Loss of Ken Whisenhunt
The Chargers may have had an atrocious defense last season, but their offense was brilliant. Under new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Philip Rivers revived his career and led his team to the postseason.
Whisenhunt is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans. One of the main reasons he landed that job was his ability to "fix" Rivers and the Chargers offense. Rivers doesn't like the term "fix," but that is, in essence, what Whisenhunt did after former Chargers head coach Norv Turner "broke" the Pro Bowl quarterback.
Under Whisenhunt, Rivers returned to being a top-tier quarterback by calling less seven-step-drop plays and more quick throws so that the offensive line could protect their signal-caller. Rivers was also given more leeway at the line of scrimmage to change calls based on what he saw out on the field.
Another strong suit of Whisenhunt's play-calling was his heavy reliance on running the ball in order to open up the passing game. Ryan Mathews had a breakout season and new addition Danny Woodhead became a fan favorite due to his toughness while carrying the rock.
Whisenhunt's replacement, Frank Reich, has some big shoes to fill this season. Fortunately, the ex-quarterback has a good relationship with Rivers and will be able to lean on No. 17, as well as head coach Mike McCoy, a former offensive coordinator himself, to shoulder some of the play-calling.
Antonio Gates will go down as a Hall of Famer and one of the best tight ends in NFL history when he decides to retire from the league. After years of incompetence, Gates was a main cog in the revival of the Chargers franchise, along with LaDainian Tomlinson and others.
With that said, Gates has been showing his age in recent seasons. He had a great start to the season last year, but he slowed down as the season progressed. That's not to say that Gates is washed up.
He will still make plays for this team and will still command double-teams. Though he is known for his playmaking abilities, there is something to be said about Gates being ranked 133rd out of 135 tight ends in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus.
Charger fans shouldn't be too worried about the decline of their beloved legend, though. Why?
At 6'6", 240 pounds and a 4.45 40-yard dash time, the young man is a physical specimen. He had some big plays for the team last season and will hopefully continue progressing into Gates' successor. Although his sample size is small, Green made the most of every opportunity and continued to get better as the season went on.
He will need to improve on his run blocking if he wants to be considered elite. Only time will tell what the ceiling is for Green, but the man whom Charger fans affectionately call LaMOARius should be in line for a breakout 2014 season.
The Bolts lost their backup quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst, to the Tennessee Titans this offseason. Whitehurst was poached by Whisenhunt after he accepted the head coaching offer from the Titans. While this is not a big deal, the man whom Chargers fans call Clipboard Jesus has been a valuable resource for Rivers throughout his career.
Also, the fact that Whisenhunt brought Whitehurst along for the ride to Tennessee has to mean something, even if it's just to light a fire under Jake Locker.
San Diego signed Kellen Clemens to replace Whitehurst as Rivers' backup. The Chargers are also grooming 2013 seventh-round pick Brad Sorensen for the role.