SAN DIEGO -- The Chargers finished with four players on this year’s All-AFC West team, voted on by ESPN reporters who cover teams in the AFC West.
On offense, center Nick Hardwick and rookie receiver Keenan Allen made the cut. Hardwick has been the anchor of a surprisingly productive offensive line for the Chargers. The 10-year veteran did not miss a game this season. Allen broke a franchise record for receiving yards, finishing with 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with eight.
Quarterback Philip Rivers deserved to be on the first team, but he plays in a division that includes Peyton Manning, who had perhaps the best season statistically by a signal-caller in the history of the NFL, so it’s understandable why he was left off.
Antonio Gates is another matter. Yes, Julius Thomas put up some big numbers, but he’s more of a glorified slot receiver than a true tight end. Gates had a nice bounce-back season, leading the team with 77 receptions. Gates also totaled 872 yards and four touchdowns. His ability to command double-teams on a consistent basis opened things up for other players on San Diego’s offense.
Eric Weddle led San Diego’s defense with 115 tackles, and deservedly earned a spot on the team as a free safety. Defensive end Corey Liuget could have been a consideration for the defensive line, but his production in terms of sacks tailed off the second half of the season.
Nick Novak was a nice surprise as the first-team kicker. Novak finished with a team record for field goal percentage, making 34 of 37 (91.9 percent). Novak also had five tackles on special teams. Denver’s Matt Prater made a league-record 64-yard field goal and was voted to the Pro Bowl, but was not as consistent away from the thin air of Denver.