If the San Diego Chargers are to repeat their surprising playoff success from last season, it will be through tough offseason competition for starting roles at positions of need.
It will be up to each and every player to push each other to succeed, as forces and events beyond the players' control are conspiring to stymie the development of the young and capable team that won the final four games of the 2013 season to sneak into the playoffs.
The Chargers are tied for the fourth-toughest schedule in 2014 based on opponents' winning percentages from 2013, per ESPN.com. They cannot afford to have any missteps against the NFC West or even within their own increasingly competitive division. They will also need to prove they can take care of business during games in which they are the favorites.
The Chargers unfortunately played down to their opponents on occasion in 2013. As CBS Sports' John Breech noted, the Bolts lost three games to the Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans; these three teams combined to go 6-38 against the rest of the league.
The offseason brought changes to the coaching staff as well. Former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt turned the Chargers' offense around last season and parlayed his success into a head coaching job with the Tennessee Titans. The Chargers now turn to quarterbacks coach Frank Reich to lead the offense.
This team cannot afford to tread water if it wants to build upon its success from last season. There are several positions up for grabs, many of them on defense, as the Chargers look to evolve through competition between younger players and veterans looking to hold down their starting positions.