Ryan Mathews is the embodiment of the San Diego Chargers of the past decade. You know the talent is there, the brilliance has been flashed yet nothing really ever quite came of it.
Philip Rivers limped his way to a valiant AFC title fight back in January 2008 and that’s about as far as Norv Turner and Co. got. Now Coach Mike McCoy ushers in a new era of Chargers football along with general manager Tom Telesco, and how smoothly this first year of transition goes will depend largely on holdovers Rivers and Mathews.
One area I thought Turner really failed to take advantage of his roster — one of the many areas — was the use of Mathews. I know fumbling issues are something coaches won’t tolerate but at the same time many of our league’s great backs have worked through ball security issues to become who they are today. Adrian Peterson and Tiki Barber come to mind, with the latter presenting the more realistic upside-comp.
If Rivers remains captain check-down then Mathews could be a major asset, and if his pass-blocking finally reaches a manageable level then we’re talking an excellent third-down option to along with Danny Woodhead. The McCoy-Telesco duo also looks to right the previous regimes wrongs with an emphasis on offensive line, taking right tackle DJ Fluker with its first draft pick.
San Diego’s defense made gradual improvement down the stretch last season and ended the year with a pretty fearsome front seven. This unit does take a shot by losing 2012 top pick Melvin Ingram, but does have enough other pieces there like Corey Liuget to be potentially promising. Then there’s Eric Weddle at the back end, perhaps the league’s best safety.
In the end, the Chargers’ chances of topping five wins will come down to Rivers ending his two-year plummet behind a porous offensive line and suddenly hitting 2008 form. I left that bandwagon in 2011, and am not holding my breath.
Predicted Regular Season Record: 4-12 (3rd in AFC West)
Predicted Finish: Miss postseason
More of Thomas Emerick’s 2013-2014 NFL team predictions: NYG | WAS | PHI | DAL | GB | CHI | DET | MIN | TB | ATL | NO | CAR | SEA | SF | STL | ARI | NE | MIA | BUF | NYJ | BAL | CLE | CIN | PIT | HOU | IND | TEN | JAX | DEN | KC | SD | OAK