The San Diego Chargers have plenty of questions that need answers heading into training camp, but one question certainly is greater than the others. In today’s quarterback-driven league, no NFL team can compete without a good quarterback. The Chargers had a good quarterback in Philip Rivers, but he’s regressed the last two seasons and has turned the ball over 47 times in the past 32 games. If Rivers can return to form, the Chargers could once again become relevant in the AFC West. However, if he is in fact done, the Chargers have absolutely no chance to compete for the division crown. The biggest question the Chargers have to answer to see success this season is this: What do Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt need to do to fix Philip Rivers?
New head coach Mike McCoy is known for adapting his offenses in the past to make it work with whoever’s under center and showcase the strengths of his players. However, in the case of the Chargers this season, McCoy may need to adapt his offense to hide the clear deficiencies of the team.
With a shaky, unproven offensive line in front of Rivers, the Bolts plan to focus on more of a short and intermediate passing game in 2013 and will likely incorporate more three- and five-step drops. This will allow Rivers to get the ball out of his hands more quickly and not expose him to the blitz or make him try to do too much with the football. This should also improve Rivers’ accuracy and completion percentage, as his deep ball has been off the mark (and mostly underthrown) in recent years. Less will be placed on Rivers’ shoulders and more will be placed on the receivers to get open quickly and gain yards after the catch. This will also take pressure off of an offensive line that may not hold up long enough for receivers to get open downfield anyway.
The Chargers will also need to see how the offensive line gels together to figure out how much time Rivers can realistically get in the pocket. If the offensive line is better than expected, McCoy and Whisenhunt may be able to open up the playbook more and allow Rivers to air it out.
The running game will also be able to help fix Rivers. Few quarterbacks can do it on their own, and a balanced offense with a healthy dose of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead will take even more pressure off of Rivers.
McCoy believes Rivers tried to do too much last season, and it will be up to him, Whisenhunt and the entirely team to put Rivers into positions where he won’t have to carry the team on his back like he’s tried to in the past. Training camp will be a time to see Rivers’ progression in the new system as well as see what the team does to help Rivers succeed in 2013.