I’m not going to go down the line and discuss the entire rookie class here, but there are a couple of obvious notables from the draft. Of course, I’m tempted to dedicate an entire column to walk-on running back Dreamius Smith, but suffice it to say, what kind of blogger would I be if I wasn’t pulling for a guy with a name like that to make the team? But I'm not here to talk about Dreamboat. I’m going to focus more on draft picks here, and two in particular.
First and foremost is Melvin Gordon, running back out of Wisconsin who the Chargers moved up to grab in the first round. The last running back the Chargers moved up to grab in the first round was the newly departed Ryan Mathews, but as much as the fans want to draw such a comparison, the similarities mostly end there. But even if they were the same, it’s enough that Gordon doesn’t have a history of injuries and letting go of the football. Those two distinctions alone should make this a pick you can get behind. Unfortunately, Gordon carried the ball 6 times for 11 yards in his first NFL preseason game and I’m already assured he is a complete and total bust. Make way for Dreamius! Fan concerns were compounded when the worst pick since Ryan Leaf watched his second preseason game from the sidelines. Our only hope now is probably that Gordon gets enough lucky yardage in the next couple of games that we can trade him to someone else for a cooler full of Gatorade and a wooden hand massager from the Sharper Image. All kidding aside, I’ve got pretty high hopes for the kid, just as I did for Mathews-who was damn good in stretches! Nine out of ten people (including my cohort, CJ) these days will tell you that you can find great running backs anywhere in the draft, but I’ve said it before and I’ll tell you all again, I still love the idea of the home run hitter in the backfield. Chuck Muncie, Natrone Means, Ladainian Tomlinson-these are my favorites of years past, and I have to believe Gordon could join that list.
The other significant draft acquisition I’d like to discuss Is Denzel Perriman. Perriman is a middle linebacker and that’s pretty noteworthy. I don’t care how much Telesco wants to talk about depth and competition, giving up a second round pick at that position spells out that you don’t think much of your talent there. The existing talent at the position carried a pretty hefty price tag. And if depth is good for the linebacker position, how is any less important for-oh, I don’t know- the offensive and defensive lines, which got little help outside of Orlando Franklin in the off-season. As I said a couple of column’s back, I’m not sure the answers to those problems were already in the locker room. Time will tell. Either way, I hope the best for Perriman. His talent and ability are not in question.
The coaching staff remains largely intact, which seems like a good thing because people are always touting the importance of consistency. Then again, they were touting that same bullshit around here throughout the entire Norv Turner era. I like McCoy alright. His style is straight out of the “slow and steady wins the race” handbook and that’s boring as hell, but it’ll keep you in most games. I’m still not quite sure why everyone loves Pagano all that much, to be honest. His defenses aren’t very interesting or confusing to other teams, but if they can just manage to not be outright awful, the offense should be able to carry the water. Hopefully these guys have all been put in a room at some point this offseason and forced Clockwork Orange style to watch that Miami footage from last year over and over again to learn their lessons. Another loss like that this year and I wouldn’t root for them next year if they move to my backyard.
Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise, the AFC West is still tough. Peyton Manning got body slammed late in the season last year-in a game he still beat us in!-and that pretty much derailed the Broncos Super Bowl dreams, but those of you who expect that he is done-zo are likely in for a rude awakening. Peyton will bring another potent offense to bear and along with that defense, the Broncos are still the team to beat.
The Chiefs are the Chiefs, toeing the line between pretty good and pretty bad effectively. Jamaal Charles should hit a wall at some point, but I’m not holding my breath. That defense can bring pressure like no other. This team is poised for a big run. Except Alex Smith is still their QB and that’s a problem. It’s been beaten like a dead Bronco, but how can you not throw a single TD to a wide receiver in an entire season? Just kidding, I know why. Because wide receivers tend to run up to 7, heck even 8 yards downfield at times and that’s outside of Smith’s comfort zone. It’s too much to ask, I say! Adding Jeremy Maclin to any other team would give divisional rivals cause for concern, but I’ve watched Maclin play for the Eagles in years past and he spends and unbelievable amount of time downfield. Maybe someday the Chiefs will find that all Smith needs is a pair of punk rock eyeglasses a la Wild Thing from Major League, but until then be prepared to watch the Chiefs passing game nickel and dime them into 7 or 8 close losses again this year.
Which leaves us the Raiders. I want to simply sum up the Raiders by pointing out that they can’t stay bad forever, right? Right?! It’s taken them a few years, but they’re finally starting to get out from under all the cap trouble their deceased owner left them and it won’t be long before a few good moves here and there could put them right back in the race. I don’t think they’ll be a contender just yet, but they are going to be able to move the ball on offense and make some plays on defense. It probably won’t be a good idea to overlook these guys as they always come to play when we’re on the schedule. Actually, screw the Raiders. They suck.
Last year I felt like this team had a real shot at being special. The ghosts of AJ and Norv were all but forgotten and the locker room was full of good guys who had learned how to win together the year before. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was going to be. And then everybody got injured. Still, we managed to scratch our way to a winning record without a running game, an offensive line, a defensive line and a fully functioning secondary and that’s got to tell you this team is close. This team has heart, and Jimmy McGinty knows that’s what it takes to win. If we can stay healthy this season-even just relatively healthy!-, we can hang with a healthy Peyton Manning. We can stop a Jamaal Charles. We can survive a Black Hole. I believe that. I have to believe it. This could be the Chargers’ last chance to bring a championship to San Diego and I have to believe that means something in that locker room. Let’s hope that this team feels the same sense of urgency that this much put-upon fan base feels right now. Let’s hope that guides them. And I hope it guides all of you. This team needs its fans. Not the owners or the lawyers or the pundits. The team. Our team. Those players on the field aren’t trying to get out of town. That team still belongs to us. That uniform is a representation of our city. It’s our time, Goonies! That’s our God damned trophy; Let’s go get it!