The San Diego Chargers have welcomed their draft choices and free agent acquisitions into the fold, now we wait for the opening of training camp on July 25th. Still, new head coach Mike McCoy and his staff have a few pressing questions that must be answered before the home opener against the Houston Texans.
Here are the five most pressing questions heading into training camp:
1) Who will be the Pass Rusher from the OLB Position?
The Chargers pass-rushing defense took a major hit when outside linebacker Melvin Ingram tore his ACL at the start of OTAs in May. Is his replacement currently on the roster? Well, we'll find out come training camp, but the in-house candidates aren't promising.
Jarrett Johnson is an exceptional run-stuffer, but has never been considered a natural pass-rusher during his time in the NFL. Larry English is another of a long-line of first round busts from the AJ Smith era, as he never lived up to the expectations of becoming a defensive game-changer. Free agent signee Dwight Freeney struggled last year with the move from the defensive end position to outside linebacker; he recorded only five sacks in his final season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano hasn't revealed his plan on replacing Ingram in the scheme, as he could implement a 4-3 alignment that utilizes their best pass-rushing defensive linemen to harass the quarterback on obvious passing downs.
2) Can The OL Keep Philip Rivers Upright All Season?
The play of the offensive line has been the team's Achilles heel, as the Chargers haven't been a competitive football team since losing tackle Marcus McNeil and guard Kris Dielman to injuries in the same season. Yes, they have inserted stop-gap (tackle Jared Gaither) players that momentarily solved the problem, but they were never considered a long-term solution.
New general manager Tom Telesco has quietly built an offensive line of young and experienced ( D.J. Fulker, Max Starks and King Dunlap) players that must gain cohesiveness quickly if the Chargers are going to be a playoff contender this season. Better pass blocking should give quarterback Philip Rivers that split second to identify a receiver open downfield rather than hurrying his throw to avoid a sack.
3) Is Mike McCoy Ready to Become a Head Coach?
Charger fans are unsure on the hire of Mike McCoy as the team's new head coach. Some feel they know nothing of him or his career, while others feel the Chargers hire is a definitive upgrade over his predecessor, Norv Turner.
No argument that McCoy is a great X's and O coach, but can he make the right in-game adjustments that swings momentum back onto the Chargers sidelines. The players seem excited about their new coach, so maybe something special is developing at Charger Park.
4) Can Philip Rivers Regain His Former All-Pro Status?
This training camp, Charger fans will have an unique look into the rebuilding of quarterback Philip Rivers; both Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt believe they can revive his floundering career. Rivers' passing numbers have declined, as he thrown 35 interceptions over the last two seasons and passing yardage (3606) and touchdown passes (26) last year were the lowest in his career. The front office has aided in this process by acquiring Rivers some new offensive pieces, but is this enough for him to become an All-Pro quarterback.
5) How Good is The Secondary?
Three-quarters of the Chargers defensive secondary will be new next year, and season ticket-holders will tell you that's an addition by subtraction. Returning starter safety Eric Weddle will earn his salary this season, as he will have to show leadership and guidance through this transitional phase.