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Change is on the way for Chargers offense

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by boltmanbz, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. boltmanbz

    boltmanbz Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2006
    ANALYSIS: Resolving the running back situation and bolstering the offensive line are among the more intriguing challenges facing GM A.J. Smith

    Kevin Acee (Contact)

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    A five-game winning streak put some lipstick on this pig of a season, but Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith has known since the start of December that he was dealing with some pork chops regardless.

    Rest assured, the butcher is sharpening his knife.

    A massive slaughter is not expected. But for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is that there hasn't been much previous offseason activity under Smith – this should be the most captivating spring in recent memory for the Chargers.

    Sources said last month that a major overhaul (i.e., a big-name free agent) is not in the works. Smith is not prone to panic.

    But he has assessed where he and his staff have perhaps gone wrong and where they need to strengthen the roster if his playoff-caliber team is to become championship-caliber.

    While he has been looking toward this offseason for some time, it is Smith's tradition not to make public his plans until February.

    However, nothing is stopping the rest of us from talking about what needs to be done now. For the purposes of this exercise, we shall go position by position, in order of their proportionate intrigue and importance this offseason. (The offense follows; the defense and special teams will appear Friday.)


    Looking back: Had the offensive line been better, would most people have noticed LaDainian Tomlinson was not still bionic? Maybe not. The same question can be asked in regard to the bookend injuries he suffered (a toe in the season opener and a groin in the season finale). But the fact is, Tomlinson isn't as fast or explosive as he was in 2006, and he finished a second straight season injured. Moreover, he was clearly a diminished factor in the offense. His 292 carries and 344 touches were fewest of his career, as were his 1,110 rushing yards. As for Darren Sproles, he was underused until the Chargers had no choice (74 touches, 448 yards in the first 15 games; 68 and 388 in the final three). There might have been no better weapon in the league on screens. Rookie Mike Tolbert began the season as the starter at fullback but got hurt and was replaced by rookie Jacob Hester, who improved each game.

    Looking ahead: The Chargers have about $15 million in cap space, but they could add nearly $7 million to that by paring one icon. It's not that the Chargers think Tomlinson is finished, but he will count $8.8 million against the cap in 2009 if he's a Charger and about $2.1 million if he isn't. Perhaps with some of the money saved if they release him (a trade of a soon-to-be 30-year-old back coming off injury who is due $6.75 million is unlikely), the Chargers will make an attempt to keep Sproles. But they want him as a returner and perhaps a back who touches the ball 10 times a game. Sproles thinks he can be more, and it will take only one team to believe he can be, too. Hester likely heads into training camp as the starting fullback.


    Looking back: Let's just say it: This wasn't their finest year. The Chargers ranked 20th in the league in rushing at 107.9 yards per game, their lowest rank and average since 2001. The team and left tackle Marcus McNeill were discussing a big contract extension in the summer when he hurt his back. The back never totally healed, and McNeill's run blocking suffered in particular. On the other side, Jeromey Clary had his ups and downs in his first full season as the starter at right tackle. He went against some good players and got beat too often. Mike Goff just kept playing through whatever ailed him, but he and Clary struggled at times – not that they were alone. Center Nick Hardwick missed the season's first three games after foot surgery and then spent the season enduring the pain and getting himself ready to play on Sundays. At least there was left guard Kris Dielman, who had his second straight Pro Bowl season.

    Looking ahead: One coach (Jack Henry) already lost his job, and at least one starter on the line will be gone. Goff, who started 87 straight games since signing as a free agent in 2004, will be allowed to leave the same way he came. Clary could move inside to guard, or it is possible he will lose his job as well. The Chargers select 16th in the draft and will likely look to bolster the right side with that pick. The team also will likely assess McNeill's value again this spring or summer, as he is an unrestricted free agent after the '09 season.


    Looking back: No one but Philip Rivers took a snap, and no Chargers quarterback has ever been statistically better than Rivers was in his third season as a starter (league-leading and team-record 105.5 passer rating and 34 touchdowns). Still not even a year removed from knee reconstruction, Rivers got better at pretty much everything – decision-making, the deep pass, pocket awareness and even mobility.

    Looking ahead: Rivers is the franchise QB. But he needs a contract extension, since his current pact runs out after '09. The price certainly went up this season, and now is the time to get it done. The sides have not had substantial talks, but that will likely change at next week's Senior Bowl or next month's Scouting Combine.


    Looking back: Vincent Jackson's 59 catches for 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns cemented the fact he is an up-and-coming star. Chris Chambers, when he wasn't hurt and wasn't filling in as an inside receiver for an injured Buster Davis, was not the target he was in '08 but still was dependable and at times spectacular. Rivers discovered old friend Malcom Floyd to the tune of 27 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns in just nine games. Davis got hurt again (groin) and went on injured reserve in November.

    Looking ahead: Sources maintained Smith was more upset with Jackson's second incident with alcohol than the GM let on publicly. So Jackson is likely going to need to play another season and show he's capable of better decisions. That's tricky for the Chargers, since he's an unrestricted free agent after '09. Floyd is a restricted free agent, so the intrigue involves what kind of tender the Chargers will give him to make sure they keep him or are richly compensated if he leaves. Davis has one more season to show he can be healthy and productive. If not, he will likely be cut loose and become Smith's most glaring draft mistake. While Chambers had flashes of brilliance, it was also his least-productive year and could signal his future in San Diego won't last beyond his contract expiring in '09.


    Looking back: Antonio Gates will remember this season for the toe, hip and ankle injuries that slowed him. Still, he led the team with 60 receptions and eight touchdown catches. Brandon Manumaleuna shed about 20 pounds and became a hybrid fullback. The Chargers signed Kris Wilson in September to replace injured Scott Chandler. Wilson ended up being a solid special teams contributor.

    Looking ahead: Wilson could stick, while Chandler could be let go before ever getting his Chargers career going. Talks could begin with Gates, whose contract is up after 2010. There is time to deal with him, but he is among Smith's favorites for how he plays and how he carries himself.

    Friday: The defense
  2. cranberry

    cranberry BoltTalker

    Oct 3, 2006
    Thank you boltmanbz, Kevin Acee is always interesting to read.
    I haven't made my mind up, whose dependable from the roster.
  3. clontarf_bolt

    clontarf_bolt Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2008
    is it just me or does this thing pretty much say that we could lose all our best weapons?????

    obviously theres the whole LT thing, and whether or not sproles will stay..

    but chambers, floyd and jackson??
  4. Showmeyourbolt

    Showmeyourbolt Well-Known Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    The butcher's knife is ready, but he doesn't want to sign any free agents? What a joke....

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