2013 NFL Offseason: San Diego Chargers

San Diego Chargers (Last Year: 7-9)

2013 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Danny Woodhead, OT King Dunlap, OT Max Starks, G Chad Rinehart, G Rich Ohrnberger, DE Dwight Freeney, CB Derek Cox, CB Johnny Patrick.

Early Draft Picks:
OT D.J. Fluker, ILB Manti Te’o, WR Keenan Allen, CB Steve Williams. Chargers Rookie Forecast

Offseason Losses:
OT Jared Gaither, G Louis Vasquez, G Tyronne Green, NT Aubrayo Franklin, NT Antonio Garay, DE/OLB Shaun Phillips, DE/OLB Antwan Barnes, ILB Takeo Spikes, CB Quentin Jammer, CB Antoine Cason, S Atari Bigby, KR Micheal Spurlock.

2013 San Diego Chargers Offense:
Is Philip Rivers done? The notion that he could be finished would have been an absurd one two seasons ago when he threw for 4,710 yards, 30 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions as a 29-year-old. However, he’s performed miserably since. He threw 26 touchdowns in 2012, but was responsible for 15 interceptions and seven lost fumbles, all while maintaining a career-low 6.8 YPA. It looked like his arm strength was completely sapped.

Then again, it’ll be impossible to know how much Rivers has remaining in the tank until his offensive line improves. He had absolutely no chance last year because his blocking was so bad. He took 49 sacks, which was a ton, given that his previous career high was 38. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the offensive line improved much. The big addition was D.J. Fluker, a tackle out of Alabama, who was chosen with the 11th-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Fluker should be a mauler in the running game, but he had issues protecting his quarterback against the SEC pass-rushers. He was a big reach at No. 11 because he can’t play left tackle; he’ll be stationed on the right side, and if he fails there, he could be moved to guard.

As for the blind-side spot, King Dunlap and Max Starks will battle for that job – a competition that won’t have any winners. Neither Dunlap nor Starks is any good, so opposing right ends and rush linebackers will have a field day against the Chargers.

The offensive line is a bit better inside, but only by default. Jeromey Clary, who has struggled mightily at right tackle over the years, will now play guard. He can’t possibly be worse there. He’ll be joined in the interior by former Bill Chad Rinehart, who missed most of 2012 with an ankle injury, and center Nick Hardwick, whose performance dropped off this past season.

Rivers didn’t have much to work with in terms of skill-position players last year either. Promising wideout Vincent Brown was knocked out for the year with a fractured ankle. Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal were both bust signings. Antonio Gates looked like he couldn’t move anymore. Injuries prompted San Diego to start Danario Alexander and Seyi Ajirotutu against the Chiefs on a Thursday night. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the former stepped up and became Rivers’ go-to weapon. Alexander is very talented, but the problem is his health. He’s never been able to stay injury-free for a long period of time, so relying on him to be the No. 1 receiver could prove to be disastrous.

Having said that, Rivers’ supporting cast figures to be better in 2013. Brown will be back and could win the starting job across from Alexander. The team spent a third-round pick on Keenan Allen, a gifted wideout who fell because of injury issues and a poor 40 time. Also, Danny Woodhead, signed from the Patriots, should be a nice safety valve in the backfield.

Speaking of the backfield, the Chargers failed to find legitimate competition for Ryan Mathews. The 2010 first-rounder has been a colossal bust thus far. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and he has yet to prove that he can be a difference-maker even when on the field. He’s sure to disappoint again in 2013.

2013 San Diego Chargers Defense:
The central theme concerning the Chargers is how fragile their players are. The injury-prone members of the offense were already discussed. The defense, meanwhile, suffered a huge blow of its own when Melvin Ingram went down with a torn ACL in OTAs. Ingram, a first-round pick last April, had just one sack as a rookie, but his pass-rushing ability improved as the season progressed. San Diego was counting on him in his sophomore campaign, especially with Shaun Phillips no longer on the roster.

Ingram’s injury prompted San Diego’s front office to sign Dwight Freeney, who looked like a shell of his former self in 2012. This could have been because Freeney was having issues adjusting to the new 3-4 in Indianapolis. The Chargers plan on running a hybrid defense which will be more suited to Freeney’s talent, but there’s a chance the long-time Colt could be in severe decline. If so, San Diego won’t stand a chance against Peyton Manning or the other elite quarterbacks because they won’t be able to rush the passer very much, especially considering that Jarret Johnson will be the starter across from Freeney. Johnson is stout in run support, but he can’t get after opposing signal-callers.

The Chargers’ pass rush won’t be completely inept, however. Defensive ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes ranked second and third, respectively, in sacks on the team last year with seven and 5.5. Both players are just 24, so the future is bright for them. They’ll sandwich Cam Thomas, who will be a full-time starter at nose tackle for the first time in his career. The 330-pounder was chosen in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

San Diego will really need Liuget and Reyes to step up because its secondary is an abomination. Aside from stud safety Eric Weddle, the Chargers don’t have a single defensive back who would be considered a starter on most teams. Marcus Gilchrist will start next to Weddle at strong safety. He’s a converted cornerback who was torched frequently in 2012. At just 5-10, 193, it’s difficult to see him making the transition to his new spot in the lineup.

The cornerback position is in even worse shape. Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are both gone, giving way to Shareece Wright and the newly signed Derek Cox. Wright, who has yet to make a single start in the NFL, has appeared in just nine games as a pro. Cox, meanwhile, has some talent, but is always banged up. He’s been out of the lineup for 16 contests in the past three seasons.

The Chargers managed to overpay for Cox, but the big addition to the defense this offseason was second-round pick Manti Te’o. The catfished linebacker “fell” in the 2013 NFL Draft because there were concerns that he would be a big distraction. San Diego is a small market, so Te’o should be fine there. He’ll play two downs for now, starting alongside Donald Butler, an above-average inside linebacker who excels in run support.

2013 San Diego Chargers Schedule and Intangibles:
San Diego’s special teams were ridiculously bad in 2010, costing the team a playoff berth. The Chargers surrendered four special-teams touchdowns and four blocked punts. They spent several selections on possible special-teams upgrades since, which really helped. They scored twice on returns in 2012, thanks to Micheal Spurlock. However, Spurlock was a free agent who was never retained.

Nate Kaeding always choked in the clutch, so it was a blessing in disguise when he got hurt two years because San Diego may have found a suitable replacement. Nick Novak hit 27-of-34 attempts in 2011 and then followed that up by going 18-of-20. His only misses last season were from beyond 50, though he did go 2-of-4 from that range.

Punter Mike Scifres is one of the league’s best players at his position. He maintained a 40.6-yard net average, which was good for 12th last year. He tied for seventh with 30 boots placed inside the 20.

The Chargers have six games against teams that made the playoffs in 2012: Texans (home), Colts (home), Redskins (road), Bengals (road) and Broncos (twice). They also have some other difficult affairs, including matchups against the Dolphins and Giants, but they have their share of easy games as well (Raiders twice, Chiefs twice, Jaguars, Titans, Eagles).

2013 San Diego Chargers Rookies:
Go here for the Chargers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2013 San Diego Chargers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2013 San Diego Chargers Analysis: The Chargers are always perceived to be better than they are because they have big names like Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews. There are so many holes on this team, however, that they can’t possibly contend for the division. Whether Rivers bounces back or not will determine if San Diego is one of the five worst teams in the NFL. If they are, the Chargers’ front office will have to make a difficult decision next offseason with all of the talented quarterbacks who will be available in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Projection: 6-10 (3rd in AFC West)

2013 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2013 NFL Season Previews


2013 NFL Draft Grade: C+

Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.

Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: Is Philip Rivers done? This is something the Chargers must find out, and they can do so by bolstering the offensive line. Unfortunately, they’ll be out of range for Lane Johnson at No. 11. People talk about trading up, but I’d rather move down, add picks and perhaps pick up someone like Justin Pugh in the mid-20s. If the Chargers stay put, they should draft the top player available at 11 and then upgrade the offensive line after that.

2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Chargers were in a really tough spot at No. 11. The top three tackles and two guards were gone, so they had a decision – they could either reach for the sixth-ranked offensive lineman or address a lesser need with the No. 1 player available. They opted for the former.

I can’t say I’m a fan of San Diego’s decision. I can see why the front office did it – Philip Rivers was absolutely wrecked last year because of poor blocking in front of him. However, D.J. Fluker was a reach. He can’t play left tackle, so that position is still a big need. Right tackles are a dime a dozen, so perhaps the better route would have been to grab Star Lotulelei or Jarvis Jones at No. 11 and then look at a right tackle or guard in Round 2.

Keenan Allen was San Diego’s best choice. There’s no way he should have fallen to the third round. The pick that drew the most attention, meanwhile, was Manti Te’o. The media is bound to create a distraction with him, but San Diego is one of the smaller markets, so it won’t be as bad as if he went to Minnesota or New York.

The Chargers had an OK draft overall. They made some improvements, but still have the same glaring issue. How will Rivers make it through another season behind a terrible offensive line?

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

11. D.J. Fluker, OT/G, Alabama: B- Grade
This pick is a difficult one to grade. Unlike his teammate Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker can play tackle, giving him a bit more positional value. However, he can only line up on the right side if he’s on the outside, meaning San Diego still has a big hole at left tackle. The thing is that San Diego almost had to go offensive line, and with the top tackles off the board, Fluker was the next-best option.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

38. Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame: C Grade
I’m not too crazy about this. The Chargers had other needs, but the main question is why they felt like they had to move up for Manti Te’o. Who was going to take him between Picks 38 and 45. I’d also be concerned about distractions destroying a weak locker room. Te’o is a very good player who should have been a first-rounder, but I don’t like this fit for him.

76. Keenan Allen, WR, California: A+ Grade
Keenan Allen was a top-25 prospect throughout the entire draft process until concerns set in that he wouldn’t be able to run a 40. He did, and then he managed a 4.71. And after that, there was the mysterious drug test at the Combine. It’s worth noting that Allen never tested positive, so with that in mind, this is an outstanding pick by the Chargers. Allen is a very talented wideout in the Anquan Boldin mold, so Philip Rivers has to be thrilled.

145. Steve Williams, CB, California: B- Grade
This is a very slight reach, but Steve Williams definitely fills a need. The Chargers have the injury-prone Derek Cox and Marcus Gilchrist at corner, so San Diego had to find help at the position.

179. Tourek Williams, DE, Connecticut: B Grade
The Chargers had tons of holes on their roster, including one at the rush linebacker position. Shaun Phillips is gone, so perhaps Tourek Williams can eventually win the job across from Melvin Ingram. Williams fits the range as a sixth-round prospect.

221. Brad Sorensen, QB, Southern Utah: C Grade
San Diego had to find a backup for Philip Rivers, but Brad Sorensen over Tyler Bray, Zac Dysert, Matt Scott and Sean Renfree? Not so sure about that.


Season Summary:
San Diego fans have been pining for ownership to fire A.J. Smith and Norv Turner for years. Well, after watching their team disappoint season after season, they finally got their wish. Smith and Turner were axed on Black Monday. The new front office and coaching staff will have to repair a seemingly broken Philip Rivers, who has regressed the past couple of years.

Offseason Moves:
  • Saints sign CB Chris Carr
  • Lions sign KR Michael Spurlock
  • Broncos sign CB Quentin Jammer
  • Chargers sign OT Max Starks
  • Chargers sign DE Dwight Freeney
  • Patriots sign G Tyronne Green
  • Broncos sign DE Shaun Phillips
  • Chargers sign WR Deon Butler
  • Chargers sign DE/DT Jarius Wynn
  • Chargers cut OT Jared Gaither
  • Chargers sign G Rich Ohrnberger
  • Colts sign NT Aubrayo Franklin
  • Jets sign DE/OLB Antwan Barnes
  • Chargers sign RB Danny Woodhead
  • Chargers re-sign RB Ronnie Brown
  • Jets sign NT Antonio Garay
  • Cardinals sign CB Antoine Cason
  • Chargers sign CB Derek Cox
  • Chargers sign G Chad Rinehart
  • Chargers sign OT King Dunlap
  • Broncos sign G Louis Vasquez
  • Chargers sign TE John Phillips
  • Chargers cut NT Antonio Garay
  • Chargers cut TE Randy McMichael
  • Chargers re-sign KR Richard Goodman
  • Chargers tender WR Danario Alexander
  • Chargers cut S Atari Bigby
  • Chargers cut ILB Takeo Spikes
  • Chargers claim CB Johnny Patrick

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Offensive Tackles: Has Philip Rivers truly regressed, or is one of the league’s worst offensive lines to blame? San Diego’s new front office won’t truly know until it makes repairs up front. Neither Jared Gaither nor Jeromey Clary can be allowed to return as the team’s starting tackles. The Chargers may have to consider trading up for Lane Johnson. Drafted D.J. Fluker; signed Max Starks and King Dunlap

    2. Two Guards: Continuing with the offensive line, Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green are both free agents. Vasquez was stellar in 2012, while Green was a serviceable starter. They need to be retained. If they aren’t, the Chargers will have to keep adding new linemen. Signed Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger; moved Jeromey Clary to guard

    3. Two Cornerbacks: Starting corners Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are free agents as well. Jammer will be 34 in June and Cason stinks, so they need to be replaced anyway. Signed Derek Cox; claimed Johnny Patrick; drafted Steve Williams

    4. Rush Linebacker: San Diego spent a first-round pick on Melvin Ingram last April, but it’ll have to find a new rush linebacker unless it re-signs Shaun Phillips. Barkevious Mingo will be an option at No. 11. Signed Dwight Freeney

    5. Inside Linebacker: Takeo Spikes was cut because he was owed $3 million in non-guaranteed money in 2013. Drafted Manti Te’o

    6. Running Back: Who breaks two collarbones in a season? Ryan Mathews is made out of glass, so San Diego needs a Plan B for when he gets hurt again. Signed Danny Woodhead; re-signed Ronnie Brown

    7. Wide Receiver: Danario Alexander is a solid starting receiver when healthy, but he’s very injury-prone. Malcom Floyd, meanwhile, epitomizes mediocrity. The Chargers have to find an alternative option at receiver for Rivers. Drafted Keenan Allen; tendered Danario Alexander

    8. Safety: Atari Bigby was a liability in coverage, so he was released. Corey Lynch should be re-signed because he performed well in place of an injured Bigby in December.

    9. Quarterback: The Chargers should draft a quarterback in the middle rounds as a developmental project just in case Rivers is actually broken beyond repair.

    10. Tight End: All of the injuries have finally gotten to Antonio Gates, who can no longer separate. Signed John Phillips

    11. Kicker: Nick Novak is a free agent.

    2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts. Age: 33.
      Signed with Chargers

      Dwight Freeney didn’t have a good 2012 campaign because he was bothered by an ankle injury and had to transition into a 3-4 for the first time in his career. He should be better on a team with a 4-3 defense next year.

    2. Derek Cox, CB, Jaguars. Age: 26.
      Signed with Chargers

      Derek Cox would be ranked much higher if he were reliable. He’s a talented cornerback, but he’s missed 14 games in the past two seasons. The Jaguars have to be so frustrated with his inability to stay healthy.

    3. Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots. Age: 28.
      Signed with Chargers

      Danny Woodhead is a nifty pass-catching back who thrives in New England’s system, but it’s safe to say he wouldn’t be as heavily utilized elsewhere.

    4. Chad Rinehart, G, Bills. Age: 28.
      Signed with Chargers (1 year)

      Chad Rinehart did a phenomenal job replacing Andy Levitre in 2011 when the stud guard had to move around in the wake of injuries to Eric Wood and Demetress Bell. Unfortunately, Rinehart missed most of 2012 with an ankle injury.

    5. King Dunlap, OT, Eagles. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers
    6. Max Starks, OT, Steelers. Age: 31. — Signed with Chargers
    7. Deon Butler, WR, Seahawks. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers
    8. John Phillips, TE, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Signed with Chargers (3 years)
    9. Johnny Patrick (Waivers), CB, Saints. Age: 25. — Claimed by Chargers
    10. Rich Ohrnberger (RFA), G/C, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers
    11. Jarius Wynn, DE, Titans. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers

    San Diego Chargers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Louis Vasquez, G, Chargers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Broncos (4 years, $23.5 million; $13 million guaranteed)

      Louis Vasquez parlayed a strong offseason with a great 2012 campaign. He was rock solid in an otherwise pedestrian offensive front. He should be heavily compensated.

    2. Danario Alexander (RFA), WR, Chargers. Age: 25.
      Tendered by Chargers (original)

      Danario Alexander exploded after signing with the Chargers in the middle of the season, catching 36 balls for 624 yards and six touchdowns in nine games. He has tons of potential, but he is also a big risk because of his extensive injury history.

    3. Shaun Phillips, DE/OLB, Chargers. Age: 32.
      Signed with Broncos

      Shaun Phillips recorded close to double-digit sacks and was stout in coverage this season, though he was a big liability against the run. He’ll be 32 in May, unfortunately.

    4. Nick Novak, K, Chargers. Age: 32.
      Nick Novak did a good job replacing an injured Nate Kaeding again, hitting 18-of-20 kicks, including 2-of-4 from 50-plus. He converted on just 70.4 percent of his tries in the three years before 2012, however.

    5. Tyronne Green, G, Chargers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Patriots

      Tyronne Green wasn’t very good in 2011, but improved enough this past year to be a capable starting guard.

    6. Antwan Barnes, DE/OLB, Chargers. Age: 28.
      Signed with Jets

      Antwan Barnes is a solid pass-rushing specialist. He recorded 11 sacks in 2011, but didn’t do much last year because of a bothersome hamstring injury.

    7. Aubrayo Franklin, NT, Chargers. Age: 33.
      Signed with Colts

      Aubrayo Franklin will be 33 in August, but he can still get the job done as a run-stuffer.

    8. Jared Gaither, OT, Chargers. Age: 27.
      Jared Gaither is one of the most talented tackles in the NFL. Unfortunately, he’s very injury-prone and lazy. A team with a strong locker room and coaching staff should consider signing him to a 1-year deal.

    9. Michael Spurlock, WR/KR, Chargers. Age: 30.
      Signed with Lions

      Michael Spurlock scored two special-teams touchdowns in 2012. He also recorded seven catches for 64 yards in one game as a slot receiver.

    10. Corey Lynch, S, Chargers. Age: 28.
      Corey Lynch is an awesome special-teamer who performed well as a starting safety down the stretch in place of an injured Atari Bigby.

    11. Quentin Jammer, CB, Chargers. Age: 34.
      Signed with Broncos

      Quentin Jammer had his moments early in the 2012 season, but really wore down during the stretch. His starting days could be over.

    12. Antoine Cason, CB, Chargers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cardinals (1 year)

      Antoine Cason was torched on a weekly basis this past season. The former first-round pick is still young enough to turn his career around, but time is running out.

    13. Takeo Spikes, ILB, Chargers. Age: 36.
      Takeo Spikes played well for the first few months of the season in 2012, but he struggled mightily down the stretch. There’s a chance he could be done. At best, he’s a solid, two-down veteran.

    14. Ronnie Brown, RB, Chargers. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Chargers
    15. Atari Bigby, S, Chargers. Age: 31.
    16. Antonio Garay, NT, Chargers. Age: 33.
    17. Richard Goodman (RFA), KR, Chargers. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Chargers (1 year, $630,000)
    18. Antonio Garay, NT, Chargers. Age: 33. — Signed with Jets
    19. Randy McMichael, TE, Chargers. Age: 34.
    20. Vaughn Martin, DT, Chargers. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins
    21. Demorrio Williams, ILB, Chargers. Age: 33.
    22. Rex Hadnot, G, Chargers. Age: 31.
    23. Dante Rosario, TE, Chargers. Age: 28.
    24. Seyi Ajirotutu (RFA), WR, Chargers. Age: 26.
    25. Curtis Brinkley (RFA), RB, Chargers. Age: 27.
    26. Jackie Battle, RB, Chargers. Age: 29.
    27. Chris Carr, CB, Chargers. Age: 30. — Signed with Saints

    2013 NFL Free Agent Positions:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades

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