The San Diego Chargers open their preseason on Thursday evening against the Green Bay Packers. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. It will be the first time Charger fans get their chance to see a squad that many are not sure about.
This team is not surrounded by hype or buzz, and many fans do not know what to expect this season. For many seasons, the Chargers have dominated preseason analysis and predictions. This year is drastically different for many reasons. Many people wrote the Chargers off when Norv Turner and AJ Smith were told that they would be retained, and then to make things worse the Denver Broncos added Peyton Manning and the Broncos bandwagon exploded.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have been working out and are silently building a team that will surprise a lot of people this year. The team is loaded on the offensive side of the ball. Philip Rivers has more weapons then he ever had, and Antonio Gates is as healthy as he has been in a couple of years. The defense will be much more improved from last year; the addition of Jarret Johnson was one of the best signings in the entire National Football League.
While San Diego waits to see the citiy's favorite sports team, news and opinions have been flying out of camp. Here is a breakdown of the latest news and buzz surrounding the Bolts.
Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Alex Ramirez believes the key to the team’s success will be energy on defense. I couldn’t agree more, the offensive firepower that the Chargers have is not questioned, and if the offensive line can remain intact, the Chargers have the ability to have one of the most dominate offenses in the entire league.
Where the Chargers need to answer the bell this year is on the defensive side of the ball. They need to be more physical and evoke fear on opposing quarterbacks and receivers coming across the middle.
“At times last year, the Chargers defense looked lethargic at every area. The pass rush wasn't good enough to pressure the quarterback and the secondary would get beat more than half the time. In 2012, players need to come out with the energy as they do on the first play of the first game all season long.”
Once again I could not agree more, the Charger were absolutely embarrassing on the defensive side of the ball last season. The Chargers ranked 16th last year in overall defense, but what really stood out was their inability to get off the field on third down. The Bolts ranked dead last in third-down efficiency last season. This is one area where new defensive coordinator John Pagano will spend most of his time working on. It is extremely hard to think that you are capable of winning games when the defense cannot get off the field on third down.
The additions that the Chargers have made this offseason will pay dividends when the season kicks off. I fully except both Atari Bigby and Brandon Taylor to help out at safety, and Jarret Johnson and Melvin Ingram will both help plug the run as well as get after the opposing quarterback.
The Chargers defense will be better this year. If they want to make the playoffs, they must execute better. The Chargers will win as many games as their defense is capable of.
Despite many feelings around the league that the Chargers are no longer the Super Bowl contender that they used to be, one ESPN Insider begs to differ. KC Joyner believes that Chargers are the team to beat in the AFC West. This is surprising because many of his colleagues at ESPN believe that both the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos are a better team.
ESPN AFC West blogger Bill Williamson puts it as:
“The nation has become tired of the Chargers. [They have] been a perennial popular early Super Bowl pick but have fallen short of the playoffs the past two seasons. As a result, not much attention is being paid to the team anymore."
Joyner’s No. 1 reason that he believes that the Chargers will win the AFC West—Philip Rivers.
“The addition of Peyton Manning to the Denver offense has many believing that the Broncos have the best quarterback in the AFC West, but Rivers is still the king of passers in this division.”
Like the defense, the Chargers need Philip Rivers to have a bounce-back season. The story of Philip Rivers’ 2011 season has been dissected far too much. In simple, Rivers needs to play better. The good news for the Chargers is that Rivers will be surrounded with more talent then he has in his entire career.
Joyner believes that Rivers is the best Quarterback in the division, and so do I. There is no doubt that Rivers will have a better year than he did in 2011. Expect the same amount of yards, more touchdowns and fewer turnovers, which is what really plagued Rivers in 2011.
Rivers will rebound in 2012 and so will the San Diego Chargers.
San Diego Union Tribune Columnist Kevin Acee reports the Jared Gaither, Eddie Royal, and Jarret Johnson will all miss Thursday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers. This should not raise any eyebrows since all injuries are not reported as serious and it is only the preseason, but for a team who has been killed by injuries the past couple of years, it is frustrating.
Status quo on Chargers injuries. So, among others, you won't see Jared Gaither, Eddie Royal or Jarret Johnson on Thursday vs. #Packers— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) August 7, 2012
Injuries were one of the biggest reasons why the Chargers missed the playoffs last year. It is disappointing to see Jared Gaither’s name keep showing up on the injury report. The Chargers took the gamble on the often-injured left tackle after he played tremendous for the Chargers late last year.
Jarret Johnson and Eddie Royal are not severely hurt, but it is disappointing for Chargers fans that hoped to see the team’s new biggest stars make their Chargers debut.
When the season officially begins, the Chargers hope that their impact players will be injury free. If the Chargers want to make a push for the AFC West crown and a Super Bowl, they will need to stay healthy as possible. The biggest area of concern will be on the offensive line, which was completely destroyed with injuries last year. Gaither is now the biggest part of the offensive line and will need play every snap for the Chargers in 2012. If the Chargers can control their injuries, then the rest of the league will need to be on notice. The Chargers will be dangerous in 2012.