Mapping out the Blueprint for a Chargers Super Bowl Run in 2013-2014
It was just two seasons ago that the Chargers played the 49ers on Thursday Night Football. If you're reading this, I'm sure you remember the game. Vincent Jackson went bananas and San Francisco fired their coach after the season. But the paths of both those teams have gone in opposite directions, to say the least.
In the same vein, every reference to Ray Rice's 4th-and-29 conversion just makes me wonder if that was the play that sent Norv Turner and A.J. Smith packing. If so, Charger fans owe him our gratitude. But can Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy turn this thing around? If they do, these will be the areas they will need to focus on.
1. Fix Philip Rivers
Yes, the line needs to be overhauled. Also, the Chargers will need to finally establish the run with some consistency. Keep reading and you will see that I am not putting it all on Philip. However, he needs to play like a quarterback worth building around once again.
The NFL postseason has once again shown that the difference between winning and losing are those few crucial plays, often made by the quarterback. Sometimes it is just important not to try to force things. Last season was the second in a row that Philip Rivers came up short in those two areas. There's not much to debate here.
2. Improve the Offensive Line
Many Boltheads have accused A.J. Smith of trying to cut corners up front. I don't think that was necessarily the case. Marcus McNeill was an early-round selection, but his neck sent him into retirement. Jared Gaither received a ton of money to replace him, and we all know how that turned out.
Faced with retaining all of his "talent" after the 2006 season, Smith tried to prioritize. He often hailed the Patriots, the team that benefited from the Chargers' 14-2 team's January collapse, as a model to emulate. He tried to build through the draft and sign his own guys long term.
But his draft record from 2007 on was spotty at best. His last two may turn out to be good, but he won't be around San Diego to see it. The best offensive lines don't always seem to have first-rounders at all spots. But Tom Telesco needs to rebuild this group in a hurry.
3. Run the Ball Effectively, or Even Close to It
Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle were nice guys to have as complementary backs, but they certainly weren't expected to carry the load. Unfortunately, Ryan Mathews' failure to finally deliver the big season Charger fans were told to expect left few options.
Even the best quarterbacks need the run game to keep the defense honest. In Mike McCoy's former home, Willis McGahee went down for a while. It was actually the game against the Bolts, which effectively ended San Diego's hopes for a division title, where he was hurt. However, Knowshon Moreno, who has been even more disappointing than Mathews, picked up the slack. If Mathews isn't the answer, someone else needs to be found.
4. Overhaul the Secondary
I've made no secret about my disdain for Antoine Cason. I know that even the best cornerbacks get burned. I've been watching this team since 1978. However, Cason makes me long for DeRon Jenkins or Terrance Shaw. He's that bad.
If a Shareece Wright/Marcus Gilchrist defensive backfield scares you, then find another option. Quentin Jammer will most likely be gone. Ron Milius was not the reason that Rahim Moore was out of position in Denver's playoff loss—at least that's how Mike McCoy saw it. But this team cannot go another season letting teams pass on them at will, especially in the fourth quarter.
5. Withstand the Losses Through Free Agency
John Pagano was retained by Mike McCoy's staff. The perception was that Dean Spanos wanted a head coach that would do just that. The defensive line, anchored by Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, is fast becoming an area of strength. But if the Bolts are to continue to run a 3-4 scheme, they will need playmakers at the linebacker spot.
Melvin Ingram never seemed to recover after his crucial penalty in New Orleans. In fact, neither did the Chargers. Tom Telesco will have to decide what to do about Shaun Phillips this year. I don't think he's worth the money. Regardless of Telesco's decision, there will be free-agent defections. John Pagano will need the cupboard restocked accordingly.