San Diego Chargers Poised for a Breakout 2013
There is certainly a buzz floating around the San Diego Chargers. That buzz may be the sound of media truck generators humming so news organizations can capture video of certain rookie linebackers at training camp.
The mere fact there is a new regime at Charger Park should be enough to garner interest from fans. The free agency and draft moves orchestrated by new general manager Tom Telesco has led to a youth movement in the Bolts locker room. New head coach Mike McCoy is promising a new offensive scheme that could see quarterback Philip Rivers complete more passes than any other season in his career—at least that’s the hope.
With the promise of so much “newness,” who will be the new stars on the team? Who will have the type of season to earn “breakout” status?
Can Philip Rivers be a breakout star considering he is the face of the franchise? No? Well then, Rivers is poised to have a rebound performance. Head coach Mike McCoy is inserting a new offense that involves shorter routes, what Rivers described as “high percentage .”
More completions presumably involves less turnovers. More completions and less turnovers should result in more yards for Rivers and more wins for the Chargers.
Keenan Allen should have a nice rookie year. The wide receiver depth chart is packed with talent, but Allen should see plenty of playing time. He may not be the leading receiver among the 2013 rookie class, but Allen should develop nicely his first year in San Diego.
Defensive ends Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget are young and are coming off a solid 2012 campaign. They combined for 79 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, 10 passes deflected, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The two may not become household names like J.J. Watt (81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 pass deflected and four forced fumbles in 2012), but they should improve in 2013 and continue to be one of the better young defensive bookends in the league.
Melvin Ingram is bound to have a better year statistically in 2013 than in 2012. First, Ingram will be the starting outside linebacker and will have more playing time and opportunities. Second, he only had 41 tackles and one sack as a rookie. Will he burst onto the national scene as a superstar? Unlikely, but he should improve on his rookie season.
Vincent Brown, WR
Vincent Brown was selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. That was the summer of the NFL lockout while the new collective bargaining agreement was being hammered out. That meant Brown and all of the other rookies missed out on important offseason workouts.
Rookies are usually a little behind and need time to adjust to the professional level. That adjustment usually comes during the minicamps and workouts. Brown learned on the fly during the 2011 regular season and started to gain a relationship and trust with quarterback Philip Rivers. In eight of the final nine games of 2011 Brown collected 17 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns.
He was predicted to have a breakout year in 2012, but he ended up breaking his ankle in the second preseason game and sat out all of the regular season.
Fully healed, Brown should flourish in the McCoy’s high-percentage passing offense. A “bombs-away” passing attack needs tall and fast receivers. A more precise offense favors quick and dangerous route runners. McCoy recently said Brown was a “great route-runner.”
Brown is currently the No.3 wide receiver, but he could quickly rise up the depth chart this offseason and be one of the main targets for Rivers in 2013.
Ladarius Green, TE
Ladarius Green is entering his second season in the NFL after sitting behind Randy McMichael, Dante Rosario and future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates.
He only played in four games and only had four receptions, but Green was only targeted four times in 2012.
The Chargers brought in free agents John Philips and Dallas Walker and undrafted free agents Ben Cotton and David Rolf as tight ends to compete in minicamp, but Green could eventually be the heir apparent to Gates.
Green presents a matchup problem for opposing defenses. He stands 6’6” and 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds. For comparison sake, Jimmy Graham is 6’6" and ran the 40 in 4.56 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Like Graham, don’t expect Green to be a great blocker. Green, however, could be a massive slot target, especially near the goal line. If defenses are keying in on Gates, Green should be in a one-on-one situation. Scoring touchdowns is a surefire way to become a breakout player in the NFL.
Brandon Taylor, SS
In the third round of the 2012 draft, the Chargers selected safety Brandon Taylor out of LSU. The design was to bring him along slowly as he watched and learned the pro game from a couple of free agent veterans.
Taylor started one game late in the season and tore his right ACL.
He is still recovering from surgery and may miss all of the offseason, which will be a big blow to his ability to impress coaches and earn playing time. Marcus Gilchrist is getting a look from the coaches at safety, which puts pressure on Taylor to take the field sooner rather than later.
Taylor, however, is an athlete with a “nose for the ball” who could play next to Eric Weddle for years.
Cam Thomas, NT
Cam Thomas has 47 total tackles and six sacks in his first three seasons with the Chargers. The 2010 draft selection out of North Carolina has been part of a rotation at nose tackle with Antonio Garay and Aubrayo Franklin.
The other two are gone and the only other nose tackles on the roster are undrafted free agents Kwame Geathers and Byron Jerideau. All three will see significant playing time, but the veteran Thomas should get lion’s share.
By the shear increase in playing time, Thomas will have better numbers than before (his best season was probably his sophomore year in San Diego when he had 20 tackles and four sacks.)
It will be hard to have a true breakout year, though, because the media attention will go to linebackers Manti Te’o and Donald Butler and safety Eric Weddle.