Expect less shotgun, more play-action for Philip Rivers in 2016

SAN DIEGO -- Too often last season, the San Diego Chargers found themselves behind the sticks facing third-and-long situations.

The Chargers had 42 negative runs in 2015. Because of that, former offensive coordinator Frank Reich leaned on Philip Rivers to gain those yards offenses would normally get from the running game on early downs.

“Early in the season we had a high percentage of negative plays,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. “So then as the playcaller, you start saying, 'I’ve got Philip Rivers back there. I can throw it a couple more times and gain those yards.'”

In 2015, the Charger ran 825 plays from the shotgun, which was the most in the NFL. Rivers ran just 134 plays from under center in 2015.

However, the Chargers are working to create more balance on offense with the return of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, so expect Rivers to operate more from under center in 2016.

Under Whisenhunt in 2013, Rivers ran 284 snaps from under center. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers has the highest completion percentage (72.3 percent) in the NFL on play-action passes and the third-highest Total QBR since 2013.

So a return to being under center more should take advantage of Rivers’ ability to create plays in the play-action game. Rivers has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions on play-action passes over the last three seasons.

“When you are in shotgun, it enables you to do some different things,” Whisenhunt told the team’s web site. “But a lot of times it is good to be under center, go downhill and get after guys. It makes the linemen feel like badasses. Part of that is being able to run the football better.

“It sets up some of your play-action. But there are a lot more versatile things you can do from shotgun from the standpoint of your back being able to cross protect from both sides. When you have a quarterback like Philip that understands protections, it can really help with that, because when the defense brings pressure and you don’t have to throw it quick but can actually let a play develop, you can really hurt a team that way. It’s important to do both. We had a pretty good balance with that in 2013.”