The San Diego Chargers were expected to dominate the AFC West for their fifth straight division title, but instead they put together a disappointing 9-7 season. It was the first time the Chargers were left out of the playoffs since 2005. Poor special teams play was the death of this team, as they had the No. 1 rated offense and defense in 2010. The Chargers will be hungry to take back control in the West, and have a great shot at doing just that.
Current NFL odds have the Chargers listed at -225 to win the AFC West.
Key Additions: Takeo Spikes (LB), Travis LaBoy (LB),
2011 Draft Picks: Corey Liuget (DT), Marcus Gilchrist (CB), Jonas Mouton (LB), Vincent Brown (WR), Shareece Wright (CB), Jordan Todman (RB), Stephen Schilling (OT)
Notable Losses: Darren Sproles (RB), Kevin Burnett (LB), Legedu Naanee (WR)
Phillip Rivers is one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. He threw for 4.710 yards with 30 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions without star wide out Vincent Jackson for most of the season. He also was without Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates for six games. Whoever the Chargers plugged in at wide receiver seemed to produce, and a lot that is a result of the outstanding play of Rivers.
To give you an idea of how shaky the receiving corps was, running back Darren Sproles (Signed with New Orleans) led the team with 59 catches. Gates was the most dangerous weapon, hauling in 50 passes for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns. Malcolm Floyd led all receivers with 37 receptions for 717 yards and six scores. Big things are expected out of Jackson in 2010, and they are also excited to see what Patrick Crayton can do in a full season.
The Chargers were expecting big things out of rookie running back Ryan Mathews, but he had fumble problems and couldn’t stay healthy. Mike Tolbert surprised with 735 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Mathews ended the year with 678 yards and seven scores. These two should form quite the duo in 2011.
The Chargers added Illinois defensive lineman Cory Liuget with their first pick in the 2011 draft. Liuget will be asked to play defensive end in the 3-4 . He is currently listed behind Jacques Cesaire on the depth chart, but could end up starting by the end of the year. If Antonio Garay can build off an impressive 2010 season at nose tackle, the Chargers should continue to have one of the top defensive units in the league.
San Diego lost inside linebacker Kevin Burnett, who led the team with 124 tackles last year. They added in veteran Takeo Spikes to fill the void, and are expected to move second-year linebacker Donald Brown into the starting at the other inside spot. On the outside they plan on going with Larry English and Travis LaBoy. Both Spikes and LaBoy were members of the San Francisco 49ers in 2010.
In the secondary, the Chargers are taking a gamble on free agent strong safety Bob Sanders, who has barely seen the field because of injuries. Sanders will be joined by free safety Eric Weddle and corners Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer. This unit helped San Diego finish with the No.1 rated pass defense in 2010, holding opposing offenses to just 177.8 ypg. Sanders could make this defense special if he can simply stay on the field.
2011 Predictions: 1st in the AFC West, 11-5 Overall Record
I think the way this team missed out on the playoffs in 2010, makes them a very dangerous team in 2011. They don’t seem to get the respect they deserve on either side of the ball. As long as Rivers stays healthy and the defense does its job, San Diego should have no trouble taking down the AFC West title this season.