2013 Team Needs: San Diego Chargers
The Norv Turner-era came to an end for the Chargers in 2012, after another disappointing season. Following a solid start, the Bolts lost eight of their final 12 games to finish with a 7-9 record.
San Diego has frequently been touted as one of the league’s most talented teams, but has not been able to get the job done… this roster, however, looks far from loaded. With tough decisions on unproductive players with expensive contracts, like Robert Meachem and Jared Gaither (only 249 snaps played), the Chargers could wind up having to be bargain shoppers this offseason. That will be a tough task with all of the holes on their roster.
Surprise! The Chargers’ offensive line was not very good last year. Okay, it’s not a surprise, and they were actually terrible. In fact, only four units were worse. Jared Gaither drew a lot more attention off the field than on, after a mysterious injury that lasted the entire training camp and only managing a handful of games in the regular season. The Chargers’ new front office will have to decide if they trust him for another season. His replacement, undrafted rookie Michael Harris, had the worst rating (-43.4) for an offensive lineman ever recorded by PFF. Jeromey Clary had a bounce-back year after being the 73rd-ranked tackle in 2011, but his negative grade in both pass protection and run blocking suggests he can easily be upgraded
The lone bright spot on the line is Louis Vasquez, who happens to be a free agent — and you can find the rest of the Chargers’ free agents here. He allowed only two sacks and one QB hit; good news for Philip Rivers who was a human punching bag last year. Vasquez absolutely needs to be retained by the Chargers.
Free Agent Fix: King Dunlap
The Chargers have a lot of uncertainty at offensive tackle. It is unclear whether we will see Gaither in a San Diego uniform in 2013, and if that is the case, the team cannot be happy with Harris and Clary as its starting tackles. King Dunlap struggled in the ground game, but had a solid 95.9 Pass Blocking Efficiency, good for 15th among tackles. If the Chargers want to get Rivers back on track, they need to make sure he is protected. Dunlap would also give them flexibility as he would be an upgrade at either left or right tackle.
Not many teams had a cornerback tandem that played as poorly as Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. The combo had more touchdowns allowed (13) than passes defended (12). They each allowed over 700 yards in coverage, good for 9th- and 13th-most among cornerbacks. Both of these players are free agents this offseason, so it will be easy for the Chargers to move on if they decide to do so.
San Diego also has a couple of young cornerbacks who are expected to see a jump in playing time. Shareece Wright has impressed in a very limited role, and could see one of the starting cornerback jobs next season. Marcus Gilchrist, like Wright will be going into his third NFL season. Gilchrist got plenty of playing time in 2012, but did not make the most of it. Quarterbacks had a QB rating of 126.1 when targeting the young defensive back, the highest among all cornerbacks. This secondary would greatly benefit from the development of this pair of players, as well as some new blood.
Free Agent Fix: Greg Toler
There is a chance the Chargers move on from their starting cornerbacks. Even If they do believe they have a pair of starting corners on the current roster, they could certainly use some veteran depth.
Toler has missed quite a few games to injuries over his four-year career, but he has been effective when on the field. He allowed only 17 receptions on his 41 targets last year and surrendered only one touchdown. He also allowed a 51.5 QB rating. Toler would bring some veteran talent to a secondary with plenty of youth.
There’s no doubting Donald Butler has earned his status as a starter. His work in run defense became clear by how much the team missed him when he was hurt. That’s no surprise considering his replacement was Demorrio Williams, a player really not suited to an every-down role.
Compounding the issue is that while Takeo Spikes is still as sure a tackling linebacker as there is (he missed only two tackles in the entire 2012 season), he’s a fading force, with his ability to get off blocks and make plays diminishing. Has he got another year left in him? Perhaps. But given where his performance is trending is that a good thing?
Free Agent Fix: Brad Jones
What the Chargers need is a guy who can play every down, won’t cost a fortune, and will do a lot of the hard work to free up Donald Butler to make plays. In that regard they won’t find a guy better than Jones on the open market. He flourished in a move to inside linebacker, grading as our 10th-highest inside linebacker. His cost is likely to ensure the Chargers can get a look at some of their younger guys at the spot, knowing they have a very reliable option if they don’t pan out.
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