Monthly Archives: October 2017

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A look at the connections between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers.
NEW ENGLAND TIES Read
Chargers RB Andre Williams had a prolific career at Boston College from 2010-13, finishing with 704 carries for a school-record 3,754 yards and 28 touchdowns (third in school annals). Williams received numerous honors during his time at BC, such as the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back, consensus All-America recognition and unanimous first-team All- ACC honors. He was also one of six finalists for the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 2013.
Chargers OLB Josh Keyes also played at Boston College from 2011-14. In his four years as an Eagle, he tallied with 124 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks over 43 games.
Chargers tight ends coach John McNulty served as the wide receivers coach at Connecticut from 1995-97.
Chargers director of player personnel JoJo Wooden is a native of Hartford, Conn.
Chargers President of Business Operations A.G. Spanos began his college career at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and played on the football team for one season.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TIES Read
Patriots WR Matthew Slater grew up in Anaheim, Calif., and was a standout track athlete and two-time letter winner in football at Servite High School. He went on to play four seasons at UCLA and set school and conference records as a kick returner during his time as a Bruin.
New England LS Joe Cardona is from El Cajon, Calif. He was a two-sport athlete at Granite Hills High School, where he lettered twice in football and four straight years in lacrosse.
New England S Patrick Chung was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He attended Rancho Cucamonga High School, where he excelled at wide receiver and free safety.
Patriots DE Cassius Marsh hails from Westlake Village, Calif., and attended Oaks Christian High School, followed by a four-year career at UCLA.
FORMER CHARGERS Read
Patriots DL Lawrence Guy played for the Chargers from 2013-14, appearing in 13 regular season games during that time.
GAME PREVIEW: CHARGERS AT PATRIOTS
FORMER NFL TEAMMATES Read
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn was the assistant head coach and running backs coach at Buffalo from 2015-16 and later took over interim head coaching responsibilities at the end of the 2016 season. During that time, Lynn coached Patriots RB Mike Gillislee (2015-16), CB Stephon Gilmore (2015- 16) and WR Chris Hogan (2015). Under Lynn’s guidance in 2016, Gillislee led all NFL running backs with a 5.7 yards per carry average.
Also at Buffalo, Chargers offensive line coach Pat Meyer worked on the support staff from 2015-16 and Chargers defensive coach Giff Smith served in the same capacity for the Bills when Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore and WR Chris Hogan played at Buffalo in 2012.
Patriots RB Mike Gillislee and CB Stephon Gilmore played with Chargers QB Cardale Jones at Buffalo in 2016.
Patriots WR Danny Amendola played with Chargers QB Kellen Clemens and T Joe Barksdale at the Rams in 2012. Clemens also played at St. Louis in 2011 when Patriots offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels and defensive line coach Brendan Daly both served in the same role for the Rams.
Patriots LB David Harris played with Chargers QB Kellen Clemens at the New York Jets from 2007-10 and with Chargers C-G Matt Slauson from 2009-12. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn also worked as the running backs coach (2009-14) and assistant head coach (2014) during Harris’s tenure at the Jets.
Patriots RB Dion Lewis and CB Johnson Bademosi were on the Browns’ roster when Chargers WR-KR Travis Benjamin played at Cleveland. Chargers quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen was also at Cleveland during that time working as an offensive quality control coach.
Chargers DE Chris McCain was teammates with Patriots WR Brandin Cooks at New Orleans in 2016 and RB Mike Gillislee at Miami in 2014.
Chargers T Russell Okung and NT Brandon Mebane played alongside Patriots DL Alan Branch (2011-12) and DE Cassius Marsh (2014-15) at Seattle. Branch was also teammates with Chargers TE Sean McGrath at Seattle in 2012. Additionally, Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks from 2009-12 and coached Branch there.
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was the head coach of the Cardinals when Patriots DL Alan Branch played at Arizona from 2007- 10. Chargers head strength and conditioning coach John Lott also worked for the Cardinals during that time.
Chargers running backs coach Alfredo Roberts was the tight ends coach for the Colts from 2012-15 and coached Patriots TE Dwayne Allen during that time. Patriots RB Dion Lewis, WR Phillip Dorsett and DL Lawrence Guy also played at Indianapolis when Roberts worked for the Colts.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco was the vice president of football operations at Indianapolis in 2012 when the Colts drafted Allen in the third round (64th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Chargers special teams coordinator and assistant head coach George Stewart served as the wide receivers coach at Minnesota from 2007-16, during which time Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea was an offensive assistant/wide receivers coach and defensive line coach Brendan Daly oversaw the defensive line for the Vikings.
Chargers quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen was an offensive quality control coach for the Browns in 2013 when Patriots RB Dion Lewis and CB Johnson Bademosi played at Cleveland.
FORMER COLLEGE TEAMMATES Read
Patriots RB James White and Chargers RB Melvin Gordon shared the backfield at Wisconsin from 2011-13, helping the Badgers to consecutive Big 10 titles and Rose Bowl appearances in 2011 and 2012. White also played with Chargers FB Derek Watt (2012-13) and T Tyler Marz (2011-13) at Wisconsin.
When Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett was a freshman at Miami, Chargers WR-KR Travis Benjamin was a senior on the Hurricanes’ squad. The two receivers currently rank in the Top-10 in school history in both career receptions and receiving yards. Dorsett also played with Chargers S Rayshawn Jenkins at Miami from 2012-13.
Patriots LB Dont’a Hightower was teammates with Chargers NT Damion Square at Alabama from 2009-11. Together, they helped the Crimson Tide to a perfect 14-0 record in 2009 and a 2010 BCS National Championship victory with a defensive unit that finished second in the nation in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense that year. Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge was also a member of the support staff at Alabama during that time.
Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore and Chargers DE Melvin Ingram played together at South Carolina from 2009-11.
Patriots DLs Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, Jr., played with Chargers TE Hunter Henry and DE Darius Philon at Arkansas. Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley was also on staff as a defensive graduate assistant in 2013 when all four were on the Razorbacks’ roster.
Patriots OL Shaq Mason and Chargers DE Jerry Attaochu were teammates at Georgia Tech from 2011-13.
Chargers QB Kellen Clemens and Patriots S Patrick Chung played one season together at Oregon in 2005.
Chargers CB Michael Davis played with Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy (2013) and LB Harvey Langi (2014-16) at BYU.
Patriots DL Adam Butler was teammates with Chargers C-G Spencer Pulley at Vanderbilt from 2012-15.
Patriots DL Malcom Brown and Chargers S Adrian Phillips were teammates for two years at Texas from 2012-13.
Patriots DB Eric Rowe was teammates with Chargers DT Tenny Palepoi at Utah from 2012-13 and T Sam Tevi from 2013-14.
Patriots OL Cole Croston and Chargers CB Desmond King played together at Iowa from 2013-16.
Chargers tight ends coach John McNulty coached the quarterbacks and served as offensive coordinator at Rutgers when Patriots DB Devin McCourty played for the Scarlet Knights from 2006-08.
When Patriots head strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera was an assistant strength coach at Fresno State from 2007-09, Chargers G-T Kenny Wiggins played for the Bulldogs.

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Jeff Obradovich wears his favorite jersey Sundays as he goes to bars in suburban Chicago to watch football, the sport he loves to coach.

The 47-year-old will slide up to the bar to order drinks, a craft beer for him and a white wine or sangria for his wife Joan. His South Side accent is thicker than a deep dish pizza crust.

And, it’s invariably why someone will turn to him and ask the question: “Why are you two wearing Chargers jerseys?”

“It makes my Sundays a lot more exciting,” he said.

Instead of watching the Chicago Bears scuffle their way through a rebuild, Obradovich gets to watch the Chargers, a team that features reserve linemen Michael Schofield and Dan Feeney.

They are his kids, players he drilled and coached at Carl Sandburg High in Orland Park, Ill., before they went on to careers in the NFL.

“This,” he said, ”is the coolest thing ever.”

And when he’s at the bars or with his friends, it’s a story he loves to tell.

Feeney and Schofield think it’s pretty cool, too, two players from the same hometown, from the same high school, coached by the same offensive line coach, together as teammates for the first time in an NFL locker room.

“We always talk about it,” Feeney said. “OB would love this right now.”

Schofield, who the team added before the season after he was released by Denver, was a bit of a late bloomer in high school, Obradovich said. After his freshman year, he started to grow and by the time his sophomore season had ended, Schofield was practicing with the varsity team. Three years late, the Sandburg coaches did the same thing with Feeney.
Chargers offensive linemen (left to right) Kenny Wiggins, Michael Schofield and Spencer Pulley on the field during action against the Chiefs at StubHub Center on Sept. 24. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
“Those guys, when they came up, I did one of those looks,” Obradovich said. “I looked at the other coaches and was like, ‘These guys are going to be good.’ ”

They were good enough to play Big Ten Conference football, Schofield at Michigan and Feeney at Indiana. Schofield, who was a senior at Sandburg when Feeney was a freshman, became a bit of a role model for his future teammate.

“Seeing him go through it, it was like, ‘Why can’t I do it?’ He was always a guy I looked up to. He’s gone through it, he had the Division I offer from Michigan. He’s starting. He’s doing all of that,” Feeney said. “Geez, I want to do all that too. It keeps you motivated, keeps you chasing something.”

That they ended up in the NFL is an improbability, though not an impossibility. Some high schools produce NFL players regularly. But two guys from Sandburg, a school that has only occasionally produced NFL talent, joining the league? Those odds are much longer.

When Schofield was waived by Denver and claimed by the Chargers, an ecstatic Obradovich, who coaches at Stagg High in Palos Hills, a Chicago suburb, texted his former colleagues. Then a bigger dream came into focus.

Chargers ‘miss’ injured Denzel Perryman and await his return to stabilize linebackers situation
“When Mike got picked up by the Chargers, I was in shock. I was talking to my wife, and she was like, ‘This is just unbelievable,’ ” Obradovich said. “And I told her, ‘Joan, they could be playing next to each other. In the NFL. Two of our linemen.”

It happened Sunday in Oakland.

An injury to starting right tackle Joe Barksdale and the desire to rotate Feeney, the team’s third-round draft pick, put the two together on the right side of the offensive line on the Chargers’ first drive of the fourth quarter.

On the first snap, the two slanted their blocks in sync, Feeney at guard and Schofield at tackle, helping set up a play-action pass to tight end Hunter Henry.

On the next play, Schofield got just enough of a blitzing linebacker to buy Philip Rivers the time needed to complete a throw to Tyrell Williams. Three plays later on a big third down, the two worked in tandem, with Schofield leaving his assignment to pick up a blitz and Feeney sliding over to cover for him. Rivers comfortably found rookie Mike Williams for a first down.

On the last play of the drive, Feeney sprinted off his initial block to set up a screen for Melvin Gordon, clearing the way for a touchdown as Schofield threw his hands up in celebration on the back side of the play.

“After, we talked about it a little bit,” Schofield said. “It was pretty cool. We both came from Orland Park and we’re both here.”

“It’s pretty crazy,” Feeney said with a laugh.

Halfway across the country, their former coach is enjoying it as much, if not more. . He still sends both players text messages. Once his season ends, he hopes to get a chance to celebrate the achievement with his two prized pupils.

“I still look at them as my kids that I coached. … It would definitely be a dream to go out and watch those guys. I couldn’t think of a better story,” he said.

And if he gets the chance to see Schofield and Feeney wear the same uniform for the same team on the same offensive line, he knows exactly what jerseys to pack.

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Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams, the No. 7 overall pick in this year’s draft, is slated to make his NFL debut next week against the Oakland Raiders barring any setbacks at practice this week, league sources told ESPN.

Another Chargers official said it’s premature to say Williams will be ready next week, however. The team is being careful and does not want to rush him back.

Williams, 23, had been ruled out for Sunday’s game at the New York Giants as he deals with a disk injury in his back. The injury has caused him to miss training camp and each of San Diego’s four games this season.

Ever since Williams’ injury flared up in the summer, the Chargers had planned to sit him out until Week 6. Williams has been practicing in pads since Week 2.

In his last season at Clemson, Williams played in 15 games and caught 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns.

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NFL defensive backs sometimes feel like major league pitchers who are getting squeezed by umpires — they’re confused by a shrinking strike zone.

The league, in an attempt to reduce brain injuries, has tried to crack down on helmet-to-helmet contact, giving referees the authority to eject players for violent, “egregious” hits to the head, though that didn’t prevent Chicago linebacker Danny Trevathan’s skull-rattling hit of Green Bay receiver Davante Adams last week.

Defenders are trying to lower their targets while tackling pass-catchers, but like one of those “unwritten rules” in baseball, receivers have made it clear they don’t want their legs targeted with hits that could cause serious knee and ankle injuries.

Chargers strong safety Jahleel Addae and Miami receiver Jarvis Landry got into a heated argument before halftime of a Sept. 17 game when Landry took exception to Addae’s undercutting tackle of DeVante Parker.

Parker made a leaping catch of a Jay Cutler pass to the sideline. Addae raced in and upended Parker with a below-the-waist hit that contorted Parker’s body and sent him flying out of bounds.

New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., whom the Chargers will have to contend with Sunday in MetLife Stadium, lashed out at Cleveland defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun for his helmet-to-knee tackle in an Aug. 21 preseason game.

The hit took Beckham’s legs out from underneath him, causing the star to fall hard to the ground and sprain his left ankle.

“You’re talking about stuff that happens at 20-25 mph,” Chargers free safety Tre Boston said. “The speed guys are running at, they’re in your face, and they’re coming at different angles … we already can’t hit from the shoulders up, and now you’re talking about eliminating the lower body?

“You’re seeing a lot of guys get hit in the legs now … and guys with ACLs, knee problems, ankle injuries. Guys are crying about it, but hey, don’t talk to us about it, talk to the league.”
Tre Boston tackles LeGarrette Blount of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half Oct. 1. (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward, a Pro Bowl selection last season, said when he played receiver in high school, he preferred to get hit higher.

“If you ask the offensive guys, they’d rather get hit higher, in general,” he said. “They’d rather people stay away from the knees. Ask the offensive guys, and see what you come back with.”

What say you, Travis Benjamin, the Chargers’ fastest wide receiver and one who has caught 11 passes for 180 yards in four games?

“That’s kind of tough,” Benjamin said after a long pause. “God forbid, I take a low hit and have to have surgery, but you don’t want to get hit high because of concussions. So as a receiver, I’d rather get hit low. The head thing scares you.”

Former NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez felt much differently after watching safety D.J. Swearinger, then with the Houston Texans, end the career of former New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller with what Gonzalez called a “ridiculous” hit to the knee in a 2013 preseason game.

“That’s just not part of football, hitting a defenseless player in his knee,” Gonzalez said at the time. “That’s something we dread as players. That’s my nightmare. Hit me in the head instead.”

Staying put

An NFL spokesman affirmed the league’s commitment to the Chargers in Los Angeles despite the region’s apparent indifference to the club.

Opposing fans have overwhelmed Chargers fans in three StubHub Center “home” games, and with commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance Sunday, the Chargers were booed loudly by Eagles fans. Sunday’s game, a 26-24 Chargers loss, also drew a dismal 3.2 television rating in Los Angeles.

“As far as chatter that the NFL is looking for ways to return the club [to San Diego], there have been no discussions from the league or the club about this,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Those reports are false. …

“We all recognize, and the club has made it clear, that building a fan base will take time and won’t happen overnight. But we know the Chargers are working hard in the community. The league and the commissioner are here to help play a role, and last weekend was a good example.”

Etc.

Reserve offensive lineman Max Tuerk was waived Tuesday after missing the first four games because of a performance-enhancing drug suspension. The former USC standout was a 2016 third-round pick who was inactive for all 16 games last season. … Defensive end Whitney Richardson was waived off the practice squad. … Among the changes coach Anthony Lynn is considering this week is an expanded role for third-string running back Austin Ekeler, an undrafted rookie whose first NFL carry resulted in a 35-yard touchdown run Sunday and who has caught five passes for 47 yards. “Every time he’s in the game,” Lynn said, “he’s moved the chains.” Guard Dan Feeney and tackle Michael Schofield also are expected to get more playing time. … Hayward, tight end Hunter Henry and receiver Mike Williams were among the players who spent much of Tuesday at a WSS store in Los Angeles distributing new shoes and backpacks to 450 students from Carson-area grade schools. … The Chargers signed running back LeShun Daniels, who rushed for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns at Iowa last season, to the practice squad.