Last season was a rebuilding year for the San Diego Chargers. With a new general manager, head coach, offensive coordinator, and most of the depth gone…the Bolts were expected to have a mediocre season. Instead they went 9-7 and won a wild card playoff game.
Now with less than four months away till preseason, the Chargers still have holes to fill during the offseason. With not much in cap space, the Bolts have been quiet during free agency. No big names acquired, but San Diego has made roster moves by restructuring, re-signing, signing, and releasing.
Here’s three key players for the Chargers heading into the 2014 season:
1. Ryan Mathews (RB):
An obvious pick indeed. But Mathews had his best and healthiest season yet. He totaled 1,444 yards and 7 touchdowns and helped the Chargers rank 13th overall in rushing yards (a best since 2007).
Mathews had six games rushing over 100 yards. Out of those six games, the Chargers lost one. He was a work horse, helping chip away at defenses and taking some pressure off of Philip Rivers.
The Chargers personnel had a balanced approach with their running backs last season. It’s expected Mathews will continue to be their #1 guy as the power back on first and second downs, then followed by a versatile Danny Woodhead who can run/catch/block on third. It should be interesting to see where newly signed Donald Brown gets thrown into the mix this season.
2. Melvin Ingram (LB):
After suffering a torn ACL injury last May, it was questionable when and if Ingram would return. The Chargers struggled much of last season in the linebackers positions. OLB Dwight Freeney was out by game 4 with a season-ending torn quad injury, OLB Jarret Johnson missed five games with a hamstring injury and surgery on his hand, ILB Donald Butler missed five games with a groin injury, and LB Manti Te’o was still learning as a rookie.
Then Ingram returned. He was activated on the 53-man roster and came back at the right time. He returned game 12 against the New York Giants. The Chargers then went on to win their remaining four games and earned its first playoff berth in four years.
Playing in just four games, Ingram made an impact in a short amount of time. He helped minimize the Broncos’ run game who only rushed for 18 yards, then he forced a fumble against the Raiders, then intercepted Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and helped San Diego to its first playoff victory in five years.
What we saw from Ingram is promising for next season. If Ingram, Freeney, Johnson, and Butler can all stay healthy, then the Chargers pass rush could improve greatly.
3. Offensive line:
They have to be mentioned.
Last season the Chargers used seven different starting offensive line combinations, which included playing five different players at left tackle. Despite the changes, the line allowed the fourth fewest sacks in the NFL (30).
The Chargers announced Wednesday they re-signed center and guard Rich Ohrnberger to a one-year deal. He played in 15 games…seeing time at right guard, left guard, and center. He had one start at RG for Jeromey Clary in the Chargers’ win over Dallas, and replaced an injured Nick Hardwick at center in the playoff game at Cincinnati.
Ohrnberger’s re-signing solidifies depth and was a wise move by Tom Telesco. The starting six linemen from last season are projected to make the 53-man roster again for this season and will be rejoined by backups Ohrnberger, Mike Harris, and Johnnie Troutman.
Donald Butler (ILB): re-signed with the team to a seven-year contract worth $52 million. Led all Chargers linebackers with 84 tackles, and had one interception last season.
Keenan Allen (WR): Rookie of the Year nominee. Finished the year with 1,209 yards and 10 touchdowns (includes postseason). What else is there to say? He’s a beast.
LaDarius Green (TE): A young player who showed potential and athleticism last year. Caught for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns (includes postseason). Rivers trusts him and likes to target him down the field.
Photo by Ezra Shaw, Getty Images Sport.
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