Season Previews: San Diego Chargers

sd-chargers-helmetSeason Preview
San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers suffered through a thoroughly mediocre 2012 season as they finished 7-9 in a relatively weak AFC West. Philip Rivers seemed to struggle without standout deep threat Wide receiver Vincent Jackson who bolted in free agency to Tampa Bay.

Norv Turner was the fall guy for their lackluster season and many think he deserved to be fired before this past offseason.  Change is in the air with the only Southern Californian NFL franchise and this season looks to be another transition year, especially with the Denver Broncos only getting stronger.

The offense

What? I'm free??
I’m free??

It was just a few seasons ago that he was considered an elite player,  but Rivers suffered his 2nd straight disappointing season (53 TD’s to 35 INT’s combined the last 2 years and 2 consecutive years with a Passer Rating of 88, instead of the usual 100 he is used to). Last year he was responsible for 15 INT’s and 7 fumbles that were recovered by the opposing team. Not to mention, he had a career low 6.8 yards per attempt. Rivers needs to bounce back with a strong season or they may consider trading him and starting all over. Clipboard Jesus aka Charlie Whitehurst will be his backup.

Part of the reason for the low YPA for Rivers was the departed VJ. Jackson had a career high 72 catches and 19.2 yards per catch with the Bucs. What’s even more troubling is SD’s Malcolm Floyd (last years leading receiver with 56 ctaches, 814 yards, 15 plays of at least 20 yards, and 5 TD’s) strained his knee in the preseason, not the torn ACL originally believed. Danario Alexander (37 ctaches, 17.8ypc and tied for a team high 7 TD’s) tore the ACL in his right knee in preseason and was waived, depleting Philip’s options to throw the ball.

Keenan Allen was drafted in the 3rd round and he’ll be contribute here as well as the return game. With Alexander getting injured, he could even start for them. Vincent Brown missed the season with an ankle injury and might be better suited to a #2 WR option than Meachem. If he can stay healthy. Robert Meachem is going to be forced into more playing time and he hasn’t been the same since he left New Orleans. He played in 15 games last season with the Chargers, but had caught just 14 passes. Eddie Royal is best suited to being a return man and hasn’t been much of a factor at WR since he left Denver, but he might be forced into playing time if injuries continue to plague the WR’s. But, he’s slot WR.

One more leap until the Hall of Fame
One more leap until the Hall of Fame

Antonio Gates is gettting a older and slowing down, but he’s going to see a lot of passes thrown his way since he’s the QB’s safety valve on offense. Last season was the 2nd worst of his career (49 catches, career-low 11pyc and 7 TD’s ) and  he’s no longer a reliable deep threat. He’s just more of a possession receiver now.

Ryan Mathews has just one 1,000 yard season in 3 years, sandwiched in between 2 lackluster campaigns. It’s an understatement to say he has been a huge disappointment since being drafted 12th overall in 2010.

Last year, SD averaged just 91.3 yards per game on the ground, 27th in the NFL. It’s time for him to step up and help relieve Rivers from having to carry the offense. Ronnie Brown was signed to be a backup and has averaged 15 games a season the last few years after being injury prone in Miami. But, he is 31 and that’s a bad age for RB’s. Danny Woodhead was also signed to provide depth and may be a better option as a primary backup than Brown.

Le’Ron McClain is still one of the better FB’s in the League, he’s a solid blocker. He has paved the way for Rice to achieve multiple 1,000 yard seasons when they played together in Baltimore. The hope is he can help Mathews develop with his blocking ability.

The offensive line used to be a strength, but was awful last year. Rivers was sacked 49 times, 2nd most among starting QB’s last year. DJ Fluker was their 1st round draft pick and he might help upgrade the running game. The rest of the OL isn’t that great with center Hardwick aging and a couple guys that are 6 feet 7 and 6 feet 9. They might be better suited to playing basketball than football.

The defenseChargers

Cam Thomas will be the nose tackle in the base 3-4 defense, but they will run a bit of a 4-3 as well. Thomas is a 3rd year pro that will be starting for the first time in his career, he recorded 20 tackles and had one tackle for a loss last year. The defensive ends will be Corey Liuget (7 sacks) and Kendall Reyes (5.5 sacks), they will help take some pressure off Thomas.

Melvin Ingram suffered a torn ACL in OTA’s and this was a huge loss for a team expecting him to be a huge impact player in his 2nd year. He had just 1 sack last year, but progressed as the season went on as he gained experience. Dwight Freeney was their big free agent signing and he had a horrible season with the Colts (12 tackles and 5 sacks in 14 games). At 33, he’s showing signs of being past his prime, but he’ll be starting at one OLB position. Jarrett Johnson is the other OLB and at 32, he might be slowing down also. He had just 40 tackles last year, the lowest since 2006. The strength of the LB’ers is on the inside with Donald Butler (77 tackles and 3 sacks) and 2nd round draft pick Manti Te’o.

The secondary might be among the worst in the entire League so they will need the pass rush to step up and get to the QB. Free safety Eric Weddle is the only  player that is Pro Bowl caliber quality.  Cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both gone and replaced by an injury prone player in Derek Cox and the inexperienced Shareece Wright. Marcus Gilchrist is the new strong safety, but he’s 5-10 and 193 pounds. Decent size for a CB, but way undersized for a SS.

Special teams

For many years the Chargers were spoiled by Nate Kaeding, but it seems like the Chargers have found a suitable replacement in Nick Novak. He converted 18 of 20 FGA’s (90%) last year and seems to have solidified his future with the team.

Mike Scifres is one of the best punters in the NFL (40.6 net average) and he gives the Chargers a great kicker/punter combination.

Eddie Royal will be the main punt returner, but he’ll be challenged by Allen.

Richard Goodman and Royal will be the primary kick returners.

OutlookMike McCoy

The Chargers have a new head coach in Mike McCoy and there will be an adjustment period for this team as he implements his strategy with them. I think they’ll be fighting with the Raiders to stay out of last place. Von Miller was suspended for the first 6 games, but Denver’s offense is loaded and should be fine to withstand his loss and win the AFC West going away. Kansas City is vastly improved with the pickups of QB Alex Smith and HC Andy Reid and should be the 2nd best team. I think the Chargers finish with a 7-9/8-8 record.

EJ With the 2nd Opinion

I’m not high on the Chargers. Why? A declining Phillip Rivers, a declining Antonio Gates, no standouts at receiver, and a problematic offensive line. All of this spells trouble to me. As bad as the offense is, the defense may actually be worse. The secondary is either injury prone or unexperienced, and the outside linebackers are past their prime. Throw in the fact that the Chargers have to face the NFC East and AFC South, and I’m predicting a 4-12 season for the San Diego Super Chargers.

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Big time sports fan of the Lakers, Raiders, Angels and Dodgers. From 1990-1995, I worked at the Glendale News-Press and I had a blast. I covered mainly high school sporting events and Glendale Community College athletic events, but also attended Dodgers, Raiders, and Rams games. I also write for Joel Huerto (former co-writer and editor at the GNP) at I watch a lot of sports on TV (basketball, football, usually just postseason MLB) and UFC.

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