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2012 Team Report: San Diego Chargers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Philip Rivers
Backup(s): Charlie Whitehurst

Starting QB: During the five years that Norv Turner has coached the Chargers, Philip Rivers has averaged 4,150 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions per season. He had a disappointing year in 2011, throwing 20 interceptions and making mistakes at key points in several games. Nonetheless, Rivers is among the league's elite passers. He has a very quick release, and he is generally accurate when given time in the pocket. He throws a catchable deep ball, and he's a respected leader. He has been durable throughout his career, never missing a regular-season game due to injury. Rivers lacks top-tier arm strength and isn't terribly mobile, but he's a good bet to throw for over 4,000 yards again every season.

Backup QB: Charlie Whitehurst was the Chargers' third-round pick in 2006. He never attempted a regular-season pass in San Diego, but he had four starts for the Seahawks after being traded to that team. After his two years in Seattle, he signed with the Chargers as a free agent this past offseason. While he was somewhat of a disappointment in Seattle, having failed to challenge Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job there, Whitehurst did lead the Seahawks to a win in Week 17 of 2010 to lock up the NFC West title. Whitehurst has decent arm strength, but it's unknown whether he can run the offense well enough to have decent fantasy value in the event that Philip Rivers is injured.

Running Backs

Starter: Ryan Mathews
Backup(s): Ronnie Brown, Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle, Edwin Baker [R]
Fullback(s): Le'Ron McClain, Jacob Hester

Starting RB: Ryan Mathews was the Chargers first-round draft pick in 2010, but he has had trouble staying healthy in each of the past two seasons. When he has been healthy, he has been productive, averaging 4.7 yards per carry so far in his career. He has a terrific combination of speed and power. He has excellent balance and can gain yards after contact. Unfortunately, he has a reputation as a fumbler and has also dropped some easy passes as a receiver. With Mike Tolbert departed via free agency, Mathews will get the opportunity to play the featured role in the Chargers' backfield as long as he can stay healthy. When healthy, he can be a top five running back. That's an important qualification, however, because he has missed time in each of his first two seasons, and he will likely begin this season on the sideline as well. He broke his clavicle on his first preseason carry, and will likely miss the first two games or so.

Backup RBs: Ronnie Brown was a non-factor in Philadelphia last season, but he has looked explosive and versatile in training camp for the Chargers. He'll be the lead back in the two-minute offense, and will also see plenty of action in passing situations. He's likely to get a couple starts at the beginning of the season while Ryan Mathews is out with a broken clavicle. Rookie seventh-round pick Edwin Baker will compete with returning veteran Curtis Brinkley for the backup halfback job. Behind Brown, Curtis Brinkley and Jackie Battle will battle for the third spot. Curtis Brinkley got limited playing time last season, but he was effective when Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert were injured. Brinkley is a small, quick back who may not be durable enough to carry the load for multiple weeks. Jackie Battle was with the Chiefs last year, and will have to make an impact on special teams to make the final roster. Rookie Edwin Baker may be headed for the practice squad.

Fullback: Le'Ron McClain, the former Raven and Chief, is a solid blocker who has also enjoyed success as a ballcarrier. If the Chargers do not sign another veteran halfback, it may be McClain rather than Baker or Brinkley who gets the majority of the carries if Ryan Mathews is injured. As long as Mathews is healthy, however, expect McClain to be used as a blocker, giving him no real fantasy value. Jacob Hester is a versatile fullback who is a good receiver out of the backfield, but he may see more playing time on special teams than he does on offense.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd
Backups: Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Roscoe Parrish, Micheal Spurlock, Richard Goodman

Starting WRs: The Chargers lost star wide receiver Vincent Jackson to the Buccaneers in free agency. They signed Robert Meachem to fill the gap on the depth chart, but nobody expects Meachem to be as productive as Jackson was. Meachem has deep speed and will come down with the ball in a crowd, but he is not a refined route runner and was never super productive in New Orleans. Meachem should get more playing time with the Chargers than he did with the Saints, so he could have his best fantasy season in 2012, but with a career high of 45 catches, that's not saying a whole lot. Malcom Floyd is a long-strider with good height and leaping ability and excellent hands. He has the speed to get deep and has been a big-play threat for the Chargers when he's been healthy. He has been plagued by minor injuries throughout his career, however, and cannot be counted on for a full 16 games.

Backup WRs: Vincent Brown showed promise as a rookie last season. He has the strength and toughness to catch the ball in traffic and can find the soft spot in a zone. He was having an outstanding training camp and preseason before breaking his ankle on a touchdown catch in the second preseason game. He will likely miss the first half of the season, but will figure into the offense if he can return later in the year. Eddie Royal was acquired in the offseason after spending his first four seasons with the Broncos. He caught 91 passes as a rookie but has had a smaller role in the offense since then. In San Diego, he will play in the slot. He has good quickness out of his cuts, but he lacks the size and strength to be a dominating presence in traffic. Roscoe Parrish is another free-agent acquisition. He has good speed, but he lacks refinement as a receiver and may make more of an impact as a kick returner. Michael Spurlock, like Royal and Parrish, is another addition with more potential as a kick returner than as a wide receiver.

Tight Ends

Starters: Antonio Gates
Backups: Randy McMichael, Ladarius Green [R], Dante Rosario, Kory Sperry

With Vincent Jackson no longer on the team, the Chargers will lean heavily on Antonio Gates as long as the veteran stays healthy. He has been limited over the past two seasons by a foot injury but is reportedly in excellent health heading into 2012. Gates doesn't have elite speed, but he has a knack for beating double teams and expertly uses his body to shield defenders from the ball. While he occasionally will drop some easy ones, he will also make some spectacular grabs. Assuming he can play 16 games (which he hasn't done since 2009), he should be a top-five fantasy tight end. Randy McMichael is mostly a blocker at this stage in his career and has minimal fantasy value even when Gates is out of the lineup. Rookie Ladarius Green has the potential to be an elite receiving tight end but will likely take a year or two to develop. With Green the favorite to win the third tight end spot, Dante Rosario and Kory Sperry are underdogs to make the final roster.

Place Kicker

Nate Kaeding : Nate Kaeding is currently the most accurate kicker in NFL history. But he's had issues in the playoffs and is coming off a torn ACL suffered on the opening kickoff last year. Nick Novak came off a successful UFL stint and filled in nicely last year. He started off especially strong, although he did miss few kicks down the stretch. All this added up to a summer competition for the job. Kaeding won. Hey'll be working with returning co-specialists long snapper Mike Windt and punter Mike Scifres. The Chargers have ranked in the top ten in kicker scoring opportunities for four straight years, the second longest active streak in the league.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Richard Goodman, Michael Spurlock, Eddie Royal

While the Chargers may not have big name return men, after a number of moves this offseason they have assembled for training camp a group both solid and deep for punts and kickoffs. Wide receiver Richard Goodman is the incumbent kick returner but will face a challenge from wide receiver Michael Spurlock who came over from Tampa Bay. If Goodman continues playing at last season's level that had him finish in the top ten in yards per return he will likely hold onto the job, but we may see both over the course of the season.

Punt Returners: Eddie Royal

The punt returner position is more wide open, with wide receiver Eddie Royal and wide receiver Roscoe Parrish fairly evenly matched in terms of ability though Parrish has struggled to stay healthy. Parrish, Spurlock and Goodman may need to lock up a return job just to stay on the team, as they are likely competing for the fifth wide receiver roster spot.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Mike Harris, LG Tyronne Green, C Nick Hardwick, RG Louis Vasquez, RT Jeromey Clary
Key Backups: LT Jared Gaither (inj), G Rex Hadnot, C David Molk

UPDATE: Jared Gaither's recovery lingers and the coaches have "rested" Phillip Rivers instead of playing him in preseason. Good thing they did, as Jared Allen had 2.5 sacks against undrafted tackle Michael Harris from UCLA. Harris has reportedly been impressive in camp but this is a brewing situation. Possible downgrade if the Chargers don't get healthy quickly. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: The Chargers will be returning the same starting five that they trotted out there at the end of last season. That's a great thing from the standpoint of cohesion. Unfortunately the personnel returning are full of question marks. Left tackle Jared Gaither is a man-mountain with motivation concerns. Gaither actually does a good job, but he has bounced around the league a lot for a 26-year-old left tackle. Teams are concerned about his work ethic when it's not game day. Left guard Tyronne Green is a tough but athletically limited player. Green and similarly limited Rex Hadnot will compete for the left guard spot vacated by Kris Dielman's retirement. Center Nick Hardwick is the highlight of the line, having made a Pro Bowl in 2006. Hardwick still does a good job of keeping everyone organized and has earned the trust of Phillip Rivers. Right guard Louis Vasquez has pro size but can be exploited in the passing game. Vasquez was great compared to right tackle Jeromey Clary, who was pretty much a liability for most of last season. The Chargers, however, gave Clary a larger contract than he deserves, so that assures his playing time. Swing tackle Brandyn Dombrowski is sometimes serviceable when asked to step in for injured starters. Offensive line coach Hal Hunter does his best with limited talent year after year. In terms of overall depth, there's not much here. Steve Schilling is shaping up to be a career backup, while Mario Henderson will compete with Dombrowski for the swing tackle position. Colin Baxter was with the Jets last season and played atrociously when asked to step in for three games for injured Nick Mangold. The hope with the Chargers line is that the total really is more than the sum of its parts.

Team Defense

The Chargers continue to try and rebuild their defense, with mixed results. The team knew this and selecting Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes with their first two picks should address some of the needs. Ingram is a versatile lineman who can move all over the defensive front while Reyes is a great athlete who will probably step right in as a five technique to bring some pressure on the left side. John Pagano uses a 4-3 base, so Reyes will have to stay light on his feet as he comes across the tackle. The team also hopes second year player Corey Luiget can take a leap forward. Shaun Phillips will remain at outside linebacker and either Ingram or former Baltimore Raven Jarret Johnson will be across from him. The secondary is OK, though not great. Eric Weddle continues to be a great free safety and adding Atari Bigby at strong safety stabilizes the safety position. Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer do a solid job at corner but across the board, the team will be looking to generate more turnovers and get off the field quicker.

Defensive Line

Starters: NT Cam Thomas, DE Corey Liuget, DE Luis Castillo
Backups: DE Kendall Reyes, DE Vaughn Martin, NT Antonio Garay, DE Jacques Cesaire

Starting DL: The Chargers defensive front has not been a resounding strength of the squad in recent seasons. The team resigned veteran DE Luis Castillo to a one-year deal; an injuries ended his 2011 season prematurely. Castillo, even when he is on form, is not worth a roster spot in most league formats. Last year's first round pick Corey Liuget was used on a rotational basis in his rookie year and failed to live up to his status as a top 20 selection. Cam Thomas is a decent NT and his four sacks from that position last season is impressive, but there is no fantasy value to be had here.

Backup DL: The second round rookie out of UConn Kendall Reyes will have his hands full in camp trying to get up to speed with the Chargers' system. Reyes comes from a lower level of competition in college and will need to hone his repertoire of skills before becoming a fixture on this defensive front. Vaughn Martin played over 600 snaps last season but was not very successful despite his 27 tackles. Former starting NT Antonio Garay could be a useful player if he wins the starting job back from Cam Thomas.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Takeo Spikes, ILB Donald Butler, OLB Shaun Phillips, OLB Jarret Johnson
Backups: OLB Melvin Ingram, ILB Jonas Mouton, OLB Antwan Barnes, OLB Larry English

Starting LBs: The Chargers have one of the deeper corps of linebackers in the league after drafting Melvin Ingram and signing Jarrett Johnson from Baltimore. At inside linebacker, veteran Takeo Spikes plays the SILB with breakout candidate Donald Butler at WILB. Spikes is still, despite his advancing years, a very solid linebacker who is more than willing to stick his nose in and make hard hits and sure tackles. Spikes is unlikely to be unseated by Jonas Mouton, so his starting position and a 75+ solo tackle season in 2012 is on the cards. The same can be said for Donald Butler, who should continue his career's upwardly mobile trA.J. ectory after a phenomenal 84 solo tackle season on around 300 fewer snaps than Spikes played. Butler has more big play upside than his partner at inside �backer and could easily surpass the 100 solo tackle mark this year. At outside linebacker, Shaun Phillips mans one side as he has for so many seasons for the team. Phillips missed time last year with a foot injury that limited his effectiveness and explosiveness as a pass rusher. As a result, his statistical production suffered. If Phillips can remain healthy, he could return to a floor of 35 solo tackles and six sacks. Jarret Johnson, a new recruit from Baltimore, does most of his best work in run defense. Johnson is one of the best linebackers in the game in this regard. Johnson has been a consistent force from a tackle count standpoint, only failing to register 40 solo tackles once in the past four seasons. He is well worth an investment as an LB4.

Backup LBs: The backups for San Diego also hold some promise, notably OLB Antwan Barnes. Barnes, a pass-rushing specialist, has a very quick first step which he can turn into a power move or speed move with relative ease. He gives offensive tackles headaches, especially on third down. Barnes' 11 sacks and 29 QB pressures � highest on the team � tell the story. He can be a very valuable LB3 in leagues that reward more points for sacks and big plays. Melvin Ingram is probably the most versatile LB in this draft class and his time to start for this team is not far away. Ingram will be eased into the role slowly, beginning with some pass rushing and dropping into coverage on third down. Ingram may not unseat Phillips right away, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens before the 2012 season ends. Jonas Mouton is the backup to both inside linebackers and could make some noise if given a chance. The coaching staff clearly has faith in him if they spent a second round choice on him in 2011. Larry English will be limited to be a rotational/depth player following the selection of Melvin Ingram.

Defensive Backs

Starters: FS Eric Weddle, SS Atari Bigby, CB Quentin Jammer, CB Antoine Cason
Backups: CB Marcus Gilchrist, S Brandon Taylor, S Darrell Stuckey

Starting DBs: Eric Weddle is one of the top safeties in IDP circles and should be treated as such entering 2012. Weddle has been a consistent player for San Diego for many seasons, and although he offers little in the way of pass rush, he is a rock solid tackler and very solid in pass coverage. Weddle should be relatively unencumbered for tackles in the secondary with only Atari Bigby as real competition. Take Weddle as a top 5 defensive back in all leagues. Recent signing Atari Bigby will play SS, but do not expect him to impact Weddle's value at all. Bigby could be a decent backup option at S. The cornerback tandem of Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason hold little value in IDP leagues. The Chargers play mostly man coverage and that should not change under new defensive coordinator John Pagano. Jammer and Cason are 40 solo tackle CB's at best, enough to warm a bench spot on your roster.

Backup DBs: Marcus Gilchrist played the nickel CB spot last season, but also missed some time. Gilchrist could be productive in some games when the Chargers are forced to go to nickel packages more than usual, but I would advise against playing that guessing game. Gilchrist is not worth a roster spot. Third round pick Brandon Taylor could see time at SS if Atari Bigby does not impress.

Last modified: 2012-09-03 12:19:27

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