Sunday, September 5, 2010

2010 Preview: San Diego Chargers

2009 Record: 13-3

2009 Rankings:
Total Offense - 10
Run Offense - 31
Pass Offense - 5
Scoring Offense - 4
Total Defense - 16
Run Defense - 20
Pass Defense - 11
Scoring Defense - 11

If there was ever a year that San Diego was considered vulnerable at the top of the AFC West, it's this year. However, since the rest of the AFC West blows, San Diego is almost a lock to win the division again. In response to their atrocious rushing offense last season, the Chargers parted ways with LaDainian Tomlinson and traded up to draft Ryan Mathews (RB-Fresno State) in the first round. Mathews is a hard runner, but it's going to be tough to step in and carry the load in an NFL offense. Particularly since San Diego's passing game took a big hit when Vincent Jackson was suspended for the first 4 games. 

The Chargers have looked to shop Jackson in the offseason, but no one has jumped at the possibility of getting a contract-disgruntled receiver for 12 games. Behind Jackson, tight end Antonio Gates was the second best receiver with 1157 yds and 8 TDs. Malcom Floyd becomes the temporary #1 receiver, who had 45 receptions and 1 TD (both totals less than Darren Sproles) last season. Sproles remains the backup to Mathews, but he still isn't a proven runner. 

On the other side of the ball, San Diego's defense is in a transitional period. Shawne "Roid Rage" Merriman is unhappy with his contract. Last year's interception leader Antonio Cromartie was shipped off to the Jets, leaving Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer as the starting CBs. Journeyman Antonio Garay, who was drafted by the Browns back in 03 and has played in 16 total games, has 12 career tackles, and 0 starts might start the season at nose tackle. The Chargers struggled with run defense last year, particularly with runs up the middle, and that doesn't seem like it will be any different this year.

The Chargers are traditional slow starters, and that won't be any different this year as gunslinger Philip Rivers tries to find a rhythm in an offense without his #1 receiver. Antonio Gates figures to be the prime target, but the Chargers will also need to rely on more blockers to help their running game. The Chargers will be vulnerable this year, but are still a better team than everyone else in the West. 

Ian's Prediction: 10-6

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