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PFT Preseason Power Rankings #16: San Diego Chargers

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Blue Bolt, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Preseason Power Rankings No. 16: San Diego Chargers
    Posted by Mike Wilkening on July 15, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT


    The 2013 Chargers earned the AFC’s final wild card berth on the final day of the regular season, and were they ever the definition of a wild card.

    Of the Chargers’ seven losses a season ago, six were by one score or less. They were 5-2 against playoff clubs but a mere 4-5 against also-rans, including defeats to Oakland, Washington and Houston.

    But in the end, San Diego got hot at the right time, winning four in a row to end the regular season. Then, in the postseason, the Chargers proved they belonged, upsetting the favored Bengals in Cincinnati and putting up a fight in a loss at Denver in the divisional round.

    In all, it was a successful first season for Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, who oversaw a club that always seemed to give itself a chance to win. And was it ever a splendid return to top form for quarterback Philip Rivers, who again looked like one of the best in his profession.

    In some ways, the Chargers might have been ahead of schedule a season ago. The question is, what growth are they capable of this time around?

    Strengths.

    The Chargers’ offense is formidable. Rivers was fun to watch in 2013, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and ranking near the top of the NFL in passing yards gained per attempt (8.2). He was sacked 19 fewer times in 2013 than in the previous campaign (30 vs. 49), which speaks well of McCoy’s scheme and the work of the offensive line, which stepped up its play.

    No team was better on third downs than the Chargers, and no quarterback may have been better than Rivers in such situations. Per STATS LLC, Rivers converted first downs on a league-high 49.4 percent of his passing attempts (77-of-156).

    Rivers has multiple capable targets. Second-year wide receiver Keenan Allen starred as a rookie, hauling in 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Tight end Antonio Gates (77 catches, 872 yards, four TDs) is a key security blanket for Rivers, as is tailback Danny Woodhead (76 catches, 605 yards, six TDs). Wide receivers Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal and tight end Ladarius Green will also get their shots to contribute, too.

    The Chargers’ running game is no slouch, either. Lead back Ryan Mathews racked up 1,255 yards a season ago in a career-best campaign. Ex-Colt Donald Brown gives San Diego another starter-caliber rusher behind Mathews. In addition to his pass catching, Woodhead can chip in a few carries per game.

    Finally, the Chargers’ defense appears stronger than a season ago. Free safety Eric Weedle is a standout, while ex-Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers could be just what the secondary needs. Defensive end Corey Liguet (12.5 combined sacks in the last two seasons), inside linebacker Donald Butler and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram are nice defensive foundation pieces for now and the future.

    Weaknesses.

    The Chargers allowed more yards per rush and per pass than any other AFC a team a season ago. Even if San Diego’s defense is better — and it should be, with Flowers arriving and Ingram and Dwight Freeney returning from injury-shortened campaigns — this isn’t a shutdown group by any stretch.

    The play of the outside linebackers will be key for the Chargers. Liguet (5.5 sacks) paced the club in sacks in 2013, with fellow end Kendall Reyes finishing second with five sacks. For a club employing a 3-4 base scheme like San Diego, the outside ‘backers must generate some pressure off the edges.

    On offense, the play of the Chargers’ line still bears some monitoring, even after the improvements made a season ago.

    Changes.

    The Chargers’ most important changes could come in the secondary, where Flowers and first-round pick Jason Verrett should bolster the cornerback corps. Those additions came after the club cut ties with corner Derek Cox, who struggled in his lone season in San Diego.

    The Chargers have a new offensive coordinator, with Frank Reich replacing Ken Whisenhunt, who became the Titans’ head coach. San Diego has also made a change at backup quarterback, with Kellen Clemens (ex-St. Louis) signing on to replace Charlie Whitehurst, who followed Whisenhunt to Tennessee.

    The Chargers’ RB depth chart is a little more crowded with the addition of Donald Brown, who led the Colts in rushing a season ago. He effectively replaces Ronnie Brown as one of the club’s top three backs.

    Camp battles.

    Several positions bear watching:

    — Right guard: Incumbent Jeromey Clary comes off shoulder and hip surgery; can third-round pick Chris Watt push him for the job?

    — Cornerback: Flowers, Verrett and holdovers Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall are the top four options at the position. Flowers seems likely to garner a major role, but how quickly will Verrett adjust to the NFL game?

    — Running back: How will the reps be split between Mathews, Woodhead and Brown?

    — Nose tackle: Sean Lissemore, Ryan Carrethers and Kwame Geathersare among the options. Cam Thomas, one of the regulars at the position a season ago, signed with Pittsburgh.

    — Outside linebacker: There could be some healthy competition here, with Ingram, Freeney, Larry English, Jarret Johnson, Thomas Keiser and rookie Jeremiah Attaochu all in the mix for work.

    Prospects.

    The Chargers’ schedule is both inviting and challenging, with the biggest tests right out of the gate and down the stretch.

    The Chargers begin with a pair of challenging out-of-conference games at Arizona and vs. Seattle. A 0-2 start is quite possible, given the degree of difficulty of those matchups.

    Then comes a five-game run that could ultimately make or break the Chargers’ season. The next five opponents — the Bills (away), Jets (home), Jaguars (home), Raiders (away) and Chiefs (home) — are all conference opponents ranked behind San Diego in PFT’s preseason power rankings. Here’s a chance for the Chargers to stack up some important AFC wins — and they must do so.

    Similarly, the Chargers need to make hay in the early part of November. They begin the month at Miami (Nov. 2), then take their bye. Then comes home games vs. Oakland (Nov. 16) and St. Louis (Nov. 23). The Chargers may have to sweep this three-game stretch, considering their next five games — their final of the campaign — are at Baltimore, home vs. New England, home vs. Denver, at San Francisco and at Kansas City.

    In all, the schedule seems a perfect test for the Chargers. If their offense remains potent and efficient, and if their defense has improved, the Chargers could get rolling, and they could prove a challenging matchup for anyone, even those strong outfits they face in the final weeks.

    The Chargers didn’t blink in tough situations a season ago, which makes them all the more intriguing in 2014. But can they move forward? It probably comes down to whether they can get a few more stops on “D.” They are going to score their share of points.
     
  2. Dominion Bolt

    Dominion Bolt BoltTalker

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    In my humble opinion, not a bad article; better than a lot I've read this offseason. At the least the writer did some homework.
     
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  3. Joy Division

    Joy Division Slightly-known Member

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    Agree. One of Florio's better hires (as in he writes better than his boss)...
     
  4. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Don't agree with the ranking though. As a team that won a playoff game (despite "backing in"), they should be higher than the middle of the pack. A team's ranking isn't the same as a win/loss prediction.

    We know they have a tough schedule, but the roster looks to be improved, both because of player addition, and players coming back from injury. You also have to consider that last year was McCoy's first as a HC, and the team's first under a new regime. Objectively, I don't see how you wouldn't consider this team improved compared to last year. Placing them at #16 is too low. There aren't 15 teams that are clearly better than the Chargers.
     
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  5. Joy Division

    Joy Division Slightly-known Member

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    It's always seemed a bit strange to me to assume that players coming back from injury are going to make the team
    better the next season. What usually happens is that the team will still lose some players (sometimes starters) to injury before the season begins whether they're coming back from injury or not. In a perfect world there'd be no injuries and lost
    seasons, but that is hardly ever the case.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is..I don't have much faith in Freeney or Floyd making it through a whole season. On top of that, we could possibly lose another starter in preseason or early in the season. Hopefully it's not Dunlap (reverse jinx).
     
  6. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Sure, you could say that, but Floyd only played 2 games for us last year, and Freeney only 4. Odds are that if they are healthy to start the season, one (or both) will gives us a bigger contribution than that. We also have Ingram coming back healthy, and Attaochu as an addition to the pass rush. We have better depth in general, so even if we have some injuries, I think we'll weather it better than last year.
     
  7. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    I think putting us at 16 and Pitt at 15 is just a continuation if his little tantrum of the Chargers getting in the playoffs over the Steelers. He covered that whole thing like a whiny fanboy.
     
  8. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Well, obviously they're better, because they signed Cam Thomas. ;)
     
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  9. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    Maybe I'm being a homer, but the only teams that I see easily stacking up better than us right now are SEA, SF, DEN, NO, NE, and GB. That would leave us 7th.
     
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  10. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

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    I thought it did enuff to fill the void that is off season.

    Keep em commin.
     
  11. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

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    We can't sleep on week 17 game in arrowhead. Kc has gotten to be a pretty hostile place for SD. And they will play us close regardless of record/post season relevance.
     
  12. Hgrove99

    Hgrove99 BoltTalker

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    NFC WEST played the AFC SOUTH last year.....Im thinking they looked a bit better than what the really were. Call me Homer but ill take Philip Rivers over Colin Kap and Ruslle W. all day everyday. Lets see what happens...
     
  13. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    I fail to see the connection between this and the post you quoted.
     
  14. Lance19

    Lance19 BoltTalker

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    Jesse, I try to be as hopeful each preseason as anyone...
    but yes, looking at this roster, thinking only six teams are better,
    I'd say that's the DEFINITION of being a homer.
    [not that there's anything wrong with that]
     
  15. chahjah

    chahjah BoltTalker

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    Those 2 are way too overrated
    Kaep fails to do anything under substantial amount of pressure and he makes needless mistakes when his 1st option WR is covered
    Wilson is meh. Stil think that he needs to prove much more.

    It would be nice if Rivers had the legs of kaep or wilson but he doesn't need em cause he's already too good :cool::cool:
     
  16. matilack

    matilack #therealagent47

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    I wish our D-line was better, but I agree. We shouldn't be intimidated by any team , as long as PR is healthy and the defense is mediocre we will be in every game.
     
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  17. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    Ok, so who are the other teams that are definitely over us? I can think of several that are in the conversation.
     
  18. ThunderHorse17

    ThunderHorse17 Lone Wolf

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    True I read as if it was a list of the biggest threat opponents we face this year.

    KC Week 17 will be pivotal.
     
  19. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    I think the Seahawks, Niners, Broncos, Packers, Saints, and Patriots are a pretty clear cut above us.

    After that, I'd say we're in a jumble with the Colts, Panthers, Eagles, Steelers, Ravens, and Bears. I would have included the Chiefs and Cardinals in that group, but they've lost too much. I think they'll have trouble keeping pace.

    So that would leave us in the 7th-13th range. 16th is silly.
     
  20. matilack

    matilack #therealagent47

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    My rank...
    1. Broncos
    2. Seahawks
    3. 49ers
    4. Saints
    5. Patriots
    6. Packers
    7. Eagles
    8. Chargers
    9. Colts
    10. Bears

    Not a fan of the Panthers, Ravens, or Steelers this year, just too many questions at marquee positions.
     
  21. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    I'm not sure that the Ravens qualify as a team that's clearly better than the Chargers.
     
  22. Dominion Bolt

    Dominion Bolt BoltTalker

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    I agree. I think the Bolts are better than the Ravens, but SD needs to prove that in Baltimore in November, and blow out the funk from "4th and 28"
     
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  23. HEXEDBOLT

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

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    Wish I knew what was going to happen that would be so cool, but this ain't the same as the big box under the Christmas Tree. :(
     
  24. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Another preview that ranks the Chargers at #16.......... go figure.

    [​IMG]

    Shutdown Countdown: San Diego Chargers go for another playoff berth
    By Frank Schwab
    Shutdown Corner


    Mike McCoy got almost no buzz for coach of the year at the end of last season. But McCoy, a first-time head coach, did a phenomenal job.

    San Diego's roster, on paper, wasn't impressive. Quarterback Philip Rivers was in a multiple-year slide. The defense looked like a mess ... and it ended up being a mess. With a rookie head coach the Chargers went 9-7, were the only team to win at Denver all season, beat a tough Cincinnati team on the road in the playoffs and gave Denver a good game the following week before falling.

    And San Diego was on the verge of having a much better record, considering they had brutally close losses to Houston, Tennessee and Washington. The Chargers also had a four-point loss at Miami in which their final drive stalled on the Dolphins' 25-yard line. So they were a bit unlucky to be just 9-7 last year. And give McCoy a lot of credit for not letting the Chargers get down after a few truly crushing losses early on.

    Donald Brown. The move was really strange because running back was a position of strength. The team didn't lose anyone of note, and re-signed linebacker Donald Butler before he hit free agency, so the roster is about the same. But I still didn't like their offseason plan.

    Best offseason acquisition: Cornerback Brandon Flowers seems to fit that defensive need the Chargers had, and he is an upgrade. But before anyone gets too excited, let's keep in mind that the Chiefs, who have plenty of cap space and didn't add anyone noteworthy this offseason, cut Flowers in June because they didn't think he was worth the money. Maybe the Chiefs were totally wrong about Flowers, but this isn't exactly the Patriots signing Darrelle Revis. Still, between Flowers and first-round pick Jason Verrett, San Diego's cornerbacks will be better.

    Achilles heel: There were four defenses that gave up more than 6 yards per play last season: Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego. The Chargers ranked 29th in yards per pass attempt allowed and 27th in yards per rushing attempt allowed, so they were bad all around on defense. San Diego's defense ranked 32nd in Football Outsiders' DVOA per-play metric. Make no mistake, the Chargers went to the playoffs in spite of their defense. They were good at keeping teams out of the end zone (11th in points allowed) but you can only keep that up so long if you're giving up a ton of yards. The Chargers defense needs to improve for the team to get back in the playoffs.

    Position in flux: For years, Antonio Gates has been Philip Rivers' best target in the passing game. Now, there's a fair question if Gates is even the Chargers' best tight end. Gates isn't going anywhere after a solid 2013 season, but he had 550 yards in the first half of the season and just 322 yards in the second half. When he slowed down, Ladarius Green took off. He averaged 22.1 yards per catch, a ridiculous number for any player and an otherworldly figure for a tight end. Green had a playoff touchdown and Gates had just three catches for 15 yards in two playoff games. Gates is 34, and while he's clearly a Hall of Famer, the Chargers might have to make tough decisions about how to use both tight ends, and which one helps them more now.

    Ready to break out: Now that we've reached a point where Manti Te'o is a football player and not an easy subject for bad amateur comedians on Twitter, it will be worth watching what kind of strides he makes his second season. As a rookie he was set back by a foot injury he suffered in preseason. It caused him to miss San Diego's first three games and he had surgery after the season. He still had a fair rookie season and one would assume he'll be better this season. The Chargers didn't trade up to take Te'o in the second round to have him be a career-long two-down linebacker, which he was as a rookie, so expect an expanded role too. Te'o was one of college football's all-time great linebackers, and he has a chance to be a good pro as well.
    Stat fact: Keenan Allen was just the fifth rookie receiver since 2000 to reach 1,000 yards, he set Chargers records with 71 catches and 1,046 yards and added eight touchdowns too. Even more remarkably, through three games Allen had three catches for 30 yards. So he did some impressive damage in what amounts to a 13-game season. The Chargers will feature him early and often this season, and his numbers should improve significantly.

    Schedule degree of difficulty: The bad news is the Chargers are tied for the fourth toughest schedule in the NFL. It won't be nearly as easy to make the playoffs with a slate that includes four games against the NFC West. The Chargers' final five games are at Baltimore, vs. New England, vs. Denver, at San Francisco and at Kansas City. Good luck.

    Burning question

    This team’s best-case scenario for the 2014 season: The Chargers could have easily won a couple more games and not had to sweat out a playoff berth last season, barely beating a Kansas City team that played virtually no starters in Week 17. The decisive win against the Bengals did validate their playoff spot, and should give the team confidence this year. Rivers has seemingly been reborn (the emergence of Green and Allen helped), and if the defense improves some, there's no reason the Chargers can't be just as good as last year and make the playoffs again.

    And here’s the nightmare scenario: If the defense isn't better, it's hard to live on the "bend and don't break" model forever. Especially against a schedule that will be much tougher. If running back Ryan Matthews, who was the MVP in that late-season run, remembers that he's supposed to be injury prone, the defense isn't any better and the points allowed match up with the yards allowed, the Chargers won't be going back to the playoffs.

    The crystal ball says: The Chargers' schedule is a lot tougher. But, this team showed last year that it's pretty good, and there just aren't many quality teams in the AFC this season. Someone has to grab the wild-card spots in the AFC, and the Chargers are as good of a bet as any. This is a well-coached team with a good offense (albeit one that lost coordinator Ken Whisenhunt in the offseason). If the defense is better, San Diego will be one of a few teams in the hunt for the sixth seed.
     
  25. Fossil

    Fossil BoltTalker

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    The Shutdown Corner writer doesn't understand why we picked up Donald Brown?
     
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  26. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    Which is ironic considering that in his "nightmare scenario" he talks about how Ryan Mathews is injury prone.
     
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  27. matilack

    matilack #therealagent47

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    Yeah I get it, but I don't love it at all.

    Brown has never had more than 134 carries in a season, and he keeps losing his job. Vic Ballard took it as a rookie, and was going to start last year before he got injured. Then they traded a 1st round pick for Trent Richardson and just gave him the job, until he couldn't hold on to the ball.

    Can Brown carry the load if RM goes down? I'm not sure about that. And he's not cheap either, his cap hit is over $4M next year, which is a lot for a backup, which basically ensures Mathews will not be re-signed long term because in this day and age you just don't see teams spending that much at RB.

    Really all we gained by signing him is peace of mind that whatever RB gets thrown in there will be at least functional, which is more than you can say for a rookie...although I honestly don't think they would have signed him if they'd known they were going to end up with Grice in round 6.
     
  28. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    Ironic that a sports "journalistic" doesn't know his head from his ***? ;)
     
  29. Jesse Kemp

    Jesse Kemp BoltTalker

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    Brown gives us a way more viable option if Mathews or Woodhead goes down. Because his skillset is such that he can fill either role. I don't really care that his career was slow to start behind pathetic Colts lines. From what I've seen, the guys can play.
     
  30. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

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    The knock on Brown is the same as Mathews........ a real talent, but injury prone. Well then, two is better than one, right?
     

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