11. San Diego Chargers
Head Coach: Mike McCoy
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 350 points scored, 20th in points, 31st in yards (24th passing, 27th rushing)
2012 Defense: 350 points allowed, 16th in points, 9th in yards (18th passing, 6th rushing)
Head Coach Mike McCoy, T Max Starks, LB Dwight Freeney, G Chad Rinehart, T King Dunlap, CB Derek Cox, RB Danny Woodhead, G Rich Ohrnberger, DE Jarius Wynn, LB Thomas Keiser, LB DJ Smith, DB Cornelius Brown, DB Johny Patrick, T DJ Fluker, LB Manti Te’o, WR Keenan Allen, WR Luke Tasker
T Jared Gaither, WR Michael Spurlock, TE Randy McMichael, TE Dante Rosario, T Kevin Haslam, G Tyronne Greene, G Rex Hadnot, G Louis Vasquez, LB Shaun Phillips, LB Takeo Spikes, LB Demorrio Williams, CB Chris Carr, CB Antoine Cason, DB Quentin Jammer, DB Corey Lynch, LB Antwan Barnes, DB Atari Bigby, DT Aubrayo Franklin, DT Vaughn Martin
Why 2013 will be better
The Chargers are getting a lot of hype for a solid draft class that includes Fluker, Te’o, and Allen. Allen and Tasker offer relief to Malcolm Floyd, assuming the revamped line can keep Philip Rivers on his feet long enough to find them. The defensive line features seven new defensive ends going into camp, but the Chargers give the appearance of throwing bodies at their pass rush issues, hoping that someone will stick. Running back Ryan Matthews is loaded with talent but has underachieved so far, meaning new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt needs to motivate Matthews to do better while they hope he stays healthy. Woodhead is a great change of pace back with reliable hands and big play potential. Still, “better” in the case of this year’s Chargers might simply mean another 7-9 season.
Why 2013 will be worse
I happen to love visiting the city of San Diego, but my friendly Chargers’ fan friends who reside there may be in for another long season. The roster changes for San Diego look like “garbage in, garbage out.” The offensive line, which yielded 49 sacks in 2012, did not get dramatically better with the additions of Starks, Rinehart, and Dunlap. DJ Fluker looks poised to grab the right tackle spot, but it looks like another year of living on the edge for Rivers. The line also failed to open running lanes, as Chargers’ running backs were held to just 3.6 yards per carry a season ago, second worst in the league. The line will need to improve dramatically if the 31st ranked offense from last season is going to fare any better in 2013. Starks played every game for Pittsburgh last season, but will not be much of an upgrade. He struggled in the Steelers’ passing game last season and has never been an exceptional run blocker. On defense, the Chargers were the fourth worst team in the league on third down conversions, and the turnover on linebackers to bring in Freeney and Te’o as complements to Donald Butler and Jarret Johnson may work out for San Diego, but it seems to have just as much potential to implode, especially after the Chargers lost LB Melvin Ingram to a torn ACL this spring.
It seems very hard to make the argument that the Chargers got noticeably better over the course of the off-season. Mike McCoy has his hands full this season, trying to fix a broken offense while trying to maintain a decent defense that is undergoing significant turnover. San Diego seems to be in a re-building phase in a division where the Broncos are dominant and the Chiefs are improving. A window of five to seven wins seems likely.