With Antonio Gates out, Herm Edwards says Danny Woodhead next man up

There are high expectations for Danny Woodhead and the Chargers' offense entering Week 1 of the 2015 season. Rick Scuteri/AP

With Antonio Gates serving a four-game suspension to start the regular season, ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards says running back Danny Woodhead is the San Diego Chargers' best playmaker to start the offense.

Edwards talked with Darren Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM radio in this audio link.

"You're going to have to stop Woodhead because that's the next guy," Edwards said. "He's back in the fold, and this a guy who makes the chains move, especially on third down."

My take: Edwards is right. The Chargers suffered a big blow on offense when Woodhead broke his ankle in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, cutting short his 2014 season. In his first season with the Chargers, Woodhead totaled 1,034 yards from scrimmage, including 76 catches for 605 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Woodhead finished tied for third among running backs with 86 targets. And he topped all running backs with 21 red zone targets. He finished with 17 receptions on third down.

Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus projects the finish of every AFC team. The Chargers are projected to finish ninth in the AFC. Jahnke believes San Diego's offense is better with the additions of Orlando Franklin, Joe Barksdale and Stevie Johnson, but the defense got worse with the loss of highly rated players such as Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson.

My take: I do believe the offense is better than last season, but even with the loss of Freeney and Johnson, San Diego's defense has looked faster and more physical with younger players on the field. If they can stay healthy, San Diego's defense should be improved as well.

Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune notes the Chargers have gotten younger since general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy took over in 2013. According to Acee, the average age of the roster dropped from 27.2 when the duo took over, to 26.3 in 2015.

My take: While the roster is younger, more important the Chargers have more talent on both sides of the ball. And hopefully that leads to more wins for San Diego.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com provides a scouting report for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. He notes that Philip Rivers (252 touchdown passes) needs just three more to eclipse Dan Fouts' franchise record of 254 touchdown passes.

My take: That's elite company for Rivers, who faces a pretty good secondary this week in the Lions. Safety Glover Quin led the NFL in interceptions last season with seven.