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Ricky Henne's Fan Mailbag
Q: How can we improve our pass defense? It’s been a disappointment so far. – Blake Terry
A: The Chargers run defense has been spectacular, ranking second in the league. However, you are right; the Chargers pass defense certainly has been a disappointment, ranking 21st in the league. They are surrendering 246.6 yards-per-game through the air, and more alarmingly have been unable to prevent the big play. The best way to cover up for some of the shortcomings in the secondary is to get a pass rush going, but the team has been struggling in that area. The Chargers have just 12 sacks in the league, which is the ninth lowest mark in the league. Even if they don’t get the sack, turning the heat up on the QB leads to poor throws and errant passes. To me, establishing a dangerous pass rush is the best way to improve the pass defense.
Q: What’s wrong with Gates? Except for his two touchdown game vs. Denver he hasn’t done much for us? – Stephen Price
A: This is one I’ve thought a lot about and it’s tough to answer. But here’s my two cents…. He is healthier than he’s been in a long, long time, but he just isn’t producing at the level we’re accustomed to. A bunch of readers are asking if he is washed up, and I truly don’t believe that to be the case. What stands out to me is that teams are doubling him more than ever. With Rivers and his wide receivers still unable to get on the same page, that allows the opposition to allow the corners to have one-on-one coverage on the outside and funnel their defense toward Gates, preventing him from getting the ball. One way to counter act that is to get the ball into Gates hands earlier on drives. The team can’t wait until they are in passing down situations like third and long before looking for the tight end. In my opinion, they should go to him earlier when the defense is off balance having to guard against both the run and pass.
Q: What would your bold prediction for this game be? – Max Douglass
A: I think Ryan Mathews is going to have a big game. He’s been getting better each week, and this is the week I think he puts it all together for a monster performance. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict two touchdowns for the running back, over 100 yards on the ground and another 30 in the passing game.
Q: These games are driving me crazy! Talk me off a ledge here Ricky. Tell me we can turn it around! –George Green
A: I understand your frustrations, George. The entire team does. But as I mentioned in my Five Lessons from Week 8, there is a long, long way to go before this season is over. The Green Bay Packers and New York Giants both struggled exactly like we are during the midpoint of their seasons the last two years and went on to win the Super Bowl. Case in point, it doesn’t so much matter in the NFL if you are the first team to get in or the last to qualify for the playoffs; all that matters is that you make it. And the AFC is wide open. The Bolts are just one game back of the Broncos in the AFC West, and one game out of the two wild card spots behind the 4-3 Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers with nine games to play. So there is definitely time to turn it around. Keep the faith!
Q: In the previous years, Philip Rivers was throwing comfortably to his receivers, V. Jackson and M.Floyd, both 6-foot-5. But this season the guy is having trouble with smaller targets. What will be the solution for this problem? – Bader Sultan
A: You may be on to something here, Bader. And that is probably the reason why the last two players the team has brought in have been tall wideouts. Danario Alexande is 6-foo5-5, while Seyi Ajirotutu is 6-foot-3. It seems Rivers likes throwing to guys who can really elevate and use their big frame to locate and pluck the ball out of the air, which both of these new guys can do.
Q: Jonas Mouton looked like a promising addition coming in last year. Yet he was out all of last season and remains out this season. Any idea when we can expect to see him on the field on game day? – Amber Rhonell
A: I’m really not sure when we might see him, but that doesn’t mean the Chargers don’t believe in his future. Mouton suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason that forced him to miss his rookie year. This season, the team is extremely deep at the linebacker position, so the Bolts have the luxury of letting him learn by sitting and watching the likes of Takeo Spikes, Donald Butler and Demorrio Williams.
Q: Have the chargers seemed more motivated than they usually are after the loss to the Browns? - Brandon Clark
A: The team is always motivated and hungry to win, but I’d be lying if I said there didn’t seem to be a greater sense of urgency these last few days. The combination of losing three games in a row and having a short turnaround before playing the Chiefs has the team really focused in. I’ve been impressed by their preparations with such little recovery time before their next game. I did a story on how the guys are getting ready for the game, which you can find right here.
Q: What happened to Jackie Battle? He’s barely been used lately. –Kyle Tsiang
A: Jackie still remains very much a part of the team’s plans. In fact, the handful of times the team was in short yardage situations needing a yard or less lately, he has been used. However, the team hasn’t been in many goal line situations lately. They had one against the Saints, but against Denver all their touchdowns were from a good distance away and vs. the Browns the opportunity never arose. I wouldn’t worry about him. Let’s see what happens the next time the Chargers are in those goal line opportunities. And don’t forget, Battle scored two touchdowns vs. the Chiefs earlier this year.