By Eighty Six @86ThePoet on July 16, 2014
With a resurgent Philip Rivers and a healthy Ryan Matthews, the San Diego Chargers returned to the playoffs and nearly shocked the Denver Broncos. The AFC West promises again to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. Mike McCoy and his staff are busy trying the keep the Bolts competitive. Here are five storylines to follow during the Chargers' training camp.
Matthews played all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career in 2013, silencing critics who call him fragile. Yet, it would be foolish to be unprepared for another injury. Donald Brown joins Danny Woodhead as part of the platoon. Rookies Marion Grice and Oliver Branden will compete for a backup spot. It's getting crowded in that backfield, and competition will be fierce.
The Chargers have only two quarterbacks on the roster behind Rivers: nine-year veteran Kellen Clemens and second-year prospect Brad Sorenson. Clemens did a professional job of managing the St. Louis Rams last year in nine starts after Sam Bradford went down, and Sorenson has a long future ahead of him. Their preseason performance will determine who the Chargers trust most if Rivers can't play.
Adding Brandon Flowers was a big move for a defense that ranked 29th against the pass last year. However, the Chargers are bucking the NFL trend toward taller cornerbacks. Flowers is 5-foot-9, and San Diego signed three rookies (Jason Verrett, Chris Davis and Greg Ducre) who are 5-foot-10. Footwork and technique can make up for height, but nothing succeeds like excessive height against today's giant wide receivers.
The Chargers managed only 11 interceptions and six recovered fumbles last year. They need to get the ball back to their offense more this season. John Pagano needs tacklers to swarm to the ball and punch it out. He needs defensive backs to take more risks and jump pass routes. Turnover ratio decides many close games, and the final roster spots may be filled by the players who can steal the ball.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound third-year tight end has a golden opportunity to learn from one of the league's greatest. Green showed flashes of speed and athletic ability near the end of last year, catching three touchdowns in the last six regular season games, and one more in the playoffs. Expect Green to stick close to Gates and absorb all he can.
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