The Raiders play the Chargers Sunday so of course it's time to speak with a Chargers blogger. This week it's John Gennaro from Bolts From the Blue. I threw five good questions at him and he caught them and threw back some insight into the team the Raiders are about to see.
Me: Raiders offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, said the Chargers defense looks "fresher, faster" late in the season. How is that even possible?
John: Lots of turnover. In a nutshell, most of the guys you'll see on the field for the Chargers defense will either be different than the guys you saw in October, or they'll be healthier after having some time off.
Donald Butler missed a month with an injury and has rounded back into shape in the last few weeks.
Manti Te'o is playing significantly better now that he has a healthy Butler next to him.
Jarret Johnson missed 5 games in the middle of the season with a handful of different injuries, but now seems healthy (although I believe he's playing with his hand in a cast).
Derek Cox was benched and Johnny Patrick went on IR, which led to Marcus Gilchrist to move from SS back to nickel CB. That's opened up more opportunities for Jahleel Addae and Darrell Stuckey to get on the field and play safety.
Melvin Ingram has returned from his ACL tear in May, adding depth and talent to the group of linebackers/passrushers.
Lawrence Guy, signed mid-season, and Sean Lissemore, traded for after the preseason, have worked their way into the rotation along the defensive line. In fact, Lissemore was recently named the starting nose tackle.
What is the main reason for the Chargers getting so white hot of late?
The defense. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano finally got sick of Derek Cox, who was signed in the offseason to be the team's #1 CB, and benched him permanently. He got tired of Cam Thomas' inconsistent play at NT and demoted him on the depth chart. Those moves got the players' attention and gave the 2nd-year DC a group of guys that he could rely on to do their jobs.
The only team that has scored more than 20 against the Chargers since November 11 is the Kansas City Chiefs, who lose a shootout to the Chargers. Pagano has gotten very creative with his schemes and personnel lately, and the confusion is doing wonders.
Considering the offense was already the 2nd best offense in the league, and has done a great job of reducing the number of turnovers and sacks this season, an improvement on the defensive side was bound to result in a few wins.
You have been on record as saying Terrelle Pryor scared the hell out of you by what he can do with his legs. For a team that beat Peyton Manning, is there any reason for the Chargers to fear Matt McGloin?
Yes and no.
Yes, in that the Raiders QB always have really good games against the Chargers even when they're not supposed to. Heck, I think Jamarcus Russell's only halfway decent games came against San Diego. So I'm kind of expecting McGloin to look as good as he did against the Titans defense (which isn't a bad defense).
No, in that the Chargers play significantly better against pocket QBs than they do against runners.
However, the goal of the Chargers defense is mostly to keep the other team from putting up more than 20 points, because the offense is going to hit 21 just about every week. What I'm looking for, and hoping for, is a game where McGloin looks good and the Raiders get to 20, but the Chargers put up 28+.
Do you see the Chargers as a team that can make a serious run in this year's playoffs? What weaknesses might keep that from happening?
No. We'll know by time Sunday's game kicks off, as the Chargers need the Dolphins to lose both of their final two games for it to be a possibility. If they have beaten the Bills by 1pm PT on Sunday, the game between the Chargers and Raiders will be meaningless except for pride and draft position.
If, by some freak chance, the Chargers do find a way to sneak into the playoffs, they will be crazy dangerous. There's a multitude of ways that this team can beat any team in the league, which is evident in their victories over the Eagles, Chiefs, Broncos and Colts. They can outscore most teams, but have picked up the vast majority of their wins by dominating time-of-possession with long drives that are mixed with short passes and runs. However, losses to the Redskins and Titans and Raiders this season has shown that the first year head coach is struggling to get his team to produce consistently.
The Raiders found out about the talents of Keenan Allen in their first meeting. What player(s) on this team might we not know about that we should keep an eye on?
Keep an eye out for Jahleel Addae, who could probably be called the team's starting strong safety at this point. He's an undrafted rookie that is strong and fast and loves delivering crushing blows.
Hopefully I can get a link in here with the my answers to his questions at some point. We'll see how that works out.