Over the coming weeks, I will be performing an analysis of each position group on the Chargers roster. The goal is to break down each group and see how each player faired in 2019. This will help to determine which players should be resigned, which positions need to be upgraded via free agency, or the draft, and potential contract extensions for the many players entering their prime. I am pushing for a goal date of March 6th, prior to the start of free agency. Free agency begins March 11th for negotiating, and players may enter into contracts on March 13th, the start of the new league year. This will provide me a week to look at potential free agents the Chargers should resign, and targets to upgrade their own team.
I have done 2 articles solely on Phillip Rivers. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse on this, so I will try to keep it short. Rivers was largely responsible for the Chargers 5-11 season in 2019 . He was also largely responsible for the 12-4 season in 2019 as well. When Rivers plays well, the rest of the team succeeds, and when Rivers doesn’t play well, the team struggles. Let’s take a look at the Packers game earlier in the year.
In that Chargers-Packers game, Rivers was 21 of 28 for 294 yards with no touchdowns, but more importantly, no interceptions against a team that made NFC championship. Between Gorden and Ekeler, the Chargers had 32 carries for 150 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The key component here was that the Chargers didn’t ask Rivers to win them the game. They spread the ball around to their playmakers and stuck to the ground game to set up the pass. Outside of a chunk play to Mike Williams, Rivers picked up much of his yardage by spreading the ball around. The Chargers controlled the game clock in large, kicked 4 field goals and ran the ball in the red zone to prevent turnovers.
That is the role I’d like to see Rivers play at this point in his career. I think any team can still win with Rivers under center. While he showed some questionable decision making last year and you saw a noticeable drop in his arm strength toward the back half of the season, he is still able to make all the throws. He can be utilized much like Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco. I’d love to bring him back on a 1-year team-friendly deal, while drafting his successor. I’d like to see him get his elusive Super Bowl, so even if he leaves the Chargers, it would be great to see him on another contender.
Here’s my last bit on Phillip Rivers. You hear him being a fit for the Titans, Panthers, Colts, Buccaneers, but NOBODY is talking about the Patriots, who are expected to move on from Brady. While I hate the Patriots as much as anyone, Rivers under Belicheck would be a very interesting dynamic. Belicheck loves veterans like Rivers. That’s my sleeper pick for where Rivers lands. It’s not where I want him to go, but it does make a lot of sense. The team is built around a strong offensive line with a good receiving core, and a stud running back. The Defense is tops in the league and there’s little chance they don’t make playoffs. It makes too much sense!
Take out Tyrod’s time with the Browns. There isn’t a whole lot of tape to look at anyways. That team was a train wreck under Hue Jackson, and honestly, he wasn’t even all that bad before he went down with injury. Instead, let’s look back to his time at Buffalo. I think that is a better view of what you’re going to get out of a full year with Tyrod under center.
Looking back at 2017, Tyrod was the starter for at least most of the season for the Buffalo Bills. For whatever reason, there was quite the disfunction between Bills coaching and quarterback philosophy. I mean Nathan Peterman threw 5 interceptions to the Chargers in under 1 half! The Bills still made it to the post-season, at the dismay of Chargers fans who were looking at the outside-in.
If fans are serious about Tyrod being the starter next year, know that Tyrod isn’t your typical quarterback. He’s not the type of passer who is going to have a bunch of 300-yard games. In fact, in his 3 years with the Bills, Tyrod only did so once in his entire time with the club. That doesn’t mean he’s not cut out to be an NFL quarterback though. Tyrod actually had a passer rating of 100.0 or more in 41% of his games with the Bills. In fact, his QBR each year in Buffalo wasn’t all that bad.
He had a young Sammy Watkins and a young Robert Woods, with a ground game lead by Lesean McCoy in his prime, coached by Rex Ryan. This team was built upfront in the trenches on a run-first philosophy, which is where Tyrod really thrives as a player.
See, what makes Tyrod special is his mobility. From 2015-2017, Tyrod averaged 543 yards rushing a year; good for 5.5 yards per carry. While he may only have had about 3000 yards with about 18 touchdowns through the air for the season, he’s also giving his club a dynamic threat on the ground with another 4 touchdowns or so. On top of that, Tyrod is known for not turning the ball over. He has never had more then 6 interceptions in a season. For his career, he only has 20. For reference, Phillip Rivers, Baker Mayfield and Jameies Winston had more then that this year!!!
I believe a team can win with Tyrod under center. He’s a capable starter and a great backup. The thing about his mobility, is he’s going to take hits, so expect him to not play a full season. That’s something you have to account for when building your roster. He’s not going to be taking a whole lot of shots deep either, and that hurts a guy like Mike Williams on the outside. But he’s a guy that’s good for Austin Ekeler out of the back field, and a route runner like Keenan Allen. He can fit the ball in a hole in zone coverage for a guy like Hunter Henry. He’s made for the RPO and zone read option. It will take a special kind of offense, but you can have success with Tyrod under center.
Big fan of this kid, but fans are blowing things out of proportion. He has some skills that leave me drooling, but he’s far from ready to be trusted with the offense. I watched some tape of his preseason and his time at North Dakota State. I am extremely excited to see his growth this year, and who knows, maybe the Chargers have something here. What I am seeing from fans though, is over excitement from a few big plays for an unproven kid with a lot to learn.
Stick is very comfortable in the pocket. He looks like he is able to feel pressure around him, and slide to where he he needs to get a pass off. If the pocket begins to break, he also has wheels to get moving. We saw that in the 1st preseason game. He also has a good zip on the ball, which is surprising for his size. He’s not the biggest guy, but he does have some power on his throws. He throws a bit like he’s throwing a baseball, with a long-leg as he steps in his throw. It helps him put that zip on his throws, but its not very accurate. Accuracy in general is OK, but could definitely use improvement. His touchdown to Patton in the end zone when he threw it behind the defenders back…I am not so sure that that was good placement, or if that was really meant for the player behind him, or if he really just got lucky.
There are times when I love his decision making, but other times when I feel like he takes shots he doesn’t need to instead of checking down. In some of his tape, you see him get to his 2nd and 3rd reads standing tall in the pocket. Other times, and I am not sure if this is play calling, but it looks like he’s zero’d in before the play starts. He had some nasty interceptions last pre-season. He will turn the ball over at NFL speed as much as Rivers did last year if he was a full time starter. Lastly, he’s a playmaker. When things break down around him, you see him take off trying to keep plays alive. You see him try to not take negative yards and throwing the ball away if nothing is there. As a runner, he’s dynamic. He will make guys miss and he’s not scared of contact. He can be very dangerous with his feet.
Overall, Stick is a project. He was a 5th-rounder and that’s enough capital to pretty much guarantee him a roster spot next year as he continues to grow. If the Chargers can keep Cardale Jones around as long as they did, then Stick is definitely here for the foreseeable future. I like him as a project with a ton of upside, but I don’t know if I like him enough to keep as QB2. Honestly, he is more of a scout team player, who could earn a roster spot as QB2 with more preseason film and practice in the future, maybe after Tyrod.
The safest player of this position group ironically is Easton Stick. He’s a cheap player that the Bolts invested a 5th-round pick on last year. He provides the team a scout-team quarterback with wheels to mimic players like the Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, who have mobility to their advantage. That leaves two quarterbacks to choose from, one of which is under contract, and the other is an aging free agent.
I find hit hard to believe that the Chargers keep Phillip Rivers this offseason. I fully expect them to address the quarterback position this draft, which would mean one of 2 things. Either they sign Phillip Rivers to a 1-year, team-friendly deal and cut Tyrod Taylor, or they let Phillip Rivers walk and keep Tyrod as the interim starter. Both players are temporary placeholders, even if the quarterback position isn’t addressed in the 1st round, Tyrod is the cheaper answer. Tyrod is owed $7.5 Million, $2.5 million of which being guaranteed. Rivers, on a team-friendly deal, would be around $12-20 Million for a 1-year rental. He could easily fetch $20-25 million for a quarterback needy team with Super Bowl hopes.
Tyrod is my pick here. I think Phillip turns the ball over too much and I think he plays a little too desperate. The team is picking 6th, and with the talent on this team, the amount of cap available, they probably shouldn’t be picking this high in the future? I’d rather start the search for the next Franchise QB now and hopefully the team hits on a stud. But what do I know? I’m just a couch GM!