With less than three weeks away from the NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers two biggest needs are secondary and pass rush. Many NFL mock draft experts have the Chargers picking a cornerback or nose tackle in the first round. Of course, anything can happen in the draft and the projections are mere speculation…but it should be interesting to see what Tom Telesco decides if it comes down to CB Kyle Fuller or NT Louis Nix. Either pick would fill a void at the cornerback or pass rush position that the Bolts need.
Still, the Chargers have a lot of work to do this offseason and in OTAs. The Bolts biggest issue last season was their overall depth (or lack of). Here are three areas the Chargers need to focus on in training camp:
Boy, did they need help. A young and inexperienced secondary struggled for most (if not all) of last season, and veteran Eric Weddle couldn’t do it all. The Chargers ranked 29th overall in passing yards allowed giving up an average of 258 yards per game.
Derek Cox lost his starting cornerback role midseason after seven games. He had poor route recognition, missed tackles, and often times just didn’t turn his head around to keep an eye on the ball, missing several opportunities to break up a pass. He was replaced by Richard Marshall for the remainder of the season and Shareece Wright did a pretty solid job for his first full season as a starter.
Both Cox and Johnny Patrick got released. Marshall signed for another year, and Wright is expected to be a starter again this season.
2. Pass rush:
Once the Chargers linebackers got plagued with injuries, the pass rush was weak and the defense fell soft. Linebacker Melvin Ingram was recovering from a torn ACL injury most of the season, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney was out by game 4 with a season-ending torn quad injury, and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson missed five games with a hamstring injury and surgery on his hand.
San Diego did have some depth with Tourek Williams, Reggie Walker, and Thomas Keiser. However, the Chargers pass rush would have had a better chance holding up if Shaun Phillips stayed. Phillips ended his 2013 season with the Denver Broncos with 12 sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception.
The Chargers ranked 23rd overall last season in defense with a total of 35 sacks. San Diego’s schedule is set to face a few mobile quarterbacks this season with Alex Smith, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick. The Chargers need to solidify a pass rush to pressure the QB, but it would also help the secondary. They will need to draft an outside linebacker and should look into doing so in the second round.
3. Wide Receivers:
The Chargers two starting receivers for the 2013 season had their seasons cut early. Danario Alexander missed the entire season after suffering a torn ACL during training camp last August. Then by mid-September against the Philadelphia Eagles, Malcom Floyd’s season was cut short from a serious neck injury.
Fortunately, rookie receiver Keenan Allen stepped up and finished the year with 1,209 yards and 10 touchdowns. Eddie Royal had a solid year and ended the year with 694 yards and had a career-high of 8 touchdowns. The Chargers finished 4th overall in passing yards with 270.5 yards per game.
However, this season it’s still not known when Alexander and Floyd will return (and if). Allen and Royal will start, and it looks like Vincent Brown will too as the second receiver. But it looked like Brown and Philip Rivers were not on the same page last season.
There was a couple incidents where Brown ran the wrong route, like against the Washington Redskins, resulting in an interception. Then two games later against the Miami Dolphins, he ran another a bad route and couldn’t make the catch in the end zone on the final play of the game, giving the Dolphins the win.
Brown will need to be prepared and step up this season, especially if Allen is unable to get open.
Photo by Justin Edmonds, Getty Images.
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