The San Diego Chargers could be the most talented team in all of football, competing with the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. Some players on the Chargers seem to make the others around them better, sort of like Tom Brady does for the Patriots.
A Super Bowl appearance has not been achieved, even with all the talent they have had the last few years. This year's team could be different.
Here, in my opinion, are the ten best players on San Diego's current roster.
Like I mentioned, this team boasts many talented players, all of whom could breakout on any given day. The 10 players are coming up, but let's give some recognition to the players who deserve it.
13. Antoine Cason (CB): This guy is a special player. He can defend, catch and even return the ball. Cason is a very underrated player. As Antonio Cromartie's backup, Antoine didn't appeal to fans his rookie season. When Cromartie was traded to the New York Jets in 2010, Cason became the second cornerback. Many fans and coaches will agree that Cason is a more consistent defensive back than Cromartie.
12. Malcom Floyd (WR): Floyd is a one of two 6'5'' receivers Philip Rivers gets to throw to. He has incredible leaping ability, which allows him to go up in the air and grab balls. Last season, he really stood out because of all the injuries. He proved his athleticism by catching the long ball. Unfortunately, Floyd sustained a concussion in Sunday's game against the Cowboys. More info to come.
11. Antonio Garay (DT): Stud. Plain and simple. The way this guy gets after the quarterback is outstanding. In one game last season, Garay threw a Colt lineman at Peyton Manning to take him down. He is an animal. The reason he didn't make the top 10 is because of his experience. Last season was really his only good year in the NFL. He had 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks last year. In all the prior seasons, he only had 17 tackles. Watch for him to make even more noise this year.
Too high? You tell me. Yes, he is younger than Cason, Floyd and Garay. Yes, he didn't have an impressive first season. Yes, he has injury problems. There are many downsides that people can argue about, but what they can't leave out is his upside. His speed and elusiveness create that upside. On any given play, Mathews can explode for a big gain.
The reason he's No. 10 is because of the upcoming season. Although it's early, Mathews needs to impress. With the receivers returning for San Diego, more run space will open up. And everyone knows that Ryan Mathews is deadly in the open field.
If he can get back to the way he ran the ball at Fresno State, Mathews could jump into the top five players on San Diego's roster.
We have only seen Spikes in two games as Charger, but the 14-year veteran has proven himself with many other teams. Spikes brings veteran leadership to San Diego. With him, the line-backing crew will only get better. They'll learn from Spikes' experience.
Greg Manusky became the new defensive coordinator for the Chargers this season. Takeo Spikes played for him in his last two years as a 49er. The scheme, as well as Manusky's strategy, is well known by Spikes, which will help the entire team out.
Spikes is a tackling machine. Last season, he had 82 of them.
Consistency is key for San Diego. Takeo has a huge opportunity to be the leading tackler for the Chargers this season.
Sanders is another veteran player brought in by San Diego. All people are saying about this acquisition is "he'll get hurt" or "his career is over."
Again, he's another player who has some downside, but tremendous upside.
In 2007, Sanders had 71 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and 6 interceptions. He looks great on paper, but even better on the field. This was also four years ago. The last three years, Sanders has been injured. He only played in nine of 48 games the last three years. Yep, there's the downside.
Everyone knows the type of player Sanders is when he's healthy. Troy Polamalu was considered the next Bob Sanders. That says it all.
Quentin Jammer's fellow defensive back, Antoine Cason, was an honorable mention on this list. Jammer, on the other hand, has been productive his entire career.
I also stated that I thought Cason was a very underrated player. That being said, I think Quentin Jammer is the MOST underrated defensive back in the league. He isn't Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha, but he could be ranked on the second tier at least.
Jammer is entering his tenth year in the league, and has not slowed down one bit. In his nine seasons, Jammer has recorded 518 tackles and intercepted six passes. His tackle numbers resemble Revis', besides his amazing rookie year.
Quentin Jammer is a solid cornerback who the Chargers love. He's been their guy in coverage for the last decade. Jammer is a San Diego great who will never get the recognition he deserves.
The big boy up front is needed. Good thing San Diego has a Pro Bowl left tackle in Marcus McNeill.
The Chargers were pretty iffy last season when McNeill held out from the team. When he came back, San Diego gave him a 6 year, $49 million deal.
I think Philip Rivers had a pretty big impact on that decision. Just imagine Rivers: "So you're telling me we aren't going to re-sign one of the best offensive tackles in the league? A guy who protects me? Well, that's not very smart."
It's pretty hard to talk about stats with an offensive lineman. There really aren't any. When you watch McNeill play, you just know he's a great player. The blindside needs to be dealt with, and Rivers stated that he wants no one other than Marcus McNeill doing so.
The last player of the secondary on the list, big-money Weddle comes in at No. 5.
He's the player who makes the clutch tackles when needed. He's not the strongest or the fastest, but he's one of the smartest. Weddle is not Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, but he sure is making his way up to that level.
Weddle received a Pro Bowl selection last season, and the Chargers knew he was too valuable to lose. He was re-signed to a 5 year, $40 million deal. The contract makes Weddle the highest-paid safety in the history of the NFL. San Diego can see his potential everywhere.
I did call Takeo Spikes a "tackling machine," but Eric Weddle is also one that takes the offensive players down. In four years, Weddle has made 295 tackles, including 80 last season and 105 in 2008. Now those are impressive numbers.
Eric Weddle is turning into one of the best defensive players in the league, and this could be his best year yet.
This is the other 6'5'' receiver Rivers gets to throw to.
Vincent Jackson is coming off of his holdout year, playing as the Chargers' franchise player. Jackson will be working extremely hard to earn the long term contract he deserves.
In 2009, Jackson had 1,167 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also made the Pro Bowl that season. His athleticism is what makes him stand out. Strength, speed and hands are what make great receivers.
Vincent Jackson has them all.
Honestly, I'm at a loss for words when I talk about this guy, and his ability to run routes and catch the ball. He has all the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the league.
He's another guy that I could see Rivers pushing to bring back.
Merriman's gone? Who cares, San Diego has this guy. Shaun Phillips is entering his eighth season in the league (all with the Chargers). In the last couple of seasons, he has really started to show up. When exciting linebacker Shawne Merriman left San Diego, Phillips knew it was his time to shine.
Last season, Phillips recorded 47 tackles. 11 of them were sacks. His stats are great, and his plays are outstanding. Shaun Phillips goes 100% trying to get into the backfield on every play.
We all love his sack celebration, don't we?
Phillips improves every season, and has really developed into one of the premier pass rushers in the league. Expect to see even more from him this year.
Hall of Famer, first ballot, no doubt. Greatest tight end in franchise history. That's the introduction Antonio Gates deserves.
Gates comes from a basketball background. His rebounding ability allows for him to create space to catch the ball. His fast cuts also free up space for him. Entering his ninth season, Gates will be battling a plantar fasciitis (foot) injury.
Many believe he will be starting his decline, which would be the end of an era for the San Diego receiving core. Although Gates has the injury, Philip Rivers would probably take him over any tight end in the history of the NFL. He's just that good.
Antonio Gates is one of the top fifty players in franchise history, and is also one, if not the best, tight end to ever play the game of football.
And that's the closing the Antonio Gates deserves. A true legend.
Were you thinking someone else? Not a chance. The Chargers are Philip Rivers' team, and that's the bottom line. It's ridiculous how Rivers runs the offense so smoothly.
Whether it's a short first down, a running back screen or a long ball, Rivers is on the money nine out of 10 times. That's pretty good for a guy who throws about 40 or more passes a game.
Last season really proved Rivers' leadership. He completed at least one pass to 17 different receivers. That's unheard of. Guys like Seyi Ajirotutu and Randy McMichael looked like Pro Bowlers with Rivers throwing them the ball.
His fiery personality and cocky attitude is what fuels Philip Rivers' game. When there's a penalty, he's there. When he throws a touchdown, he's congratulating the receiver. He plays to win the game. Thank you, Herm Edwards.
Rivers led the NFL with 4,710 yards last season. Can he get 5,000 this season?
One of the best leaders in Chargers history: Philip Rivers.