Burning Questions for the San Diego Chargers' 2013 Season
As the San Diego Chargers prepare to open the regular season, 10 burning questions are left unanswered looking ahead to 2013.
The Chargers lost three of their four preseason games and dealt with a plethora of injuries in training camp, all of which have helped comprise the team's burning questions.
Here are the questions stemming from the preseason and training camp that could be answered in Week 1 or possibly require the entire season to answer.
Who Will Be the Starting Strong Safety in Week 1?
In the preseason, every candidate in the race for the starting job at strong safety was given plenty of opportunities to make his case heard.
Marcus Gilchrist, Darrell Stuckey, Brandon Taylor and Jahleel Addae saw extensive playing time in San Diego's four preseason games but neither man really distanced himself from the rest.
Taylor has made a valiant effort in his return from a torn ACL, even leading the team in tackles (five) in its win over the Arizona Cardinals, but the consensus is that Gilchrist will get the start having played more last season in the secondary.
This is a position battle that could very well continue on into the regular season.
Who Will Emerge as Philip Rivers' Top Target in 2013?
Losing Danario Alexander for the year with a torn ACL puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the Chargers' receivers to step up on offense for Philip Rivers.
Through the preseason, we've seen a good helping of Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green and a Robert Meachem sighting here and there.
The good news is that younger players like Allen and Green are getting experience early, but San Diego hasn't really been able to feature Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal or Vincent Brown all that much because of injuries.
Floyd's knee injury is by far the most concerning for Week 1, but it's troubling that Brown and Royal have dealt with injuries as well.
Is King Dunlap the Answer at Left Tackle?
Max Starks and King Dunlap have gone back and forth during training camp in the battle for the starting left tackle spot.
Dunlap and Starks have split reps in camp and in preseason play, but Dunlap is looking more and more like the imminent starter come Week 1. Starks has struggled in fending off pass-rushers early on, and while Dunlap hasn't been perfect, he's done slightly better in terms of protecting his edge one-on-one.
San Diego would have liked to have had the experience and Super Bowl background that Starks brings to the offensive line, but age may be getting the better of the 31-year-old.
Can the Offensive Line Protect Philip Rivers?
In a preseason outing against Chicago, Philip Rivers was sacked three times by the Bears defense. That's not a very reassuring sign that the offensive line is ready to protect Rivers over the course of a 16-game season.
The majority of the sacks and hurries have come from the edges of San Diego's O-line during the preseason. Max Starks, King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker have fallen victim to aggressive pass-rushers, which isn't a cause to panic just yet but it is something to keep an eye on.
Rivers was sacked 49 times in 2012, and the less time he had to throw the ball, the worse decisions he made.
Will Robert Meachem Make It Through the Regular Season?
Robert Meachem has been on the roster bubble since training camp started, and while it has been proven that cutting him would actually cost the Chargers money, that hasn't stopped the speculation that he'd be released in the near future.
To add to his particularly bad situation, Meachem ended up suffering a concussion during last night's preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, which could possibly ease the idea of letting him go in the next wave of cuts before the start of the regular season.
Can Ryan Mathews Actually Improve Next Season?
Ryan Mathews has looked surprisingly good during the preseason. Against Chicago, Mathews rushed for 45 yards on nine carries and against Arizona, he followed with 57 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
A fumble against the Cardinals, however, wasn't a positive to pull from Mathews' night. Holding onto the football has been a lingering problem for the fourth-year back, and on more than one occasion, he's fumbled the ball in pivotal situations.
Mathews has demonstrated that he can pick up yardage and be effective, but ball security will be the deciding factor in his maturation process.
Will Mike McCoy Be Successful in His First Year as Head Coach?
Right off the back, the Chargers open their 2013 season with an overwhelming matchup against the Houston Texans.
To make the upcoming season look like a vast improvement compared to the Norv Turner era, McCoy will likely have to produce a record above .500 (something that won't come easily considering the amount of injuries).
Will Ken Whisenhunt Make Philip Rivers Look Good?
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt may have the toughest job of all in San Diego as he attempts to resurrect Philip Rivers' career in 2013.
From Whisenhunt's standpoint, he has to make his quarterback look good while taking care of the football. Does that mean he'll play a more conservative style, or will he let Rivers sling it downfield?
Whisenhunt has spoken highly of his quarterback and believes he has what it takes to reach Pro Bowl status once again, but how exactly is he planning on doing that?
Will Manti Te'o Sink or Swim His Rookie Year?
Te'o played nine snaps during the preseason and made zero tackles. Why so low? He only played in the first game against Seattle.
Te'o injured his ankle in his first preseason game in the NFL and hasn't played since. The Notre Dame linebacker spent the majority of his time in a walking boot and missed valuable playing time with the starters.
Already behind, Te'o must now be prepared to play a full game in Week 1 if he's medically cleared to play.
Can Dwight Freeney Build off a Strong Preseason?
Dwight Freeney had a noteworthy preseason with the Chargers, pressuring quarterbacks and even getting a sack on Carson Palmer in a preseason game against Arizona.
If Freeney can keep up this intensity, then Tom Telesco can rest easy knowing that his risk paid off in acquiring the former Indianapolis Colt after a subpar year.
Even if Freeney doesn't hit double digits in sacks, the fact that he's still beating offensive linemen with his patented spin move at 33 is a good indication that he's still got it.