San Diego Chargers: How Has the Offseason Affected Opponents?
A few changes may come to pass before the season begins, especially should a key injury befall any of the listed teams. That said, with the opening rounds of free agency and the draft shrinking in the rear view mirror, it would appear that the bulk of personnel moves to be conducted in the offseason are now completed.
How did this offseason impact the teams San Diego will be playing in 2010? Read on to take a look, and for the divisional matchups that San Diego will be playing twice, the offseason has been split in two (be it offense vs. defense or draft vs. trade/FA’s) rather than trying to fit it all into a single slide.
Week One: Kansas City Chiefs
The draft saw Kansas City take an interesting approach for a team still considered in rebuilding mode. General logic says to work from the inside out. After finding a franchise quarterback shore up the trenches on either side of the ball (including OLB’s in a 3-4 scheme).
Kansas made the logical move in the first round by picking up Eric Berry, a rangy center-fielding threat in the secondary that can give the team a defensive playmaker.
They followed this by making a pair of interesting moves for sparkplug type players Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas.
Arenas is talented, but at 5’9" he will have difficulty covering the sizable Chargers receiving corps even in a nickel role.
McCluster could be problematic for his ability to turn big plays. That said San Diego ramped up its depth at the secondary to be better able to counter the slot.
Each of these three players are big-play threats that make the San Diego Chargers look foolish a few times, but aren’t going to show their impact frequently enough to give San Diego pause.
Asamoah was a good pickup where he was grabbed, but Kansas City needed more shoring up along the line than just him if they wish to maximize that revamped backfield.
With young big-play threats the Chiefs could pull of a few surprises, but by ignoring the obvious holes in favor of a few somewhat luxury picks Kansas City ensured San Diego should not have too much trouble even with one of their notoriously slow starts.
Week Two: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars revamped their defensive line by bringing in Aaron Kampman along with drafting D-linemen with their first four (of six total) draft picks.
This should make life a little more difficult for rookie Ryan Mathews to drive up the middle, but should not provide enough push to upset the passing game given Jacksonville’s unimproved secondary.
Offensively Jacksonville did virtually nothing in the offseason, letting Torry Holt walk and bringing on Kassim Osgood is about it.
Osgood may see the field, especially in an early game against his former team, but don’t look for him to be an exploitative force.
A strong offseason could have made Jacksonville a potential landmine team that could challenge for a wildcard birth and give San Diego an upset, instead the Jaguars tunnel-visioned their way to a solid defensive line and running back corps with little around those two positions.
Week Three: Seattle Seahawks
Of the top 10 drafting teams, Seattle’s offseason may have made this something of a possible spoiler game at this point in the year.
Addressing Matt Hasselbeck’s need for an heir apparent with the unproven Charlie Whitehurst should not be a factor this early in the year, when Hasselbeck should still be relatively healthy, especially with a powerhouse tackle in Russell Okung keeping him safe.
Hasselbeck has a few new supporting toys in LenDale White, Leon Washington, and Golden Tate that should lend themselves very well to a balanced offensive attack.
While they made a few good moves, Seattle’s defense wasn’t addressed quite as fully. The team will be familiar with game-planning for a stud center-fielder after playing Eric Berry in round one, so Thomas should be less of a concern than he could be, especially given the rest of Seattle’s secondary.
Aside from the drat itself, Seattle did a good job addressing a glaring need at running back by adding both a power back (Lendale White) and a speedster (Leon Washington) via trade.
San Diego should be able to handle a 5-11 team whose pass rush and secondary are both suspect, but need to take care not to overlook what could be one of the most improved teams in 2010.
Week Four: Arizona Cardinals
If Seattle could challenge for one of the best offseasons, Arizona has to be a contender for one of the worst. The retiring of a future hall of fame quarterback alone should radically alter the feel of this franchise, but even if Leinart proves up to the task the Cardinals still lost Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, and Antrel Rolle to go with Warner.
Bringing in Dan Williams and Daryl Washington via the draft should make it tough for Mathews to move up the middle while linebacker Joey Porter is a big question mark that has the capacity to be a major harasser or go invisible.
That alone should not be enough to counter the San Diego offensive attack, and the deep ball could be a solid option with Kerry Rhodes something of a downgrade in place of Antrel Rolle.
Week Five: Oakland Raiders
Like Seattle, the Oakland Raiders are a 5-11 team with signs of optimism in 2010. Instead of dealing with Jamarcus Russell during this game San Diego will be facing Jason Campbell, a draft-day acquisition that shores up the Raider’s weakest link for the past several years.
With a suspect line that had to developmental players drafted into it, alongside an unpolished receiving corps, Campbell won’t be an instant 4,000 yard threat in Oakland, but he does bring stability and leadership while looking like a more durable long-term solution than Bruce Gradkowski.
The draft was a solid one, with Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston providing a nice backbone at inside linebacker and defensive tackle respectively, but along the outside Oakland need hope fifth rounder Walter McFadden proves himself early or they will be one-trick pony at the cornerback position.
Given how they played in the season opener last year, and the improvements made, Oakland should once more be a tough matchup that San Diego can no longer sleepwalk through to keep their winning streak alive. They aren’t going to fight for the division, but they do have the ability to steal a win.
Week Six: St. Louis Rams
The Rams had a solid draft in which they feel they landed their quarterback of the future in Sam Bradford and one piece of his protection in Roger Staffold.
Mardy Gilyard should also give him something to work with when he does step back to pass.’
Unfortunately, the line is still in dire need of a couple more talented blocker, Gilyard is a solid No. 2 receiver who has nothing else around him, and not even a late round running back to spell Steven Jackson could be a problem.
On defense, they added some depth at corner with Jerome Murphy, but are otherwise very close to the highly exploitable unit that took the field in 2009.
Outside the draft the Rams picked up a few useful role players like Fred Robbins and Kevin Payne, but the activity here was minimal considering how many areas St. Louis needed to address.
The opening volley of players St. Louis drafted was necessary to begin the rebuilding process, but they are still laying the foundation and not doing the true building yet.
If St. Louis is anything but a top four or five drafting team next year it will be quite a surprise.
Week Seven: New England Patriots
The first big playoff-contending threat San Diego will face. New England put together another trademark offseason.
McCourty may not have been my pick from among the remaining corners on the board, but he is a solid player that gives them depth to go up against San Diego’s passing attack.
Tight Ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkoswki should be especially prevalent with a slowed Wes Welker, and will test the expected new physicality of San Diego’s pass defense.
The inconsistent Pats defense of 2009 could be just as up and down in 2010. Spikes and Cunningham help to make the linebacking unit a little younger and a bit faster, but the Pats needed a genuine pass rusher and they waited on a solid but unspectacular Jermaine Cunningham to address that need.
Ultimately the Patriots had what many viewed as a rather solid draft. Staying relatively quiet in free agency (Alge Crumpler and Gerard Warren are the big names?) necessitated that they draft well.
Ultimately however the Patriots backslid a little in 2009, and filled in some of the chinks in the armor without finding any big-ticket hang your hat type guys.
They will still be a double-digit winning team that puts up a fight every game and will enter into the playoffs, but unless there is an unexpected breakout this year’s Pats team is not the threat it once was.
Week Eight: Tennessee Titans
One of the biggest mystery teams entering the 2010 season. The biggest onus is on what incarnation of Vince Young shows up, but as this particular piece is focused on offseason moves that will be an item for another day.
The Titans did take some great strides in fixing a team that had its share of problems in 2009. The draft showed a commitment to the defensive side of the football, with solid picks up and down the board from pass-rushing talent Derrick Morgan in the first round to high value safety Myron Rolle taken at with the 207th pick in the draft (two rounds below projected and probably three below value).
Kenny Britt finally has a respectable partner at the No. 2 wideout spot in Damian Williams, who at 77 went about 20-30 picks below his projected value.
The Titans also did well to replace traded running back LenDale White, finding two great undrafted backs in LeGarrette Blount and Stafon Johnson. Blount especially will be a solid bowling-ball change of pace much in the mold of White.
The secondary is still exploitable as the team waited out the top cadre of CB’s to pick up a pair of solid mid-round guys while the center of the defense could have used an extra impact player.
Overall the Titans bettered themselves this offseason (and will provide a better fight than they did in last year’s game) but are probably still a 7-9 win team.
Week Nine: Houston Texans
The main question here will be the tradeoff from Dunta Robinson to Kareem Jackson. It may pay off in the long-term, but for this specific game it means a solid veteran corner was replaced by an inexperienced rookie (who probably should have been about the fourth rather than second CB taken).
They did address their need at running back by putting Ben Tate alongside Steve Slaton. This gives the team a very complimentary player that fits in well running out of a pass-centric offense, though he will probably not be a game-breaker on his own.
Ultimately the Texans had a fairly quiet offseason for a team that has spent the last two seasons looking one impact-player away from the playoffs. Mid-round guys Earl Mitchell and Darryl Sharpton could step into solid roles their rookie years, but neither looks to be a particular force in the middle at DT and ILB respectively.
Ultimately on offense Houston should be a little more dangerous with a renewed option at RB, but the failure to finish shoring up holes in the defense like insurance at safety or land one of the higher profile DT’s should make the Texans a similarly fringe playoff team this year that could fall just short or just squeak into the postseason.
Week 11: Denver Broncos
The first matchup with the Denver Broncos comes much later into this season. It will be interesting to see if the fast starting-slow finishing Broncos hold true to the last two year’s form.
Either way it will be difficult to see the 2010 Broncos as an upgrade to the 2009 version. Troublemaking but talented wideout Brandon Marshall was replaced with high upside but unpolished Demariyus Thomas with the Broncos’ first pick.
He could be a higher-character variation of Marshall in a few years, but his mediocre hands and poor route running make him unlikely to be an instant success.
Likewise Tim Tebow will offer up a great attraction for fans that could pay off nicely in the long run, but in the short term it would be very unlikely to Kyle Orton to be supplanted.
A few mid-round pieces look to improve the team along the line and at wide-receiving depth, Eric Decker especially looks like a solid pickup, but ultimately it will be a similar offense to 2009 less a few of their primary receiving weapons in Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler.
Week 12: Indianapolis Colts
When you nearly go undefeated in the regular season and play in the Super Bowl it is assumed that your team is already solid and has most of its personnel in place. Indianapolis stayed true to the notion by electing to forgo any non draft activity (aside from resigning its own free agents).
They did however shore up the team in the draft by spending their top three picks on defenders that should improve the team dramatically.
Jerry Hughes is a great pass-rushing talent, although it is something of a surprise to see him headed to a 4-3 team when his 254 pound frame looked to be more suited to 3-4 rush linebacker at the NFL level.
A Dwight Freeney/Jerry Hughes duo on passing downs could make it a nightmare for opposing teams however. Also interesting is the Pat Angerer/Gary Brackett duo, which again feel like an ideal duo to move inside for a 3-4 defense.
Most interesting for the Colts was probably how they failed to address the offensive line that general Bill Polian fingered as the primary reason for the Colts Super Bowl loss, with the only addition being a guard prospect that does not in the least appear NFL ready.
All things being equal the 2010 Colts will be looking quite similar to the 2009 Colts, with Angerer and Hughes the only rookies likely to see much field time (perhaps corner Kevin Thomas as well on dime packages).
Considering Indianapolis’ success, that makes a lot of sense, although it also means they are not particularly different from the Colts teams that San Diego has been able to upset with seeming regularity over the Norv Turner era.
Week 13: Oakland Raiders
Aside from Jason Campbell, the Raiders offense will not look drastically altered from 2009. Justin Fargas was cut loose which should benefit Michael Bush and Darren McFadden.
Whether the three-headed attack cutting down to two will be an upgrade probably depends on the balance struck between the two players.
If most of Fargas’ reps go to Bush than the Raiders running attack should be just as solid in the upcoming year.
To look more into the briefly mentioned Bruce Campbell and Jared Veldheer acquisitions, both are solid prospects picked up for good value at 69 and 106, and at least one of the two will likely be starting along the line by this point in the season.
Yet Oakland’s line needed an almost full overhaul, and neither player is projected to be a day-one rock along that unit. By 2012 the team may have itself a great young pair of bookends, but for the time being they will experience growing pains while learning within a unit that could have used more polish and less potential here.
The final major piece that could impact the team would be Jacoby Ford. He does not project as a top tier receiver that will spend his full-time on the outside, but should be a very good sparkplug wideout that can make an impact in the return game and give the team a solid slot-receiver.
This may free the team up to drop Heyward-Bey for more developmental time while they count on the Chaz Schilens/Larry Murphy duo. That group won’t set the world on fire, but they do have depth and upside now.
The Raiders have closed well and by now newcomer Jason Campbell will be fully integrated into the offense. They aren’t a division challenger, but San Diego’s six division games this might just have the biggest upset potential.
Week 14: Kansas City Chiefs
While the Week One discussion focused primarily on the Kansas City draft, that was not Kansas City’s only venue for adding personnel.
The biggest move (next to drafting Berry) was probably the signing of axed New York Jet Thomas Jones. Jones was by far the most effective of this offseason’s free agent aging running backs (including such names as Ladainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Willie Parker, and Larry Johnson).
He put up over 1,400 yards in a year dominating by the passing game, and looked easily capable of maintaining the workhorse role.
He did appear to wear down by playoff time however, when his 4.2 regular season yards per carry average dipped down to an anemic 2.6.
With his reps likely to be higher than the average backup’s playing behind the sub-200 lb. Jamaal Charles, Kansas had better hope he resembles the Thomas Jones of the regular season and not the playoffs.
The Chiefs also attempted to bolster their under-performing offensive line by signing center Casey Wiegmann and guard Ryan Lilja in free agency.
Neither are going to challenge for the pro bowl in the years to come, but should give the Chiefs a much stronger core to hold its ground against San Diego’s bulked up nose tackle position.
That said, given all of Kansas City’s moves, the biggest thing that stands out is the unaddressed left tackle and front seven positions (you could also add in an upgrade over serviceable but inconsistent Chris Chambers at starting wideout ).
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are a team at a tipping point. The progress of 2009 coupled with a few key acquisitions and the talent-drain that occurred in Arizona gives 49ers fans reason for excitement.
The team started the draft by bolstering its line with one of the better tackles (Anthony Davis) and probably the best guard (Mike Iupati) in the draft. They followed this up with the hard-hitting Taylor Mays and Navarro Bowman on defense.
With power back Anthony Dixon and blocking tight end Nate Byham picked up in the later mid-rounds, San Francisco should be a very smashmouth team that will make even the best teams work to defeat them.
The real concern however is that the quarterback position was left unaddressed other than replacing Shaun Hill with David Carr at the backup spot.
With potential starters Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy going much deeper than expected (and solid developmental prospects like Dan Lefevour and John Skelton available quite late in the draft), the move that wasn’t made will probably define the 49ers season.
If Alex Smith fails to deliver then the 49ers hard-nosed collection of players will have a difficult time ascending beyond the 8-9 win barrier.
Week 16: Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are a team that surprised many with the degree of their success in 2009, especially early in the year. The team ultimately showed signs of weakness to close the year before becoming the first team eliminated in the 2009 playoffs.
The Bengals offseason activity reflects confidence in the team’s current state The only significant pred-draft move was to replace Laveranues Coles with a pair of troubled but talented receivers in Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones.
Both have shown the physical tools to be perennial pro bowlers, but Jones’ off-field troubles were significant enough to keep him out of football in 2009, while Antonio Bryant had his worst season since 2003, with only 39 catches for 600 yards as Tampa Bay’s supposed go-to guy.
Given the mediocre performance by Coles in 2009 (43 catches for 514 yards) Cincinnati should come away with at least a wash at the position however.
In the draft they looked to add other tools to help Carson Palmer rebound his very average 2009 numbers (3094 yards, 21 TD, 13 Int) by giving him a genuine receiving threat at the tight end position with Jermaine Gresham, and a nice slot receiver in Jordan Shipley.
With the threat of a running game and solid talent to throw to, 2010 will be a time for Palmer to prove he can once again be a driving force on this team.
The impressive and surprising defense of the Cincinnati Bengals was also given a few upgrades via the draft with some great value-additions in Carlos Dunlap (a late first round projection at 54), Brandon Ghee (late second round talent at 96), and Geno Atkins (120).
All three could see significant time, and Ghee is especially helpful as an upgrade at the nickel DB position.
Ultimately the Bengals look to retain that AFC North classic hard-hitting style while picking up some nice additions for their passing game. They lack the ability to surprise this year, but should still be a solid team that challenges for a playoff spot unless Cedric Benson’s wheels fall off.
Week 17: Denver Broncos
Of all the divisional opponents to have a week 11/17 pairing, the Denver Broncos are probably the most preferable.
The potential pitfalls of the reworked Denver Offense were discussed in the week 11 slide, but what about the defense that really led the way to Denver’s 6-2 start in 2009?
Josh McDaniels was apparently quite happy with staying with the veteran approach in the upcoming year, as he did not draft a single defensive player until the middle of the seventh round (CB Syd'Quan Thompson at 225).
He did add former San Diego standout Jamal Williams along with Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green to shore up the Broncos defensive line, while adding former Bear Akin Ayodele to shore up the inside linebacking unit.
All four players are capable of being very productive, but range in age from 30 (Ayodele) to 34 (Jamal Williams). That has to be worrisome given that the team already had age concerns in the defense with Champ Bailey (32 when the season starts), Brian Dawkins (36), Renaldo Hill (31) ,and Andre Goodman (32 when the season begins).
Including the new players that gives the team nine of eleven defensive starters that are thirty years of age or older—and that potential for so many players to potentially wear down makes this Broncos team looked prime for another slow finish that plays right into when San Diego will be facing them.