The 2012 San Diego Chargers were as close to mediocre as a team can be. With a 7-9 record, an even point differential and a defense that was surprisingly more stable than the league’s No. 31 offense, the Chargers showed a lot of room for improvement.
After several consecutive offseasons of speculation, head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith finally met their end in San Diego. Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco filled those voids, respectively, and the 2013 offseason will be crucial for them in turning around a team that hasn’t won the AFC West since 2009.
The 2012 season wasn’t all bad, though. A defense fueled by an infusion of young front-seven talent boosted the Chargers to No. 9 in the league in total yards allowed and No. 6 in rushing yards allowed per game. If they can continue adding pieces to the defensive side of the ball, McCoy will have a strong foundation on which to rebuild a contender in San Diego.
Still, obvious positional needs mar the Chargers’ offensive depth chart. Philip Rivers struggled mightily last season, due in large part to inconsistent offensive line play and a receiving corps that obviously missed the presence of Vincent Jackson. Paired with the ineffectiveness of All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, San Diego’s offense sputtered to the tune of 297.3 yards per game.
Running back will also be a position of concern moving forward. 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews has been unable to stay healthy, and the Chargers’ rushing attack has suffered as a result. Averaging just 91.3 yards per game, San Diego’s ground game was the sixth worst in the league in 2012.
Telesco and McCoy have to make their picks count in April’s draft. Smith’s and Turner’s failures are in the past, but the new regime doesn’t exactly have unlimited time to turn things around. As we’ve seen so many times in the NFL, new faces are often on a very short leash.
Fortunately, San Diego’s 2013 schedule is riddled with favorable road matchups and divisional opponents that struggled to gain traction in the AFC West last season. It won’t be a cakewalk, but the Chargers could have drawn a much worse slate of games.
|2013 San Diego Chargers Schedule|
|1||Sept. 9 ||vs. Houston Texans||10:20 p.m.||ESPN|
|2||Sept. 15 ||@ Philadelphia Eagles||1 p.m.||CBS|
|3||Sept. 22 ||@ Tennessee Titans||1 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 29||vs Dallas Cowboys||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|5||Oct. 6||@ Oakland Raiders||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 14||vs. Indianapolis Colts||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|7||Oct. 20||@ Jacksonville Jaguars||1 p.m.||CBS|
|8||Oct. 27||BYE WEEK||N/A||N/A|
|9||Nov. 3||@ Washington Redskins||1 p.m.||CBS|
|10||No. 10||vs. Denver Broncos||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 17||@ Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.||CBS|
|12||Nov. 24||@ Kansas City Chiefs||1 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Dec. 1||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|14||Dec. 8||vs. New York Giants||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|15||Dec. 12||@ Denver Broncos||8:25 p.m.||NFLN|
|16||Dec. 22 ||vs. Oakland Raiders||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. Kansas City Chiefs||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
Note: For a complete look at San Diego's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
Apart from the Denver Broncos, the AFC West doesn’t present any overwhelming challenges in 2013. The Oakland Raiders are continuing to piece together a developing roster, and the Kansas City Chiefs, while led by a new head coach and quarterback, still have a lot to prove.
Which team presents the most difficult matchup for the Chargers this season?
The AFC West will also square off with its South division counterparts in 2013, headlined by the Houston Texans and the resurgent Indianapolis Colts. Both teams secured a playoff berth in 2012, and each should present a difficult matchup for the Chargers this season.
That said, the rest of the AFC South is a bit of a mess. The Jacksonville Jaguars find themselves with the No. 2 pick in the draft after finishing 2-14 a year ago, and the Tennessee Titans still have considerable progress to make to be a true playoff contender.
The rest of San Diego’s new schedule is a mixed bag. Playing the Washington Redskins on the road will be a challenging endeavor, but the Chargers get NFC East challengers Dallas and the New York Giants in the friendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium.
In all, San Diego will face five teams that made the playoffs last season and, at least for now, its 2013 schedule appears to be one of the least challenging in the league. According to ESPN, the Chargers have the second-easiest schedule based on last year’s records.
Two showdowns with the Broncos will ultimately be the most critical matchups for the Chargers in 2013. After posting a 13-3 regular-season record a year ago, they will again be one of the strongest squads in the entire AFC this season. Winning the AFC West will have to go through Peyton Manning and Co.
While Kansas City still has some big question marks, there’s no denying the marked improvement it made this offseason. With the acquisitions of Alex Smith, Sean Smith, Dunta Robinson and Geoff Schwartz (among others), the Chiefs should be a better team in 2013, and San Diego needs to keep pace in order to have a chance at a division title.
The Chargers can also help themselves out in the playoff race with wins over the Texans, Colts and Cincinnati Bengals—all three of which made the playoffs in the AFC last season. The balance of power is shifting, and San Diego has to find a way to remain competitive against those squads.