Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press
In re-signing most of his own players in free agency, Telesco prevented what could have been a major needs list for the Chargers. Bringing back Donald Butler kept one of the young leaders in place for the defense, and less advertised signings like Chad Rinehart and Richard Marshall keeps veterans with playing experience in place for next season.
The 29th-ranked pass defense in 2013 surrendered nearly 260 yards a game and held just three teams under 200 yards during the regular season. Despite facing the Denver Broncos twice, it was Michael Vick not Peyton Manning who torched the Chargers for a season-high 422 yards. The second-highest of 329 yards came by Matt Schaub—it was that bad.
Shareece Wright started the year as the team's No. 2 corner but quickly found himself to be the top dog when Cox started to struggle. Marshall, who filled in on the opposite side, played well in relief of Cox, finishing his eighth season with 71 tackles and six deflected passes. Between the two, just one interception was made.
The Chargers didn't make a run at any of the top corners in free agency, but they'll have an opportunity to add a playmaker in the early rounds of the draft.
Cam Thomas and Sean Lissemore combined for 47 tackles along the interior of the defensive line, but the decision was made to let Thomas walk in free agency. Lissemore, who was acquired via trade last September, didn't have the benefit of a full offseason with the Chargers in 2013, but he'll get that in his second year as he prepares to take over the workload left by Thomas.
Kwame Geathers, an undrafted free agent who played in seven games last season, will also see an increased workload. A third member could be added to that rotation in the draft.
Keenan Allen shined in his rookie season, and his journey to the No. 1 receiver slot was an unpredictable one. Injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd allowed Allen to get substantial playing time early, and the former third-round pick capitalized in the moment with 71 catches, eight touchdowns and more than 1,000 receiving yards.
Floyd, who suffered a season-ending neck injury, has begun working his way back to San Diego's roster, and the team also managed to retain veteran Eddie Royal at a bargain price. Vincent Brown was on the verge of a breakout season following a promising rookie year, but he missed all of 2012 with an ankle injury and his numbers in 2013 were just average.
Having Floyd back healthy will be an added boost on offense, but the Chargers could stand to add another young target for Philip Rivers.
When the move was made to bring in Dwight Freeney last year, the assumption was that he'd be able to give the Chargers the pass-rushing threat they were missing on defense, but that plan was spoiled when he suffered a season-ending quad injury in Week 4. Months prior to that, Melvin Ingram was lost for an extended amount of time with a torn ACL that held him out until the last few games of the regular season.
John Pagano was forced to use a combination of players at the edges, but it was Jarret Johnson and Thomas Keiser who stood out from the rest with a combined 7.5 sacks. With Freeney and Ingram set to return in 2014, Pagano will be able to supplement his defense with an improved pass rush.
That being said, his two most experienced players are entering uncharted territory in their mid-30s. Injuries slowed both Freeney and Johnson, which is why the team needs to add a young-blooded pass-rusher.
Telesco has to love the fact that just one draft choice and a pair of low-budget free agents vastly improved the offensive line, but the injuries piled up from week to week. King Dunlap and Rinehart played well on the left side when health allowed and Fluker locked down the right tackle spot in his rookie season.
The Chargers were relieved to know Nick Hardwick will be returning at center in 2014, but the final year of his contract could also be the last of his NFL career if retirement is still a thought like it was in January. Right guard is another position that could be empty after this season if San Diego opts to let Jeromey Clary go in free agency.
There are a lot of stud offensive-line prospects in the draft, some of which could be ready to start sooner than expected. The Chargers need to prepare for changes on the offensive line that will likely happen as early as the 2015 season.