Spotlight - QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Posted on 7/1, exclusive to Footballguys.com
Mike Brown's Thoughts
Few prognosticators (aside from myself and Maurile Tremblay) expected Rivers to actually be an upgrade over Drew Brees, but that's exactly what he was in his first year as a starter in San Diego.
Rather than show his experience, or lack thereof, he simply went out and helped lead the Chargers to a division title and the best regular season in franchise history. Granted, he had a TINY bit of help from that Tomlinson guy, but the same could be said that Tomlinson probably doesn't have an all-time legendary season if Rivers came in and performed like a typical first-year starter.
The offensive machine in San Diego didn't just not lose a beat with Rivers; it flourished. The team appeared unstoppable at times, unbelievable at others. And the remarkably consistent Rivers proved he was well worth trading away Eli Manning for him a few years back.
Rivers' overall season statistics don't look overwhelming at first glance -- 3,400 yards and 22 TD -- until you realize that head coach Marty Schottenheimer really put the clamps on Rivers early in the season (especially when the team had leads against Oakland and Baltimore). Norv Turner, the new head man in San Diego, historically has had teams that also run the ball quite a bit. With Turner taking over the offense, it'll be interesting to see how much more or less work there will be for the passing game. And will the difference in numbers be offset by an overall improvement in quality?
- Say what you will about Norv Turner as a head coach, but you cannot argue with the success of his offensive teams, whether he was the coordinator or the head guy. Going from Marty Schottenheimer to Norv Turner will never be confused as a negative for a team's offensive prospects.
- Rivers is already solidly considered to be one of the league's better passers, yet has started just 16 games in his career. It's far from a guarantee, but it's entirely possible that he's just starting to get good and isn't near his peak yet.
- While there was massive turnover with the staff, the on-field personnel is the same for the most part. Essentially, as long as LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates are on the field, it's going to be difficult to NOT put up top-10 numbers.
- Speaking of Tomlinson, does anyone think he's going to put up another 30+ touchdowns? Never say never, but it's highly likely his numbers regress quite a bit -- even if it's "all the way down" to 20-24 scores or so. The Chargers aren't going to suddenly become a garbage offense, meaning those extra 6-8 touchdowns have to go somewhere, right?
- Rivers is still young and inexperienced, having started just sixteen career games. With a year in the league and with the opposition having far more film on him than before, he won't be sneaking up on anyone this time around.
- You won't win any money betting on Rivers winning a footrace. Without those crucial rushing stats and without the passing skills of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, it'll be difficult for Rivers to crack that top-5 status on passing stats alone.
- Outside of Tomlinson and Gates, there isn't an established elite talent on offense, and none at wide receiver. Granted, those guys are two of the best talents at their respective positions in league history, but it never hurts to have a deep threat to get you that quick 40-yard strike. Vincent Jackson may become that guy, but he can't be called that just yet.
There have already been whispers about getting LaDainian Tomlinson a bit more rest this season. Coming off one of the all-time great performances in sports, it would be difficult to do anything BUT take at least a slight step back. What that means for Rivers is up for debate. It could simply mean that Michael Turner gets some more carries. It could mean that Rivers throws the ball a bit more. Then again, with Norv Turner in town as the new coach, it could mean the offense improves greatly and there will be more than enough footballs for everyone to remain happy and put up fantasy-relevant seasons anyway.
One thing certainly appears fairly obvious to me at first glance. Rivers finished the 2006 season ranked as the ninth best quarterback in fantasy football. In 2007, he has a new head coach that is far less conservative than the one leaving town. He's got a potential playmaker at receiver in Vincent Jackson (something that was not the case a year ago). He's got another year of experience and another off-season and training camp to learn from his mistakes. And for a fiery, emotional player like Rivers, he's had an off-season to sit and stew over the team's premature exit from the postseason a year ago. Anger won't necessarily make him play better on the field, but it could help him work harder in preparation for the season. So, to finally get to that one thing that appears obvious to me: Rivers won't get worse.
I know, there's the whole argument about him being inexperienced and teams having a book on him. That's understandable, but the theory is typically that quarterbacks make their biggest strides between their first and second years as starters. He can build on the little experience he has by incorporating the vast tools he's also got. And if teams have a book on him, you can be certain that the Chargers have a book on them as well. It's tough enough to game plan for Tomlinson and Gates. If Jackson is merely adequate, watch out.
To be fair, Rivers likely won't put up numbers that rival Peyton Manning anytime soon no matter how good the San Diego offense gets. But there's no reason why he can't at least get to the cusp of the elite QBs as soon as this year.
Quotations from the Message Board ThreadTo view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.
I like Rivers as a really good QB2 this year. Last year he started off red hot but was absolutely dreadful in the 2nd half. Did teams figure him out? I think thats a possibility but I also think Rivers is talented enough to make adjustments and have a good year. With LT and Turner in the backfield, passing yards wont be as high as other QBs but his TD passes should be very respectable.
Smart, efficient QB on the top offense in the NFL coming off a good/great "rookie" campaign. Not a lot of holes in his game or his offense. His biggest problem is that LT is too good at scoring TD's otherwise his 22 td's from last year would have been around 26 easily.
The scary thing is that he and this offense will still probably improve. One of the best (if not the best) lines in the league is in tact, VJax is young and improving, they've added a big play threat (what they were truly missing last year) and they've got the best RB and TE in the league. H'es got a very high floor and upside is high.
Just Win Baby:
He plays in one of the top offenses in the NFL and now plays for an offensive guru in Turner. The running game should remain strong - even if LT regresses a bit, Turner could easily fill that regression. The OL should remain strong. Gates appears to still be the best receiving TE in the league. The WRs should be improved, with another year of experience for Parker, Jackson, and Floyd. If opportunities can be found for Davis and Sproles, it should only help.
If anyone is worried that the change in coaching staff could impact Rivers, it shouldn't be a concern. He played for 3 offensive coordinators in his 4 years at N.C. State, and flourished under all of them.
Rivers is extremely durable. He started all 17 of the Chargers' games last season, and he started an NCAA record 51 out of 51 games in college. That string included him playing through various injuries, including a couple that were non-trivial. I think this is one thing that is underappreciated about him. Also, he has a great offensive line and a quick release, and he doesn't run much, so he probably doesn't take as much punishment as many other QBs. For these reasons, I feel confident that he will play all 16 games.
Rivers had 460 pass attempts last season. The Chargers as a team had 466. So he got essentially all of them that weren't trick plays. The Chargers averaged 500 passing attempts the 3 prior seasons, and clearly in the first few games last season it seemed that the Chargers offense was playing ultra-conservative to ease Rivers in, and thus season passing attempts were probably down a little.
How will Norv influence the amount of passing? First off, he was brought in to maintain continuity in the offense, so there should not be drastic change. I think this Chargers team is comparable to the 1991-1993 Cowboys teams for which Norv was the offensive coordinator. Those teams averaged 489 passing attempts.
So I'm going to assume 490 passing attempts.
Philip Rivers Projections
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