Five Questions the San Diego Chargers Must Answer During Training Camp
Five Questions the San Diego Chargers Need to Answer During Training Camp
The San Diego Chargers had another disappointing season in 2012, as they finished below .500 (7-9) and missed the playoffs for the third straight season. After multiple offseasons of speculation, head coach Norv Turner was finally fired and general manager A.J. Smith was also dismissed.
In Turner’s place is Mike McCoy, who served as offensive coordinator for the division rival Denver Broncos in recent years and worked with both Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow during his time in that role. One of McCoy’s main tasks, along with new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, will be to get quarterback Philip Rivers back on track after a dismal campaign in 2012.
The Chargers needed an influx of young talent in April’s draft, and they seem to have gotten it with offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, wide receiver Keenan Allen and linebacker Manti Te’o all likely to step right into significant roles.
San Diego also signed a few notable veterans in free agency, with defensive end Dwight Freeney, running back Danny Woodhead and offensive tackle Max Starks all certain to at least compete for playing time and starting spots. I think Woodhead in particular has a good chance to push underachieving former first-round pick Ryan Mathews for snaps and touches with the new coaching staff in place. Starks is in line to step in at left tackle, which should be good news for an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks in 2012.
The Chargers have a chance to make noise once again in a fairly mediocre AFC West, but here are five questions I think they have to answer during training camp.
5. Who Will Be the Backup Quarterback?
Rivers is firmly entrenched as San Diego’s starting quarterback, but behind him the situation is not inspiring. Charlie Whitehurst has not proven capable when he has gotten a chance to play during his career, and it would not be surprising if the new coaching staff gives rookie Brad Sorensen a legit chance to usurp him on the depth chart. Regardless of who wins the No. 2 job, Chargers’ fans will still be crossing their fingers that nothing happens to Rivers.
4. Is TE Ladarius Green Ready For a Bigger Role?
Green played in just four games and had four receptions as a rookie in 2012, but with Antonio Gates showing serious signs of decline the Chargers need to look for his possible heir apparent. Free agent signing John Phillips is also in the mix to be Gates’ primary backup, but Green should get an extended look during training camp and preseason games.
3. Can Larry English Finally Emerge?
English has been a major disappointment since being a first-round pick (16th overall) in 2009, with just 8.5 sacks in 43 career games as a broken foot caused him to missed 19 total games in 2010 and 2011. But with 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram most certainly done for the season after tearing his left ACL in May and Shaun Phillips gone in free agency, English may get a renewed chance to prove himself under a new regime. The signing of Freeney changes things some in terms of available playing time, but English is facing a make-or-break season in the final year of his rookie contract and I think he should get a chance to prove he can take on a bigger role.
2. How Will the Wide Receiver Depth Chart Take Shape?
Danario Alexander put together a nice stretch of games last season, but otherwise the Chargers sorely missed Vincent Jackson’s presence. Alexander is essentially the team’s No. 1 wide receiver by default at this point, and Allen joins Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal in the mix for roster spots and roles during training camp and preseason games.
1. Can Manti Te'o Earn a Starting Job?
Te’o will surely be a popular media target during training camp, but he should get a legitimate chance to earn a starting job at inside linebacker for San Diego. Reports out of OTAs suggest he is making the transition to the NFL well, and his play could put the fake girlfriend story that followed him into the pre-draft process on the back burner fairly quickly.