By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –
Commentary – Chargers’ Season Preview
San Diego – The Chargers completed their 2011 preseason campaign with a 2-2 record. If preseason wins over Dallas, Arizona are indicative of things to come then the Chargers should be able to hold their own on and end up atop the AFC West again this season. Then again, if losses to the Seahawks and the 49ers have any ratings value then Bolt Fans should be duly concerned. The point is – preseason games give the Talking Heads a lot to chatter about and fill the airwaves with predictions and guarantees that no one will remember next. But truthfully, preseason contests provide very little tangible information that can be used to predict a team’s regular season success.
Here is the way we see the Chargers 2011 Team:
Phillip Rivers has been dubbed an elite quarterback since he took over as the full time starter at the beginning of the 2006 season. His statistics over the past five seasons certainly support any of those adjectives often used to describe great quarterback plays. Suddenly though, those same pundits who dubbed him ‘Elite’ a few seasons ago are now turning on him and hurling the ‘O’ word around.
Rivers is in no way an overrated player but the Chargers’ lack of playoff success and not getting to the Super bowl are being unfairly levied at Rivers. The facts are, Rivers has been forced to do the heavy lifting since the demise and eventual departure of LaDainian Tomlinson. Each year Rivers has increased his personal statistics but the team’s overall performance has been erratic at best. Rivers threw the ball 541 times in 2010, nearly 100 more passes than he threw in the 2006 season when the Chargers won 14 games.
Second year running back Ryan Mathews rushed for 678-yards last season but those numbers don’t paralyze defenses like having a 2,000-yard rushing threat in the backfield. Unlike Brady and Manning who operate with slightly better than average running games, Rivers needs a strong running game behind him.
Lastly, beginning the season with tight end Antonio Gates not a full strength could be a big problem. Gates has consistently been Rivers favorite target and has been the team’s leading receiver in three of the past five years. Gates played in only 10 games last season and missed most of the preseason with injuries.
The Chargers defensive issues are simple and very easy to characterize. Every great defensive unit throughout the history of the NFL has had an identity. Usually, a group of guys, sometimes a single individual that filled the role or provided the leadership needed to be a great defensive unit. The Chargers had that in the 2006 season when Shawne Merriman led the team with 17 sacks and popularized his ‘sack dance’.
Since Merriman’s demise and eventual departure, the Chargers defense has not been able to cultivate a new defensive identity.
The Chargers preseason schedule didn’t answer any of these questions. Only time will tell but if any or all of these issues persists it is going to be a long season for Charger Fans.
G. Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com
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