Every week, I hope to bring you a quick Q&A with someone who covers the Ravens’ opponent that week. The Ravens left for the West Coast on Friday and play the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, so I reached out to Michael Gehlken, the Chargers beat writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, to chat about Sunday’s game.
MV: What is going on with Philip Rivers? Many chalked up his struggles a year ago to it just being a rough season for him, but the same issues remain and he doesn’t look like the same quarterback.
MG: You wouldn't believe the theories I've heard, from Philip Rivers is scared of getting hurt -- that's why he prays before games -- to he's diabetic, and all those sugary energy drinks on the sideline are what's the cause of him having thrown an NFL-high seven of his 14 interceptions in the fourth quarter. Here's what I know: the left side of the Chargers offensive line lost two Pro Bowlers, Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman, to career-ending injuries in 2011, and the Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal plan to replace Vincent Jackson's production has been a bust so far. Vincent Brown was the promising ace in the hole, but a broken ankle in August derailed his season. All in all, the Chargers planned to give Rivers more help. For various reasons, he hasn't gotten it.
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MV: A year ago, the Ravens struggled to keep up with the Chargers' vertical passing attack. Should the Ravens still be concerned even though Jackson is gone and the Chargers have overhauled their receiving corps?
MG: Danario Alexander has really emerged, but still, this isn't the same offense. Through 10 games, no player has reached 100 rushing yards in a single game. Rivers often hasn't had the time to find his guys. In the 2011 meeting, the Chargers allowed no sacks, one quarterback hit and two hurries in protection. If that happens again, fish tacos and craft beer on me after the game.
MV: Jarret Johnson was a fan favorite here. How has he fit in?
MG: JJ has fit in well. He's the same guy people in Baltimore said the Chargers would be getting -- blue-collar, smart, tough. Jarret Johnson considers himself a Raven for life. Based on all the trash talking he's been doing with his former teammates, it's apparent he's amped for Sunday's game.
MV: What about Jared Gaither? He was a polarizing player here.
MG: He just hasn't been healthy. There's the back injury in training camp that forced him to miss a couple months and the groin injury that led to his placement Friday on season-ending injured reserve. He played four games this season before being shut down, earning $9 million in the process. Jared Gaither had great work ethic in the spring after signing a four-year contract, and I have a hard time believing he's dogging it as many Chargers fans suspect he is. The fact is he was arguably the most important player to this roster entering the season, and he hasn't performed. No one, including Gaither, seems happy about that.
MV: Assuming the Chargers miss the playoffs, what changes should we expect in San Diego after the season?
MG: Everything but the uniforms. ... Coach Norv Turner would be fired. GM A.J. Smith would be at risk of the same. The roster, particularly on the offensive line, would get a makeover. (That's probably happening, playoffs or no playoffs.) Either way, Chargers fans will get a needed jolt over the next two months. They'll see their team finish strong and make the postseason, or they'll watch it make changes many of them have spent years clamoring for.