The San Diego Chargers have been some of the biggest underachievers in the NFL over the last…how many years?
Finally, the Chargers have moved on from Norv Turner and have become the second consecutive AFC West team in as many years to hire a former Denver Broncos assistant as their head coach. Mike McCoy will replace Norv as the main man in San Diego, and they have a lot of work to do.
San Diego was the second worst offense in the NFL last season in terms of yardage, and were middle of the road in scoring defense. They allowed Philip Rivers to be sacked 49 times, and could not get their running game going despite what many projected to be a breakout year for Ryan Mathews.
Here are the Chargers’ top team needs, in no particular order:
1. Offensive Line
Jared Gaither needs to be let go, and the Chargers have two free agents at both guard positions. Philip Rivers simply can’t be effective if he is getting hit/pressured as much as he is. Not only that, but the AFC West features some of the best pass rush talent in the NFL, and for at least four games per season, Rivers has to deal with the likes of Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali–and it’s only going to get worse as the Raiders are widely expected to be adding a pass rusher with their first selection in April. The Chargers’ offensive line HAS to get better. This has got to be a top priority this offseason, whether they choose to go out and rebuild this unit via free agency right away or not. The Chargers will be picking an offensive lineman with one or two of their first few picks.
2. Nose Tackle
The Chargers signed Aubrayo Franklin as a stop gap, and they haven’t been able to get consistent enough production out of Cam Thomas, who was expected to be a top flight nose tackle despite being only a fifth round selection in 2010. This is a position the Chargers could look to address with a lot of depth at the DT position in this year’s draft.
Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both free agents, and I’m almost certain one of the two will leave San Diego. The Chargers have a second round pick (Marcus Gilchrist) and third round pick (Shareece Wright) waiting in the wings, but will that be enough? My guess is that the Chargers try to retain one of these two guys (Jammer, Cason) and go after a cheaper veteran option in free agency while their young players develop.
4. Inside Linebacker
The Chargers have a couple of solid starters with Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler, and while Butler is younger and ready to make an impact in this league for a while, Spikes is playing well and not getting any younger. Jonas Mouton has only played three games in his NFL career after being picked in the second round in 2011. The Chargers have to look to upgrade this position via the draft if they can, or maybe see what they can get in free agency. Rey Maualuga could be a solid fit.
5. Rush Linebacker
There is potential for this to become a need. Melvin Ingram was selected in the first round last year and I like his potential a lot. Still, Shaun Phillips is a free agent and Jarret Johnson was pretty much a non-factor as a pass rusher this past year with just 1.5 sacks. Antwan Barnes is also set to hit the open market this offseason. They need a guy who has some speed to come off the edge, in my opinion. Retaining Shaun Phillips is probably a must, but I could see Jarret Johnson being a cap casualty.
6. Wide Receiver
I like Danario Alexander’s potential in the Chargers’ offense, but the cupboard here is still pretty bare. We’re talking about a group that lost Vincent Jackson a year ago, and then he was replaced by absolutely no one. Malcom Floyd is a decent complementary receiver, and the team will be getting a boost from Vincent Brown returning from injury. I think Robert Meachem will be cut, Eddie Royal will probably be let go, and the Chargers are going to need some more depth at this position.
7. Running Back
This position is a trainwreck for the Chargers right now. Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle might not be brought back as unrestricted free agents, and Ryan Mathews has had some injury issues. The Chargers had just four rushing touchdowns all of last season, which was among the worst I’ve ever seen.