The return of Shawne Merriman's from knee surgery and whether LaDainian Tomlinson's groin will hold up have garnered all the San Diego Chargers headlines this off-season. While both are important, they've also been beaten to death.
The emergence of Darren Sproles and the drafting of Larry English make those storylines less interesting after the hundredth time. With training camp opening, it's time to look beyond the obviously sexy stories and focus on what's not being talked about.
Will a start receiver be suspended? Can a slow start be avoided facing AFC contenders in the opening weeks? How will the offensive line gel with some new faces?
These are the things I see being obstacles for the Chargers season early on. Fortunately, they play in a stupid weak AFC West and will have plenty of chances to overcome whatever happens.
I mean who knows, Matt Cassel could reinvent Larry Johnson in Kansas City or Kyle Orton could be the mountain man in Denver that Jake Plummer never wanted to be. But let's be real, the Chargers are hands down, forget about it, division shoo in's. That said, there might be a few things that could slow them down.
It all starts with Vincent Jackson's DUI arrest on Jan. 6, of this year. It was kind of off the radar until a ruling in a June 11, evidence hearing went against him. A judge denied the request to throw out a blood test result.
This was not good for Mr. Jackson. The results showed a blood alcohol content of .17, more than double legal limit. Already on five-years probation for a 2006 DUI conviction, he could actually be in some trouble.
Additionally, Jackson was described by the police as being "recalcitrant" throughout the arrest. I'm sure it's a word the commissioner Goodell is familiar with and would be none too pleased.
Having you're arms handcuffed behind a chair can't be a fun way to have blood drawn. That was after a breathalyzer test was requested by Jackson but wasn't able to register a result. That, and him supposedly being a jackass in custody, is why the blood was drawn that way.
Jamal Williams already got off on a DUI charge earlier this year. Jackson was allowed to play in the post-season after his arrest. But now it's clear he was bombed behind the wheel. Again.
No surprise the Chargers haven't offered a contract extension yet.
With Donte' Stallworth's recent conviction Goodell's going to have a hard time doing nothing. I would guess a four game suspension would be in the offing if he's convicted of anything.
For now, until the legal system deals with it, at a glacial pace in most NFL circumstances, I doubt Goodell wants it on his plate.
And you never know, Jackson could get off scot-free. It's been known to happen, but I think that's unlikely given the climate.
Make no doubt about it though, losing his deep threat will have a ripple effect across the offense disrupting the continuity. He ranked second in the NFL with seven receptions over 40 yards and had nearly 12 percent of his 59 catches go for touchdowns. This is big-time production.
Even if the suspension is only four games, it would take room away from Antonio Gates over the middle and would keep safeties more focused on what's coming out of the backfield. With Jackson, the offense is able to stretch the defense which creates space for explosive plays.
Also, no other Chargers receiver has Vincent's ability to muscle out defenders and go up and get the ball down field. Chris Chambers simply isn't a deep threat and neither Malcolm Floyd or Buster Davis have the size or strength, not to mention durability, to make up for the loss of Jackson.
Jackson's started every game the last two season while Davis and Floyd have four starts between them. Now, it's not like if he gets suspended the Chargers are in the tank for the season, but they won't be the same offense.
And the offense is going to need to be on point from the get go.
At least the Bolts' get their bye the following week and don't play another AFC playoff team until a Week 16 trip to Tennessee.
Going at least .500 or better the first quarter of the season would set them up nicely headed into the middle portion of the schedule where the Chargers can get fat on the rest of the AFC West.
The Chargers started 1-3 last season and had to go to the last day of regular season to make the playoffs. Not opening the season strong has been the main reason why the Chargers have had to go to New England and Pittsburgh in January with a Super Bowl berth is on the line.
I haven't heard much about the Chargers offensive line but Marcus McNeill's healthy return to the left tackle spot can't be understated with the o-line seeing a lot of new faces. Everything seems fine to now, and maybe that's why nobody is talking about it, but a neck is nothing to mess with.
Add that to guard Mike Goff's K.C. departure and the room for error up front gets even smaller. Veteran guard Kynan Forney was signed from Atlanta and Louis Vasquez was drafted to help compensate for the loss but you just don't replace Pro-Bowlers.
McNeill has a history of neck problems going back to college but it hasn't affected his durability to now as he's only missed two games in three seasons at the offensive lines most important position.
Held out of the OTA's, big Marcus will give the offseason neck surgery it's first real test at training camp. I'm sure he'll be looked after closely by the coaching staff as they all know how costly a set-back could be; especially since there is little depth behind him.
Now this isn't exactly a under-reported story but I just marvel at the fact Norv Turner is now the longest tenured coach in the AFC West. For as long as I can remember Norv has been a head coaching pinata.
From Washington to Oakland, he's just been railed on in the press and in the stands. Hopefully he lets some of the new guys in the AFC West take the shots this season.
Lastly, next year's issues could be a distraction and no one wants to talk about that either. I guess there's no need to get ahead of ourselves but the stadium situation and cap concerns if the collective bargaining agreement isn't taken care of couple put the Chargers in a tough spot when their Super Bowl window should be wide open. In A.J. Smith we trust I suppose.
And how about training camp being closed to the public due to a sinkhole created by a burst water pipe the City of San Diego didn't fix? Omen? I doubt it, but I do think the Chargers should find a way to involve all the fans who planned to attend training camp.
As for me, I've been on the road for past couple weeks in D.C. and S.F. with a 24-hour S.D. stint sandwiched in there. Summer vacation I guess. It's been fun but it'll sure be nice to get back to San Diego and wild ass Mission Beach. My first NFL season in San Diego is underway.
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