San Diego Chargers: The NFL's Most Underrated Team in 2012

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San Diego Chargers:  The NFL's Most Underrated Team in 2012
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From 2008-10, the San Diego Chargers were the pride of the NFL when it came to early season projections.

On paper, the Chargers were one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Combining an offense that featured future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and all pro quarterback Philip Rivers with a defense that was led by a healthy Shawn Merriman, Shaun Philips, Jamal Williams and Eric Weddle, the Chargers were loaded, but they have nothing to show for it.

These lofty expectations are no longer looming around Chargers camp. This year, many sport enthusiasts and experts are projecting that the Chargers will finish either second or third in the AFC West.  

Last year produced a ton of turmoil for the San Diego Super Chargers, who found themselves watching the playoffs for the second straight year. After the season, players were left not knowing if their head coach or general manager would be returning for the 2012 season.  

But with a talented roster that benefited from the long offseason and a new defensive coordinator, the Chargers will be contenders to win the Lombardi Trophy and prove that they are currently the most underrated team in the NFL.

The team that will take the field on Sept. 10, 2012 against the Oakland Raiders has already been written off. This team will not have to live up to crazy expectations of winning the Super Bowl. They will have the ability to play freely and earn their respect, something that fits into Norv Turner’s coaching style much better.

I have never been a fan of the Chargers general manager, AJ Smith. He allows his ego to get in the way of his business and this tends to scare players and coaches away from San Diego. However, Smith has done a nice job this year of reloading the Chargers through the draft and free agency.

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What helped spur the crazy expectations that were dumped on the Chargers in the past are the wildly successful drafts that Smith and the Chargers had. It seemed that every pick turned out to be gold. Then, all of a sudden, it stopped; the Chargers drafted players such as Larry English and Buster Davis, who have both turned out to be busts.

We will not know how the 2012 draft class will perform, but it is a very deep and talented draft class. Melvin Ingram, Brandon Taylor and Kendall Reyes will all battle for a chance to start on the defensive side of the ball for the Chargers. The Chargers also added depth at the tight end position with the selection of Ladarius Green, who will help spell Randy McMichael as well as Antonio Gates.

The Chargers used free agency to add depth to the offensive line, which was completely decimated with injuries last year. The Chargers added Robert Meachem after losing Vincent Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Meachem is not as talented as V-Jac but is a player who will give 100 percent every play, which is something the Chargers did not get from Jackson.

The Chargers also added more depth at the receiver position with the signing of Eddie Royal. The former Denver Bronco will help the Chargers on third downs and on special teams, which has been an Achilles heel for the Bolts in the past years.  

The additions that the Chargers have made this year outweigh the talent that the Bolts lost during the offseason.

With the addition of Peyton Manning into the AFC West, Philip Rivers is now the second most popular quarterback in the division. Much has been forgotten about Rivers's subpar 2011 season that plagued the Chargers last year.

If Rivers didn’t fumble the ball against the Chiefs, the Chargers would have won the division and made the playoffs. Expect Rivers to have a huge bounce-back season, the offense line will be healthy and will give much-needed protection for Rivers. I expect Rivers to have a season much like he had he in 2010, when he threw for 4,710 yards and 30 touchdowns.

The defense will also see an upgrade from the players that were obtained in the offseason as well. The signing of Jarret Johnson was one of the best free agency signings in the entire NFL.

Johnson will start for the Chargers opposite of Shaun Phillips who will be back to 100 percent after an injury-plagued year. With new defensive coordinator John Pagano, there is new energy heading into the 2012 season after a lackluster 2011 season, which cost Greg Manusky his job.

The Chargers will be back in 2012. Just as they have in the past, they will prove the predictions and the experts wrong, only this time, it will work in their favor. 

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