Tagged in: Chargers

Seattle Seahawks’ Uchenna Nwosu wants bigger role than at Los Angeles Chargers

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Uchenna Nwosu cited the desire to take on a more prominent role in an NFL team as a reason for leaving the Los Angeles Chargers for his new team.

Nwosu spent four seasons with the Chargers, with his last being the most productive. The 25-year-old registered a career-high five sacks in 2021, featuring in 17 matches last season.

However, he considers he can play an even bigger role at the Seahawks, who are expected to deploy a 3-4 defensive scheme, similar to the one which finally brought out his best abilities in his last season with the Chargers.

Facing the media alongside Houston Texans defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo at an NFL FanZone event in Accra on Sunday, Nwosu said: “Sometimes, everybody’s situation is different, but some people might want to take on a bigger role, and to do that, you might have to switch teams.

“The best opportunity was presented to us [himself and Okoronkwo, who recently joined the Texans from the Los Angeles Rams], and we took it and thought it was the best decision for us.”

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Nwosu has been assisting the NFL with training prospects in Ghana, with a pool of 49 African players, scouted predominantly by New York Giants legend Osi Umenyiora, congregating at the Right to Dream Academy’s soccer venue.

Nigeria has been the most prominent African country in NFL history, with 92 players in the league currently, and Nwosu, who was born in Carson, California, expressed pride in his heritage.

“We [Nigerians] work hard. We always want to finish first. We never give up and always represent and carry the name well, with respect, and just carry ourselves to a higher standard,” Nwosu said.

Commenting on what sets Nigeria apart as a producer of NFL talent, he added: “I wouldn’t say it’s because of our size or because we’re bigger or better or anything like that. I just feel like we just … play. It’s a good question.

“Don’t get us wrong; there’s a lot of Ghanaians and other African countries in the NFL too.”

Okoronkwo added that it was a circular process.

“I think it’s more of a perception thing,” he said. “When Nigerians started coming into the league, they started doing well, so more Nigerians were getting opportunities because Nigerians were doing well.”

The pair pledged to work together in Nigeria in the near future, with Okoronkwo saying: “We both plan on, at some point — maybe next offseason — going to Nigeria and doing some things there.”

As Nwosu added, “Whether that be a camp or just helping out in the community, the sky is the limit, so we look forward to doing that.”

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Miami Dolphins to hire Los Angeles Chargers’ Frank Smith as offensive coordinator

The Dolphins’ offensive staff under head coach Mike McDaniel continues to come together, as the team will hire Frank Smith as its offensive coordinator, a league source confirmed Monday.

Smith will work in conjunction with McDaniel, who will call plays, and wide receivers coach Wes Welker, who will help develop Miami’s passing game plan.

He is the fourth new hire on McDaniel’s offensive staff, joining Welker, tight ends coach Jon Embree and offensive line coach Matt Applebaum.

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NFL Network was the first to report the news of Smith’s hiring.

Smith, 40, joins McDaniel’s staff after a season as the Los Angeles Chargers’ run game coordinator and offensive line coach.

Under Smith, the Chargers finished 11th in pass block win rate in 2021, and 20th in run block win rate — improved from 19th and 32nd in 2020, respectively.

He takes over a Dolphins offense that ranked 25th in the NFL in yards per match last season, including 17th in passing yards and 30th in rushing. Miami’s offensive line also ranked last in pass block win rate, but was a far better run-blocking unit, concluding ninth in run block win rate.

Before his stint in Los Angeles, Smith worked as the tight ends coach for the Raiders from 2018-2020, the tight ends coach for the Bears from 2015-2017 and assistant offensive line coach for the Saints from 2010-2014.

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Green Bay Packers to hire Rich Bisaccia to fix special teams

The Packers will ultimately have an experienced coach running their special teams. They are expected to hire veteran special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who most recently served as the Raiders’ interim head coach.

A source stated Monday that an announcement is coming soon after some final details are worked out. NFL Network was first to report that the Packers were expected to hire Bisaccia.

He will be the third person to coordinate the Packers special teams in as many seasons, but he’s the first one with NFL experience doing so. Bisaccia was in his 20th season as an NFL special teams coordinator when the Raiders made him their interim coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation during 2021.

He joined the Raiders in 2018 after previously coaching special teams for the Cowboys (2013-17), Chargers (2011-12) and Buccaneers (2002-10). The 61-year-old also had 19 years of college coaching experience before entering the NFL.

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Bisaccia will replace Maurice Drayton, who was fired last week following the Packers’ disastrous special teams performance in the NFL divisional playoff loss to the 49ers.

Drayton’s units had a field goal and a punt blocked, the latter of which was returned for a touchdown. The Packers became the first team in 33 years to have both a punt and a field goal blocked during the same playoff game.

The playoff game was not an anomaly. The Packers special teams ranked 31st in ESPN’s FPI and dead last in Rick Gosselin’s widely respected special teams rankings. Drayton was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2021 after serving for two years as an assistant to Shawn Mennenga, whose units ranked 26th and 29th. Neither had been a special teams coordinator in the NFL before coming to Green Bay.

The Packers special teams problem isn’t unique to Matt LaFleur’s tenure.

Dating to the start of Mike McCarthy’s run as head coach in 2006, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in special teams only once (2007). In that span, they have finished in the top half of the special teams rankings only four times — most recently 16th in 2017. In that same span, Bisaccia’s special teams have six top-10 finishes plus a No. 11 ranking this past season.

LaFleur acknowledged after the season that a coaching modification might not be the only necessary fix for the Packers’ special teams.

“Just one takeaway, just watching that game back, San Francisco had a lot of their starters on special teams,” LaFleur said. “That’s going to be something that I want to do some studies around the league and see how many teams operate that way. Again, does it have some inherent risk? Absolutely.”

Bisaccia interviewed for the Raiders’ permanent head-coaching job, which ultimately went to Josh McDaniels even after quarterback Derek Carr was among the players who threw their public support behind the interim coach.

Bisaccia went 7-5 after Gruden resigned, and the Raiders (10-7 overall) made the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

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Los Angeles Chargers hire Ryan Ficken as special teams coordinator

The Chargers have hired longtime NFL assistant Ryan Ficken to be their special teams coordinator.

He substitutes Derius Swinton II, who was let go after one season.

Ficken spent the last 15 years with Minnesota and was the Vikings’ special teams coordinator in 2021.

Before that, he was a special teams assistant for eight campaigns. During his time in Minnesota, Ficken also worked with the wide receivers and running backs.

A graduate of Arizona State, Ficken, 41, started his coaching career with a three-year stint as an assistant at UCLA.

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The Chargers have struggled on special teams for several years.

Ficken will be tasked with trying to improve an inconsistent Chargers special teams unit. Los Angeles improved as the season went along because of the midseason signings of returner Andre Roberts and kicker Dustin Hopkins. Roberts led the league with a 32.8-yard kick return average while Hopkins was 18 of 20 on field goals after joining the Chargers.

A short time later, then-head coach Anthony Lynn took over special teams to finish the season.

In 2021, the Chargers added returner Andre Roberts and kicker Dustin Hopkins — both veterans — in October. Their arrivals boosted a unit that steadily improved but still concluded near the bottom in the NFL’s overall rankings.

Last month, coach Brandon Staley decided to make a change, dismissing Swinton and special teams assistant Mayur Chaudhari.

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AFC West rivals Chargers, Broncos face must-win situations

Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Chargers were feeling pretty secure about getting to the postseason for the first time since 2018.

After two consecutive losses though, their challenge is more formidable going into Sunday’s game versus the Denver Broncos.

“Now, it’s now or never. You don’t want to put it in everybody else’s hands; you want it to be in your hands,” Chargers defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. “We have to go out there and do what we have to do. We have to go out there and get it done this Sunday.”

The Chargers (8-7) got off to a 4-1 start under first-year coach Brandon Staley but have won consecutive games only once since mid-October. They have dropped their past two —a 34-28 overtime loss to Kansas City on Dec. 16 and an inexplicable 41-29 defeat at Houston last Sunday.

Staley’s message to his team this week has been about getting back to being consistent in practice and trying to approach things as normal as possible despite the evolving roster changes because of COVID-19.

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“You have to trust your plans and how you prepare. I think that’s what our approach is going to be this week, putting the focus on us and giving the Broncos their full respect by preparing each day the best that we know how. Regardless of the circumstances, treat each week like it has a life of its own,” Staley said.

The Chargers could get back into a wild-card spot with a win and losses by Miami to Tennessee and Baltimore to the Los Angeles Rams.

“Playoff games start now, and that’s the mindset,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said.

Denver (7-8) has won four of its past five against its division rival, including 28-13 on Nov. 28.

The Broncos started the season with three consecutive wins but have dropped three of their past four as their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

They need a win over the Chargers, coupled with victories by the Rams, Titans and Browns to go into next week’s regular-season finale against Kansas City with even a chance of getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2015, when they won their third Super Bowl title.

Another defeat would assure the Broncos of their fifth straight season under .500. Third-year coach Vic Fangio was on the hot seat going into the year and has tried to deflect talk about his job status during the latest slump.

“I’m not worried about do I have to win the next two to secure the job? That’s totally not in my frame of thought right now,” he said. “We’re going to do anything and everything we can to win this game this week.”

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Kelce’s OT touchdown gives Chiefs 34-28 win over Chargers

Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have faced their share of challenges this campaign. The two-time defending AFC champions are peaking at the right time for another playoff push.

Kelce had a career-high 191 receiving yards and scored on a 34-yard pass from Mahomes in overtime as the Chiefs rallied for a 34-28 triumph over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.

Kelce caught a tying 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter, then ended the game with his catch-and-run in overtime. On first-and-10, Kelce pulled in Mahomes’ pass at the 30 and eluded two tackles en route to the end zone, where he was swarmed by teammates.

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“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a walk-off touchdown or anything like that, so to be in that moment, find him underneath and him making such a dynamic play where, I mean, he cut back, ran by people,” stated Mahomes, who completed 31 of 47 for a season-high 410 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. “You think he’s old. He can’t run by people. But he’s still running by people. And he got in the end zone.”

The Chiefs were 3-4 at the end of October but have won seven consecutive to improve to 10-4 and go up by two games in the AFC West.

Kelce had been held to six total receptions the past two games, but he broke out in a big way.

He had five of his 10 catches for 142 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. He also had a 69-yard reception that led to Tyreek Hill’s 1-yard touchdown and a 2-point conversion that tied it at 21.

Mahomes bounced back after a costly fourth-quarter interception led to Austin Ekeler’s touchdown and gave the Chargers a 21-13 advantage. He was 10 of 16 for 197 yards and three TDs after the turnover.

“Obviously it (stinks) in the moment. I mean, I promise you I felt as bad as anyone about that throw and that situation, and knew how bad it looked. But you will get another chance and you better be ready for that moment,” Mahomes said.

Justin Herbert gave the Chargers a 28-21 lead with 2:19 left on a 8-yard TD pass to Keenan Allen, but couldn’t make it hold up. It is the second straight season the Chiefs have come to the Chargers’ Hollywood Park home and won in overtime.

“The goal is always to score. We needed to put up points, and we got in the end zone, and that was our mission,” Herbert said. “We would have loved to have been able to run the clock down and not have any time, but this is the NFL, and you have to get in the end zone.”

The Chargers fell behind 10-0 early in the second quarter before scoring on two straight drives to take a 14-10 lead at halftime. Herbert scored on a 1-yard keeper off left end and then connected with Jalen Guyton for a 4-yard TD on the next drive.

The Chiefs benefited off Chargers’ mistakes for their first 10 points. After Los Angeles turned it over on downs, Kansas City went 95 yards in 11 plays, culminating in Michael Burton’s 7-yard run up the middle.

The Chiefs then turned Anthony Hitchens’ interception of Herbert into points on Harrison Butker’s 30-yard field goal.

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will miss 6-8 weeks with broken foot

Dallas Cowboys defensive DeMarcus Lawrence sustained a broken foot in Wednesday’s practice that will force him to miss 6-8 weeks.

It is a huge blow to a defense that did not generate a sack in Week 1 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could also be without its second-best pass rusher, Randy Gregory, Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Lawrence was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice but immediately had an MRI, which revealed the break.

Lawrence did not practice for most of training camp because of offseason back surgery but he recorded six tackles, two quarterback pressures and forced a fumble against the Buccaneers.

He has 45.5 sacks for his career and is a two-time Pro Bowl pick. As for Gregory, coach Mike McCarthy did not sound hopeful before practice about him passing COVID-19 protocols in time to play versus the Chargers.

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“If you look at the history, it’s been 10 days pretty much everybody we’ve dealt with in the COVID protocol,” he said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

With Lawrence out and if Gregory cannot play, then the Cowboys would potentially turn to Dorance Armstrong and Tarell Basham as their starters with Bradlee Anae and Chauncey Golston as backups.

They have combined for 10 sacks in their careers, or only 3.5 sacks more than what Lawrence recorded a year ago. Basham has 7.5 sacks in 59 games.

Golston, a third-round pick, missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and was inactive for the season opener.

Perhaps the start of Wednesday’s practice was a bad omen for the Cowboys defensive line. Assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury that will require surgery.

Since the 31-29 loss to the Buccaneers, the Cowboys have lost four starters: Wide receiver Michael Gallup was placed on injured reserve with a calf strain, right tackle La’el Collins was suspended five games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Gregory was placed on the COVID-19 list and now Lawrence is out with the broken foot.

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Pittsburgh Steelers shoring up defense with Melvin Ingram addition

The Steelers are signing edge rusher Melvin Ingram, his agent confirmed on social media Monday.

Ingram is signing a one-year deal, according to NFL Network.

The 32-year-old Ingram fills a major hole in the Steelers’ defense left by the free-agency departure of Bud Dupree to the Tennessee Titans.

“I met with Coach [Mike] Tomlin,” Ingram told NFL reporter Josina Anderson. “You can tell he’s very involved and a players’ coach. That’s what stood out to me. He wants to win, and that is what I am on.

“My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play.” Ingram, who had interest from other NFL teams and visited the Steelers on Monday, will strive for the spot opposite T.J. Watt that is now occupied by second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.

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With Dupree’s exit, the depth behind Watt and Highsmith was perilously thin.

NFL journeyman Cassius Marsh and sixth-round draft pick Quincy Roche were anticipated to be the primary backups.

Ingram, a 2012 first-round pick, had spent his nine-year career with the Chargers, racking up 49 sacks — fourth in franchise history — en route to three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2017 to 2019.

He played in just seven matches last season because of a nagging knee injury that landed him on injured reserve twice, and he failed to record a sack for the first time in his career.

The Chargers opted not to re-sign him after his four-year, $64 million deal expired following the 2020 campaign.

Ingram may not be as productive as he was in previous years, but he’s in a defense that will give him tons of easy openings along the defensive line, and a secondary that will force opposing quarterbacks to think twice before throwing. That alone could provide Ingram with a career resurgence, and the Steelers with the cog they need to keep that line firmly established as the NFL’s best.

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Los Angeles Chargers’ Derwin James injures right knee

Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James, who missed 11 matches in the 2019 season, is likely to miss significant time with a meniscus injury he suffered during Sunday’s practice, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

The Chargers delivered an update regarding James’ condition on Monday, confirming that he “suffered a right knee injury during yesterday’s practice” and noting that “he will continue to be evaluated, and a timeframe for his return has not yet been determined.”

Now comes the waiting game of just how long it will be until James can return to the field.

With the waiting game comes options, pending further evaluation, though each of them would see James with an elongated absence. One possibility is a meniscus trim, which could be four or so weeks, or a full repair, which would bring upon several months on the shelf, Rapoport reported.

Multiple reports coming out of camp were that James left practice grabbing his right leg, clearly frustrated, and entered the medical tent.

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Regardless of just how long James is shelved, it’s a difficult turn of events for a burgeoning star who burst upon the NFL scene and has seen it halted by significant injuries in consecutive offseasons.

James started the 2019 campaign on injured reserve with a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his foot.

He returned in Week 13 and started the last five games of the season, tallying 34 tackles.

In 2018, James was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in a sensational rookie campaign in which he filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 105 tackles, 13 passes defended, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions.

While it’s another discouraging turn of events for James and a huge blow to the Chargers defense, it might well open the door for another opportunity to Earl Thomas, as pointed out by Rapoport. Current Bolts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley previously coached Thomas with the Seahawks. Within the roster, the most liable scenario is that Desmond King, Alohi Gilman and Nasir Adderly are the likely candidates to step into James’ starting role. Nonetheless, for James and the Chargers on a sunny Southern California Sunday, it quickly became a cloudy day ahead of a promising season once again.

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Chargers considered signing Cam Newton

After the Chargers and Philip Rivers split ways, the search for a quarterback started in free agency.

Los Angeles was in the sweepstakes for Tom Brady, but they came up short after he decided to sign with the Buccaneers. Another free agent option was Cam Newton, who was released by the Panthers in March.

Newton was seen as an ideal target for L.A. because his presence would help sell tickets in their new season. However, they passed up on the opportunity to sign the former MVP.

Were the Chargers actually interested in signing Newton? Coach Anthony Lynn said that the team did contemplate it. “Absolutely, Cam is a tremendous quarterback,” Lynn said on a recent CBS Sports interview.

“He’s been MVP of this league, he’s led his team to the Super Bowl and he’s healthy now from what I hear. Cam is going to be on somebody’s roster and he’s going to help somebody win a few games, but yeah, we did take a look at that, sure.”

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Los Angeles ended up drafting former Oregon product Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall selection in this year’s draft with the hopes of him being the long-term solution at the position.

Prior to Herbert being selected, Lynn was already confident with the quarterbacks that were already on the roster.

“I feel really good about the quarterback room that I have,” Lynn said. “With Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick — those are guys that a lot of people don’t talk about, but he was a Division I AA — he won like three national championships. He’s a hell of a leader, hell of a professional and I think he has a bright future in this league one day.”

While the Chargers quarterback room is set, Newton remains a free agent. Lynn trusts that he will be signed in 2020 by a team.

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