Good day, Who Dats and the EOSB legion.
It’s time again for that one thing I know you all can’t wait for each week. In fact, you probably wake up early on Friday morning’s because you know it’s coming.
Please give your undivided attention to Michael, who was kind enough to answer questions this week.
WWLTV.com: Robert Meachem is a fairly well-known face to Saints fans. How is the receiver acclimating to the Chargers’ system? Is he showing signs of being the game-breaking receiver they were hoping for?
Michael Gehlken: “It's been a slow process thus far, but Meachem's chemistry is building with Philip Rivers. The Chargers believe he's due for a breakout game -- Meachem thinks Sunday in New Orleans would be the perfect time and place for it -- but at this point, he has just six catches for 92 yards on the season. Rivers targeted him twice last week. The first was a deep ball when the Chiefs were in Cover 2, about the worst look the Chargers could have gotten. The second was a throw on which Rivers was late, and it was intercepted. It's been slow, but quarterback and the former Saint are moving in the right direction.”
WWLTV.com: The Saints are ranked 32nd overall in total defense and 32nd against the rush. New Orleans held Green Bay to 102 yards on the ground while allowing 319 through the air this past weekend. Philip Rivers can pass the ball, but can San Diego take advantage of what has at times been a porous run defense?
MG: “Ryan Mathews followed his strong offseason with a serious injury and costly fumble. The bandwagon in San Diego is running a little light again, but I refuse to put limitations on what a healthy Mathews can do. Obviously, he needs to protect the football -- which he did last week -- for his offensive role to grow, but it's clear on film he has all the physical tools to be an elite back in this league. Believe he's the most dynamic weapon this offense has, and on a per-touch basis, few are better in the league when Mathews isn't fumbling. Jackie Battle is more of a ‘what you see is what you get,’ one-cut, downhill runner. He fits the mold of someone you want to be mixing with Mathews. Battle started last week and isn't going away. Mathews is the special talent. His role should only grow. Still, both backs are capable of being productive Sunday.”
WWLTV.com: San Diego has traditionally started out slowly under Norv Turner. This year, it’s 3-1. Can this be the year the Chargers become the team to beat in the AFC West and the AFC?
MG: “You're right about the slow starts typically being an issue in San Diego. Last year, though, the Chargers began 4-1 and, as injuries exploited their depth, reeled to lose their next six. It's very early. No one is crowning the Chargers yet, and certainly, they aren't crowning themselves. ‘Sixteen one-game seasons’ is about as tired a phrase you'll hear this season, but that is how the team is approaching each week, and frankly, if you want to be successful, that's how it should. The Chargers need to prove they can defeat a team with a top quarterback, probably, before anyone takes them seriously. The opportunities don't come much better than Drew Brees on NBC.
WWLTV.com: San Diego’s defense is ranked 12th in the NFL and 6th against the run. The Saints don’t run the ball well, but have been above average throwing it this year. Will San Diego even pay attention to the Saints’ run game and who is the key to its pass defense?
MG: “The Chargers, like in any game, want to stop the run and make their opponent one dimensional. The Saints have proven they're pretty comfortable passing all day, and some of the quicker routes to Darren Sproles and Lance Moore supplement anything lost in the run game. Moore (hamstring, out) is a huge loss. It won't cause me to change my pick -- I have New Orleans winning; I can't conceive the Saints falling to 0-5 at home on Sunday Night Football, even while the Chargers are the picture of health coming into this game -- but being without Moore is a blow. ... The key for the Chargers' passing defense is getting to the quarterback. In its one loss this season, the defensive line played its worst game of the year. No coincidence. Right now, they're coming off their best. Ends Corey Liuget and Vaughn Martin were excellent in Kansas City, each earning a game ball.”
WWLTV.com: Drew Brees would break one of the NFL’s longest-standing records on Sunday if he throws a touchdown pass against the Chargers. Has San Diego addressed this at all, i.e. how they’ll handle the break in play and it coming from one of it former draft picks?
MG: “It is an amazing record, and what's probably most impressive is Johnny Unitas setting it in the era he did. But the Chargers have plenty to prepare for with this Saints offense. I imagine that milestone is low on the list.”