San Diego, CA. The San Diego Chargers are without a doubt, one of the most confusing franchises in all of sports. In recent years, they seem to always start the year slowly, wake up mid-season, and finish strong only to come up short in December or January. They have also proven to be a team who cannot be figured out, as they typically win games they should lose, and lose games they should win. To add a new confounding wrinkle, last year the Chargers began 4-1, then went on a 6 game losing skid which derailed their entire season. Philip Rivers also had a strange year where he tossed a career high 20 interceptions. The defense was basically a middle of the pack unit, where they finished 13th against the pass and 20th against the run. Somehow, head coach Norv Turner kept his job, as did GM A.J. Smith. Trying to figure out what this franchise is doing and where they are heading is a head scratcher. After a 2011 season where they ended up at 8-8 and disappointed yet again, you would figure this team would look to make some serious changes and improvements as well. Well, it is the Chargers we are talking about, as they have always seemed to do the opposite of what most expect. So as the NFL gears up for the 2012 regular season, where does San Diego fit in? In a very topsy-turvy AFC West, they have the look of a team who will be on the outside looking in. Here are the 7 reasons why the San Diego Chargers will finish last in the AFC West……
1 – Norv Turner - How is he still around? Turner has butchered things time after time, and tends to get outcoached more times than not. Entering his sixth year as the Chargers coach, is this finally the year when his job is on the line? Who knows. A.J. Smith is in the same boat, and its anyones guess as to how they are still around after last year. I guess fulfilling expectations and potentially exceeding them in San Diego is optional.
2 – Losing Vincent Jackson - Was Jackson a diva in San Diego? Sure he was. But, he was a big-time receiver who scared opposing defenses. His size and play-making ability propelled him to some really big years as a Charger. Now in Tampa Bay, we will see what he can do with Josh Freeman as his QB. The Chargers will miss his abilities, and filled his void this offseason with Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Looks like a serious downgrade there.
3 – Losing Mike Tolbert - Tolbert is now in Carolina, and has been a very underrated fullback for several years. He split time with Ryan Mathews as a Charger, and was extremely productive doing so. San Diego brought in Ronnie Brown to take his spot, but much like the wide receiver situation, it appears like they got worse, not better.
4 – Ryan Mathews injury questions - Mathews is a very talented back when healthy. But that’s the problem, in his brief NFL career, he has had trouble staying on the field. In his two years in San Diego, he has missed six games due to injury, and is now dealing with coming back from a broken collarbone. He will miss the season opener this weekend, but should be back soon. But how long will it be before another issue pops up?
5 – The offensive line - This unit is shaky at best, and had plenty of trouble protecting Philip Rivers last year. On paper, they don’t seem to be any better heading into 2012. Chargers fans have to be concerned about these five guys not getting the job done again this year. #17 could be spending a lot of time on his back this season.
6 – Lack of playmakers on defense - When your best defensive player is probably your safety, that spells trouble. Eric Weddle is outstanding, and has a real nose for the ball. But he just doesn’t get enough help elsewhere. Shaun Phillips is a good player, but only had 3.5 sacks last year and may now be aging just a bit. San Diego added Jarret Johnson, who was a nice player in Baltimore. But that’s the problem, this defense has a few nice players, and not nearly enough difference makers.
7 – The AFC West - It can be argued that every member of this division has gotten better since the beginning of the 2011 season, except the San Diego Chargers. We know what Denver did by adding a future Hall of Fame QB. Kansas City has gotten healthy, and added a stud runner in Peyton Hillis. Oakland solidified their QB issues by signing Carson Palmer last year. The Chargers lost some key components on offense, and seem to be falling behind everyone else now. 2012 will be a tough year for San Diego fans. It could, however, finally be the eye-opener that is needed for this franchise to make some serious changes going forward.
Denver Sports by J Simp