For some NFL teams with good, durable signal callers, the quarterback depth chart doesn’t matter too much. This used to be the case for the San Diego Chargers, who had a top five quarterback in Philip Rivers from 2008 to 2010. However, Rivers’ recent struggles in 2011 and 2012 have caused many to believe that 2013 could be his last season in San Diego. Though Rivers isn’t at all at risk of losing his starting job this season, the Chargers may need to start thinking about life after Rivers and begin grooming someone for the future.
First of all, no matter how poorly Rivers plays in 2013, no other QB on the roster will be considered to replace him unless he were to get injured. That too is unlikely, even behind a poor offensive line, as Rivers hasn’t missed a game since becoming the starter in 2006 and has made 119 consecutive starts.
However, Rivers will need to show off a lot more than his durability to remain in San Diego’s future plans. Rivers has struggled in nearly all facets of the game the last two seasons. In trying to carry a team that no longer has the elite talent around him, Rivers’ accuracy, mechanics and decision-making have all regressed. His deep ball has also been off the mark, mostly underthrown, which has led some to believe his arm strength isn’t what it once was.
Despite this, Rivers has looked good in OTAs and minicamp and has adjusted well so far to Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt’s system. The new offense will focus more on short and intermediate routes, which will help Rivers get the ball out more quickly and avoid taking too much pressure. As long as he doesn’t try to do too much like he has the past two seasons, there’s no reason Rivers can’t once again become a Pro Bowl QB.
Though he’s unlikely to play, Charlie Whitehurst, Rivers’ only legitimate backup, could hold down the fort if needed. NFL.com recently ranked Whitehurst as one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the league, but that doesn’t seem right. Whitehurst was thought of so highly in 2010 that the Seattle Seahawks swapped second round picks with the Bolts in 2010 and traded a 2011 third-round pick for him, despite him never seeing the field. Though Whitehurst flopped in Seattle, he still got some starting experience (which not all backup QBs have) and has been in the Chargers’ system for many years.
Two rookies who will compete in training camp for a place on the roster or practice squad are seventh-round pick Brad Sorensen and undrafted Mike Hermann. Sorensen, a more traditional quarterback with good size, arm strength and accuracy, lacks the overall athleticism you’d like, especially in today’s NFL where athletes at quarterback are taking over. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hermann is a high-upside, athletic freak. Both played against inferior competition at small colleges, so it’s tough to judge them based on their performances and statistics in college. Preseason will be where the two battle it out.
The Chargers may have two developmental quarterbacks are the roster, but neither right now can be considered possible successors to Rivers if he were to be out after 2013. The Chargers need to hope Rivers can turn it around this season, or else a high draft pick will be used on a quarterback in 2014.