Philip Rivers' No. 1 goal this offseason: Protect the football

SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers is a little thinner than usual this offseason and still possesses the fastball to fit a throw in a tight window.

Yet the 35-year-old Los Angeles Chargers quarterback's top priority this offseason is simple -- take better care of the football.

Although he threw for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, earning his sixth Pro Bowl invitation, Rivers also led the league in interceptions with 21. As a team, the Chargers led the league in turnovers in 2016 with 35.

Specifically, Rivers struggled in the fourth quarter last season. He totaled just five touchdowns and nine interceptions in the final quarter, recording a 63.3 passer rating.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt have made curbing turnovers a point of emphasis this offseason, so it makes sense for Rivers to follow suit.

"I've kind of really narrowed it down to protecting the ball this offseason," Rivers said. "Obviously, you're always working on the little things in the pocket, and all of the different drills and things we do. And I know it's broad, and there's a story to every turnover, but really it's about protecting the football.

"I just think if we do that, and I do a better job of that, you're automatically winning a few more games than we won last year. And then you give yourself a chance in those other games that are going to be down to the wire."

Rivers said one of the ways he'll improve on protecting the football is following the advice of former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who served in the role for the Chargers from 2002-06: Don't get bored with the little things.

For Rivers, that means making sure his fundamentals inside the pocket are sound, and taking the checkdown for five yards instead of unnecessarily forcing the issue down the field. Lynn has also vowed to bring more balance to the offense by leaning on the running game, which should help Rivers.

"It's not getting bored with completions and really setting a goal for OTAs -- let's try not to throw 'this many' interceptions," Rivers said. "You're going to throw one or two. Now is the time to make some throws. You don't want to go out there and play scared, especially out here in the backyard.

"But really recreating that habit of protecting the ball and it going to our guy or nobody, and so far it's been a pretty good start."

While taking care of the football is important, one of the things Lynn appreciates about Rivers is the energy he brings to the practice field, creating an enhanced intensity during team drills. Lynn said that competition is critical in helping the Chargers improve during the offseason.

"He's very passionate about this game and he takes it seriously," Lynn said. "He doesn't take anything for granted. That's the way he practices, and that's the way he plays.

"It's real important because some days you come out and you just don't have the juice, and the quarterback -- or someone -- can get the guys going. And it just so happened to be our quarterback."