With Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram out, where is the Chargers' pass rush going to come from? Will there BE much of a pass rush to speak of?
No, there probably won't be.
Oh, you wanted more than that? Ummmmm, I don't know. The pass rush wasn't really terrible against the Cowboys after Freeney left, but I still can't wrap my head around why it wasn't terrible. Larry English (he of "first round bust" fame) and Jarret Johnson (known as a run-stopper and not a pass rusher) are the two starting pass rushers. Behind them are a sixth round rookie (Tourek Williams), a guy from our practice squad (Thomas Keiser) and a 4-3 DE that can only really play in nickel formation (Jairus Wynn).
Because Terrelle Pryor isn't a great pocket passer, I imagine they'll use someone to "spy" Pryor and focus on stopping the run (and big plays downfield). They'll be hoping to get the Raiders into 3rd-and-long, when Eric Weddle or Marcus Gilchrist usually come down into the box and blitz up the middle along with one of the linebackers. It's what they've been doing with Freeney (their defense is the worst in the league) and it's what they'll do without him, while crossing themselves and their fingers.
With the line as suspect as it is, have the Chargers all but abandoned the running game and put the games on Phillip Rivers' arm? Is that wise?
Nope! The biggest difference this season is probably the offensive coaches sticking with the running game no matter what, understanding that balance is very important. The offensive line has been good, although they're a bit beat up, and sometimes the coaches have to get creative to get yards on the ground (quick FB runs with Le'Ron McClain and draws with Danny Woodhead have been mixed in), but they will not abandon the running game.
Would a solid pass rush be the key to stopping the Chargers' attack?
Norv Turner's team would certainly agree with that, but things have changed. Imagine the Raiders are playing against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The only way to stop Manning is to fool him. If you can't disguise what you're doing on defense well enough, he'll figure it out and attack the weakness before anyone can blink. This is the same basic philosophy. If the team is blitzing to create a blitz, Rivers will see it and check to a play that takes advantage of it. If the team is dropping back in zone, he'll see that and work accordingly. If the Raiders can generate a consistent pass rush with four defensive linemen, they stand a good chance of stopping any offense in the league. Short of that, it's all about disguising what you do to try and trick Rivers.
Antonio Gates is having a resurgent season but it seems he is carrying the receiving corps. Is that a concern? Do any other receivers look like they might step up?
He's always sort of carried the receiving corps, but I get what you're saying. Losing Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd for the season has caused some adjusting. Eddie Royal has obviously had a great first quarter, and the coaches have finally figured out how to use Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen (more here: http://www.boltsfromtheblue.com/2013/10/2/4793344/vincent-brown-san-diego-chargers-breakout-player). The receiving corps should be more solid going forward because of that, but they haven't exactly been bad. In fact, they've been good enough to pull double-teams away from Gates and give him single-coverage for the first time in years.
How are the Chargers rookies DJ Fluker and Manti Te'o looking?
Fluker has played in three of the first four games, missing the Texans game with a concussion, and has looked great in all of them. He is a very large, very strong man and his technique seems to improve drastically each week. Considering he did a good job of handling J.J. Watt by himself in Week 1, that's saying something.
Te'o playing 9 snaps in his first preseason game and then didn't get on the field again until playing 15 or so snaps against the Cowboys last week. He looks like a strong, instinctual player that's a little rusty. There's a step in quickness that I saw in college that he doesn't have back, but that makes sense considering the time that he missed. He'll play more this week, and probably be a little better, but he wasn't bad against Dallas either. The expectations for him are very high because he's already playing at an "average" level for a starting linebacker.