Chargers' Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback
The quarterback position was an obvious strength of the San Diego Chargers in 2013.
Under first-year head coach Mike McCoy, the Bolts registered the fourth-most passing yards (4,328) in the NFL and tied for the fifth-most touchdowns with 32. San Diego's success was based largely on the play of its signal-caller Philip Rivers, who found his touch as an elite passer once again.
Now in Year 2 of the McCoy era, Rivers and the Chargers will attempt to reestablish their dominance in the passing game with new offensive coordinator Frank Reich at the helm.
The group behind Rivers has also been altered. The ever popular "Clipboard Jesus" vacated San Diego in the offseason and was replaced by journeyman Kellen Clemens on the depth chart.
Let's take a closer look at how the Chargers stack up at quarterback in 2014.
Starter: Philip Rivers
The resurgence of Philip Rivers in 2013 was nothing short of remarkable.
After coughing up 22 turnovers in 2012, Rivers minimized his mistakes to 13 and finished in the top five in touchdowns, completion percentage, passing yards and QB rating. He led the Chargers to their first postseason appearance since 2009 and picked up the Comeback Player of the Year award in the process.
It was a career year for the five-time Pro Bowler, and did I mention he did it all with two of his top receivers lost for the season?
Looking ahead to 2014, Rivers has all the pieces in place to replicate his success from a year ago with the exception of former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who assumed Tennessee's head coaching vacancy.
Reich, who was the Chargers QB coach last season, has built a strong relationship with his quarterback and intends to entrust Rivers with the reins again, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN:
We've got an exceptional quarterback who can handle a lot. So because everything kind of filters through him, it gives us the opportunity to really be a well-balanced offense. We'll throw it when we want to throw it, but run it when we want to run it.
Rivers, too, has grown close to Reich and feels comfortable that he'll put him in a position to find success:
My communication with Frank is awesome. We communicated a lot last year, so it's really been a seamless transition from the standpoint of what we're doing, what's expected and how we're going to operate.
Frank being in a similar-style offense both as a player and as a coach really just makes for a smooth process -- easy to make adjustments and change things on the run as we see them. He really thinks and calls plays like a quarterback. And I know I'm real comfortable with that.
On top of having a more experienced Keenan Allen, Rivers will also welcome back longtime friend Malcom Floyd into the receiving mix—a huge boost the team was missing after his injury in Week 2 of last year.
As Rivers explained to reporters, it shouldn't take long to get back that chemistry with the same player he came in with in 2004, per Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
He’s one of the guys I could not throw to for a year and pick it up in about 30 minutes. But it is good to have him out there because you start to see how some things come together, and you tailor things like we've always done to what guys you have. So when you have a guy like Malcom, you certainly want to use him to his strengths.
Backup: Kellen Clemens
When Sam Bradford tore his ACL in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, the remainder of the 2013 season acted as a job interview for Kellen Clemens, who would be looking to join his fourth team in nine seasons.
In nine starts for the St. Louis Rams, Clemens threw for 1,673 yards and guided his team to wins over Indianapolis, Chicago, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Some quarterbacks may hate the label, but he was an effective game-manager for St. Louis.
With Charlie Whitehurst now competing for a job in Tennessee, the Chargers needed to replace him with a veteran capable of leading a team to victory if Rivers were to go down with an injury. If Clemens was able to win games with the league's 30th-ranked offense, he should do just fine with a strong supporting cast in San Diego.
As far as his role with the team is concerned, Clemens has embraced the idea of being a productive backup to Rivers, per Ricky Henne of Chargers.com:
One of the things that I have done really throughout my career, because I really have never started a year as the starter, was have a very candid conversation with the starter and ask what he wants and needs from me.
I really see myself as a guy who is here to help Philip in whatever capacity that is. In the past for guys it’s been extra film, or help with younger guys. Whatever it might be, that’s what I’ll do. I just want to win.
Clemens is also excited to add to his own game in learning from one of the league's best at the quarterback position:
If you ask how excited I am on a scale of 1-10, it’s a 10. This is a great opportunity to come to a new organization where I can learn. Obviously Philip has played a ton of football, so it’s a great opportunity to learn from him and expand my game. I want to take in what he already knows.
And then there’s Coach (Mike) McCoy, Coach (Frank) Reich and Coach (Nick) Sirianni. They've been around some great quarterbacks, some great players and some high-powered offenses. So I’m just going to sit back initially and soak up as much knowledge as I can to prepare myself for spring and training camp.
3rd String: Brad Sorensen
Preparing for the future at quarterback has become a league-wide affair for teams with aging veterans.
In Denver, the Broncos have been developing Brock Osweiler as the successor to future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. The same can be said in New England, where the Patriots have tabbed either Ryan Mallett or Jimmy Garoppolo as next in line when Tom Brady has played his last snap.
If he continues to progress, Brad Sorensen could be in San Diego's long-term plans at quarterback when Philip Rivers decides to call it quits.
Drafted in the seventh round last year, Sorensen forced the coaching staff to keep him on as a third-stringer behind Whitehurst. The Southern Utah product flashed potential during the preseason with a pair of touchdown throws and could challenge Clemens on the depth chart for the backup job.
How he comes along in his second year will be a key factor in whether the front office and coaches consider him franchise material.
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