San Diego Chargers: 2012 Team Needs

February 16th, 2012 By DraftNasty Staff Reports

The Chargers seem primed to make a run at an AFC West division title in 2012, but the status of several veterans currently hangs in the balance.

San Diego Chargers: 2012 Team Needs

Key Notes

  • The Chargers’ offense finished 6th in the NFL in three categories: scoring (25.6 pts/gm), passing offense (276.6) and total yards/gm (393.1)
  • San Diego’s 3rd Down conversion percentage (49%) ranked 2nd in the league
  • Defensively, Pro Bowl FS Eric Weddle recorded 7 interceptions in 2011
  • Team’s turnover ratio (-7) ranked 25th in the league
  • Allowed 122.2 yds/gm rushing (20th in the NFL)



Potential Free Agents: Mike Tolbert, RB, Jacob Hester, FB, Patrick Crayton, WR, Vincent Jackson, WR, Richard Goodman, WR (Exclusive Rights FA), Randy McMichael, TE, Kory Sperry, TE (Restricted), Jared Gaither, OT, Tony Moll, OT, Brandyn Dombrowski, OG (Restricted), Nick Hardwick, C, Scott Mruczkowski, OG (IR), Mike Windt, C (Exclusive Rights FA)

Positions of Need:  Interior OL, WR


Phillip Rivers took awhile to return to his Pro Bowl form and in the process the squad endured a horrid stretch.  Backup signal-caller Billy Volek remains reliable and could win games if asked to in a pinch. 


Running Backs

With both Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert unrestricted free agents, the onus may be on the team to at least bring Hester back in the fold.  His versatility as a hybrid-move type often identifies coverage and alignment tendencies by the defense.  Tolbert has shouldered the majority of the Red Zone burden, and RB Ryan Mathews’ ball security (5 fumbles in 2011) is still a question mark.

Mathews came through in his second season.  His 1,546 total yards from scrimmage included 50 receptions at a little over 9 yds/clip.  The issue is that he doesn’t always finish games.  He left parts of several and managed to start 13 games.  In two seasons, he’s started 22 of a possible 32 games. 

In last year’s draft, the team spent a 6th round pick on Connecticut RB Jordan Todman.  Todman was released last October.  If the team were to invest in this position again, perhaps a legitimate mid-round pick with more size is an option to fill a potential Tolbert departure.   Players such as Utah State’s Robert Turbin or Ole Miss RB Brandon Bolden could be around on Day 3.  Both, however, have slight medical concerns.


Wide Receivers/TEs

Vincent Jackson probably should demand a ransom sum.  Why not?  He and Malcom Floyd provide tall, linear passing threats for Rivers.  Many of his passes would simply be overthrows without their tremendous timing and body control.  The problem is that neither is a legitimate run after the catch option.

In fact, most of the Chargers’ short passing game goes through its running backs.  The passing game features a variety of Hi/Lo vertical and horizontal routes.  With Patrick Crayton possibly no longer an option, it’s time for the team to seriously consider drafting or signing a receiver who can create with the ball in his hands.  Presently, no one on their roster at this position has enough wiggle to get hidden yardage.  This is evident when teams like the Chiefs crowd them at the LOS. 

TE Randy McMichael, an unrestricted free agent, would be another welcome security blanket for Rivers if re-signed.  His dependability has been huge the last two seasons as Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates has experienced a variety of minor and major injuries.   Tight end is not a position of strength in this draft, so a development-type may be in order late in the draft.  The team likes to use Ace-or-Deuce (2 TEs) personnel quite a bit, so this position should not be overlooked. 

Free agency doesn’t feature a plethora of these types of threats, because Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson is thin.  Depending on the Jackson situation, it wouldn’t be a surprise to make a play at someone like New Orleans’ WR Marcus Colston.  He could transition into Jackson’s role.  Even if they do, smallish players such as Tulsa’s Damarius Johnson or Toledo’s Eric Page could help in the return game or fourth WR role. 

Offensive Line

Two veteran stalwarts -LG Kris Dielman and C Nick Hardwick- have both endured their share of wear and tear.  After an assortment of concussions, Dielman’s future would now seem to be year-to-year.   To top off matters, it’s by no means a certainty that they will be able to secure the services of free agent OT Jared Gaither.  He’s begun to prove that he’s getting back to full strength.   Another team might scoop him up if the price is right.

On the plus side, Jeromey Clary started 16 games and Louis Vasquez made 14 starts.  With a number of the backups’ status in question, it is likely that an interior offensive lineman with swing experience will be brought into the fold.   




Potential Free Agents:  Antonio Garay, DL, Tommie Harris, DL, Na’il Diggs, LB, Steve Gregory, SS, Bob Sanders, SS (IR), Paul Oliver, FS 

Positions of Need:  OLB, CB

Defensive Line

It’s still not certain whether Luis Castillo will ever truly justify his controversial 1st round draft selection.   After a breakout 2nd year, he’s leveled out quite a bit.  His unavailability last year thrust rookie Corey Liuget into an expanded rookie year role (13 starts) where he had his moments.  He needs to take the next step in Year Two. 

This would become an area of significant concern if the team were to lose DT Antonio Garay in free agency.  Garay (57 tackles) led all the defensive linemen in tackles.  He has bounced around some, but seemed to have found a home the last two seasons in San Diego.  If he were to leave then 3rd year DT Cam Thomas (19 tackles, 4 QB sacks) would possibly assume a bigger role.  But he still believes he’s a pass rusher first at this point.  Tommie Harris didn’t contribute as much as expected and he, too, is a free agent.  DT Vaughn Martin (47 tackles) remains a viable cog in the heart of the defense, but the edges have to improve in 2012. 


As long as MLB Takeo Spikes continues to play like this, this unit has a presence.  Much like he did in San Francisco with Patrick Willis, Spikes’ intensity and leadership wore off on 2nd year LB Donald Butler (Led team w/94 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, FR TD).  Butler responded well after a torn achilles cost him his rookie year.  Diggs didn’t start, but he was very productive when on the field. 

OLB Antwan Barnes came on as an edge rusher in 2011 (11 QB sacks), but quite a bit of that production came in just a few games (4 sacks vs Baltimore).  He’ll need to become better vs. the run to enhance his role.  His OLB mate -Travis LaBoy- didn’t produce as expected (Career-low 1 QB sack), after a solid 2010 season in San Francisco.  Teams focused more on Shaun Phillips (3.5 QB sacks), but he still should have been slightly more productive.  A young rush OLB would add competition to this group and spice up the heat on the QB. 


Bob Sanders’ injury was a detriment to the secondary from the start, but backup Steve Gregory did his best (65 tackles, INT-TD) to ease his loss.  Gregory is a free agent.  The Chargers need a legitimate complement to Pro Bowler Eric Weddle, who just always seems to find a way to be around the ball.  3rd year safety Darrell Stuckey has made his presence felt as a teamer but he may get added reps this season.  He carries his pads well and packs a punch as a tackler. 

It may also be time to consider the cornerback spot.  On one side, CB Antoine Cason tackles well and gets his hands on the football with outstanding pre-snap recognition and natural ball instincts.  The problem is that he may never develop into a true #1 corner.  The team’s veteran -11-year pro Quentin Jammer- is entering the stage where corners sometimes lose a step.  He struggled with speed within the division (see Oakland) and it could be a sign of things to come.  Jammer seems to have plenty of football left however, and -despite poor ball skills- he would be the ideal matchup strong safety the team is seeking.  Just a thought.

2011 3rd round pick CB Marcus Gilchrist seems more comfortable inside than outside, but he doesn’t return kicks.  Svelte outside cover guys with ball skills like Oregon’s Cliff Harris may just be what the doctor ordered for this group.  He will likely be available in Rounds 4-6, but even that may not be a certainty after he tests for NFL teams.

Special Teams

Richard Goodman brought excitement and energy to the kickoff return unit, averaging over 27.4 yds/KOR with one score.  While he handled those duties, a reliable punt returner would be needed if Patrick Crayton leaves via free agency. 

P Mike Scifres not only averaged 47.5 yds/kick, he also made one of his FG/extra point attempts when PK Nate Kaeding was lost for the season with an ACL tear on the opening kickoff of the year.  PK Nick Novak came through by making 27-of-34 field goals, but he missed five field goals versus division opponents.  

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