2014 Depth Chart: San Diego Chargers

| June 16, 2014

2014 depth update SD

[Chart last updated 7/8/14]

Notes

•  A year ago it was hasty in assuming that quarterback Philip Rivers was on a serious decline, coming off his worst season since we began grading. He bounced back in a big way in 2013, however, finishing the year as our third-highest graded quarterback as the Chargers went back to the postseason.

•  Running back looks to be a real strength for the Chargers this year, with Ryan Matthews coming off one of his best seasons since entering the league, and Danny Woodhead providing one of the NFL’s best receiving threats out of the backfield. Add in Donald Brown, who had a solid year for the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, and it’s clear that this is one of the team’s deepest position groups.

•  The cornerback position is another story, though. Neither Shareece Wright or Richard Marshall fill you with much confidence as starters, and we simply haven’t seen enough of anyone else at the position to get much of a read on them. If those player don’t impress in 2014, the Chargers could struggle defensively.

•  The Chargers’ lone elite player is safety Eric Weddle and, while he started the season with a few struggles, he remains one of the best defensive backs in the NFL. Good in coverage and versatile enough that he can play deep and close to the line of scrimmage, he’s far and away San Dego’s best player in their defensive backfield.

Roster Battles

1.  Inside Linebacker

All the attention that Manti Te’o drew in the pre-draft process last offseason has long since died down, and he now comes into the new season trying to lock down a starting spot in the Chargers’ front seven. There are two spots up for grabs, with Te’o, Donald Butler and Kavell Conner fighting it out. Right now it looks like Te’o and Butler will be the starters, but don’t be surprised if Conner forces his way in there.

2.  Cornerback

With lots of uncertainty at the position, it’s not surprising that who starts at cornerback in San Diego is still up in the air. First-round draft pick Jason Verrett has a big opportunity to start out of the gates with Marshall and Wright failing to impress, while Steve Williams has reportedly been the team’s nickel back so far. One player worth keeping an eye on is Brandon Ghee, with the former Cincinnati Bengals defensive back finishing 2013 with a +4.9 grade on just 80 snaps.

3.  Wide Receiver

With Malcolm Floyd missing much of 2013 through injury, Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown stepped up with rookie Keenan Allen taking over as their No. 1 receiver. Royal impressed more, but Brown was solid too, leaving a three way battle with Floyd to see who will be the team’s No. 2 in 2014.

 

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  • Adm

    ugh gross, that D!…. you can almost smell it through the screen

  • TRC

    I’d like to argue about the defense…but I’m having a hard time. Perhaps Donald Butler is judged a bit harshly. He’s a good starter that didn’t play that way until the playoffs. Nit-picking here.

  • Chris

    Why is Geathers listed ahead of Lissemore?

    Why is Ingram listed ahead of Freeney (unless Freeney is now going to be exclusively a pass rusher on passing downs)?

    That defense is just disgusting. There’s no way they win more than 8 games – the offense (and Rivers) will regress back to the mean a little and this porous defense is going to keep them out of the playoffs.

    • TRC

      Can you tell me my future now, Doc? You have no idea what will happen. Are players not allowed to improve, or get healthy? You’re right about the Lissemore part, though. And yes, Freeney is exclusively a pass rusher at this point.

      • Chris

        I know I have no idea what will happen. That’s my guess. I feel like SD, and Rivers, over achieved last year with a terrible defense. I think they’ll regress to the mean and the defense will continue to blow severely. That secondary is abysmal (as it was last year), and the LBs are really weak as well.

        • Stuart Adkins

          It’s June, none of you know anything at this point. You were one of those naysayers last off-season that predicted Chargers to win 4 games and that Rivers was on his way out and RM24 was a worthless running back–weren’t you? All I hear is a bunch of whiny noise with nothing but conjecture and wannabe pundits b.s.

          • TRC

            I just assumed Chris was a trolling Oakland fan. What fan in their right mind would project so negatively.

          • Chris

            Oakland has fans?

            I’m not a fan of any team in the division. I’m offering my outside opinion based on what I saw last year and what they’ve done so far this offseason.

            My best guess, like with KC, is a regression.

          • TRC

            Fair enough.

          • Chris from the Cape

            Wow, Chris: You’re making a lot of friends here on this page! lol.
            I would tend to agree with them that the impact of an OC isn’t nearly as pronounced on a 32 year old QB as it would be on a 22 year old, and that the emerging talent they’ve shown with their receiving corps should contribute as well to bridging that gap. Of the biggest importance IMO, and you touched upon, is the health of the O-Line, as Rivers seems such a different player when he has time.
            I also see the defense as being over criticized because its last memory from last season was against the Broncos, but nonetheless, they’re still much lacking in talent (is there any others with that much orange?).

          • Chris

            Hey, someone who can be civil while discussing something!

            I’m not predicting like a 4-12 season. But they weren’t exactly dominant last season – Rivers carried a putrid defense. It just wouldn’t surprise me to see them drop back a couple games.

          • Chris from the Cape

            I think one of the reasons Dalton’s stock has plummeted so was the Cincy O making the Bolts D look like the 85′ Bears in that playoff game last year. (Not to mention that many a QB would be pleased to have that receiving corps)

            In any case, with the exception of the Dolphins pushing in the East, there will probably be a WC spot up for grabs behind Den,( the other coming out of the North in all likelihood) so it will be interesting to see what happens.

        • Chris from the Cape

          What’s your impression (impact on SD) of the Flowers signing, Chris?

          • Chris

            I think they could definitely use the help. Flowers appears to be on the decline, but he’s better than what they’ve got…maybe?

          • Chris from the Cape

            I realize there’s a popularity contest aspect to the Pro Bowl voting, but was under the impression Flowers was a good, though not great player, and is still only 28. In any case, I would think any corner with 2 ACLs would be a big pickup for the Bolts, with the secondary being the weakest link on the team.

    • DrAWNiloc

      I’m not convinced this defense, as atrocious as it is, will keep them out of the playoffs. They’ll run a lot, and not just to keep that D off the field; they have great RBs and face the weakest run stoppers in the NFL (along with many questionable QBs). With K.C. regressing, who’s going to beat the Chargers out of its wildcard spot?

      • Chris

        I agree on KC regressing. I’d say both teams finish with about 8 wins.

        I’d expect Baltimore to return to the playoffs, and Miami could make the jump as well. Pittsburgh and Tennessee still look a year away to me.

        • DrAWNiloc

          I am hardly a San Diego fan but I’m surprised to see so many doubters. Going into 2013, was it hard to predict that the reworked O-line would help Rivers live up to his potential against the 4th weakest defenders in the NFL? That Keenan Allen would be a vast improvement on their existing talent? That Danny Woodhead would be the same grotesquely underrated sparkplug that he’s always been? Personally, I was disappointed by their 9-7 record in 2013. Had you told me beforehand that they would lose to Tennessee, Oakland, Washington, and Miami I’d have written off their year.

          2014? It’s the same terrible defence, yes, but their skill players are pitted against worse, especially at QB (7th weakest) and RB (softest in the NFL). Of the offences they’ll face, Denver (twice) and New England are the only ones that will scare [or score on] anyone. It would be difficult to imagine them winning fewer than 10 games this year.

    • jcharge29

      I’m sorry but did you just say that this offense is going to regress?! How? We didn’t lose anyone significant offensively. We replaced Ronnie Brown with a younger Donald Brown, we have Malcom Floyd coming back, we have our starting OL intact going into this season and our depth at the OL looks somewhat better considering the draft pick Chris Watt, how the hell are the Chargers going to regress offensively? It’s still Phillip Rivers’ offense. Whisenhunt may be gone but this is still an offense that caters to Rivers’ strengths as a QB. This is going to be Frank Reich’s first year calling plays as a coach but he does have experience calling plays as a QB himself and Rivers still has the authority to call his own plays at the LOS. Tell me: how is this offense going to regress?

      Also, last year’s defense did something no other team in the NFL has done (aside from Seattle). They were the only team to hold the Broncos below 30 pts and the defense looks better as well going into this year. Ingram and Freeney are coming back healthy, Cam Thomas and Derek Cox are gone, we have depth along the front seven; defensively, we look better than what we were last year and if we do happen to be improved, then maybe we can win more than 8 games.

      On paper, we don’t look like a team that has taken a step back. We can compete if we play to our potential on a consistent level.

      • Chris

        1. Your defense didn’t hold the Broncos under 3rd points. Your ball control offense did. The defense is swiss cheese, especially covering the pass. You can’t deny this. It’s one of the worst secondaries in the league.

        2. Whisenhunt’s tutelage and offensive scheme turned around Rivers’ career. That system and coaching is now gone. To say that the new fill ins will do just as well as Whisenhunt is asinine.

        3. The OL is good, especially when both Dunlap and Fluker are healthy. But that’s the thing – will they both be healthy all year? The line fell apart last year when pieces had to move around. Fluker just isn’t a LT. The guards are below average. The potential to be great is there but there’s also the potential to go the other way, and we saw plenty of both last year.

        4. Bottom line – I don’t see any value added on offense. I see value taken away with Whisenhunt’s system gone. Rivers had a career revival out of nowhere with Whisenhunt working the short passing game (look at Rivers’ numbers on the depth of target chart). He won’t be as good as last year, that’s my gut feeling. And without the ball control offense to bail out the defense, yall will struggle to keep pace.

        IMO

        • jcharge29

          1) That high-powered Broncos offense couldn’t score <30 points against the "swiss-cheese" Chargers defense last year. FACT

          2)Frank Reich has been working with Whisenhunt for years. He's been just as instrumental at turning Rivers' around as Whisenhunt and it is still the same system that allows Rivers to do what he likes to do and Rivers will still have significant control to call plays at the LOS. This may be Reich's first year as an OC, first year calling plays as an OC (he has years of experience calling plays as a QB in college and the NFL), but he isn't taking away the system that allowed Rivers to have an outstanding season last year. FACT

          3) NO S*** FLUKER ISN'T A LT!!!! He was never supposed to be a LT. He's a RT, who played 17/18 games, including both playoff games, and was one of the best rookie OL in the game last year. Dunlap is good when he's healthy. Yes. Will he be healthy all this season? IDK. As long as he's healthy and keeping Rivers clean and opening up holes for our three-headed backfield, we're in good shape. FACT.

          4)IT WAS NEVER WHISENHUNT'S SYSTEM!!! When Mike McCoy assembled his coaching staff, he, Whisenhunt and Reich sat down with Rivers and they asked him a question that defined last season: Phillip, what do you like to do? It's a system that allows Phillip to do what he likes to do and they even allowed him to run a no-huddle offense because it is a system that allows him to do what he likes to do and Reich isn't taking that away from him. FACT

          Another fact: I just schooled you!

          • Chris

            LOL u werkd up yet or nah

            1. I never denied that the Broncos didn’t score 30 points. I’m attributing that fact to the ball control offense keeping Peyton off the field.

            2. It doesn’t matter who else you think was involved. Whisenhunt is a QB genius. Without him running the show and coaching him up Rivers is gonna regress. It doesn’t matter how long Captain WhatsHisName was his sidekick – he ain’t Whisenhunt.

            3. I don’t know what you’re rambling about, but you basically repeated what I said verbatim using lots of caps lock.

            4. See #2. And calm down already, ya damn zealot.

          • jcharge29

            It isn’t what I think. It’s what I know and what you clearly don’t want to acknowledge. Rivers is not learning another system all over again. It is still the same system that allows Rivers to do what he likes to do and since the system isn’t changing, and Rivers still has control to change and call his own plays at the LOS, the chances of Rivers regressing because Whisenhunt isn’t here, is low. Rivers can call his own plays the way he sees fit, in a system that is catered to do what he likes to do. Reich is a former QB himself who has called plays in college and the NFL. In fact he stills the college and NFL records for biggest comebacks. Reich can call plays and Rivers can call plays. We’ll miss Whisenhunt’s experience, but we won’t take a huge step backwards now that he is gone. The system is still here for Rivers to perform at a level where runs the show. Get what I’m saying dummy?

          • Chris

            No one cares how random coach X called plays at some random university. No one cares that Rivers is still ‘in the same system’ and can audible at the line.

            Whisenhunt was the play caller. The system may be the same, but the genius wielding it is gone. You can prop up this Reich as much as you want, he’s not Whisenhunt.

          • jcharge29

            Norv Turner was considered a QB genius too. Look at what happened to him. A lot of people thought Rivers couldn’t survive without Norv after the Chargers fired him. Look at what happened there.

            This offense was built for Philip Rivers. Mike McCoy, Whisenhunt and Frank Reich designed it for him. Reich may not be Whisenhunt, but he is capable and qualified to run it. He’s called plays before and done a good job of it as a player. He looks suited to run it as an OC.

            You honestly believe that Rivers and this Chargers offensive system, that was tailored for Rivers to utilize his strengths and was just as much Reich, Rivers and Mike McCoy’s doing as it was Whisenhunt’s, is going to backslide because Whisenhunt left? Son, you know nothing about football. Let alone Chargers football. I won this discussion. When the season begins and Rivers plays as well as he did last year, I’ll be here waiting to rub it in your feeble-minded face.

          • Chris

            LOL u werkd up yet or nah?

          • http://there.com butkis

            You do realize that McCoy has as much to do with the SYSTEM as Whis was…after all…and I’m surprised you didn’t pay attention to your own team, McCoy had Tebow in the post season….It was known that Rivers likes the short/intermediate passing game..look up old scouting notes on him …it’s too bad that Turner never realized that instead of making him conform to HIS system….

          • Chris

            My own team? I’m not a fan of any team in the division.

          • Izach

            The OC has more control over the offense than the HC unless the HC is calling plays and developing schemes, usually the. HC try’s to pick a coordinator he doesn’t have to micro manage so whiz leaving is bigger than ppl think

          • http://there.com butkis

            …yes he was making the calls but the THEY (McCoy/Whis/Reich) and the rest of the coaches installed a system which is still in place this year..nothing is changing except making a few wrinkles. It’s not like Whis took it with him…

          • BoltDaddy

            Chris= troll

  • cameronmm

    Donald Butler is a captain and just signed a huge contract… He is the starting ILB, no question.

  • Jordan MacGeever

    Eric Weddle elite? he was 92nd in the PFF 101 Brent Grimes who was 22nd on the list is a high quality starter doesn’t add up!

    • Thomas Holm

      This was a down year for Weddle and he still finished 7th in overall grade among safeties. Weddle is the most versatile safety in the league. He is capable of playing deep or as a 3rd linebacker in Nickel. Weddle still had 7 games with a +2,0 or higher in 2013.

      Go back to 2012 where he was the #1 graded safety and he gets sort of a “pass” for 2013.

  • Jonathan King

    Not a terrible evaluation of the roster, but it feels like the author doesn’t keep up with the Chargers and is basing this on stats alone… kind of odd to see so much hating on the offensive system that did so well last year, even considering the loss of Whisenhut… did we forget that McCoy was the one driving a lot of the Denver/Manning-like adjustments? And it’s not like Rivers suddenly lost his intelligence because Whisenhut moved out. Regarding the defense, an injury riddled box and young secondary is always going to look porous at times, but the defense is a year older and, based on today’s remarks from McCoy regarding cutting the minicamp short, a strong offseason better. The secondary looked particularly bad because they had to cover for 5+ seconds so frequently… the lack of a consistent pass rush really hurt, and the improvement after Ingram made it back really supports this argument. Having Freeney and Ingram, a faster, stronger, more athletic Te’o, Butler, Weddle, and the Weddle-lites that he’s been mentoring in the secondary adds up to a much stronger picture than last year. A lot of last year’s numbers for the Chargers’ secondary are going to look worse because of the injuries to the pass rush specialists. This roster is certainly better than the numbers up there say (Rivers being ranked third highest among QB’s but not being elite? please) and Te’o's play has a huge impact on the rest of the defense, more than a lot of fans are willing to acknowledge. It’s also worth noting that a team that builds with character, as the Chargers have been, sees play quality greater than the sum of its parts, while teams that build without consideration for character see play quality much less than the sum of its parts. The decline of the Chiefs, Texans, Bengals, and Jets could open up a playoff spot for the Chargers to jump into, but the annual November-December brilliance is going to be significantly more difficult to accomplish this year: that final 5 game stretch is as brutal as they come, so if they head into December with less than 9 wins, they’re going to need help to pick up a wild card.

  • Izach

    Still don’t understand he Eric weddle love, I’ve watched him play, and he good but elite is too much.

  • Chris from the Cape

    I still miss the shots of the fans in Foxboro with the foam 2×4 hats in tribute to Danny W: Pretty awesome for him to get the respect to be given green (and I’m still mad the Pats weren’t going to him out of the backfield in the SB 3 years ago).

  • MachoMenos

    So, why haven’t you penciled in Brandon Flowers in the RCB position? Updates, people!

  • Thebolts85

    Please explain to me how Reyes and Liuget are ranked as below average starters? Especially when you ranked Cam Thomas as an average starter on the steelers. The chargers ranked 12th in rush defense despite the horrible 17 individual tackles and no sack season Cam Thomas bestowed upon us. Reyes and Liuget both finished with around 30 individual tackles and 5 sacks in their second and third season. I understand the rankings can be close from category to category, but I don’t understand these two at all. Also Brandon Taylor isn’t on the Chargers anymore.

    • Thebolts85

      Grades or not this defensive unit is going turn heads this year. I’ve been a Chargers fan for twenty years, and this defense is the real deal. Probably the most balanced group of rookie and veteran talent they’ve had in a very long time. All of that yellow, purple, and orange is going to blend into that Chargers powder blue on the PFF grading scale. If the bolts stay healthy through the preseason and the defensive rookies step up, they are going to be a destructive unit no question.

  • Mike

    You got that Flowers is now on the roster, but missed that Brandon Taylor was released before that signing. Hard to take this too seriously when you don’t even know who is on the team.

  • MachoMenos

    Brandon flowers did not enjoy the conversion to SCB which is the reason he was dropped in KC and will be playing RCB for the Bolts while Jason Verrett starts out at SCB like all rookies should.