Now that San Diego coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are returning to the team in 2012, let’s look at some things the Chargers have going for them and areas where change may be necessary.
What to build upon:
Quarterback Philip Rivers: This is an elite quarterback. Yes, he didn’t have his greatest season. Yes, he made crucial mistakes in all eight of the Chargers’ losses. But he is a player than can lead the Chargers deep into the playoffs. He finished the season strong and threw just three interceptions in the final six games.
Running back Ryan Mathews: Smith’s big trade to move up to get Mathews with the No. 12 pick in 2010 looked to be a good decision in Mathews’ second season. He ran for 1,091 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Mathews should only get better and offer the Chargers’ offense great balance.
The trio of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates: It was no shock that Rivers settled down when his three receiving weapons were healthy together late in the season. If these players (Jackson is a free agent and he may be franchised) can stay healthy next year, the Chargers will be in great shape.
Changes may be needed:
Defensive coordinator: Don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is fired. I know there was some disappointment in San Diego over the unit’s lack of success under Manusky. The Chargers were the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL last year under Ron Rivera, who was hired as the head coach in Carolina. Manusky didn’t get the same results as Rivera did and I could see change. I know San Diego’s players like secondary coach Steve Wilks and he could be a possibility. Another option could be Miami defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Offensive line: With plenty of needs on defense, San Diego may have to use some resources on the offensive line. Guard Kris Dielman, tackle Marcus McNeill and center Nick Hardwick all may consider retirement. There is a chance all three players will return, but the odds are the Chargers are facing some change on the line. One potential solution is re-signing tackle Jared Gaither, who shined after being claimed off waivers from Kansas City.
Front-line help: This is the year the Chargers need to open up their pocket book. It is not Smith’s way to do much in free agency. That may need to change this year. The Chargers’ roster needs some fine tuning and spending for reliable help may be the answer whether it was Smith’s past philosophy or not. This is a do-or-die year in San Diego, so a change in philosophy may be needed.