San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a disappointing 2012 season, as he failed to top 4,000 passing yards for the first time since 2007 and his passing touchdown total and yards per attempt continued a downward trend. A porous offensive line has hampered him, with 49 sacks allowed in 2012 and 79 total sacks allowed over the last two seasons, and losing significant talent (Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles) around him in free agency over the last couple offseasons hasn’t helped things either.
After years of speculation Norv Turner was fired as Chargers’ head coach after last season, and former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has taken his place. McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt are charged with helping Rivers turn things around in 2013, but should fantasy football owners expect a rebound season from the 31-year old signal caller?
The Chargers used their first-round pick in April on offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, and they have been attached to multiple free agent offensive tackles that remain available. So an effort to protect Rivers better is being made, but time will tell if enough offensive line upgrades will come to make a tangible difference in the number of sacks he takes.
Another pressing concern is the talent level around Rivers. Running back Ryan Mathews has been an underachiever, due at least partially to injury, and tight end Antonio Gates had his lowest catch (49) and yardage (538) totals since his rookie season in 2012, despite playing 15 games. Some reinforcements have been added via free agency (running back Danny Woodhead) and the draft (wide receiver Keenan Allen), but overall San Diego’s skill position talent looks underwhelming.
Rivers has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the NFL, starting 112 consecutive regular season games since taking over for the departed Drew Brees in 2006. But it’s worth wondering if the battering he has taken over the last couple seasons will have a lingering effect, and last season could represent the start of his decline.
McCoy worked with Peyton Manning in Denver last season, so that experience should lend itself well to working with Rivers. The coach has of course said all the right things to this point, citing how excited he is to work with Rivers and most recently stating a belief his new starting quarterback can complete 70 percent of his passes in 2013. That qualifies as a fairly bold statement considering Rivers has never completed more than 66 percent of his passes in a season, but fewer deep passes should yield an improved completion percentage compared to 2012 (64.1).
Rivers is unlikely to ever be close to an elite fantasy quarterback again, and I don’t expect him to throw a lot more touchdowns than he did in 2012 (26). But a return to 4,000 passing yards is not out of the question in 2013, and with even 25 passing touchdowns that would make Rivers a viable low-end QB1 in 12 and 14-team leagues.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.