Thanks to Ross Warner of the Chargers blog Justice Is Coming for participating again in a Q&A session. Thanks to dedkriti and TREN507 for suggesting questions, which I incorporated into my questions for Ross. (Sorry, Andrew, I'd already sent him the email by the time you commented.) Questions and answers follow beyond the jump.
Total Titans: The Chargers have had a lot of injuries, especially at wide receiver. How close are guys like Gates and Floyd to returning and being productive players, and how has the offense changed with them not at 100%?
Justice Is Coming: This offense is still without an identity. Antonio Gates continues to be all-world but is currently hampered by a toe injury. He probably won't be really himself until after the bye week. Floyd won't play this week. The Chargers have made a half-hearted committment to running the ball, but by turning over the ball so much they have always been playing from behind. Rivers has been passing (and getting hit) a lot but it has been essentially in vain.
Total Titans: I thought the Chargers would have a good running game after drafting Ryan Mathews in the first first, but Mathews hasn't done much and the running game as a whole feels like a disappointment. Do you agree, and if so, what have been the issues?
Justice Is Coming: You have hit on a big issue here. Mathews has shown immense talent. But as the team has gotten frustrated, so has he. He has opted for the first hole to get through and ignored the vision that made him the leading rusher in college ball last year. Of course, two fumbles and an ankle injury in the first two weeks haven't helped. The Chargers' line acted like they wanted to prove LaDainian Tomlinson wrong when he essentially threw them under the bus after being let go. Now, both his performance and that of the line's have confirmed his criticism. Much like the Bolts themselves, this line has a bunch of names but is not playing as a unit. Mathews has all the tools, but the Chargers have not stayed with the running game especially when it has come down to crunch time in the red zone. They have had chances to win every game, as badly as they have made each one for themselves. Mathews has been largely ignored beyond the 10-yard line, which is a shame.
Total Titans: The defense seems like it's been very good, ranking first in the league in net yards per attempt and fifth in yards per carry. Is the defense really that much improved from last year's mediocre unit?
Justice Is Coming: Again, the statistics are deceiving. Due to the turnovers, teams have started in Charger territory quite a lot. That affects their yards gained. The Chargers still have trouble generating pressure on the quarterback--when it counts. They can keep our bumbling squad in games, but not on weeks when it would result in a victory. They let Oakland score on two long drives and could not stuff Steven Jackson in St. Louis. However, they stop the Patriots on 4th and 1 and it is squandered. Steve Gregory still has another week of suspension at safety. Luis Castillo has to be one of the most overpaid, yet underproductive players in all of football.
Total Titans: The Chargers special teams, especially kick and punt coverage, have been horrendous this year. What's the issue, and how worried are you about a surprisingly decent Titans return unit?
Justice Is Coming: As usual, I am more worried about the Chargers than anything. I think Steve Crosby should have been fired, if nothing else than to show some accountability to this team. They gave up two returns to Leon Washington and I am not sure whether they would not do the same to Joe Washington if he is still able to lace them up. Of course, there is also the issue of field goal kicking. The Bolts lost both first-round games to the Jets in 04 and 09 due to more than missed field goals. However, Nate Kaeding should have been shown the door on principle. Sadly, he is the perfect kicker for this team--good enough to excel but not when it really counts. I wish someone had quoted me Kris Brown's stats with the game on the line before he signed him. Brown will be out there this week. On punts, the absence of Kassim Osgood has really hurt on punts. There has been one punt downed beyond the 20 that I can remember.
Total Titans: Norv Turner... just how horrible is he as a head coach, and is AJ Smith just too stubborn to fire him? If/when Turner is gone, who replaces him-a high profile guy like Cowher or Gruden, or somebody else who won't challenge Smith's authority?
Justice Is Coming: Coaching is tough to analyze. Coughlin was on the verge of being fired at 0-2 in 2008. Look at him now. Yet, the Giants have lost every playoff game except for that season. Cowher lost 4 AFC title games in his own stadium. I was at the first one, which sent us to the Super Bowl. But Roethlisberger heats up and gets them to Detroit. A couple of favorable officiating calls and drops by Seattle's tight end and Cowher and Bettis leave the game as heroes.
I have never liked Norv. But I hated Marty too. People who long for him forget that the good times weren't that good. He said the right thinigs, but couldn't get guys to do them. Before last January, you could say that Turner did what he was hired to do--bring poise to this team in January. After this last implosion, that's out the window. I don't see him as a motivator, but I haven't seen that in San Diego since Bobby Ross. If the Bolts finish under .500, I could see him getting fired. However, they gave him an extension to 2013 after last year's regular season. As for AJ Smith, the Spanoses need to hold him accountable for his decisions as well. It's clear he knows how to draft, but not how to retain his talent or get fair value in return for it. He loves to draft and scout, but he had better pay attention to what goes on during the season. After crapping all over themselves against New England after a 14-2 season, the Chargers had their pick of coaches including Rex Ryan. They hired the one guy no one else would. Some people think that the Spanoses just want to move the team to LA, but they won't be selling tickets with this type of play. You will be able to tell by the crowd (or lack of it) on Sunday that people, myself included, are pissed. And they have a right to be.
Total Titans: If you want to predict a score, please feel free.
Justice Is Coming: Prediction? Pain. Seriously, I think the Chargers will win but I said that the last three games. The first loss signaled that they would not have a successful season this year and they are yet to disprove that. When we last spoke in December, it seemed that the Chargers had grown up. The Titans got frustrated and the Bolts held it together on the field and under the helmet. But they erased all that in January. The ship is out of control right now and in danger of sinking. I may organize a mutiny myself.
Thanks again to Ross for participating in this week's Q&A.