Panda Watch!!! The mood is tense as the San Diego Chargers finished with a disappointing 9-7 record in 2014 after making the playoffs in 2013 under Head Coach Mike McCoy. The Chargers were 5-3 at home and 4-4 on the road facing the NFC West, AFC East and AFC West (twice) opponents plus Baltimore and Jacksonville. San Diego lost at home to Patriots, were crushed in Miami, swept by the Chiefs and Broncos and lost by one point in Arizona to open the season. Chargers beat the Seahawks in San Diego and won in Baltimore and Buffalo as notable wins. Chargers also beat the lowly Rams, 49ers, Jets, Jaguars and swept the Raiders. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
The Chargers were decimated with injuries in 2014 with the second most games lost to players. Former RB Ryan Matthews, former center Nick Hardwick missed most of the season on offense. OLB Melvin Ingram (temp IR), rookie CB Jason Verrett and Manti Te’o were the notable defensive injuries. Injuries are a dirty dirty pirate hooker.
Stats and Upgrades
San Diego was 17th in PPG offense netting 21.8 PPG. San Diego ran at only at 3.6 YPC. San Diego upgraded their running back with Melvin Gordon and added left guard Orlando Franklin in free agency to take care of their run game issues. Left tackle King Dunlap was re-signed to a big contract and former 1st round pick DJ Fluker moves to right guard from right tackle. Right Tackle Joseph Barksdale was added in May and Chris Watt continues at center for the retired long time Charger cent Nick Hardwick. I love lamp.
Phillip Rivers is in a contract year and had a strong 2014. Rivers passed for 66.5%, 4,286 yards, 31 TDs and 18 interceptions in 2014. Rivers was sacked 37 times and pressured on 34% of his 626 drop backs. GM Tom Telesco adding LG Orlando Franklin and moving Fluker inside should help address this protection issue. Great oden’s raven those are good personnel moves.
San Diego defense matched the offense allowing 21.8 PPG to opponents which was 13th ranked. San Diego had trouble stopping the run allowing 4.5 YPC. San Diego only sacked the opposing QB 26 times and forced only 18 turnovers (7 ints and 11 fumbles). The Chargers hope a full season of Manti Teo at ILB and former 1st round pick Melvin Ingram on top of the development of 2014 2nd round pick Jeremiah Attaochu will solve their run defense and pass rush woes.
Rivers and Weapons
Rivers is a franchise QB and can lead this team down the field for points even without much run game and protection. Rivers has plenty of weapons with Malcolm Floyd, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Jacoby Jones, Stevie Johnson and rookie Melvin Gordon. Whammie!!!!!!!
Keenan Allen was OROY in 2013 and Gates is a future hall of famer who still produces (821 yards and 12 TDs in 2014). Floyd is a deep threat (16.5 YPC with 13 20+ yard plays) and Jones and Johnson were nice veteran additions. The Chargers lost Eddie Royal (778 yards and 7 TDs) to the Bears in free agency. This is a pretty big loss in the slot but Jones should fill the role.
Brandon Flower and Eric Weddle are stud players in the secondary. Flowers was stolen when the Chiefs cut him last year and had a +7.1 coverage grade in 2014. Weddle was rated the top safety in the NFL with a + 18.9 grade. Weddle is in a contract dispute but this shouldn’t affect his play. Jason Verrett played an amazing 230 snaps before injury in 2014 as a rookie. Verrett had a +8.1 grade and will be a welcome addition back at CB for the Chargers. Corner Craig Mager was added in the 3rd round of the draft from small school Texas State for the departed bust Shareece Wright along with former Saint 1st round pick Patrick Robinson. Solid safeties in Jaheel Addae or veteran Jimmy Wilson will man the safety spot next to Waddle. The Chargers secondary will be tough to pass on if they can generate a pass rush in 2015. 60% of the time they work every time.
Run Defense and Pass Rush
The Chargers run defense and pass rush is the team’s main weaknesses. Corey Liueget is a good 3-4 DE pass rusher but struggles against the run. Fellow DE Kendall Reyes and NT Sean Lissemore also struggled against the run in 2014. The lack of defensive line support caused problems for ILB Donald Butler (-10.0 run grade) and Manti Te’o (-1.6 run grade). Rookie ILB Denzel Perryman was added to address this run stopping issue in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft.
The Chargers pass rush has some talent with Ingram and Attaochu at OLB. Ingram had a +4.7 pass rush grade with 4 sacks, 6 hits and 16 hurries in only 221 pass rush snaps due to injury. Attoachu added 115 pass rush snaps as a rookie and a +3.5 pass rush grade. The Chargers lost their best pass rusher in Dwight Freeney who notched a +13.9 pass rush grade with 3.5 sacks, 9 hits and 40 hurries. Ingram and Attoachu developing and staying healthy could bolster the Chargers rush but losing Freeney hurts San Diego more than most realize. Baxter, bark twice if you are in Milwaukee.
Protection and Run Blocking
The Chargers offensive line is the big unknown for the 2015 season. Adding left guard Orlando Franklin (+12.0 grade) from rival Denver and moving DJ Fluker to right guard should help Rivers and the run game. However, Watt, Fluker and new tackle Joe Barksdale all struggled in pass protection in 2014. It will be up to 1st round pick Melvin Gordon to make the most out of limited holes and break open big gainers with his rookie speed and vision to improve the run game. Wisconsin fans will surely miss Gordon’s musk in Madison.
The Chargers are a solid team but can be beaten by all four North opponents. Detroit travels to San Diego Week 1 and Chicago jets there for a Monday Night game Week 9 of the season. The 2015 season possibly being the Chargers last season in San Diego could play a factor in home field advantage for these two games. Minnesota hosts San Diego Week 3 and Green Bay hosts the Bolts Week 6. San Diego made some major offensive upgrades with Gordon and Franklin but their defensive front 7 is a major question. Look for another .500 season for San Diego unless their front 7 figures out how to rush the passer and stop the run. This is Ron Burgundy. Go Fuck yourself San Diego!!!!