After missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, there is a heightened sense of urgency in San Diego to return to form. Desperate? You better believe it. They know their window of opportunity is beginning to shrink, with the core of their squad staring down the barrel of their peak years of performance.
What was once the Chargers' division to lose from the 2006 to 2009 seasons, the Bolts have fallen behind dramatically. Rivers knows that his 20 interceptions and 25 turnovers last season were a disturbing statistic that deterred the Bolts from blowing the top off of the division.
Rivers wasn't the only issue last year. There are many fingers that can be pointed to the disgust the last two seasons have brought, but in the end, they win and lose as a team.
Stepping out of line and making the bold prediction of who will have a breakout year is quite a task. Ryan Mathews has already been lit up like a Christmas tree on everyone's radars, so he wouldn't fall into this list.
Larry English? His stock has fallen and he was a former first-round draft choice, so that would be too obvious of a selection. Donald Butler? A great player, but without the veteran leadership of Stephen Cooper at his expanse, I don't see Butler elevating his tackling prowess much further.
Cam Thomas? Now that sounds like it has potential. Overshadowed by Antwan Barnes' 11.0 sacks, the former fifth-round selection doubled his 2010 stat line and recorded a career-high four sacks to go along with 20 combined tackles. Of those 20 tackles, six of them went for losses.
The current nose tackle, Antonio Garay, may be the more attractive piece right now with his Dennis Rodman-like appeal, but Thomas is the future. Garay, who recently signed on to an additional two years, will be turning 33 this season.
The artwork on his head may not be going out of style, but the front office's faith in him just might be.
As for now, Thomas continues to shadow his every move as he battles for playing time and the eventual ownership of the position.
Lead by Thomas, the rotation of the Chargers' defensive front is a very young and immature group that's oozing with talent. They have a stockpiled line-up that is waiting for a fighting chance to prove their worth.
Then again, with the digits of No. 76 spread across his back, how can he not be in line to take hold of center stage? It isn't difficult for Chargers fans to forget the nightmare that their former defensive plug caused. Does the name Jamal Williams ring a bell?
The stars are beginning to properly align in San Diego. Thomas is the real deal. He is ready to escape from his supporting role and lift his career numbers from last season. Don't be surprised if we see him stealing the show sooner rather than later in 2012.