The San Diego Chargers have some work to do if they are going to keep their passing attack together this season. If they are able to keep their core players in the passing game together, things could turn very ugly for defenses next season.
Assuming they do, this could be the best Chargers passing attack of all time. They'll have two big outside receivers like the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, a tremendous slot receiver like the 2007 New England Patriots, a phenomenal tight end like the 2003 Chiefs, and a runner who is a threat out of the backfield like the 1990 Buffalo Bills.
If head coach Norv Turner can keep his hands out of the cookie jar long enough to establish a solid running game, they Chargers could score over 500 points in a season for the first time in franchise history.
Philip Rivers benefits from something Jason Campbell never did—consistency. Rivers has had the same offensive system for his entire career and has only had two offensive coaches in his ear.
Rivers is able to make plays that seem amazing, because he is aware of were all of his players are (or should be) on the field at all times. The confidence that comes along with it allows Rivers to complete passes that other quarterbacks won't even attempt.
With 93 touchdowns against only 33 interceptions in the last three seasons, Rivers can only get better with his offensive compliment around him.
Vincent Jackson will be on an absolute mission to gain the big money deal that he's missed out on due to his repeated legal troubles.
I have repeatedly said that Jackson is the best receiver in the league, because his repeated ability to beat defenses for touchdowns and long gains when the Chargers absolutely had to have a big play. The Chargers clearly missed Jackson in at least four games last season when they couldn't score with the game on the line.
Jackson has also dominated several playoff games to the point that the Indianapolis Colts focused nearly all their attention on Jackson in 2008, allowing Darren Sproles to run wild.
Many will strongly disagree, but Jackson is right up there with Rivers when ranking the Chargers best players. In fact, he may be better.
When Floyd is the No. 1 receiver (and healthy), he is really not stoppable. You can only hope to contain the man.
He doesn't have the same short area quickness of Jackson, so he's not nearly the same threat in the red zone as he is in the open field.
When he is lined up with other talented guys who command a double team, no defense in the league has a cornerback good enough to cover Floyd without letting the other guy run wild.
Floyd's best role with the Chargers is that of a weapon that is able to stick it to and deflate a defense with one of his amazing leaping grabs that defenders had no chance of defending anyway.
When defended one-on-one, Rivers is likely to just sit back and launch a bomb of for grabs, knowing a defender has no chance to out leap the 6'5" M-80.
When the Chargers traded for Patrick Crayton, I thought it was a nothing deal. I figured that Crayton would just be a body that could fill in. Boy was I wrong.
In the slot, Crayton was so amazing that I still can not believe the Dallas Cowboys let him go. Crayton was beginning to fill the void left by Vincent Jackson as the season wore on.
Crayton's ability to shake and subsequently bake defenders in the open field is what the Chargers were looking for from Craig 'Buster' Davis. It was also a skill that no other Charger receiver possesses and added a dimension to the Turner's offense that hadn't been seen in San Diego.
When Crayton injured his wrist after embarrassing a couple of Denver Broncos defenders on his way to scoring a long touchdown on what looked like a harmless screen play, the entire offense bogged down.
The Chargers didn't even make it into the endzone the next week in Indianapolis.
Antonio Gates preaches learning and never thinking you've achieved your maximum potential. In an injury plagued season, Gates was on his way to smashing all of his career bests before having to take a seat to heal up.
Gates is so mentally superior at this stage of his career, that he was able to dominate games with injuries to both feet and allow no-name receivers like Seyi Ajirotutu to make plays in single coverage. My ex-girlfriend said Gates "looks clumsy."
I laughed, "silly woman, get back in the kitchen and get me another beer."
(I kid. I don't drink and I don't speak to women that way.)
A healthy Gates, Floyd, and Jackson were able to keep defenses at bay in 2008 without the help of a running game. Add Crayton into the mix in 2011 and he only adds another headache to an already stressed out defensive coordinator.
The Chargers nearly scored 500 points in 2006, but found themselves in the victory formation in 14 out of 16 games, so points were left on the field.
The difference in the 2006 team and the 2010 squad was the ability to run the ball in the red zone and play special teams. No need to elaborate.
With Mike Tolbert committing to improving his conditioning and Ryan Mathews having a full year under his belt, the duo will likely improve on the 1413 yards and 18 touchdowns they scored last season. When you consider that LaDainian Tomlinson did nearly all of the running in his prime years with the Bolts, that is an already phenomenal total.
Any improvement on last year's performance will make it easier for Rivers to pass the ball. Where the greatest improvement is needed is running the ball in the red-zone. Defense's success in stuffing the Chargers in goal line situations led to way to many points being left on the board.
Tomlinson started off as a horrible goal line runner, but evolved into possibly the greatest short yardage scorer of all time. While we can't expect that type of production out of Mathews and Tolbert, they can and will improve.
Rivers is the trigger man who knows were everyone will be at on the field and has the guts to pull the trigger in difficult situations.
Jackson and Floyd can run all the routes and make amazing leaping catches, but Jackson has the rare ability to move with such sudden quickness that defenders can't cover him in the red zone. That's amazing for a receiver of any stature, let alone a 6'5" 230 pound (minimum) monster like Jackson. These big guys are good at creating a lot of space underneath and over the middle.
Gates takes advantage of the middle of the field like no player in the league. Whether he is catching a short pass or deep, he keeps the defenses attention. His ability to line up outside as a wide receiver is a nightmare.
Crayton has the ability to take advantage of the space created underneath by Floyd and Jackson. He repeatedly made fools or receivers who attempted to tackle him in the open field. The Chargers have not had a receiver like this since Tim Dwight and not even Dwight was this good.
Tolbert and Mathews will be huge beneficiaries in between the twenties if all of these receivers return, because there is no way defenses can dedicate their attention to the running game with all those weapons at the Chargers' disposal, However, inside the 20 yard line, their ability to grind out tough yards will be the key to San Diego's ultimate offensive success.