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Friday, February 21, 2014

Off-season Troubleshooting: San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers had a very good 2013, fighting their way to a surprise wild-card spot on the back of a resurgent Philip Rivers at quarterback, going on to beat the Bengals in the wild-card round. They achieved this in spite of being in a tough division, featuring the Chiefs and Broncos who both had double-digits in the win column this year. What can they do to build on their 9-7 season and keep up with the other AFC West powerhouses? We’ll take a look at that here:



Offense:

New life was breathed into this offense after Mike McCoy was appointed as head coach and revitalized quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers had been coming in off the back of a couple of down years, but threw for just under 4500 yards, landing 32 touchdowns and a 70% completion rate, earning the NFL comeback player of the year award in the process. Looking at his stats sheet, it isn’t hard to see how the Chargers did so well. He was also aided by Ryan Matthews earning a massive 1255 yards on the ground, and with free agent pick-up Danny Woodhead providing a dual threat, with 429 yards on the ground and a further 605 through the air. Antonio Gates also had one of his best seasons, taking his 77 receptions for 872 yards. 3rd round draft pick Keenan Allen was also very productive, especially in the light of Eddie Royal’s injury problems, adding a further 1046 yards in an offense that was moving the ball freely. The Chargers are still held back by the offensive line, which is becoming their perennial problem at this point, and could do with adding another wide receiver if Eddie Royal becomes a casualty of the salary cap,  but this offense is shaping up well, and could be considered one of the most potent in the league. That being said, they struggled to get going against the Broncos in the divisional round, so they can still improve. 

Defense:

Things were not so rosy on the other side of the ball, as the San Diego defense struggled for long spells. They gave up an average of 22.5 points per game, which was fine when their high-scoring offense could bail them out, but when that didn’t work there were ugly losses to the Raiders and Washington. Teams were able to work over the San Diego secondary, although in fairness a lot of teams had no choice but to throw the ball often in an attempt to keep up with the Chargers. But a more solid secondary would have been able to deal with that. Instead, the Chargers gave up an average of 258 yards per game through the air. Expect this to be an area targeted in the draft. The Chargers won’t have a lot of money to throw around in free agency, so will be looking for improvements from existing players. Manti Te’o is just one who will be expected to contribute more in the defensive effort next year, after registering only 61 tackles in his 13 games. More pressure will be needed too and, although they were unlucky to lose Dwight Freeney to season-ending injury early, he is far from a lock to return, and a pass rusher will be sought.

Players to target in free agency:

Kenny Britt, WR.
Tiquan Underwood, WR.
Zane Beadles, G.
Justin Tuck, DE.
Will Smith, DE.
Ziggy Hood, DT.
Jabrari Greer, CB.
Antoine Cason, CB.

By Andy Halligan

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