The San Diego Chargers had a very disappointing season in 2011 that saw the Chargers miss the playoffs, and fail to win the AFC West, for the second season in a row. San Diego’s last playoff run came in 2009 when they lost to the New York Jets 17-14 at home.
Now, the Chargers and looking to improve upon their failures in the past two season and restate their claim as the best team in their division.
Unfortunately, that task has become increasingly difficult this season as both the Denver Broncos, with their addition of elite quarterback Peyton Manning, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who are looking to build off of their surprising success in 2011 despite all of the injuries they suffered, are destined to give the Chargers fits come division play.
Even the Oakland Raiders are improving with Darren McFadden starting to hone his potential and Carson Palmer being a proven quarterback that the Raiders desperately need, San Diego’s task has become much more daunting than they had hoped.
One of the major deciding factors when it comes to determining the Chargers success will be the play of quarterback Phillip Rivers. In 2011, Rivers struggled with consistency and accuracy as he threw for 20 interceptions while only managing to sling 27 touchdowns, numbers way off the norm for one of the best gun-slingers in the NFL. Rivers, however, did manage to throw for over 4,600 yards, but yardage came at a premium for all quarterbacks in 2011 as new rules implemented by commissioner Roger Goodell have made the game more quarterback friendly over the past two or three years.
Rivers can not fully be blamed for the Chargers struggles in 2011, however. His receiving corps struggled greatly to catch balls and his favorite target, Antonio Gates, missed a number of games due to injury. Now, Rivers must also find a new primary receiver as Vincent Jackson has departed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through free agency, leaving a young, unproven group of receivers to pick up the slack. For the most part, Malcolm Floyd and Patrick Crayton will be called upon to fulfill those duties with Jackson gone, but Rivers does also like to rely on his running backs Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert to catch balls out of the backfield. However, now that Tolbert is also gone, Matthews will be getting the call more that usual this season.
For Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense, the time is now to prove they have what it takes to get the job done. They’ve proven it in the past but have struggled to do so in the past two seasons. Missing the playoffs for a third year in a row is not an option for the Chargers as doing so would signal a need for change in San Diego. Whether that being revamping the roster or changing the head coach, Norv Turner, San Diego has one year to get the job done before their roster explodes next offseason. In order to ensure the Chargers can keep their core group of players, they must improve off of their disappointing 2011. If they don’t, big changes could be coming for this team.
Now, it’s just a matter of wait and see for Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in 2012.