By Brandon Sandberg @sandbergbrandon on June 4, 2014
OTAs give rookies their first taste of the NFL and veterans a chance to improve their skills. From memorizing playbooks to building team chemistry, OTAs are an essential step to any team’s success. Here are five things the San Diego Chargers must accomplish during OTAs if they want to make a playoff run in 2014.
No matter what position they play, rookies are already a few steps behind their teammates when they enter the league. OTAs are their first chance to showcase talent, become familiar with playbooks and learn from veteran teammates. Rookies like Jason Verrett and Chris Watt will likely see playing time this season and must learn as much as possible, as fast as possible, if they want to make an impact.
Right now, second-year WR Keenan Allen is the front-runner to return punts in 2014, which is not a good idea. Eddie Royal was the starting returner last year, but suffered a toe injury and was forced forfeit the job to Allen. The Chargers can’t afford to risk their primary receiver’s health by having him return punts like they did with Royal. Look for a rookie like Brelan Chancellor or Tevin Reese to earn a spot on the roster and fill the void.
The Bolts ran the no-huddle a lot last season, yet still managed to lead the league in time of possession. You can expect new offensive coordinator Frank Reich to continue this success in 2014. The former QB coach likes to compare NFL games to a boxing match. “Every game is a prize fight, and over a 15-round fight, you mix the tempo." OTAs will be the first chance for Reich to implement the tempo he expects the Chargers to fight at this season.
San Diego forgot how to run inside the 20-yard line last season and as a result, were atrocious in the red zone. The inability to punch the ball into the end zone forced the Chargers to settle for a lot of field goals. In fact, three of the Chargers’ seven regular season losses came within four points or fewer. If they want to win, the Bolts must get back to a balanced attack in the red area. The addition of Donald Brown should help tremendously.
More often than not, the teams that make it to the postseason are the teams that suffer the fewest injuries. Players like Manti Te’o, Malcom Floyd and Dwight Freeney have to stay healthy this year if San Diego wants to compete for a Lombardi Trophy. I know it’s only OTAs, but injuries can still occur. Just look at what happened to Dallas Cowboys’ LB Sean Lee. San Diego can’t afford a setback like that.
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