All in all, the San Diego Chargers are off to their best start (4-1) under head coach Norv Turner, but they’re areas that still need improvement. An early bye affords a team time to assess their situation and make necessary changes for the rest of the season. The Chargers are coming together as a team, but they’re not perfect. In past years, they usually hit their stride in early November.
Let’s take a look at five adjustments the Chargers must make during the bye week:
The Chargers have a huge hole at the tight end position, as the team must decide if Antonio Gates has any chance of playing in the near future.
For most teams, missing an All-Pro would be a liability, but Randy McMichael is considered one of the top backups in the NFL. He isn’t the long-term solution, as Kory Sperry could develop into a top pass-catching tight end. His potential might turn a high-powered offense into a lethal attack.
In his career, Philip Rivers has never been more inconsistent in throwing the football than the first five weeks of this season.
Is it because the Chargers are running the football more effectively? No.
Is it because the offensive line hasn’t protected him in the pocket? Maybe.
Not having Gates on the field has been a major problem, as Rivers has lost that dependable second option if Vincent Jackson isn’t open downfield. He’s trying to do too much in the passing game, often forcing the football into double coverage.
Hopefully, the return of Patrick Crayton and Malcolm Floyd to the lineup will offer more viable options downfield. Until Rivers finds some rhythm in the offense, it will run hot and cold on a week-to-week basis.
It seems every week; the Chargers are one turnover away from giving the lead to their opposition. Too often, they seem to playing two teams (the opposing team and themselves) each week.
Offensively, they have been awful in the red zone, as they settle too often for field goals. The offense needs to find a killer instinct and score touchdowns to put teams away quick and easy. You cannot allow bad teams to continually hang around because they will steal a game once in a while. Super Bowl-contending teams rarely beat themselves.
What type of defense do the Chargers play? Are they the swarming defense that harass Minnesota Vikings QB Donovan McNabb in Week 1 or are they the passive three-man rush that allowed New England Patriots QB Tom Brady to complete the underneath pass all day long.
The team’s roster is equipped to pressure the quarterback, as they should take their chances on defending the deep ball. Until the Chargers play a complete game, they will never defeat the elite teams in the NFL.
Too much hoopla surrounded RB Ryan Mathews after the Chargers traded up to secure his rights with the 12th pick of the first round. Unfortunately, he never could stay on the field due a severe ankle sprain. Coming into this year’s training camp, Mathews arrived out of shape, as he failed the team’s conditioning test.
But, before declaring him a bust, he regained his bruising running style that has given the Chargers a more consistent ground attack and it forces opposing teams to play a more honest defense against them. This has also opened up some passing lanes for Rivers. The game is slowing down for Mathews, as he’s hitting the holes more aggressively than anytime last season.
The fans have to stop expecting him to be the next LT, and let him become the first Ryan Mathews.
Ever since the Chargers released Rodney Harrison, they have been looking for a replacement at the SS position. An unexpected development might have solved their problem: the emergence of Marcus Gilchrist as a player.
Norv Turner has publicly stated that he needs to find Gilchrist more playing time, as he was more than an adequate replacement for the injured Quentin Jammer. Gilchrist didn’t play like a rookie when teams were testing him by throwing the football constantly to his side of the field.
The Chargers have too many good corners and not enough quality safeties. Moving Jammer to the safety position would give the Chargers a quality secondary and a viable answer to defend the top tight ends in the game. It’s obvious that Steve Gregory isn’t an every down starter, but is better utilized as a situational defender.
The only wildcard in the move is how long Jammer needs to adjust to his new position.