I've been a Chargers fan since the creation of the franchise, when I was 7 years old. I have been through many great seasons, many disappointing seasons, and some disastrous seasons. However, as of now, the Chargers of 2009 are a great team in great position to again be Super Bowl contenders. So like the title of the article says, lets begin.
Quarterback- Phillip Rivers emerged as one of the elite quarterbacks of the league last year by having the highest QB rating in the NFL (105.5) and the most passing touchdowns (34). He broke some long lasting franchise records. He's also a fantastic leader, with the great intangibles to boot.
In case Rivers goes down with injuries we have Billy Volek to provide us good insurance, and a young rough player in Whitehurst, who has shown some flashes of brilliance. Expect Rivers to emerge as one of the league's top five quarterbacks, and for Whitehurst to develop this year.
Runningback- This was the most puzzling position since yesterday evening. L.T., as we know, is coming off his worst season statistically, and was banged up for two straight years in a row. However, I expect L.T. to be solid.
L.T. is motivated as ever, and knows that time is running out for him to win a ring. He's going to give all he's got, and have a typical L.T. year that we all know. It's not going to be like 2006, but let's not count out a season like 2007.
Along with L.T. is Darren Sproles. Sproles can excite the team with his brilliant runs, and he's an absolute nightmare on screens for the defense. He's also a fantastic kick returner, and should get more touches this season (125-175 touches this year).
Overall Expect L.T. to bounce back, and to gain about 1,400-1,500 yards, 15 total touchdowns, and a dangerous two-back tandem. Grade: A
Reciever/TE: We have the best tight end in the business with Antonio Gates. Brandon Manumaleuna is a truck.
Our wide receivers are pretty solid with serious height advantages and should create some BIG mismatches.
VJack is a solid first-string reciever with big-play ability, and Chris Chambers keeps the defense in check with his overall abilities.
Our Backups at wide receiver are also strong. Malcolm Floyd showed great promise and should be a great option for Rivers on third down (12 out of his 27 receptions were on third down). Also, Legedu Nannee is a great option and he thrives under pressure. I feel that he will be replacing Chambers when he's gone. As of BUSTer Davis.. we'll see how he performs when he's healthy. He WAS a monster at LSU.
Offensive Line: This whole crew was frustrating to watch in 2008. They literally fell on their butts as you counted 1, 2, 3. Still, we have been working to revamp the O-line, and it should be good enough to return to 06-07 form.
OT- Marcus McNeill is a paradox. He's a freak when healthy. He's motivated, and he proved that he's a hard worker. But, according to A.J. Smith, he had neck surgery, and it could be very serious.
As of the right side.. Clary is a disgrace. He was penalized for the second most false start penalties in 2008, and allowed 6.5 sacks. However, we have some great backups to fill in the void.
L.J. Shelton was very effective as the in the first few games of the season as he started for an injured McNeill. I'm not sure if many remember, but he pancaked the Carolina defender on the first carry for L.T. last year on a 14-yard run.
Also, Scott Mruczkowski is a versatile lineman that can play every position on the line.
I expect Scott Forney to get the starting job at right guard, so expect a battle to get the starting job at right tackle with Mrucz, and Clary.
C- We're VERY thin here. Hardwick is very very fragile. In 2005, his ankle snaped from a simple bull rush and had to get surgery and missed the majority of the season. Still, he's one of the best centers in the NFL when healthy.
We got rid of Jeremy Newberry, so we basically have no insurance other than Mrucz, who can play center. I expect this to be a issue solved in the later rounds of the draft..
G-Mike Goff is gone after 80 straight games, but we did sign Forney to a deal that should replace Goff. He was a premier guard when he played for Atlanta, and opened up 1,000 yard seasons to Warrick Dunn, and Mike Vick. He should compete for the starting job with Mrucz (Who is originally a guard), but should win the job.
As for the left side, our best O-lineman, Kris Dielman is a rock.
Grade: C+. Our right side needs some help.
Special Teams: We have the best punter since Ray Guy. We have a clutch(?) kicker in Nate Kaeding. And our special team maestro, Kassim Osgood, is there to help. Sproles is an electrifying kick/punt returner, and should keep many special team units alert.
Future Studs, and Emergers: Darren Sproles- Little Mighty Mouse will become a big part in our offense, and should develop into a cornerstone in our offense.
Legedu Nannee- He has so much upside, and plenty of talent. He's calm under pressure, and knows what to do. IF his developement is on its projected way, he should eventually replace Chambers after he's gone. (I only rate him higher than Floyd, because he has less injury issues)
Scott Mruczkowski- He's a versatile 0-lineman that knows how to play ALL positions. He learned alot over the past few years, learning from McNeill, Dielman, etc, and should be able to start for us for the next 4-5 years.
LaDainian Tomlinson- With so many people hopping on the "L.T. is Washed Up" bandwagon, I cannot help myself, but to add this. He played all year with injuries, and still ended up with 1,100 yards. HE WILL bounce back, and have a spectacular year. Guaranteed.
Hope you enjoyed my first ever Bleacher Report article! Any tips would be greatly appreciated.