Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Concudan, Jul 28, 2011.
It’s no secret that history often repeats itself and the San Diego Chargers are a perfect example. Over recent years the team has always seemed to curdle and expire once the regular season kicks into swing, and then spring to life when it almost appears too late.
But remember when I said the lockout benefits some teams more than others? Well, San Diego is one of them and head coach Norv Turner should consider himself fortunate.
Through just about everything that happened last year—and there was a lot—the Chargers maintained stability on the stat sheet. Okay, so San Diego’s schedule was inconsistent and choppy. But on defense, and offense for that matter, the Chargers were sure-fire barn-burners in the second half of the season, and it wasn’t just a case of luck either.
Defensively, the team is continually building toward bigger and better things. San Diego may not have the high-quality names that say, teams like the New York Jets do, but adding Corey Liuget in the draft things can only improve from here. Therefore, that’s one sign of the Bolts dominance in the AFC West. The other—and perhaps the more important one—is on offense, as wide receiver Vincent Jackson returns from what should be a full-season (with the cooperation of the lockout and the team choosing to keep him around, of course).
At running back, though, there’s still a few knots and crosses to sort out.
Rookie Ryan Matthews provided 678 yards and seven scores last season. That doesn’t mean he’ll be handed anything as far as the starting role goes though. In all likelihood, we will see San Diego utilize Matthews along with Mike Tolbert, another 1-2 punch of youth and experience that’s spreading across the league today.
But really, none of this means anything if the Chargers jump the shark and fall flat. It’s happened before, and it’s still easily become the biggest problem, as the hunt for a Super Bowl Title trudges on.
If there’s one reason to believe that a poor start won’t unfold this season, it’s Phillip Rivers. “I’m about to reach my limit, I’m going stir crazy,” Rivers told CBSSports.com regarding the labor strike. “I think it’s just unfortunate we’ve come to this. The game is at an all-time high. I’m not talking about revenue. I’m talking about popularity. We’re essentially putting all of that at risk. I don’t mean just players. I mean owners, everyone. I didn’t think we’d ever be here. I’m still shocked we’re at this point.”
Like Drew Brees and Larry Fitzgerald, Rivers is itching to return to the field. And he should be, especially after posting another set of MVP-like statistics, but receiving little recognition thanks to the Chargers 9-7 record—something Kyle Orton can also acclaim to.
This season the Bolts just need to ram through the AFC West like they never have before. That’s no picnic when the season kicks off to a lame start, and you’re forced to backpedal to the drawing board by the time Week 8 rolls around. Maybe an eight-game regular season helps the Chargers the most. Still, something about this defense says that San Diego can cope with a full 16 weeks.
A new feature at GridironGrit.com are now article features—allowing one or a few members of the staff to chime in on a topic and apply their quick two-cents when it really absorbs their interest.
Here’s Michael Gartman’s (Founder, CEO) on the Chargers 2011 Season:
This time last year I guaranteed the Chargers would miss the postseason. Everyone said I lost my mind. Well look what happened. Why did I say that? Well it sure wan’t my outlook on the Chiefs—there’s no way I could have seen that coming. Believe it or not, it was because of a less-than-impressive defense, on-going trend of slow starts and a mediocre (at best) aerial attack.
I knew Rivers & Co. would encounter some serious struggles without Vincent Jackson and stuck with Legedu Naanne, Michael Floyd, Antonio Gates (who late dealt with an injury) and Ryan Matthews, who had little to no experience in the passing game. Well as it turns out, wasn’t the main reason for the disappointing season. Rather, it was a gosh-awful special teams unit.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I was right, despite everyone else telling me there was no way I would be. And that also doesn’t change the fact that while I’ll probably be wrong for the exact reason for the results again, I can guarantee you San Diego will crack the playoffs in 2011.
That’s right. The door to famine has been shut tight and the door to feast has been pulled wide open. (I digress.) The team returns healthy, better equipped on offense, defense and most importantly, on special teams. And while Oakland and Kansas City could present a challenge, and probably will, the two teams don’t have the same power as the Chargers.
What are the keys to a Super Bowl run? It starts with the beginning of the season. Week 1 is Minnesota, Week 2 is at New England, next up is Kansas City and Miami back-to-back at home, followed with another division clash with Denver on the road before taking a bye in Week 6.
Worst-case scenario you’re looking at 3-2 and well-rested heading into New York on October 23rd after the bye week. Best-case unbeaten, with the worst—the start of the season—behind them.
What other keys? Stay balanced on offense, add a weapon to the aerial attack, especially if Malcolm Floyd or Vincent Jackson departs and find an answer at safety if Eric Weddle doesn’t make his way back into a Chargers uniform. In any case, I see this team in the playoffs in 2011.
Note that just because I’m guaranteeing postseason play doesn’t necessarily mean that ensures Norv Turner will be back as head coach in 2012.
Harry How/Getty Images
Ryan Mathews had big shoes to fill after LaDanian Tomlinson spoiled the San Diego Chargers fans for years. But after last season's sub-par performance plagued with injury, many people are starting to question A.J. Smith's decision to draft Mathews.
Mathews enters this season with less hype than in the last, as well as a very long offseason which should bring him to 100 percent.
The stage is set. He has to prove this season he has what it takes to release some of the pressure off Philip Rivers and carry a load of his own. Mathews should expect to see the ball in his hands quite a bit this season, giving him an opportunity to prove himself since it's still questionable whether Darren Sproles will return.
The San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee implies that the Chargers still have "several concerns" about Ryan Mathews after a disappointing rookie season.
"It's nothing that won't be forgotten with a breakout season. Mathews' talent isn't in question, but NFL head coaches grow frustrated when their starters aren't available. Mathews spent the majority of the 2010 season in the trainers room with a high-ankle sprain (in addition to a minor elbow injury) before undergoing wrist surgery in January."
Even if Mathews returns this upcoming season at 100 percent, he will be sharing some carries with big-man Mike Tolbert and sixth-round draft pick Jordan Todman out of UConn, which should help him ease into his role as a first-down back.
Either way, Mathews will have to prove he can play better than he did last season, when he broke 100 yards rushing in only one of his 14 starts and fumbled the football five times.
If Ryan Mathews improves his performance on the field and Philip Rivers remains as dominant as last season, look out for the San Diego Chargers to regain the top spot in the AFC West.
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