Remember the days when the San Diego Chargers had one of the worst special teams units in all of the NFL? If your team was going up against them, chances are you would find some way to impact the game that would negatively affect the Bolts.
The 2010 season was a dream for the offense which topped the league, but the special teams unit allowed four blocked punts (and another deflected), three kickoff return touchdowns, and one punt return touchdown. San Diego brought Rich Bisaccia in to help rectify the issue following the year as they fired longtime special teams coach Steve Crosby as the unit’s scapegoat. He brought mild success to the team, but it’s pretty hard to get any worse than the dreadful 2010 campaign.
If Saturday night’s preseason tilt with the Arizona Cardinals was any indication, however, the special teams unit may actually be a strength for the team in 2013. Facing off against his former team, new special teams coach Kevin Spencer returned with a vengeance as Darrell Stuckey blocked a Dave Zastudil punt following Arizona’s opening three-and-out and then rookie nose tackle Kwame Geathers blocked a 26-yard Dan Carpenter field goal attempt in his first game in the desert.
Both of these guys could be heavily featured on an increasingly young defense in the upcoming year, but in the very least they appear to have serious roles on special teams. Stuckey is a hard working player that has maximized his potential and talent with the Chargers as a special teamer. As for Geathers, personally my hopes are high that he can show enough to allow Cam Thomas to walk in free agency if he is commanding too much money from potential 3-4 suitors, but even if that isn’t the case his 6-foot-5 342-pound frame is so powerful that he could make a routine impact by busting through the gap and blocking kicks all season.
It takes all shapes and sizes on special teams, and just a week after they surrendered a 100-yard return against the Chicago Bears and Keenan Allen fumbled an attempted punt return of his own, the Bolts made a complete 180 in the desert. Allen got in on the act with a dazzling 44-yard punt return during the game to make up for his costly miscue last week, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the Cardinals have what is thought to be one of the deadliest return combos in the league in Patrick Peterson and rookie Tyrann Mathieu.
The change under new head coach Mike McCoy has been easy to see in this young and energized Chargers team. From the top veterans on the club all the way down to the eventual 53rd man on the roster, the Bolts are all willing to work together for the common goal of winning. That leadership comes from the top, and has been epitomized by the success of the special teams group thus far.