Readiness factor: The Chargers may be one of the most prepared teams in the NFL after the long lockout. Quarterback Philip Rivers has held workouts with many players since March, and several players got together four days a week. It won’t completely match the usual supervised time with the coaching staff, but the Chargers should be in sync. This is a veteran group that should be ready to go.
Biggest challenge: There are two new coaches in major roles. Greg Manusky is taking over the defense and Rich Bisaccia is taking over the special teams. Manusky is a former San Diego coach and will run the same system former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera employed. Because special-teams units often change during the season anyway, that group should have no problem learning on the fly. So, although there is a new flavor on the staff, the Chargers should be fine.
Free agency will be a factor: San Diego has several key free agents, including running back Darren Sproles, receiver Malcom Floyd, safety Eric Weddle, tackle Jeromey Clary and linebacker Kevin Burnett. Weddle, Clary and Burnett may be priorities; Floyd and Sproles could get solid offers elsewhere. Still, the Chargers will have immediate work to do and may have to sign some replacement players at key spots, which hasn’t been a tendency during the A.J. Smith era.
Key players without contracts for 2011: Sproles, Floyd, Weddle, Clary, Burnett.