SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
2014 Record: 9-7-0 (3rd in AFC West)
HEAD COACH: Mike McCoy
New Players in 2015 - WR/KR Jacoby Jones; OL Orlando Franklin; WR Stevie Johnson; DB Patrick Robinson; DB Jimmy Wilson; DL Mitch Unrein.
OFFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 18th in NFL (341.6 ypg)
DEFENSIVE RANK in 2014 - 9th in NFL (338.3 ypg)
Offense: The Chargers offense centers around quarterback Philip Rivers, who is entering his 12th season after passing for 4,286 yards with 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions last year. Backing him up is Kellen Clemens.
The wide receivers include Malcolm Floyd (52 receptions for 856 yards and six touchdowns) and Keenan Allen, who led the team with 77 receptions for 783 yards and four scores. Adding depth this season are free agents Stevie Johnson (35, 435, three TD with San Francisco) and Jacoby Jones (nine receptions with Baltimore) who is also a great kick returner, averaging 30.6 yards per return in 2014 with one touchdown.
Tight End Antonio Gates is suspended for the first four games of the season (PED use) after a big season in which the All-Pro caught 69 passes for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his place to begin the season will be promising youngster Ladarius Green, who had 19 receptions for 228 yards.
The running game was sub par last year with injuries limiting Danny Woodhead (only 15 rush attempts and five receptions) and the now departed Ryan Mathews (in Philadelphia this season as a free agent) as Branden Oliver (582 rushing yards, 3.6 ypc average and three TD) took over.
Enter top rookie draft pick Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), who was a Heisman Trophy candidate, taking over as the starting halfback for the new season. Gordon is a break away threat who will be very dangerous if allowed to get into the open field. Along with Woodhead, he should re-ignite the San Diego ground game.
The O-Line has Chris Watt at center while Orlando Franklin and Johnnie Troutman will play guard. The tackles are King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker.
Defense: Sean Lissemore is the nose tackle in the 3-4 defense while Corey Liuget (4 1/2 QB sacks) and Kendall Reyes man the end positions.
The linebackers are Donald Butler and Manti Te'o on the inside with Melvin Ingram (four sacks) and Jeremiah Attaochu playing outside. Rookie Denzel Perryman (Miami, Florida) will be relied on along with veterans Kavell Connor and Tourek Williams to provide depth.
Playing the corners are Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, who led the team with three interceptions last year. The safeties are Eric Weddle (seeking a new contract offer) and Jahleel Addae. Rookie Craig Mager (Texas State) and Patrick Robinson add depth in the secondary along with Darrell Stuckey and Jimmy Wilson.
OUTLOOK FOR 2015 - As long as the fiery leadership of QB Philip Rivers is available, the Chargers can't be counted out in any game.
Rivers, along with safety Eric Weddle, are in their walk years contract wise entering camp and San Diego would be wise to keep these two around for the remainder of their careers.
The receiving corps is solid and having Gates back following his suspension will be big once again as he and Rivers are the all-time leaders in NFL history in touchdowns for a QB-tight end combination.
Running back Danny Woodhead should be ready to go after missing all but two games in 2014 and he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield who gives Rivers another option in the passing game.
Melvin Gordon will do the bulk of the ball carrying and as long as he is healthy and plays as advertised, will help the running game and help balance the offense.
The defense is decent against the pass (4th in NFL last year) but has to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks (just 26 sacks last season) and must do a much better job defending the run after giving up 124 yards per game last year, which was near the bottom of the league.
Head Coach Mike McCoy knows that Rivers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and with some of the weapons returning and a workhorse running back to rely on, the Chargers offense should rebound after averaging just under 22 points per game in 2014.
The AFC West is in play this year as Denver doesn't appear to be as strong as the last three years, so the Chargers, along with Kansas City, can win the West division this season. With a few breaks, the Chargers could catch lightning in a bottle and a 10-6 record is likely this season while a playoff spot is not out of the question.
Week 1 - vs. Detroit Lions
Week 2 - at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 3 - at Minnesota Vikings
Week 4 - vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 5 - vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6 - at Green Bay Packers
Week 7 - vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 8 - at Baltimore Ravens
Week 9 - vs. Chicago Bears
Week 10 - BYE WEEK
Week 11 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 12 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 13 - vs. Denver Broncos
Week 14 - at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 15 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 16 - at Oakland Raiders
Week 17 - at Denver Broncos