5 San Diego Chargers Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future
San Diego Chargers Have Talented Core to Build Future Around
The 2013 NFL season was the first season in charge for San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy, and few could have expected things to go much better for him than it did. McCoy led the Chargers to a 9-7 record during the regular season, which earned the team a AFC Wild Card playoff spot. During the playoffs, San Diego continued to play impressive football as they soundly beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round before losing a tight game to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. All in all, the season was one that provided great hope on both sides of the football.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Chargers were extremely balanced and efficient both throwing and rushing the ball. The team ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game at 270.5, with Philip Rivers having a bounce-back year. Targets Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal all provided open looks with consistency. This opened up holes for the rushing game to rank 13th in yards per game, and Ryan Mathews capitalized by gaining his second 1000 yard season. This balance helped San Diego to average 24.8 points per game, and it is clear that their offense has great potential moving forward.
The Chargers were not as astute on the defensive side of the ball, but they were certainly above average. They ranked 12th in rushing yards allowed per game, which helped to offset a pass defense that ranked amongst the worst in the NFL due to the team not having any true dominant cornerbacks. That the team ended up allowing 21.8 points per game in 2013 is encouraging, but it is clear that bringing in a no. 1 corner this offseason should be a no. 1 priority for McCoy.
Even with a bit of a gap on the defensive side of the ball, it is clear McCoy's first year in charge of the Chargers was a success and something positive to build on moving forward. In order to jump to the next level to compete with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West division title, San Diego will first have to ensure they keep the pillars that made the team a success in 2013.
Keeping this in mind, I have formed a list of the five players that mean the most to the team's future, and thus need to be kept around for at least the next five years. All of the players are extremely talented, effective on the field and are young enough to play at a high level for the next 4-6 years.
5. Corey Liuget
Corey Liuget has quietly developed into one of the top young defensive ends in the NFL during his three-year career, and he compiled 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2013. At only 23-years old, Liuget is very young, and his 6-foot-2, 300-pound frame belies a guy who is actually quite agile and can run down quarterbacks in the backfield. The 2014 season will be the last year of his rookie contract, and although a raise from a $2.645 million cap hit will be due, giving this raise will prove vital in stabilizing the Chargers' defense for the next decade.
4. Keenan Allen
There was no stopping Keenan Allen during the 2013 season. The third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft caught 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns during his rookie season. Allen proved to be the no. 1 option that Philip Rivers has been missing for a few years; his ability to run efficient routes, beat cornerbacks downfield and compete for balls in the air made him the complete package. At 21-years old, the best is surely yet to come, which should scare defenses around the NFL.
3. Ryan Mathews
Ryan Mathews had a great 2013 NFL season as he rushed for 1,255 yards and six touchdowns, in turn establishing himself as the no. 1 running back for San Diego. The 26-year old provides a type of downhill, rugged rushing style that differs greatly from the more flashy rushers they have employed in past years. There are some whispers that Mathews could hold out for a new contract prior to training camp, although it would be smart for the Chargers to simply tie him up to a long-term deal before this ever happens.
2. Eric Weddle
Eric Weddle was the rock of the Chargers' defense during the 2013 season as the safety picked up an astounding 115 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and a Pro Bowl appearance. Weddle is the ultimate ball hawk on the field, and he also serves as the leader of the Chargers' defense both on and off the field. At 29-years old, he likely will not be around forever, but three to five years of continued success looks to be a guarantee.
1. Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers has been a rock for the Chargers ever since he became their starting quarterback in 2006, and the 2013 season was no different. Rivers threw for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions, and genuinely looked to be a man in control at all times throughout the season. The season was the best that he has compiled in the last few years, and he seemingly to turned a page in terms of accuracy, maturity and overall grasp of the position. At 32-years old, Rivers has at least five good years left in him, and the Chargers need to make the most of them.