Tag:Patrick Crayton
Posted on: April 3, 2011 2:34 pm

Offseason Checkup: San Diego Chargers

Posted by Will Brinson


Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups.

2010 was a weird year for the San Diego Chargers. They had all the tools necessary to contend for a Super Bowl, and in a season when parity reigned supreme, that should have equated with success. It didn't, though, because the San Diego got off to one of its patented slow starts, performed epically horrible on special teams, and couldn't close out inferior teams.

Statistically, though, it was all there. Philip Rivers was a machine on offense, piling up big stats despite throwing to guys like Legadu Naanee, Patrick Crayton, Randy McMichael and Seyi Ajirotutu. Part of what got those A-listers on the top of the Bolts' receiving stats was injuries (well, most was injuries), and part was the holdout of Vincent Jackson. Oh yes, and Mike Tolbert -- just like everyone expected -- was the team's leading rusher.

Defensively, San Diego thrived despite not having an elite pass-rushing presence. In fact, just like on offense, they were the No. 1-ranked team in the league. And yet, again, no playoffs. It's a really odd conundrum, frankly, and it's either a really weird fluke or it's indicative of a bigger problem within the organization. Given the Chargers' typically annual success, the jury's still out on the latter, but another slow start and sloppy manner of missing the playoffs could change that in 2011.

Special Teams, Depth

It's not all that hard to pinpoint the problems for the Chargers in 2010. Pretty clearly, special teams cost them a couple of wins and therefore a shot at the postseason (plus, likely a divisional title). 

Of course, fixing special teams is much easier than, say, fixing a giant hole at quarterback, and it's entirely possible that with the right personnel moves, the Chargers will be fine in that area in 2011. In fact, once some veterans were plugged into the special teams unit, San Diego was much better at the third leg of football than it was earlier in the year. (At that point, though, it was just too late.) 

Perhaps the bigger problem for the Chargers in 2011 will be the status of certain players. Vincent Jackson was franchised, but depending on how the CBA shakes out, he could be gone. It seems somewhat reasonable that he's around for one more year. Malcolm Floyd could be out the door as well, meaning the Chargers' depth at wide receiver could be crushed back to late-last-year levels. If Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper, Eric Weddle, Jacques Cesaire, Travis Johnson leave, the defense is going to take a hit too. It's part of the problem with the way A.J. Smith built the team -- if the labor negotiations don't favor the league, San Diego's depth suffers.

1. Defensive End
As might have been said 5,000 times in these previews thus far, it's a pretty good year to need depth at defensive line. So it wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Chargers nab a defensive end with their first-round pick. J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan and Adrian Clayborn are all highly likely/possible picks for San Diego at No. 18.

2. Linebacker
Shaun Phillips had a monster year in 2010, but San Diego needs to beef up their linebacking corps, unless they actually think that Larry English can end up performing to his first-round expectations. (And, speaking of which, not exactly a great last pair of years in the first round for A.J. Smith, huh? Ryan Mathews and Larry English aren't exactly justifying their top-20 status.) English could still justify the selection, but there's some serious talent that would fit San Diego's scheme in guys like Robert Quinn, Akeem Ayers and Ryan Kerrigan, the latter two of whom should fall to 18 pretty easily. Quinn's a guy that would be a steal at 18 and could also be a trade-up target for Smith if hops up the board again in 2011.

3. Wide Receiver
Talk about an up-in-the-air position for the Bolts: if Jackson and Floyd end up leaving, they're going to need some serious help here. Buster Davis isn't going to pan out and while Antonio Gates should technically qualify as "depth" at wideout, having Naanee and Ajirotutu as the top receiving options just isn't going to cut it. Smith and Norv Turner know they can have success with less than elite talent, though, so seeing them take a wideout with an early pick would be a bit surprising.

Look, the Chargers are capable of winning it all in 2011. Statistics don't mean everything (obviously), but if a team is the top offensive AND defensive team, it means there's enough talent on the roster to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. Living up to the lofty expectations this franchise has set for the past few years in 2011 will require two things: not making simple mistakes and actually remembering that football starts in September.

It would help, too, for the Bolts to address some of their defensive needs as well. And for their last two first-rounders -- English and Mathews -- to play up to their potential. Should all of that happen in 2011 and the Chargers don't win the division and/or at least make a run to the playoffs, it's entirely possible that Norv Turner's job could be on the line once again. At this point, there's no viable reason for a team with this much success -- statistically speaking -- not to be converting their high-end performance into more wins.

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Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:03 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2010 1:41 pm

Antonio Gates likely to miss Week 12 too?

Posted by Will Brinson

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Philip Rivers' season so far has been that, at times, he's had success through the air without the assistance of Antonio Gates.

He might be without his favorite target in Week 12, as well -- Gates is practicing, but according to the North County Times , not likely to play after a Thursday practice that had him "grimacing" "in extreme pain" afterwards.

"I wanted to see how I would respond to defenders being in the way and making unexpected cuts in the flow of a route," Gates said. "Everything has been controlled to this point. I didn't finish, but I'm incredibly sore."

In other words, don't expect to see him Sunday night against the Colts. Clearly, Rivers and Norv Turner would prefer to have him on the field, but it's pretty important that he heal from the injury if the Bolts hope to make a run deep into the postseason.

"Last week, I didn't respond well," Gates said. "I did this kind of running last week and then I couldn't go for two days. I couldn't even walk on a treadmill. I don't know what my response is going to be, but I feel like I'm making progress because I was able to double up on my activity. But it's so painful, and I have to figure out if I can play through that."

Vincent Jackson's return to the lineup is critical , especially because of the injury to Patrick Crayton, and will help lessen the likely continued loss of Gates.

And while San Diego would clearly like to have their All-World tight end back before their marquee matchup this weekend, there's no question that getting him healthy is the most important priority, considering just how much of a division advantage their weak schedule is the rest of the way.

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Posted on: November 23, 2010 7:42 pm

Analysis: Chargers need V-Jax's services

V. Jackson will return this week, and San Diego really needs him (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Chargers officially added WR Vincent Jackson to its roster today (and, in the process, released K Kris Brown), so it’s time to figure out what this means for San Diego.

Obviously, his inclusion will help the Chargers. Or, at least, it should.

QB Philip Rivers has been awesome this year – he’s on pace to break Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season – and as a result, the Chargers average 418.2 yards per game, tops in the NFL. San Diego, by the way, ranks 17th in the running game, so the fact the Chargers are No. 1 overall is an impressive accomplishment for Rivers (and TE Antonio Gates).

Let’s assume for a second that Jackson will perform somewhat close to what he’s provided on the field in previous seasons.

The past two years he’s averaged 63.5 catches for 1,132.5 yards and eight touchdowns – that equals four catches, 73 yards and 0.5 TDs per game, respectively – and if he can provide his team that kind of production, the Chargers offense will get even better.

For now, Jackson will have to be as good as advertised.

WR Patrick Crayton, who’s having one of the best seasons of his career, will be out for the next couple weeks because of the wrist injury he suffered Monday, WR Malcom Floyd is still dealing with a hamstring issue that’s affecting his playing time and WR Legedu Naanee can’t kick his hamstring problem. Plus, Gates’ plantar fasciitis continues to hamper him.

The other question, though, is whether Jackson can perform at the same level after not playing all season because of that nasty contract dispute. According to teammates, he’s practiced at a very high level for the past three weeks, and judging by Sidney Rice’s performance last week (three catches, 57 yards), it’s possible for a WR who hasn’t played all year to be effective after missing 10 games (or, in Rice’s case, nine games).

At this point, though, Jackson’s effectiveness has become a need instead of simply a nice addition for a Chargers team who, once again, is thinking about the postseason. And Jackson will get his chance to prove he's worth the extraordinary amount of money that he feels he deserves.

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Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:43 am
Edited on: November 23, 2010 8:16 am

Turner is the reason for SD's turnaround

M. Tolbert had a big game for San Diego as it defeated Denver 35-14 (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The San Diego Chargers are going to win the AFC West again.

That much seems clear after watching San Diego dominate the Broncos 35-14 tonight. Although Denver scored on what was an easy game-opening drive, this game was almost never in doubt. For a team that lost five of its first seven games this year, the Chargers once again are the class of the division.

And it’s not like other teams haven’t had a chance to bury the Chargers early in the season.

The Chiefs played well early, starting out 5-2, but they’ve lost two of their last three – including a 49-29 decision defeat to Denver – and are barely hanging onto first place (the Chargers and Chiefs will play again Dec. 12). The Raiders have exceeded expectations while shuffling two quarterbacks in and out of the game seemingly every week, but they’re still only 5-5 (and tied with San Diego for second place in the West). And Denver … well, you can forget about the Broncos.

So, what’s changed?

Philip Rivers has been fantastic all season – he’s now thrown for 3,177 yards (and he’s still on pace to break the season mark for passing yards), 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions – and he’s perhaps the No. 1 MVP candidate at this point in the season.

But first-round pick RB Ryan Mathews still hasn’t played that much. The special teams have been downright awful. And the underachieving Norv Turner is still the head coach of the club.

Yet, in place of Mathews, Mike Tolbert has been more than solid as the No. 1 RB (tonight, he rushed for 111 yards and a score). Though the Chargers have played without top-flight WR Vincent Jackson – who will return next week – all season and TE extraordinaire Antonio Gates the past two games, Patrick Crayton has been productive (105 receiving yards and a TD tonight) and RB Darren Sproles has done well catching passes out of the backfield.

And the defense, mind you, has been really good, leading the NFL by allowing 270.7 total yards per game and recording a league-high 32 sacks (coming into tonight's game).

But perhaps the biggest reason for the turnaround? Turner himself. As you might be aware, Turner isn’t exactly the fiery, motivating-type coach. But when San Diego fell behind 19-14 to Tennessee at halftime in Week 8, Turner gave a teary-eyed halftime speech that inspired San Diego to turn that five-point halftime deficit into a 33-25 victory.

That carryover has led to a three-game winning streak, including the Chargers’ most complete game of the season tonight.

“When I saw Norv crying, I knew it was real,” Gates told a radio station after the Chargers beat the Titans. “This means the world to him. That spoke volumes and it worked. Not to say that guys didn’t believe up to that point, but I think he made himself clear.”

Now, the Chargers are making it clear to everybody else in the division. The AFC West title is for San Diego, and nobody else will take it from the suddenly-resurgent Chargers.

And yeah, Turner, once again, will be on the hot seat if the Chargers don’t make a playoff run, but still, he deserves plenty of credit for his team’s turnaround.

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Posted on: November 4, 2010 10:33 am

Who will Philip Rivers throw to?

Posted by Andy Benoit

Late Wednesday we shared the news that tight end Antonio Gates could miss San Diego’s Week 9 contest against Houston due to plantar fascia (foot). Because it’s still fun to dump on the Chargers (and because, knowing the Chargers, we probably won’t get a chance to dump on them for much longer), we feel it’s necessary to point out that starting receivers Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee are both still out with hamstring injuries.

Neither wideout practiced Wednesday, and neither is expected to play Sunday. Backup Craig Davis was also put on Injured Reserve this week, and recently-arrived star Vincent Jackson must sit out another two games.

Thus, Philip Rivers could take the field Sunday with his top three receiving targets (non running back receiving targets, that is) being Patrick Crayton, Seyi Ajirotutu and Randy McMichael. That’s a starting trio that would draw nervous looks of skepticism even if this were just a preseason game.

Fortunately for the Chargers, they’re facing a Texans pass defense that ranks dead last in the NFL.

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Posted on: October 17, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: October 17, 2010 12:10 pm

AFC Inactives, Week 6

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Here’s who IS active: Texans DE Mario Williams, Texans WR Jacoby Jones, Chargers LT Marcus McNeill, Browns QB Brett Ratliff (psst, he’s Colt McCoy’s backup), Browns RB Peyton Hillis (he’ll start), NT Haloti Ngata.

On to the inactives:

Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs:
He was a late addition to the injury report, after hurting his finger late in the week. Without Chambers, Terrance Cooper could get more work, and don’t forget that QB Matt Cassel still has TE Tony Moeaki.

James Sanders, S, Patriots: He originally replaced an injured Brandon Meriweather a few weeks ago, and now, Sanders has a hamstring problem. Look for Jarrad Page to move into Sanders’ role.

Terrence Wheatley, CB, Patriots: He returned to practice this week for the first time this season, and New England was hoping he could contribute this week to a young secondary. He won't.

Jared Odrick, DL, Dolphins: His rookie season is quickly becoming a disaster. He played in Week 1, but he’s been set back by a hairline fracture in his leg ever since. There was some thought he could play this week, but obviously, he’s not.

Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers:
Patrick Crayton will get the start in place of Naanee.

Josh Wilson, DB, Ravens: He’s been bothered by a sore hamstring, but it was thought he could play today. The big loss for Baltimore is his kickoff returning ability. Expect Jared Parmele to take his place.

Charlie Batch, QB, Steelers: With Ben Roethlisberger's return, Byron Leftwich officially takes over the Steelers backup job.

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Posted on: September 3, 2010 4:05 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2010 4:55 pm

Quick analysis on the Crayton to Chargers trade

Posted by Andy Benoit

A couple of birds were killed with one stone Friday. One of the birds was Patrick Crayton’s disenchantment in Dallas. The other bird was San Diego’s dearth of wide receivers (a product, of course, of the Vincent Jackson holdout). The stone that killed these birds: a trade.
P. Crayton (US Presswire)
CBSSports.com's fantasy guru Dave Richard informed us that the Cowboys sent Crayton to San Diego for a mere seventh-round draft pick. The entire NFL knew the Cowboys were set to release the veteran wideout, which explains why Jerry Jones should be able to write off the Crayton trade as a donation.

This fills a significant need for the Chargers. Crayton is a precise route runner and one of the softest-handed interior receivers in the game. He's well-equipped to fill the underneath role in Norv Turner's downfield offense.

Crayton can operate in the slot receiver role vacated by versatile athlete Legedu Naanee (Naanee is now starting in Jackson’s spot). Malcom Floyd remains the No. 1 receiver.

Crayton’s arrival might spell the end for former Bill Josh Reed or disappointing former first-round draft pick Buster Davis. And, of course, many are speculating that this opens the door for a Vincent Jackson trade. As CBSSports.com's Clark Judge explains, Crayton's arrival takes some of the pressure off the Chargers on the Jackson front.

Finally, for what it's worth, in response to our article yesterday, this trade means the Cowboys did not stab Crayton in the bank after all. Looks like he'll still get his $2 million in 2010.

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Posted on: September 2, 2010 7:02 pm

Is Crayton about to get jobbed by the Cowboys?

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Cowboys are set at wide receiver. Dez Bryant is healthy (though not playing Thursday night). Roy Williams is inexplicably entrenched in the team’s plans. Miles Austin is a bona fide No. 1. Kevin Ogletree, while inconsistent, shows great acceleration and change-of-direction quickness as a catch-and-run weapon. P. Crayton (US Presswire)

This stability translates to insecurity for Patrick Crayton. As in job insecurity. Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas says that Crayton is on the trading block. And, if there are no takers, the veteran could simply be cut Saturday night.

If that scenario indeed plays out, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more egregious stab in the back this season. Crayton, you may recall, was granted permission to seek a trade back in spring after Dallas drafted Bryant. When no teams bit, Crayton requested his release. That request was declined.

Crayton, relegated to No. 4 duties at best, publicly voiced his displeasure with his situation during the offseason. But in the end, he reported to camp and was a good soldier. Though still unhappy with his role, Crayton has willingly accepted it in the spirit of team chemistry. 

Admirbale character aside, it’s important to remember that Crayton is a solid special teams contributor and, arguably, Dallas’ third most dependable wideout (Ogletree has been a disappointment in recent months; Roy Williams is more talented but also more mistake-prone).

Yes, Crayton’s $2 million salary is a bit hefty for someone at the bottom of the depth chart – but it’s obviously not unworkable in an uncapped year. And what about simple respect for a veteran who has mostly overachieved in his previous six seasons? Crayton’s value as a free agent was greater in spring than it would be at this point. Why back-stab a solid player who can still help your aspiring Super Bowl club? If the Cowboys are wise, they won’t.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com