SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
HEAD COACH: Norv Turner
Key Additions: WR Robert Meacham; WR/KR Eddie Royal; RB Le'Ron McClain; DB Atari Bigby; LB Jarret Johnson; RB Ronnie Brown; RB Jackie Battle
Key Losses: WR Vincent Jackson; RB Mike Tolbert; OL Marcus McNeill; DB Steve Gregory; OL Kris Dielman
Offense: Quarterback Philip Rivers is coming off a disappointing season in which he passed for 4,624 yards and 27 touchdowns, but he threw 20 interceptions as well. His backup is Charlie Whitehurst, who had 298 yards passing with a touchdown pass and one interception in Seattle.
Ryan Mathews is slated to be the prime running back once again after going for 1,091 yards (4.9 ypc average) and scoring six touchdowns last year. But Mathews was injured in the first pre-season game and may not be ready until the third or fourth regular season game.
That leaves free agents Ronnie Brown (136 yards rushing for the Eagles in 2011) and Jackie Battle, who ran for 597 yards and scored twice last season with Kansas City, in the fold until Mathews is ready to go full speed. Also on hand is Curtis Brinkley and fullback Le'Ron McClain.
Tight End Antonio Gates should be the main target for Rivers in 2012 after making 64 catches for 778 yards and seven touchdowns. Gates looks to be at full health for the first time in nearly five seasons entering the 2012 season.
The wide outs will have a bigger cast as Vincent Jackson left via free agency for the Tampa Bay Bucs in the off-season. Malcolm Floyd had 43 receptions for 856 yards (19.9 ypc average) and five touchdowns and will be a primary receiver if he can stay healthy after battling injuries a year ago.
Along with Floyd are free agents Robert Meacham (40 catches for 620 yards and six TD) and Eddie Royal (19, 155, one TD) along with Vincent Brown, who showed flashes of brilliance last season while making 19 grabs for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Reserve tight end Randy McMichael had 30 receptions for 271 yards.
The offensive line will have two newer members after the retirements of Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman as massive Jared Gaither (6-9, 340) will play at tackle along with Jeromey Clary. The center is Nick Hardwick and the guards will be Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez. In reserve are Johnnie Troutman, Brandyn Dombrowski, David Molk, Rex Hadnot and Mario Henderson.
The Chargers scored 406 points a year ago, which was fifth in the league overall and they finished sixth in the NFL in total offense, averaging 393 yards a game, including 277 yards passing per game, which also was sixth in the league. The rushing game averaged 116 yards, which was 16th overall.
Defense: This unit took a huge step back last season after Ron Rivera left to become the Head Coach in Carolina. The team never seemed to adapt to a new scheme with a new defensive coordinator as they slipped from the top ranked defense in 2010 to 16th overall last season while allowing 347 yards per game.
The run defense gave up 122 yards per game (20th overall) and the pass defense managed just 32 quarterback sacks while allowing 225 yards a game, which was 13th in the NFL.
Up front in the 3-4 scheme the Chargers use is nose tackle Antonio Garay with Vaughn Martin and Corey Liuget at the ends. Rookie Kendall Reyes and Cam Thomas (four QB sacks) will be ready on the line along with Jacques Cesaire and Logan Harrell.
The linebackers have Shaun Phillips (3 1/2 QB sacks) and Jarret Johnson on the outside with veteran Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler inside. Antwan Barnes led the team with eleven sacks last year and will also get playing time at linebacker.
Spelling the starters will be Larry English, Travis LaBoy and Jonas Mouton, along with top rookie draft pick Melvin Ingram (South Carolina), who will get a lot of opportunity to crack the starting lineup in training camp.
In the secondary is All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, who tied for the league lead with seven interceptions last season. Along with Weddle at safety is free agent Atari Bigby. The corners are Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, who had two interceptions last year.
Looking to get playing time is Marcus Gilchrist (two picks in 2011), rookie Brandon Taylor, Darrell Stuckey and Shareece Wright.
OUTLOOK: After missing the playoffs the last two seasons, Head Coach Norv Turner is on the 'hot seat' entering this year as the Chargers look to reclaim the AFC West crown they held four consecutive years, from 2006-09.
Philip Rivers knows he had an off year in 2011 and the intense leader of the team is ready to make amends and get the team back to the post-season while openly admitting he will enjoy the challenge of going up against Denver QB Peyton Manning twice this season.
The running game will have to wait and see if Ryan Mathews will be healthy enough to carry the bulk of the load this year after coming on strong at the end of the 2011 campaign.
The defense will be the big test whether or not the Chargers regain the AFC West division title, along with rebound seasons from Rivers and a healthy Antonio Gates for the entire season. Those seem to be a lot of 'what ifs' for this team and with Kansas City and Denver looking very revamped coming into the 2012 season, it will not be easy for the 'Bolts.
They can win this division as their .500 record last year included three close losses, with two of those coming in overtime that ultimately kept them out of the playoffs.
A 9-7 finish is probable and they could get a playoff spot as the division winner or 'wild card' if they take care of business within the AFC West. One thing is certain in 2012, if they don't make the playoffs, Norv Turner is gone.
Week 1- at Oakland
Week 2- vs. Tennessee
Week 3- vs. Atlanta
Week 4- at Kansas City
Week 5- at New Orleans
Week 6- vs. Denver
Week 7- BYE
Week 8- at Cleveland
Week 9- vs. Kansas City
Week 10- at Tampa Bay
Week 11- at Denver
Week 12- vs. Baltimore
Week 13- vs. Cincinnati
Week 14- at Pittsburgh
Week 15- vs. Carolina
Week 16- at NY Jets
Week 17- vs. Oakland