Chargers by the Numbers: 2013 Stats San Diego Must Improve in 2014
The San Diego Chargers were far from perfect in 2013 and the stats don't lie in this case.
Looking back at the numbers during the regular season, there were some obvious flaws on both sides of the ball. By improving on these stats in 2014, the Chargers will be on their way to another successful year.
Here are five of the team's worst stats from the 2013 regular season that need improving.
2013 League Ranks
Total Yards: 29th (4,139)
Yards Per Game: 29th (259)
Opponent Completion Percentage: 29th (66.4)
In the first three games of the regular season alone, the Chargers defense surrendered 1,073 passing yards to the combined efforts of Matt Schaub (346), Michael Vick (428) and Jake Locker (299)—three quarterbacks who finished with below average numbers in 2013.
As the season wore on, there were some minimal improvements, specifically in the games after Derek Cox was benched, but the secondary still had trouble containing the passing game. Shareece Wright and Marcus Gilchrist, two of the younger defensive backs on the roster, showed improvement in the latter part of the year and should continue to progress into 2014.
Looking at next season's schedule, the Chargers will face nine teams that averaged 200-plus yards passing in 2013 (Denver, New England, Arizona, Baltimore, Miami, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland and Seattle), which is why the defense will need to improve upon this weakness in 2014.
2013 League Rank
Total Sacks: 23rd (35)
Team Leaders: Corey Liuget (5.5), Kendall Reyes (5), Thomas Keiser (4.5) and Jarret Johnson (3)
With Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram gone for most of the season due to injury, the Chargers had to look to unsung heroes for help in the pass rush. Keiser, who played his first season with San Diego, was surprisingly efficient in creating pressure, and it's quite possible Johnson could have added to his total if he had been able to stay healthy.
One of the factors that contributed to last season's poor pass defense was a lacking pass rush. With San Diego unable to consistently force pressure, even some of the league's sub-par quarterbacks managed to complete a high percentage of their passes while throwing for big yardage (see slide 1).
The quarterback matchups next season don't favor the Chargers as four of the top 10 passers in total yards are scheduled for 2014 (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill). Add to that list two of the league's most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. The return of Freeney and Ingram should help San Diego, however.
2013 League Rank
Total Turnovers: 30th (17)
Turnovers were hard to come by during the regular season, even for Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, who totaled 12 by himself in the two years prior to 2013 (he had just three last season). No real pass rush by the Chargers allowed opposing quarterbacks to take care of the ball and poor tackling didn't contribute to many forced fumbles.
Down the stretch, it seemed like the defense was getting better in forcing turnovers. In the postseason win over Cincinnati, turnovers were clearly present and it contributed immensely to the victory. More turnovers are needed to stay competitive next season, especially with some of the better offenses the Chargers will face in 2014.
2013 League Ranks
Total Punt Return Yards: 31st (166)
Total Kick Return Yards: 26th (707)
Total Kick Return Yards Allowed: 32nd (1,797)
A more efficient return game would have set up Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense with better average field position last season, but that was an unattainable luxury in both kicks and punts. Keenan Allen led San Diego in average punt return yards (8.3) while Danny Woodhead and Lavelle Hawkins averaged just about 22 yards.
Kick coverage was, however, the worst aspect of the Chargers special teams. No touchdowns were scored, but opposing teams averaged nearly 25 yards per kick return, and there were too many times when Mike Scifres was called on to make the tackle or force a guy out of bounds.
The Chargers need to add a dynamic return game to their repertoire while improving the kick coverage in 2014.
2013 League Rank
Rushing Touchdowns: 25th (9)
San Diego's rushing attack improved tremendously behind Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, but the two combined to reach the end zone only nine times during the regular season. One particular reason this stat needs improving involves the incident that occurred in Week 9 against the Washington Redskins.
The Chargers failed to punch in the game-winning touchdown at the Washington 1-yard line on three attempts. Woodhead attempted one run up the middle that was quickly stuffed and Philip Rivers was unable to hit his target on two throws.
What should have been an easy six points for the win ended up becoming a key reason for the Chargers loss. The passing game was one of the best in the league last year, but the run game needs to pick up the slack in scoring, especially down near the goal line.