When Jason Verrett agreed to his rookie contract last week with the San Diego Chargers, it meant all six of the team’s draft choices were in camp and under contract. And so begins Mike McCoy’s second season with the team in southern California.
As a team that snuck into the playoffs last season by virtue of a win and multiple losses by Miami, Baltimore and Pittsburgh – now a new chapter by the beach begins.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense reinvented itself to some extent – with the quarterback having one of his best seasons of all time. The running game of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead was solid if not spectacular and the defense did just enough to not lose more than it won.
The Good: Rivers and McCoy
Sometimes, quarterbacks and their coaches just gel together. This might be the case in San Diego. After letting Norv Turner FINALLY go, the team found Mike McCoy and things got better in San Diego. Rivers got his groove back and the running game became a threat every game. A lot of that is because of Danny Woodhead spelling Ryan Mathews, but the team’s offense was better. Look for the unit to get better and better as the season progresses. Seeing Rivers throw for over 4,500 yards is not out of the question. Mike McCoy came in and instilled a belief in winning again and a culture that was needed from the old regime. He was the best choice for the job.
The Bad: Defensive production
The Chargers produced just 35 sacks last season, tied with Tampa Bay for 23rd in the league. That's cause for concern, as the pass-rushing task force didn't help the Chargers' weak secondary by holding up its end of the bargain. Outside linebacker is a premium position in a 3-4 defense. The Chargers suffered without Shaun Phillips (10 sacks for the Broncos in 2013) last season. Any cause for deep concern can be assuaged by the fact that the Chargers have two players this season who were essentially non-entities last year due to injuries: Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram.
The Ugly: Welcome back to Black and Blue football
Every team in this division appears to be better this year. Even the Oakland Raiders. Denver shored up its defense and receivers for Peyton Manning. Kansas City got healthier despite losing offensive linemen. The Raiders added depth in free agency and did a good job of drafting Khalil Mack to lead a better than believed defense. This will be a tougher division this season – with all four quarterbacks reminding us of the 1980s when the ball flew around like a hot potato. Denver is the class of the division and the next team could be 9-7 or 8-8.