SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
2013 Record: 9-7-0
Key Additions: RB Donald Brown; QB Kellen Clemens; LB Kavell Conner; DB Brandon Ghee.
Key Losses: DL Cam Thomas; CB Derek Cox; RB Ronnie Brown; QB Charlie Whitehurst; RB Le'Ron McClain; OL Stephen Schilling.
HEAD COACH: Mike McCoy
Offense: After leading the NFL in completion percentage (69.5) last season while throwing for 4,478 yards with 32 touchdowns and just eleven interceptions, Philip Rivers is back as the starting quarterback. Backing up Rivers is Kellen Clemens, who comes over from the St. Louis Rams.
The running game is solid as Ryan Mathews enjoyed his best season as a pro last year, going for 1,255 yards (4.4 ypc average) and scored six touchdowns. In the backfield along with Mathews is Danny Woodhead, who gained 429 yards rushing while scoring two touchdowns and he also caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns. Donald Brown (537 yards, 5.3 ypc average and six TD) comes over from Indianapolis to add depth to the Chargers backfield.
The receivers are led by Keenan Allen, who had 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie. Eddie Royal caught 47 passes for 631 yards and eight touchdowns while Vincent Brown had 41 catches for 472 yards and one score. Malcolm Floyd was injured in Week Two and missed the rest of the season, but the Chargers are looking to him to return to form in 2014. The tight end is Antonio Gates (77, 872, four TD) while Ladarius Green (17, 376, 22.1 ypc and three TD) looks to be an emerging star who can stretch the field from the tight end spot.
The line has center Nick Hardwick, guards Chad Rinehart and Jeromey Clary and tackles King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker.
STATS - The Chargers were fifth overall in the NFL last season, averaging 393 yards per game. The running game ranked 13th with 123 yards per game while the passing game was fourth with an average of 270 yards per game. San Diego averaged just under 25 points per game, which was eighth overall. Philip Rivers was sacked 30 times while the Chargers turned the football over 21 times.
Defense: Playing the 3-4 set, the Chargers will have Sean Lissemore at nose tackle with Corey Liuget (5.5 QB sacks) and Kendall Reyes (five sacks) playing end. The outside linebackers are Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney along with inside backers Manti Te'o and Donald Butler. Jarret Johnson is ready to go as well as is Kavell Conner and rookie Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech).
The secondary will be looking to have a major upgrade from last season as Brandon Flowers comes over from Kansas City to play cornerback along with Jason Verrett, a rookie from TCU. The safeties are Pro Bowler Eric Weddle and either Marcus Gilchrist (two interceptions) or Jahleel Addae. Darrell Stuckey, Brandon Ghee, Steve Williams and Shareece Wright are ready in reserve.
STATS - The run defense was decent (108 yards allowed per game) finishing 12th in the NFL but the pass defense struggled mightily, giving up 259 yards each game (29th) as the Chargers were 23rd in total defense, surrendering 367 yards per game. They had just 17 takeaways (11 interceptions and six fumble recoveries) while sacking the quarterback 35 times.
OUTLOOK: After making the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, the Chargers have high expectations once again heading into the 2014 season.
Head Coach Mike McCoy saw the team buy into his offensive game plan and QB Philip Rivers enjoyed his best statistical season as a pro. Running back Ryan Mathews also came through, playing in all 16 games and having his best season as well. If those two have similar seasons in 2014, the Chargers will be a force to be reckoned with as there are so many weapons on offense.
The defense MUST improve, especially against the pass and create more turnovers. A better pass rush would help in that category so opposing quarterbacks don't have so much time to pick out a wide receiver to throw the ball to.
As long as they stay healthy, the Chargers cannot be counted out as a playoff contender once again this year. Consistency on defense and continued success on the offense will be a recipe for success this season.
Figure the Chargers to make the playoffs again as a wild card team with a 10-6 record. Whether or not they can advance past the divisional round this season depends on the defense coming up big in the playoffs.
Week 1- at Arizona
Week 2- vs. Seattle
Week 3- at Buffalo
Week 4- vs. Jacksonville
Week 5- vs. NY Jets
Week 6- at Oakland
Week 7- vs. Kansas City
Week 8- at Denver
Week 9- at Miami
Week 10- BYE WEEK
Week 11- vs. Oakland
Week 12- vs. St. Louis
Week 13- at Baltimore
Week 14- vs. New England
Week 15- vs. Denver
Week 16- at San Francisco
Week 17- at Kansas City