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The Big Frog Report: 2013 Chargers Offense Preview

By’ Big Frog

AJ Smith did not do the Chargers any favors on his way out of town.  He left San Diego with one of the oldest rosters in the league, 25 free agents, and no cap room.  In short, he treated the team like a rental car that he drove hard and left broken down on the side of the road.  The engine is still good, but the car is badly in need of an overhaul. This process is going to require something that Charger fans have little of to spare: Patience.

So far, all of San Diego’s signings are on Special Teams. KR/WR  Richard Goodman has been signed, as have K Nick Novak and Long Snapper Mike Windt, not exactly big news.

Bigger news has come in the players the Chargers have cut, or are expected to cut. MLB Takeo Spikes and S Atari Bigby have been cut. DT Antonio Garay is also expected to be released. Even more players will be lost in free agency. This is all part of an effort to clear cap room and get younger as a team.

It’s possible that the front office will make some noise in free agency to fill these roster spots, but that is not what I expect. GM Tom Telesco has said that the Chargers won’t be major players. I expect that many of the youngsters that have been sitting on the Chargers bench will get a chance to play. The rest of the holes will be filled by mid level free agents and through the draft.  This is probably a wise strategy for the future of the team, but there will likely be a period of sacrifice. It’s really difficult to imagine the Chargers having a winning record this year.  This is bad news for core players like Rivers and Gates that are getting older and can hardly afford to give away a year.  This is not what impatient Charger fans want to hear, I can see the “FIRE TOM” signs in the stands already.  Of course this is all speculation. Allow me to speculate further.


It is widely known that the Chargers Offense did not perform very well last year. Much of the blame has been placed at the doorstep of the Offensive Line. Identified as an area of need, Telesco has yet to address this unit.  G Louis Vasquez was a solid piece on an otherwise faulty line last year, and it appears that he will be allowed to walk as a free agent. Telesco had a window to negotiate with Vasquez exclusively, but failed to do so. This appears to be a mistake. Other teams have shown interest in the Guard and his price is going up every day.  The Chargers are said to be interested in Buffalo free agent G Andy Levitre, but so are many other teams, again driving up the price.  Further complicating the situation, many draft experts predict that the top college O-Linemen will be gone when the Chargers draft at 11. A trade up is possible, but with so many positions of need, unlikely.  The Offensive Line will likely be rounded out by players you have never heard of.

The biggest question mark on the Offensive Line is LT Jared Gaither.  Known as “Big Lazy”, the Chargers Tackle was inactive for most of the season with back issues. Given a long term contract after playing very well the second half of 2011, he disappeared in 2012.  Accused by coaches and players alike of basically faking injury in collecting $9 million from the team last year.  The new front office has said that they want to talk with Gaither about his commitment to the team before making a decision.  The front office will have to decide whether a talented player with no heart is better than a less talented player that will give his all.  Last year Mike Harris was unable to fill that role, but he was given valuable game experience and got better as the year went on.  I have no idea what the Chargers will do in this situation and I doubt if they will even make a decision until they see how the draft plays out.  They could even wait until after free agency. I would love to be a fly on the wall in Telesco’s office when these discussions take place.  Whether or not Gaither gets cut will have little effect on the salary cap as his cap number and salary number are practically the same.

The QB position is one of the few positions on this Offense that is set in stone. Philip Rivers is still considered a very good QB and has been cited as a major reason that Telesco and Head Coach Mike McCoy chose to come to San Diego. They have not expressed any feelings toward Charlie Whitehurst, and adding some competition for the back up role would not be a surprise. Many Charger fans were disappointed in Rivers’ play last year, and unfortunately I fear more of the same unless the line and the running game are addressed. Rivers is the type of pocket passer that requires, well, a pocket.  He’s not going to make any plays with his legs and seemed to get happy feet a few times while under pressure last year. This led to mistakes and turnovers.  If that continues, the Chargers are in for a long year. It must also be considered that Rivers will be learning a new Offense for the first time in his professional career. On the bright side, McCoy has shown the ability to tailor his Offense to his QB.  Rivers is capable of being great under the right circumstances.  I will be hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Running Back is obviously an area of concern. Ryan Mathews has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been totally unreliable. He has missed chunks of every season and there is no reason to believe he can stay healthy over 16 games.  Even when healthy, Mathews has been prone to fumbling. He has also been slow to learn pass protections and, according to ex-coach Norv Turner, he lacks field vision.  Translation: RB is a position of need.  Ronnie Brown and  Jackie Battle are both free agents. Neither has really shown the ability to fill in as a starter when Mathews has gone down. Luckily, RB is a position that can be solidified in free agency or via the draft. Maybe a new coaching staff can figure out a better way to use Mathews.  Maybe they can find a RB that can help to carry the load (Michael Turner?). Again, this is a position that relies heavily on the Offensive Line.  It will be interesting to see how they go about fixing this problem.

Tight End would seem to be an anchor position for the Chargers. I am not so sure.  Antonio Gates is still an above average TE, but he is obviously on the decline.  If the front office is looking at a 2014 or 2015 return to prominence, maybe Antonio Gates is not in the plans. If a contender was to make an offer for Gates, I could seriously see the Chargers listening, although such a move could really alienate the fanbase.  This might be a good way to gauge exactly how far away the Chargers brass believe they are from being competitive.  If Gates is still a Charger in 2013, that would indicate to me that the GM believes the Chargers can compete now. The other TEs on the roster are Randy McMichael and Ladarius Green. Dante Rosario is free agent, but he is re-signable.

Wide Receiver is a position that is a little bit more stable. Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown will be back. We know what to expect from Floyd. He”s a solid #2.  Vincent Brown is a receiver with a lot of potential, but he has yet to prove anything on the field. Denario Alexander, who was the most productive WR over the second half of the season, is a restricted FA that has been given a low tender.  He could sign an offer sheet with another team, but San Diego would be able to match any offer.  The Chargers are likely of the opinion that Alexander’s injury history will scare other teams away.  If Alexander is allowed to go to another team, that would be another very unpopular move with the fans.

Now to the underachievers, Robert Meachem is likely to remain with the team.  His contract is such that cutting him would leave the Chargers with a severe cap hit. He could be asked to restructure, but is under no obligation to do so.  Hopefully Meachem can have a rebirth in the McCoy/Whisenhunt Offense. If he could be a solid #3 I think the team would be happy.  Eddie Royal is likely to move to the slot where he is better suited. If he can stay healthy, perhaps he can be a contributor in the short passing game.  Some run after the catch yards would be helpful.  Richard Goodman will be on the roster although most likely as a Kick Returner and WR depth.  He could also still be released if the Chargers are able to come to terms with free agent Michael Spurlock, the only KR that proved to be a difference maker last year.

The Chargers Offense is in transition. Players will come. Players will go. It’s impossible to say whether they will be better or worse than last year.  I hope a new coaching staff will translate to better play, but I would urge Charger fans not to expect too much too soon.

In the next day or two, I will preview the Defense. Until then, GO CHARGERS.


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Episode: 11/13/12:




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