After years of witnessing the San Diego Chargers dominate the AFC West, the tables have turned or we can say the rest of their division foes have caught up and even surpassed the Chargers.
Whatever the case may be, if the 2011 season for the Chargers, plagued with injuries and turnovers was difficult.
And the 2012 season may be even more difficult for them with key departures from their team and key additions to the other AFC West opponents.
Speaking of departures, during the offseason, we witnessed the loss of the most beloved Charger of them all, Junior Seau. We also saw leading receiver Vincent Jackson bolt from San Diego to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and key contributor, running back Mike Tolbert, as well.
The one departure that may hurt them the most is now retired offensive guard Kris Deilman who retired after suffering a grand mal seizure from a concussion suffered against the New York Jets.
On offense, Philip Rivers is trying to turn the corner on an average season where he threw for 4,624 yards but also passed for career-high 20 interceptions. When it comes to the rest of the offense, the key to their success is staying healthy and it starts with running back Ryan Mathews, who ran for over 1,000 yards and caught 50 passes and tight end Antonio Gates, who led the team in receptions last year.
The offensive line looks to have a rebound season with center Nick Hardwick, who didn’t give up a sack all season, leading the way while Jared Gaither and others look to help Philip Rivers and company return to elite status.
Defensively, the Chargers return a veteran secondary that was not very good at all last season even though safety Eric Weddle was tied for the league lead in interceptions. Some say the lack of pass rush was to blame and the Chargers seemed to have addressed the situation by using their first two picks in this year’s Draft on defensive end Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes.
The two rookies will team up with last year’s first pick, Corey Luiget, to give the Chargers a bolt of athleticism and speed to improve a defense that finished in the middle of the pack.
The offensive line steps up and give Philip Rivers the time and protection he needs find his targets and returns to elite quarterback status. Rivers' supporting cast such as Mathews, Gates and Malcom Floyd actually stay healthy for a whole season and continue to improve on last season’s numbers.
For the defense, the young line becomes the strength of the unit and provides the aging back seven to make more plays and force more turnovers. Overall, the Chargers steal a few tough AFC road games and finish with a 10-6 record and make it to the playoffs.
This also may save GM A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner's jobs for another season or two depending on how deep there run is in the playoffs.
The offense is crippled by injuries once again to their key contributors forcing the young players to hopefully step up and Philip Rivers to run for his life again, which leads to more turnovers and less points. The defense has another average-to-subpar season due to the defensive line not living up to expectations while the rest of the defense hopes to get back to the days when defensive guru Ron Rivera was there before leaving for the Carolina Panthers.
Even if kicker Nate Kaeding returns from injury and back to his old self, the Chargers face a tough schedule and are likely to miss the playoffs again finishing with a 6-10 record, leading to the exit of Smith and Turner.