The Chargers entered the season with high expectations, yet again, in 2011.
The only difference last year was the seemingly inevitable disappointment came early, with the team failing to even make the post-season.
The Chargers' 8-8 record tied for tops in the division but lost out to the Broncos' on tiebreakers.
Important Additions: QB Charlie Whitehurst, FB Le'Ron McClain, WR Robert Meachem, WR Eddie Royal, TE Dante Rosario, OLB Jarret Johnson, LB Demorrio Williams, SS Atari Bigby
Important Losses: RB Mike Tolbert, WR Vincent Jackson, LT Marcus McNeill, DE Tommie Harris, LB Stephen Cooper, SS Steve Gregory, DE Jacques Cesaire, FB Jacob Hester.
Reasons to Believe
1. Open The Gates – Before there was Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, there was Antonio Gates. It wasn't long ago Gates was the most dangerous tight end in the league, but injuries have sapped his effectiveness the past couple of seasons. Reports have Gates entering the year healthier than he's been in a long time, and ready to retake his place among the elite tight ends in the league.
|Philip Rivers had a sub-par 2011 throwing a career worst 20 interceptions and will need to be sharper if the Chargers want to retake top spot int he AFC West.
2. Infusion of New Blood – The Chargers added a number of talented pieces through free agency on both offence and defence. These players, guys like Le'Ron McClain, Jarret Johnson, and Atari Bigby come with the added benefit of not having been through the past disappointments in San Diego; a clean slate.
3. Rivers And His Receivers – Philip Rivers lost his leading receiver Vincent Jackson through free agency and he's still thrilled with his pass catchers heading into the season. Reports suggest Rivers has built a strong chemistry with his receiving corps, especially newcomers Robert Meacham and Eddie Royal. After a slight down year for Rivers, he could bounce back with this group.
Reasons to Doubt
1. More Of The Same – The Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer in 2007 not because he was an unsuccessful coach, but rather in part because he couldn't get the team "over the hump." Five years later and it appears that answer also eludes Norv Turner. Turner has 14 years head coaching experience and has yet to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
2. Can't Trust Gaither? – Left tackle Jared Gaither was signed off the street only to become the surprise saviour of the Chargers' offensive line last year. But the reason the talented Gaither was available at all was because several teams had soured on him and his reputation as a lazy player. San Diego took a chance, signing him long-term, but concerns will persist. Gaither has missed time in training camp with a back injury, surely igniting more concern.
3. Mathews Work Load – A lot of the Chargers plans on offence hinge on Ryan Mathews being a workhorse back. The third-year rusher was slated for a ton of carries, but after breaking his clavicle in the preseason, that number may have to be re-examined. Mathews isn't expected to miss much regular season time, but the injury is still concerning for a player expected to be leaned on so heavily.
What to Expect
For the past several seasons, the Chargers entered with expectations somewhere in between division favourites to Super Bowl contenders, always to fall short. But thanks in large part to Peyton Manning signing in Denver, the Chargers enter this year flying under the radar. The lack of attention should benefit the Chargers, who have the talent to make the playoffs and even challenge for the division title.