San Diego Chargers: Veteran Players Must Shine in 2012

Alex Ramirez@@alexramirez127Correspondent IAugust 21, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 18: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium on August 18, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Make or break.

That's the motto the San Diego Chargers will follow this year. If San Diego fails to make the playoffs for a third straight year, it may be time for a drastic change. The funny thing about it is thinking of what really needs to be changed.

The only answer: Norv Turner

Regardless of the front office decisions, the Chargers are a very talented football team. They have an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers, one of the best tight ends in history in Antonio Gates and an All-Pro safety in Eric Weddle. Ryan Mathews, Shaun Phillips and Malcom Floyd could also be notched as some of San Diego's best players. Talent has never been a problem, it's been the production.

Last season, Philip Rivers had the worst season of his career, yet still finished in the top 10 overall quarterback rankings. Antonio Gates hauled in over 60 receptions in 2011 while dealing with a nagging foot injury. The list goes on and on.

As well as some players might have played in 2011, there's always room for improvement. In 2012, veteran players on the Chargers must play at the level they are capable of the entire season.

This needs to be strongly emphasized, especially with the amount and length of injuries already piling up. With Vincent Brown, the best receiver in camp this year, gone for eight weeks, Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal need to be great. Average will not cut it.

It's going to be tough for Rivers dealing with his offensive line problems and not having the effectiveness from Mathews early in the season. Antonio Gates will play a huge part, but even the great one can't do it all himself.

On defense, young players like Donald Butler, Melvin Ingram and even Shareece Wright have the talent to all have big seasons.

That doesn't mean Takeo Spikes, Quentin Jammer and Shaun Phillips should take their foot off the gas. Spikes needs to produce at the same level he did last season. He led the Chargers in tackles in his first season in San Diego with 106. At least 90 more should come this season. Phillips has to be the guy he was when Merriman was still in town. And Jammer, all we ask of you is to be consistent.

It's a lot to ask for every veteran player to play great and it's obvious not all of them will. When it comes down to it, they have reasons to do so. Their contributions could lead to a strong season and a playoff run. If not, it could be the end for some of them as the Chargers, oddly enough, will look to rebuild.

It is indeed a "make it or break it" year for the San Diego Chargers.