Sorry its been a long time since I have been in the saddle. Incredibly busy with my new business, and needed a sabbatical from the growing negativity regarding our Broncos.
Anyway, as promised, here is my look at the San Diego Chargers. Take it with a grain of salt, as I am generally a blunt person and can be a tad sarcacstic.
Have at it below the jump!
SAN DIEGO IS GOING TO WIN IT ALL. THE MOST TALENTED TEAM IN THE NFL.
We have heard this about this franchise for the past 4-5 years, where results tell us that they are a vastly UNDERPERFORMING TEAM for the talent level. What needs to be considered this year is that this team is a year older, with many questions that have not been answered in free agency or the draft.
Lets take a look at the roster firstly:
Hey, no doubting the chargers have a good offense. I am not going to rate it great as many MSM pundits will, but it has the makings of an offense that can dominate more often than not.
Love him or hate him, you have to respect Phillip Rivers. He did what Jay Cutler could not, and thats lead his team to the play offs while being completely under the pump. The kid has moxie and the ability to perform in the clutch situation. I rate him as one of the the Top 3 QB's in the AFC, and Top 6 in the league. He has a good back up in Billy Volek as well, who can manage a game and not be flustered. The chargers has one of the more sound QB corps in the NFL.
Moving to the running backs, you have the great LT. He WAS great, but is now nothing more than a competent performer. He has had a lot of work, and no matter what the "experts" say high mileage is taking its toll. They do have one of the best change of pace backs in the league in Darren Sproles, but his effectiveness will be limited if he is asked to be a bell cow. An injury to LT changes the dynamic in which the Chargers will use Sproles. Hester is a so - so plodder in my opinion, but is still young and could show me something this year. I do like Michael Bennett. he is quick, can run between tackles and could be good insurance for LT.
I like the TE corps that San Diego. I think Gates is slightly over rated, but still one of the best out there, but he struggled some last year and will look to bounce back in his contract year. I am actually more high on Brandon Mamaleuna than many people. His pass catching skills are vastly under rated, and he seems to come up with that clutch 3rd down conversion when no one is looking for him. Look for a little more involvement in the catching game from him, to free up Gates a little.
Which leads us to the Wide Receiving corps, which I believe is a REAL weakness of this San Diego team. Chris Chambers is considered their no 1 WR, but there was nothing I saw out of him last year that suggests he is even an average No 1 WR. He struggled for separation, has lost some speed and even had trouble in one on one match ups. Vincent Jackson came on last year, but in much the same vein as Brandon Marshall, is nothing more than an over hyped possession receiver. There is no doubting that he has upside, but has off the field issues which has sent up some red flags in San Diego. I like Malcolm Floyd. he is a serviceable no 4 and Naanee does some nice things too. Craig Davis? Hes a bust. A bad pick in the first round for the Chargers. With no true 1 WR, an average no 2 in Chambers and a couple of no 4 or 5 WR's but no true 3, puts a lot of pressure on the TE's and LT. If I am the Chargers I am taking a HARD look at Armani Toomer. This is a major worry for this team.
What to think of this line. They were VERY average last year, and with the only upside being the return of McNeill from a neck injury, but with this injury still a cause for concern with his initial effectiveness. This is another area of concern. An running game relying on the bouncing back of a 30 plus running back with a line that was below average in run blocking. Would not leave me feeling overly confident as a Chargers fan. Mike Goff will be a loss for this team at RT, with LT a question mark relying on McNeill's recovery. Not awe inspiring!
Ranking: B-. This is an offense with wuestion marks everywhere bar QB. Phillip Rivers will win some games for them, but this is a team on offense with more questions than answers. Offensively, I will take what we with our Denver Broncos.
The defensive line has many questions too. Williams anchors the line at NT, but he was anything but stellar last year, and is clearing waning due to knee issues. the loss of Olshansky cant be under estimated. Why viewed as many as vastly under performing last year, it can be argued that he was doing much more than what he had to do in the pass to make up for mobility and agility issues that Williams was having. This basically nullified his effectiveness also. The Chargers are now bringing in Ryon Bingham to replace him. He played well in spurts, but has NOWHERE NEAR proved he is starting calibre. Castillo was given a MASSIVE contract, but his play last year was more hype than substance. Lots of questions on this line too!
I am a fan of the Chargers linebacking corps. If Merriman is only half as effective as he has been, it is still an upgrade for this group, and will allow Coper, WIlhelm and Larry English to make plays. Merriman is in a contract year, and will come out balls to the wall. As always, the only thing they may limit the effectiveness is if the D Line vastly underperform., and in my opinion, this might happen.
Defensive backs are a solid bunch who are not prone to many mistakes. Cromartie played hurt (reportedly) last year with hip problems, and it will be interesting if he can bounce back to his 2007 form. Jammer is a solid and wily pro, and they have some good young talent in Cason, Ellison and also have high hopes for Hart and Weddell. I think the Chargers will see some major improvements from its defensive backs this year.
Ranking: B-. Too many questions on the D Line to make me confident that this is a Top 10 defense. It all starts in the trenches, and if the Chargers can find a way to invigorate Williams they will be OK. If Williams struggles, the Chargers D...particularly on the ground, could be gashed often.
The San Diego Chargers have the best special teams in the NFL. With Scifres, Kaeding, Sproles and the whole unit making plays, this can be traced to why the Chargers made the post season. Rarely were the Chargers put in BAD position by their special teams. if you want to look at the REAL difference between Denver and San Diego, you need look no further. The Chargers ST has performed at a high level for the last few years, and i cant see this changing. If our Broncos could be half as good as the Chargers, i would be stoked.
Ranking: A+ No questions asked. A great unit.
I am a not a fan of Norv Turner as a HC. i think he is a great schemer and teacher, but I dont think Norv could motivate a thirtsy man to drink ice cold water in the desert.
I like the promotion of Riviera to DC. He is a coach that will get the most our of his D with what he has to work with.
The loss of Nunnely will be big I feel, as he was an expert in the 3-4 alignment.
Firstly, the AFC West is going to be like the NFC West....I really feel any team could surprise. I was not high on the Chargers last year, and if anything, I have cooled even more on them. They have not really improved the team in FA or the draft. they are relying on their aging playmakers to come back from injury and enjoy a renaissance on the offensive side of the ball, and for the defensive success to be determined by a 30 something NT with gammy knees and the hope that Shawn Merriman comes back FULLY recovered from a knee that was completely shredded. I like the pick up of English, I love the Chargers Special Teams, Phillip Rivers is a stud and their DB's have some talent, but there are too many question on both lines for me to consider them a lay down misere for the AFC West. The Chargers window is closing, and this is their last year to dominate, in the minds of many. For this fan, I really feel think their chance has gone. 9-7 will win this AFC West, and Denevr can do that.
You shut down the running game, double team Gates and have a good running game of your own is the recipe to defeat these Chargers regularly.
I am hoping with our improved running game, a surprising defense and an improved special teams, we will push pass the Chargers next year.
My prediction is they finish 2nd in the AFC West this year, and 3rd or 4th the next 2 years.
Thanks for reading, and sorry about the wait!