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5 questions for the Chargers

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Blue Bolt, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

    Oct 28, 2009
    Chargers in depth: Can Philip Rivers get Steve Smith as weapon?
    By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY
    Updated 20h 19m ago

    The NFL lockout has dampened the usual offseason analysis of each team's comings and goings. But, lockout or not, the league will still be moving on at some point -- hopefully in time for the 2011 regular season to start on time on Sept. 8. And during the labor impasse, USA TODAY will focus back on the field by breaking down the five biggest questions facing each team for the 2011 season.

    Up today: The San Diego Chargers

    1. Is there a special teams squad in the NFL under more scrutiny than the Chargers' kicking-game units?

    Probably not. San Diego fielded the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense and No. 1 defense last season, yet still missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record as it was unable to overcome early-season miscues on special teams that cost games and cost former special teams coach Steve Crosby his job. Enter Rich Bisaccia, who spent the past nine seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' special teams coach and is now entrusted to fix the Chargers' kicking-game woes. While Crosby took the fall, it is also incumbent on GM A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner to provide the personnel for the special teams, whose losses in recent years included standout cover man Kassim Osgood. Smith was aggressive in the draft, using five of his eight picks on players projected -- based on mentality and kicking-game experience -- for special teams roles. Bisaccia also inherits one of the NFL's most lethal kickoff/punt returners in Darren Sproles and one of the NFL's most reliable kickers in Nate Kaeding -- although Kaeding has playoff blemishes on his resume that will draw scrutiny of its own if the Chargers get back to playing in January.

    2. Will the Chargers land Steve Smith to become a new go-to target for quarterback Philip Rivers?

    Perhaps. Smith, the Carolina Panthers' diminutive dynamo, has declared that he wants out and listed the Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens as teams he would be interested in joining.

    The Chargers could certainly use him, with uncertainty hovering above Rivers' receiving corps. Rivers carried the Chargers offense last season, ranking second in the NFL with a 101.8 passer rating and leading the league with 4,710 yards -- despite the absence of big playmaker Vincent Jackson for much of the season and with an injury-ravaged corps of wideouts. Jackson was designated as a "franchise" player and Malcom Floyd is set to become some type of free agent, depending on what the free agency rules are whenever the labor issue is clarified. So the status of the top two wideouts is a bit murky. In any event, an offense that revolves around Rivers' arm and all-world tight end Antonio Gates' presence should find itself back in the thick of the playoff picture. It could use a boost from Smith -- provided that A.J. Smith can swing a trade and rework the contract of a player due $15 million on the final two years of his deal with the Panthers.

    3. Can Ryan Mathews emerge as the consistent running back the Chargers traded up to draft last year?

    Maybe. The Chargers, post-LaDainian Tomlinson, had big plans in moving up to select the NCAA rushing champ from Fresno State in the first round last year and undoubtedly are sticking to their projections. Yet Mathews, despite flashes of brilliance, had a rocky rookie year, undone by ankle and wrist injuries. The ankle is apparently back to 100% and he underwent wrist surgery in January. How he holds up over the long haul must be proven, yet he certainly has tools that include quick acceleration. Mathews averaged 4.3 yards on his 158 rushes last season (for 678 yards) and scored seven TDs. It's reasonable to expect him to be better the second time around. With Mathews' setbacks, though, the Chargers discovered another backfield weapon in bowling ball power-runner Mike Tolbert (735 rushing yards, 11 TDs), who earned more touches by performance in addition to circumstance. So an even better plan is to field a lethal 1-2 punch with Mathews and Tolbert.

    4. How much will the Chargers miss Ron Rivera?

    In crafting one of the NFL's best defenses in recent years, former coordinator Rivera (who moved on to become the Panthers' head coach) had a knack for generating consistent pressure and improvising otherwise due to injuries. Now Greg Manusky comes back to San Diego after serving the past four years as the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. That Manusky spent six years with the Chargers (2001-2006) helps ease the transition. He'll run a similar 3-4 defense ... and inherit the challenge of trying to develop a complementary edge rusher to Shaun Phillips, who had a team-high 11 sacks last year. The Chargers still haven't replaced since-departed Shawne Merriman's production (when healthy), with Larry English hardly providing the presence expected from a player drafted in the first round in 2009. San Diego moved to re-stock the defense in the draft, leading off with Illinois defensive end Corey Liuget (18th overall), who is expected to push Jacques Cesaire out of the starting lineup. And it will be worth watching to see if oft-injured safety Bob Sanders, once the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year with the Indianapolis Colts, can stay healthy enough to become an impact player again as the Chargers signed him for a comeback opportunity.

    5. Are the Chargers destined to begin the season with another slow start?

    The track record hasn't been good. San Diego's 2-5 start last season, followed by a late-season rally, continued a pattern that has been all-too-familiar for Chargers fans. Coach Norv Turner contends that each season is different unto itself, with different reasons causing stumbles out of the gate. Maybe so. But the net effect is that the Chargers -- for all of their ability to improve as the season continues and play their best football near the end -- typically leave themselves little room for error as the seasons progress. In the past it has cost them playoff positioning; last year it cost a playoff spot. Now what? Turner, The San Diego Union Tribune reported recently, expects that he'll use training camp (lockout-abbreviated or otherwise) for more conditioning work and less experimentation than in previous camps. And with the extra time afforded by the lockout, Chargers coaches have already began game-planning preparations for their first two opponents -- the Minnesota Vikings and the New England Patriots. A cynic might suggest that given their history, the Chargers might be best served by a lockout that lingers until they find their mid-season groove.
  2. Concudan

    Concudan Meh... Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 5, 2006
    The only question is will there be a season.

    NFL has prepared finacially to not play in 2011.

    They have stated in the press they are prepared to go to 8 games...

    Sounds to me like the golden goose is in the oven...
  3. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

    Oct 28, 2009
    Golden brown goose....... Mmmmmmmm. ;)

  4. CoronaDoug

    CoronaDoug Official Hater

    Feb 14, 2007
    Sproles lethal? :icon_rofl: Kaeding blemishes? :icon_rofl: More like a deformity.
  5. Enormo

    Enormo BoltTalker

    Jul 22, 2007
    That and Rivera consistently pressuring QBs were misses in this article.
  6. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    I'd like mine with oyster stuffing, please.
  7. Ride The Lightning

    Ride The Lightning Join the Dark Side, we have cookies.

    Aug 15, 2006
    1. No.
    2. Maybe, but even w/ SS, Jackson is still the #1.
    3. Yes.
    4. No.
    5. Duh.

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