in the league all of the time in the world to sit back and wait for his guys to get open....that's not going to end well.