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The Chargers are always a topic of conversation.
Agree or disagree with their decisions. Love ‘em. Hate ‘em. Build ‘em up. Tear ‘em down.
Everyone has an opinion.
How the team became 3-1 is another hot topic and everyone has an opinion. From those with a glass half-full: They are 3-1 and still haven’t played their best. From those with a glass half-empty: They haven’t beaten anyone any good.
One indisputable point is the Chargers are off to a good start at 3-1. Only one team in the AFC has a better record.
I thought I’d point out a few reasons behind the team’s good start that no one is talking about. Watching the games, your eyes will follow the ball and you’ll see players making plays. It’s the players your eyes rarely follow that deserve attention as well.
Here are a few unsung contributors during this 3-1 start.
Strong safety Atari Bigby – When the Chargers signed Bigby, few people took notice. However the presence he has brought to the defense this year is tangible. Coaches use words like “passion”, “fun”, and “physical presence” when describing the newcomer. He plays like he loves every minute of it. His presence is being felt, yet he’s still learning and growing with his new team. He’s being asked to also learn and play the “dime” position. He could be the most impactful strong safety to join the defense in years.
Safety Darrell Stuckey and linebacker Andrew Gachkar – The special teams are their forte. This weekend when the Chargers punt and kick teams and return teams are on the field, keep an eye on #25 Stuckey and #59 Gachkar. In particular, you’ll usually find Gachkar lined up in the middle of the front line on kickoff returns and in the middle of the kick coverage team. Stuckey is one of the team’s “flyers” on punt coverage and is always one of the first down field on both kick and punt coverage.
“It all starts with him (Gachkar),” said Bisaccia. “He’s the point on a lot of our returns. He was double-teamed on every Chiefs kickoff return in Kansas City last week. That shows the respect our opponents have for him.
“For us, (Stuckey and Gachkar) are put in pivotal roles for our success. Both are always in a position to make a key block. Both are our best protectors. On special teams, it comes down to guys really want to, and these guys really want to. Whatever strengths they bring, they bring a little more ‘want to’ than everyone else.”
Fullback Le’Ron McClain – The running game is still growing and evolving, so McClain hasn’t gotten the notoriety that is sure to come his way. However, what makes him one of the team’s unsung contributors is his mere presence.
"It’s his leadership,” said Running Backs Coach Ollie Wilson. “He is a great locker room guy. The way he is in the meeting rooms. He’s been around. He knows how to win; how to practice. He’s always talking to the other positions; the offensive line, the tight ends, the quarterbacks. He affects everyone.”
Guard Louis Vasquez – Vasquez is probably the least talked-about offensive lineman. Some may say that’s a good thing, including Vasquez, because some lineman think they only get noticed when they are flagged for a penalty. However he deserves to be noticed now for all the right reasons.
Offensive Coordinator & Offensive Line Hal Hunter: “Louis has matured over the past couple years and become real consistent and dependable. He’s growing technically and fundamentally. He’s emerging as one of the better guards in the league.”
Tight End Randy McMichael – Watch McMichael on any given series and you’ll see him line up everywhere.
“I’ve never been around a guy who loves to play like he does,” said Tight Ends Coach Jason Michael. “He’s always the first one of congratulate his teammates on a good play. He does a little bit of everything from a protection standpoint with the line and the backfield. He’s not catching a bunch of balls and we ask him to do the dirty work, and he loves what he’s doing. You’ll never find a better teammate.”
There are countless reasons the Chargers sit atop the AFC West at 3-1. Sunday night let your eyes drift away from the ball and notice a few more.