After missing out on playoff berths in consecutive campaigns, the pressure to return to form is mounting in San Diego. As a Chargers fan, it is hard to deny the pressing issue that the Chargers are trekking in the wrong direction.
To say there have been problems would be putting it lightly. But those problems that aren't strictly limited to player personnel.
Yes, A.J. and Norv, I am talking to you.
Tossing Rivers' uncharacteristic 20 interceptions aside, last season the offensive front struggled miserably. Rivers was getting all too comfortable with the feeling of the turf shoved into his lid.
Without the security blanket of Marcus McNeill locked on his blind side, Rivers was unable to relax in the pocket. It was just a figment of his imagination.
One man's trash is another man's treasure. Once the Chiefs tossed Jared Gaither to the curb, the Bolts reluctantly found a solidified body to shield Rivers. Gaither proved to be the missing ingredient that helped resurrect the lifeless offensive line for the remainder of the season—so much that he helped the Chargers make one last stab at the playoff picture.
Despite the unfamiliar territory the Chargers faced in 2011, they showed signs of hope toward the tail end of the season.
Reeling in an impressive draft class was just the cherry on top for the Bolts this offseason.
Although the Bolts assessed their terminal cancers within the clubhouse, there are still a few remaining speed bumps that need to be straightened out.
Who is starting material? Who is on the hot seat? The battles for playing time are heating up at the Chargers' park. Now let's take a deeper look.
The perennial Achilles heel of the Chargers is undoubtedly the cornerback position.
The corners are a highly targeted area, with opposing offenses exploiting Antoine Cason’s lack of height and Quentin Jammer’s aging legs.
Tugging along in the rotation are Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright. Gilchrist and Wright were both selected in last year's draft.
As Jammer enters his 11th year in the league, his lack of lateral quickness and breaking speed have caught him struggling to keep chase with the receivers off the line. To add insult to injury, Jammer eventually winds up reverting to panic mode and turns a fixable mistake into a rookie penalty. The Chargers have become all too accustomed to his ways.
Jammer will be entering free agency after the season’s end. And at 33, if he doesn't turn things around quickly, he may be writing his final chapter in the powder blues. 2012 will be his final test to prove his worth as a starting cornerback with the Chargers and in the league.
Jammer’s complement, Antoine Cason, has been unable to escape mediocrity since taking the starting position after Antonio Cromartie’s departure.
Right now, both the starting corners are competing for job security. Cason’s promising career could sputter before it would ever leave the ground.
One man that could stand in the way of Cason’s career is Marcus Gilchrist.
Gilchrist came onto the scene as a rookie last year but never quite solidified his presence after alternating out poor appearances in replacement of Cason’s woes.
With the new defensive coordinator in John Pagano, hopefully he can rectify the situation. He should implement Gilchrist as a solid slot defender like we had in Drayton Florence and keep Cason to his strongest suit patrolling the outer third.
Rounding out the top four is Shareece Wright. Wright, who is better known nowadays for his infamous Los Angeles Chargers tweet, would like to blanket his social media account and prove himself between the lines.
He may be the most raw talent of the group. If Wright can focus on his work on the field, he may find himself slowly matriculating up the depth chart with a depleted secondary.
To make sure they are earning their keep, the Bolts brought in three undrafted free agents.
Who will step up to the plate?
Concluding the 2011 season with an atrocious 32.0 sacks is unacceptable.
The spark-plug of the defense last year was the spectacle of Antwan Barnes and his headlining 11.0 sacks.
The second closest teammate in the statistic rankings was Cam Thomas with 4.0 sacks.
To put it plainly, the Bolts never struck fear into the opposing quarterbacks. Ring the alarm!
Jumping in headfirst, the Chargers made sufficient progress on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. They tagged Baltimore's Jarret Johnson to provide a secure presence opposite of Shaun Phillips and locked their leading pass-rusher, Antwan Barnes, for an additional two years.
The Bolts' front office addressed this desirable need with their first-round selection in South Carolina's finest, Melvin Ingram. An upgrade indeed.
One player in particular hasn't quite got the hang of it yet. The former first-round draft pick, Larry English, will be entering his third season with only seven career sacks. A statistic that isn't helping plead his case to stick around much longer.
His future is now. If he wants to secure a job, his window of opportunity to perform is shrinking.