Did you know that even the greatest quarterbacks of all-time have never completed a pass while lying on their backs?
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers knows this all too well given the recurring nightmare that has been his professional football livelihood over the past few seasons. Rivers has taken an inordinate amount of trips to the turf in recent seasons with 2012 being the apex of those struggles.
The Bolts’ QB was sacked 49 times last season which ranked among the NFL’s worst numbers. That has certainly played a part in what have been uncharacteristically turnover plagued campaigns as well with Rivers handing the ball to opponents like Fun Size Snickers on Halloween. His 53 touchdowns in 2011 and 2012 combined were bested by his 35 interceptions and 20 fumbles adding up to 55 giveaways during that same time period.
Much of this turmoil has been caused by an unsettled scene along the offensive line. Injuries leading to forced retirements (Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman) along with some extremely poor judgment in free agency (Jared Gaither) have led to problems at nearly every position along the starting five — excluding the center spot where stalwart Nick Hardwick remains the lone consistent piece to the puzzle.
With the regime change this offseason came a new philosophy regarding the offensive line as new general manager Tom Telesco made the line a priority. Head coach Mike McCoy brought with him a zone-blocking scheme which required a makeover in terms of personnel in the trenches anyway. As a result, free agents Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green weren’t retained while the waste of money formally known as Jared Gaither was given his pink slip.
Along with these moves, Telesco also made the line a focus in the 2013 NFL Draft by selecting D.J. Fluker with the 11th overall pick. By all accounts, Fluker has been super impressive during workouts thus far and the team likes his chances of starting at right tackle. Plugging Fluker in at the right tackle spot will benefit the club twofold as it will allow Jeromey Clary to slide inside to guard filling two vacancies with one addition.
The emphasis throughout OTAs hints that training camp will feature the short passing game with a quicker release for Rivers. Norv Turner’s offense was predicated on down field passes that required a long amount of time to develop. Even when the offensive line was in shambles, Norval failed to modify his attack and make life easier on Rivers and company. With McCoy featuring an offense that wants Rivers to make quick reads and play into his strengths, opposing pass rushers should get to the veteran QB with much less frequency in 2013.
As a result of these changes, Rivers is a prime candidate for a bounce back season this year with the Chargers. San Diego figures to be much more efficiently offensively which will lead to less predictability and more offense-friendly down and distances. Every quarterback benefits when they aren’t starting at third and eight or more yards to go on a regular basis. Look for Rivers to reestablish himself as one of the league’s upper crust signal callers in 2013.