NFL Nation: Seyi Ajirotutu

Prediction: Chargers 31, Chiefs 17

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
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SAN DIEGO -- Though they've been mysterious about specific plans for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers, it's easy to know what to expect from the Kansas City Chiefs.


Players and coaches to a man have talked about how important it is for the Chiefs to beat the Chargers, but Andy Reid has talked about resting key players and trying to keep them fresh for next week's opening-round playoff match, a game that really is important.

If Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles and other star players are out of the lineup early in the game, that sends a stronger message about Kansas City's desire to win this game than anything they say.

Meanwhile, the Chargers may or may not be vying for a playoff berth by the time the game kicks off. If both Baltimore and Miami lose in early games Sunday, San Diego would get the final wild-card spot by beating the Chiefs. If either Baltimore or Miami win, the Chargers are eliminated and as far as the playoffs go will have the same motivation as the Chiefs, which is to say none.

The Chargers seem more motivated than Kansas City does regardless. The 8-7 Chargers have talked about the importance of finishing with a winning record and building momentum for next season. While those incentives aren't nearly as strong as playing for the playoffs, they are more than the Chiefs have going for them.

So the playing field definitely isn't a level one in this regard. Maybe the Chiefs will surprise with their effort but more likely they will be watching the clock and waiting for it to expire like a kid on an average school day.

The Chargers are an improved team since they came to Arrowhead Stadium and beat the Chiefs late last month. They had been allowing a lot of points and gave up 38 that day but since have progressed considerably on defense.

Outside linebackers Melvin Ingram and Jarret Johnson are finally healthy and playing well. The Chargers made a lineup change in the secondary, benching cornerback Derek Cox, and suddenly they're creating turnovers and getting opponents off the field on the third downs. San Diego is allowing just 16 points per game in the four games since they played against the Chiefs.

Offensively, the Chargers may be without running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Eddie Royal because of injuries. But it's hard to shake the memory of how easy things were for Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen against the Chiefs the last time. And they were playing reserves at the end of the game against the Chiefs. It was seldom used wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu who caught the winning touchdown pass.

The Chiefs could rise up and play well, but it's not wise to expect that given the circumstances. They have bigger prizes to play for than Sunday's game and the result should reflect that.

Prediction: Chargers 31, Chiefs 17.
SAN DIEGO -- Blocking for San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is an offensive lineman's dream.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego's Ryan Mathews
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsRyan Mathews has emerged as a running back this season, to the delight of his linemen.
At least that's the way the team's longtime center Nick Hardwick describes it. Hardwick says opposing defenders shy away from contact when Mathews gets his legs churning.

"He is built like a block of granite," Hardwick said. "He is a pretty intense specimen, so when he gets going downhill, he is inflicting some pain on these linebackers and safeties."

Mathews' physical running style is something the rest of the offensive line feeds off of, according to rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker.

"I love blocking for Ryan," Fluker said. "Ryan just makes people look bad on the field. DB's don't want to hit him. They're scared of him because he's physical with them. It's great to see him have a great season. And it's been great to see someone go out there and give everything they have for their teammates."

In his fourth NFL season, Mathews has finally emerged from the immense shadow of being drafted as the replacement for LaDainian Tomlinson as the No. 12 overall selection in the 2010 draft.

The Fresno State product topped 1,000 rushing yards for the second time as a pro, rushing a career-high 236 times for 1,012 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Mathews has run for 415 yards after contact, which is No. 7 in the NFL.

"It's been good, really good," Mathews said after the Denver game last week, in which he ran for 127 yards. Mathews carried the ball 58 times in two games over four days.

"I'm sore, but that's what they are asking of me, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm just going to keep grinding, and doing whatever this team needs."

Added receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, who played with Mathews at Fresno State: "He's always been tough. But there's just something about this year that has been special. He's running hard, and everyone can see it. He just looks like a different back, and obviously he's running confident."

Mathews has stayed healthy, and is on track to play a full, 16-game season for the first time as a pro. And he's avoided putting the ball on the ground. Heading into the 2013 season, Mathews had fumbled 12 times, losing seven of them through three seasons. But this year, Mathews has fumbled just twice, losing one of them.

Mathews has five 100-yard rushing games this season, which is tied with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy for the most in the NFL.

But more than anything, at 26-years old Mathews has shown maturity. He's done a better job of taking care of his body, preparing himself for the rigors of an NFL season with a rigid regimen before the season started, one which included reporting to training camp at the appropriate weight on his 6-foot, 220-pound frame.

"He puts a lot of work in," fellow running back Ronnie Brown said. "There's a lot of stuff that's not seen. People give him a hard time. But he runs the ball hard. He prepares hard in the offseason. And he puts in the work that's necessary, and I don't think a lot of people see that, so it's not appreciated."

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he first noticed a confident and decisive Mathews during offseason work by watching his feet. Rivers said Mathews benefitted from offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt streamlining the team's running playbook, focusing on a steady diet of inside and outside zone running plays.

"There have been less schematic things, which gives him a lot of reps at the run packages that we have," Rivers said. "He has been able to rep them over and over and over again, going all the way back to OTAs. As a runner, much like as a passer, if you run it five times you feel decent, but if we throw it 50 times over the offseason then you feel a lot better.

"It's the same way in the running game. If I run inside zone against every look they have 50 times throughout the offseason, I'm going to feel a heck of a lot better about it than if I get a lot of different ones. I think that is one thing I can see. I felt confidence in his feet, confidence in his vision grow over this whole offseason throughout training camp and all year long."

While Rivers has shown the ability to pick opponents apart through the air, Mathews provides the hammer in the run game, keeping defenses honest and closing out games by grinding out first downs to run the clock.

Once considered a good bet to leave town when his contract ends at the end of the 2014 season, Mathews has proved that he's a good fit long term for the Chargers.

Could Raiders pursue Jon Gruden?

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
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A report out of Chicago claims that the Raiders are “in talks” to bring back Jon Gruden as coach.

OK, OK, Raider Nation, quiet down. I can hear your squeals of delight from here.

But hold off a bit. I don’t want to discount any report, but I am not going to get too much into this until there is more. I want to acknowledge it, but until there is more steam, I think we have to say it is a long shot. But anything can happen and it is worth keeping an eye on.

But I think, many, many things would have to happen before something so dramatic would occur. Gruden has said he is committed to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” This is not the first report about Gruden’s future and it very likely won’t be the last.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders’ game against Denver on Thursday night will be televised locally.

Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard did not practice Tuesday with an ankle injury. He could be pressed to play Thursday at Oakland. He was hurt Sunday against Tampa Bay.

The Chargers placed receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (hand) and center David Molk (thumb) on injured reserve. In addition to center/guard Colin Baxter, San Diego signed guard/tackle Stephen Schilling to help its battered offensive line. Like Baxter, Schilling has played for the Chargers before.

Denver coach John Fox opened his press briefing Tuesday by expressing his condolences to Oakland coach Dennis Allen. His father, Grady Allen, died Tuesday. Allen was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator last season.

Chargers short-handed at receiver

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
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The San Diego Chargers have just three healthy receivers Thursday night against Kansas City.

With Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem hurt, Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander and Seyi Ajirotutu will be the Chargers’ receivers; Alexander and Ajirotutu are new to the roster. This will be a challenge for struggling quarterback Philip Rivers.

San Diego defensive tackle Antonio Garay is playing for the first time this season. Linebacker Larry English, a first-round pick in 2009, is a healthy scratch for San Diego.

For Kansas City, defensive end Glenn Dorsey is back after dealing with a calf injury. Meanwhile, Javier Arenas will play cornerback in place of Stanford Routt, who suffered a hamstring injury in practice this week.

In other AFC West news:

Players are happy that the Raiders' offensive coaching staff is finally incorporating some power-blocking schemes to go along with the team's zone-blocking schemes. Oakland has had better ground success using the power-blocking schemes and I’m sure we will see more of it as the season goes on.

Chargers hurting at receiver

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
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The San Diego Chargers' offense is facing another obstacle as it tries to get out of a slump.

Receiver Eddie Royal (hamstring) is doubtful and fellow receiver Robert Meachem (hamstring) is questionable to face visiting Kansas City on Thursday night. This isn’t going to help an offense that has not scored a touchdown in the past six quarters.

Newly signed receivers Danario Alexander and Seyi Ajirotutu both should get a chance to see some action against the Chiefs.

For Kansas City, defensive end Glenn Dorsey (calf) and cornerback Stanford Routt (hamstring) are both questionable to play. They were both limited in practice Wednesday.

In other AFC West news:

Former San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding offers an interesting perspective on the team in a radio interview.

Panthers clean up waiver wire

September, 4, 2011
9/04/11
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As expected, the Carolina Panthers are not sitting still a day after trimming their roster to 53 players.

The Panthers hit the waiver wire hard Sunday, claiming five players at positions of need.

The Panthers claimed wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu from San Diego, defensive back Stevie Brown from Oakland, nose tackle Marcus Harrison from Chicago, defensive end George Selvie from St. Louis and defensive back Josh Thomas from Dallas.

To make room for them, the Panthers waived defensive end Everette Brown, guard Bryant Browning, receiver David Clowney and defensive end Thomas Keiser. The Panthers also released veteran safety Kevin Payne.

Stay tuned, because it’s likely the Panthers are not done yet. They still have a big need at right guard after losing Geoff Schwartz and Garry Williams to season-ending injuries. They likely are in the market for a veteran at that position.

San Diego Chargers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:24
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Check here for a complete list of the San Diego Chargers' roster moves.

Surprise move: There were some familiar names on the Chargers’ cut list. Defensive end Ogemdi Nwagbuo was productive last year, and he was a popular member of the team. Receiver Seyi Ajirotutu also made some plays last season when the Chargers’ receiving crew was depleted. There was also a thought that undrafted rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien would be kept after a strong summer. I’m sure the Chargers will try to put him on the practice squad.

No-brainers: In the end, receiver/returner Bryan Walters and linebacker Darryl Gamble, an undrafted rookie, were too good to cut. Anyone who paid attention to San Diego in the preseason saw these two youngsters make play after play. Now, they have jobs. Expect them both to contribute on special teams this season.

What's next: The Chargers on Saturday signed veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs. The 12-year veteran is a leader, and he could push for playing time at inside linebacker. San Diego will probably look at the waiver wire for help in the secondary, offensive line and receiver.

Breaking down Chargers-49ers

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
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On a night many backups played extensively, second-year running back Ryan Mathews showed his team some flashes of why the Chargers gave up a truckload to trade up for him in the 2010 draft.

Mathews had a beautiful 56-yard touchdown run and he finished with 78 yards on five carries in a 20-17 loss to San Francisco. He showed he is perhaps ready to take on a bigger role once the regular season starts next week against Minnesota.

Rookie running back Jordan Todman also was active as he had 46 yards rushing on 15 carries.

Third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien showed his potential as he completed 16 of 23 passes for 226 yards. The Chargers like him as a developmental player.

Receiver Laurent Robinson, who faces big odds of making the team, had six catches for 120 yards. Receiver Seyi Ajirotutu helped his cause with five catches for 41 yards.

The Chargers are worried about injuries to rookie linebacker Jonas Mouton and Andrew Gachkar. It could affect who the team keeps at linebacker. Veteran Stephen Cooper -- who is playing with a torn biceps -- made his case to make the roster with seven tackles.

Wrap-up: Chargers 29, Texans 23

November, 7, 2010
11/07/10
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Thoughts on the Texans’ 29-23 home loss to San Diego.

What it means: Remember when the Texans jumped out to an early lead in the AFC South? It’s ancient history now. At 4-4 after a harrowing loss to the Chargers, Houston’s even with the Jaguars in last in the division behind the idle Titans (5-3) and awaiting the result of the Colts’ game in Philadelphia that could get Indy to 6-2.

What I didn’t like: A late intentional grounding call against Matt Schaub seemed ridiculous and sunk the Texans’ second-to-last drive. Andre Johnson need to catch the pass, but a drop at the end was a killer, as it ricocheted off his knee and resulted in an interception by Paul Oliver that effectively ended the game. Neither might have mattered if the Texans pass defense could have stopped Seyi Ajirotutu, whose four catches were good for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

What I liked: They did better getting the ball to Arian Foster, who had 27 carries for 127 yards and two touchdown and four catches for 70 more. The 33:49 to 26:11 time-of-possession margin looked good, but it arrived in part because San Diego was making big plays.

Injury question: Schaub appeared to suffer a chest or rib injury late in the third quarter. Did it affect his play from there?

What’s next: The Texans resume AFC South play with a trip to Jacksonville, where one team will be left under .500 when the day is over.

Who are the best undrafted free agents?

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
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The good people at Scouts Inc. released their list of the top-10 undrafted players Sunday. You have to spend a dime or two to read the whole thing, but I'll tell you that new Cowboys quarterback Matt Nichols of Eastern Washington showed up at No. 10.

"He has the tools and mental aptitude to become a serviceable reserve with proper coaching and development," said Scouts Inc. of Nichols.

I've spent a portion of the day asking scouts about some of the undrafted players. It looks like the Chargers landed a couple of the top undrafted players with Troy defensive end Brandon Lang and Fresno State wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. I also had two different AFC scouts tell me that Fresno State running back Lonyae Miller was an excellent pickup by the Dallas Cowboys.

Miller backed up Ryan Mathews (12th overall to Chargers) last season but he impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with nine carries for 44 yards. I'm told that Miller has a good chance of making the practice squad and that he has the potential to be a contributor down the road.

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