Up until the 2012 NFL season, the San Diego Chargers seemed to always blame injuries and bad luck as the reasons that derailed their once-promising seasons. In 2012, the Chargers remained fairly healthy until late in the year and still finished 7-9, their worst record since 2003. For the first time in a long time, injuries weren’t used as an excuse for their underachievement.
Still, like most years, key offensive skill players missed time last season, contributing to the team finishing 31st in the league in yards per game.
It does seem strange that besides Philip Rivers, everyone who touches the football on this team tends to miss significant portions of the season.
Ryan Mathews may be the poster child of an injury-prone player. Mathews has missed 10 games over his first three seasons in the league. He broke his right collarbone on his first carry of the 2012 preseason and then broke his left collarbone in December, ending his season for good. He has also battled ankle, elbow, and toe ailments throughout his short career.
Over the past three seasons, receiver Malcom Floyd has actually missed more games than Mathews with 11, dealing with hamstring, groin, hip, and ankle injuries. Fellow receiver Vincent Brown missed the entire 2012 season after breaking his ankle in preseason. Brown was expected to be a break-out player following a solid offseason, but didn’t see the field after his injury. Danario Alexander, who signed with the Chargers in October, hasn’t missed a game yet. But keep in mind he had five surgeries on his left knee prior to joining the team that could affect him long-term.
Antonio Gates dealt with painful foot and toe ailments in 2010 that lingered into 2011. He seemed to have finally gotten healthy in 2012, but suffered a minor ribs injury early on. Whether he was bothered by the injury or not, Gates’ age caught up to him as he finished with the lowest receiving yards since his rookie season.
So is it fair to call these players injury-prone? Mathews and Floyd certainly, but Brown’s and Gates’ injuries were likely a one-time thing. The jury’s still out on whether Alexander’s knee will hold up.
If the Chargers want to get back to being an explosive offense under offensive-minded Mike McCoy, these players must figure out a way to stay healthy for an entire season. GM Tom Telesco must also bring in young, durable offensive-skill players to surround Philip Rivers. He did so with the Indianapolis Colts last season, bringing in Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Vick Ballard and T.Y. Hilton, who all made an impact in their rookie seasons.