State of the AFC West: San Diego Chargers

Stephen Dunn

Will the Bolts bounce back from a dreadful 2012?

In 2012, the San Diego Chargers missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. As they normally lose in the playoffs, rather than missing it altogether, ownership fired general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner.

They brought in new GM Tom Telesco and hired Mike McCoy as the new head coach. For the last three years McCoy was offensive coordinator in Denver. This means two years ago he bastardized his system for Tim Tebow's benefit and last year he stuck his thumb up his rear end while Peyton Manning did whatever he wanted and almost went to the Super Bowl.

The Chargers had serious issues at nearly every important spot on the offense- Philip Rivers was dreadful (for his standards; on the Raiders his dreadful would have been an upgrade), Ryan Mathews was traditionally hurt, the WR corps never got over the loss of Vincent Jackson, and the tackle position was manned by a series of ham sandwiches, which are not usually known for their mastery of the power blocking scheme.

The team addressed these needs by drafting Keenan Allen and D.J. Fluker to shore up WR and RT, and recently signing the decrepit Max Starks to play LT until his Social Security checks clear. Rivers and Mathews are being addressed through hope and prayer.

Antonio Gates is still good to great, but there is zero quality depth behind him. If he has his own traditional injury, that spells trouble in San Diego. The Chargers really ought to draft his successor one of these days.

On defense, the Chargers lost both starting cornerbacks -- Antoine Cason as a free agent to the Cardinals and Quentin Jammer to the abyss (he is currently a free agent). They addressed these losses with nobody in particular. Seriously, I looked at their roster. I follow football REALLY closely and I don't recognize any of their cornerbacks. Safeties Brandon Taylor and Eric Weddle are good but wow, corner is going to be a problem for them.

The linebackers look good with rookie MLB Manti Te'o joining Melvin Ingram and Larry English. This unit will most definitely be the strength of their defense. Dwight Freeney has also joined the team. He is the only proven pass rusher they have and if he can regain the form that made him a terror in Indianapolis, he will be a huge asset to them.

The defensive line is young and promising, with hulking tackles Corey Liuget and Cam Thomas stuffing the middle. It won't be easy to rush against those two, but, like the Chiefs, the Chargers run a 3-4, so Liuget plays DE in that scheme. Former Stacy McGee teammate Jamarkus McFarland and last year's second round pick Kendall Reyes also play DE for the Bolts, but it's likely Freeney will be the main pass rushing threat.

So, the Chargers finally did the right thing and jettisoned AJ Smith and Norv Turner, who were pretty clearly the problem. Now they have to hope Mike McCoy is the solution. The receiving corps is young and promising, and when healthy Ryan Mathews is a force. When the Chargers look good on paper they always choke. Now that they don't look quite as good, will they exceed expectations? We'll see.

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