NFL 32 Team Preview: San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers are next up on our 32 NFL Team breakdowns. San Diego hired Mike McCoy to fill their Head Coach vacancy during the Offseason. Norv Tuner was fired after the team had its first losing season since 2003. McCoy has a had a lot of NFL coaching experience with Carolina and Denver, but this will be his first go-around as a Head Coach. He’ll be looking to make sure that the Chargers don’t miss the Playoffs for the 4th consecutive year in a row.

Offense: The most intriguing part of the hiring of McCoy was the pairing of him with Philip Rivers. McCoy led Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow to career years and worked very well with Peyton Manning last season. Rivers needed a fresh start and McCoy should help him get that and improve on the 24th ranked passing offense from 2012. Rivers was arguably one of the better Quarterbacks in the league at one point, but over the past few seasons hasn’t been his vintage self. Last season, Rivers went down a total of 49 times, and threw 35 interceptions the past 2 years. San Diego knew they had to help keep Rivers standing up and acquired D.J. Fluker with the 11th overall selection in the Draft. Fluker has been questioned if he can handle the Right Tackle position due to his footwork. There has been talk of moving him to the Guard position but I think he’ll handle Tackle fine. He’s a good addition at either position to an Offensive Line that needs new life. Max Starks was brought in to fill the Left Tackle need during Free Agency. Starks had one of his better years only allowing 3 sacks for Pittsburgh last season. With Fluker at Right Tackle, Chad Rinehart would be the starting Right Guard. Rinehart played mostly with the Redskins and Bills. He missed part of 2012 with a season-ending ankle injury but was reliable during his time in Buffalo. Rich Ohrnberger and Johnnie Troutman will be the lead candidates for the Left Guard position and will be battling during Training Camp. Nick Hardwick had one of his worst years last season. The Center needs to rebound and become the pillar of the line once again in 2013. To help Rivers give someone to throw the ball to, the Chargers acquired Keenan Allen in the 3rd round of the Draft. The Wide Receiver was an impressive playmaker at Cal-Berkeley; he fell in the draft due to a knee injury suffered last season. If he can stay healthy, Allen will be a great asset to pair with Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander. Floyd led the team with 56 receptions, in 2012, that went for 814 yards (15 of which were for 20 yards or more) and 5 touchdowns. He accounted for the most first downs on the team with 48. Danario Alexander made a huge impact on the team, catching 37 balls, for 658 yards and 7 touchdowns, in only 10 games played with 6 starts. He quickly became one of Rivers favorite targets when he saw playing time. San Diego will also be getting back Vincent Brown who is a solid route runner and will fit in nicely with the realm of receiving group. Eddie Royal is a notable player here. He didn’t live up to the type of numbers the fans expected him to have last season. However, he could be the odd man out, if everyone stays healthy at this position, and be limited to just return duties. Antonio Gates has been a fixture at Tight End but had disappointing numbers in 2012. He caught 49 passes for 538 yards, his lowest since his rookie year in 2003. He did account for 7 touchdowns but Rivers will need him to be more reliable in his 11th year. Ladarius Green is a physical 6’6 target that some feel could be the next starter at Tight End. Green is going into his second year as a pro and he’ll be someone to keep an eye on when he gets his opportunities this upcoming season. Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead will be the Chargers’ two main Running Backs. Matthews was a player I was enamored with coming into the NFL, but he hasn’t lived up to the expectations I had for him. Partial blame can be put on the Offensive Line, but Matthews hasn’t had a 100-yard game since 12/11/11 vs. Buffalo. Ryan only had one run for 2o yards or more last season. He’s working hard on trying not to fumble as much and needs to be a 1,000-yard back for this Offense to be explosive. Woodhead was a free agent signing who played with the Patriots most of his career. Danny is a versatile back who will help the Offense more on 3rd downs and in the Red Zone. McCoy has a lot of good pieces to work with for this upcoming season in San Diego. The team is going to have to stay healthy and keep Philip Rivers comfortable in the pocket to be successful in 2013.

Defense: San Diego placed 9th in total defense last season, and forced 20 fumbles to go along with 14 interceptions. They’ll hope to get more pressure on signal callers now with the addition of Dwight Freeney. Freeney didn’t really seem like he was a strong presence in the 3-4 scheme with the Colts last season. He had the second lowest sack total of his career with 5, and has digressed in sacks over the last four seasons. Jarret Johnson will be the other starting Outside Linebacker. He was more known for his “we don’t know how to win” comment last year than his play. His backup, Larry English, has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a 1st round pick. Donald Butler will be returning at Middle Linebacker. Butler is solid when he’s on the field, but missed 4 of the last 5 games because he was hurt, and was forced to miss his 2010 rookie campaign due to injury. He’s the most reliable starter in the Linebacker group, so the Chargers would like him to rub some of his knowledge on to rookie Manti Te’o. Te’o was thought of as a Top 5-10 pick in the 2012 and 2013 Drafts. We all know the reason he dropped on a lot of organization’s boards, so where he landed in San Diego was a steal in the 2nd round. Te’o intercepted 7 passes in his final year at Notre Dame. He’ll bring a solid tackling presence and good pass coverage immediately to a position that needs talented youth badly. Defensive End Corey Liuget took a step forward in his game last season, as the former 2011 1st round pick put up 7 sacks, leading the Chargers in tackles for loss with 6. Kendall Reyes will be looking to build off his 5.5 sack rookie season and perform to Liuget’s level of play at the other End. Scouts questioned if he’d be able to put pressure on the Quarterback going into last year’s draft, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in this upcoming season. Cam Thomas is a nice-sized body to anchor the Line at Nose Tackle. Thomas has racked up 6 sacks in his 3 years with the franchise. San Diego signed Derek Cox via Free Agency to play Cornerback. Cox is a solid player who missed 14 games due to injuries over the past 2 seasons and has 12 total interceptions in his 4-year career. He’s by far the best choice for top of the depth chart at the position; Johnny Patrick, Cornelius Brown, Shareece Wright and Steve Williams will be the other players fighting to play at Corner. Marcus Gilchrist was always considered more suited for Safety and will be switching over from Cornerback to become the team’s starting Strong Safety in 2013. Gilchrist is a solid tackler who’s decent in the passing game. He’ll be paired with a player that’s quietly been one of the best at his position, Free Safety Eric Weddle. Weddle led the team in tackles with 97 last year, also registering 9 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and a sack. If Eric can produce the same numbers with a few more interceptions, he’ll surely be a Pro Bowl selection in 2013 for the second time in his career. San Diego’s Defense has all the right players in the middle of the field, at Middle Linebacker and Safety positions, to continue off their 2012 success. They’ll need to hold up on the outsides and put stress on the Quarterback frequently in order to be extremely effective this year.

End Result: I foresee McCoy leading his team to a winning record of 9-7, with Rivers and the Offense showing major improvement.

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