[Chart last updated 7/8/14]
• 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.
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.
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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