2014-15 Offseason Report


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The 2013-14 NFL season has officially come to an end. The Seattle Seahawks, as a result of winning this years Super Bowl, have taken the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to the “12th man” in Seattle, requiring the other 31 teams that were not so fortunate to go back to the drawing board. One of those teams is our beloved San Diego Chargers. San Diego lost to the Denver Broncos 24-17 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. However, despite being ruled out of playoff contention by almost everyone half-way through the season, they made the playoffs. Here’s how the Chargers will/can improve their odds heading into next season:

Head coach Mike McCoy recently finalized his coaching staff for next year.

Nick Sirianni was promoted to the quarterbacks coach after previously serving as the quality control assistant last season. He replaces Frank Reich who recently was promoted to offensive coordinator after Ken Whisenhunt was hired by the Tennessee Titans to become their Head Coach. San Diego has also hired Bobby King as the new assistant linebackers coach and Shane Steichen to be in charge of quality control on offense. Both have plenty of experience and are plenty capable of doing their jobs. For more details on our new staff and a complete list of the coaching go here:

http://www.chargers.com/news/article-1/Chargers-Finalize-2014-Coaching-Staff/13ec8da1-3d52-4471-ba43-da50fd1e504f

Team Needs:

The biggest position this team needs help with is their defensive secondary. Starting corners Derek Cox, Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright all had disappointing seasons, and as a result, two out of those three got benched. Derek Cox has been released (along with Johnny Patrick and Le’Ron McClain) and Richard Marshall is a free-agent. Whether or not they will re-sign Marshall is the question. Shareece Wright improved towards the end of the year and played a key role in San Diego’s playoff win versus the Cincinnati Bengals. He looks to be the #2 guy as of right now at corner, however the Chargers are searching desperately for a #1 corner who will guard the opposing teams “go-to-guy” and make the big, clutch plays.

Here are a list of the top four defensive backs that the Chargers should consider signing this off-season:

  1. CB, Aqib Talib – Talib is an All-Pro caliber corner and is excellent in coverage. He is only 28 years old and could be in the league for many more years to come. His contract this year has expired with the New England Patriots, who failed to reach a contract extension and did not place their franchise tag on Aqib. His stats for the 2013-14 season are 41 totals tackles (35 solo, 6 assists), four interceptions,13 passes defended and one forced fumble.
  2. CB, Alterraun Verner – Verner is a young player (age 25) who does not struggle with injuries. He has not missed a single game in his four year career. His stats go as follows: Five interceptions, 57 total tackles (49 solo, 8 assists) and 23 passes defended. He could be a long term solution for the Chargers.
  3. S, Jairus Byrd – If the Chargers are able to sign Jairus Byrd then their safeties would arguably be the best in football (behind Seattle of course). With Eric Weddle already on the roster; a duo of Weddle, Byrd and a corner drafted with San Diego’s first round pick would be very productive and would give opposing offenses fits. Byrd’s season stats go as follows: Four interceptions, 48 total tackles (37 solo, 11 assists) one sack, six passes defended and one forced fumble.
  4. CB, Vontae Davis – Davis is not a stat-sheet stuffer like the other players previously listed, however he is a very good all-around corner-back. He can stick with wide receivers across the league and doesn’t give up a whole lot of big plays. His stats are one interception, 46 total tackles (41 solo, 5 assists) and 12 passes defended.

Another position that San Diego needs to stress about this off-season is their defensive line. Their edge rushers in particular. Their defense gave up a wopping 4.59 yards per carry last year, sixth worst in the league. You might think “Why in the world does your edge player factor into your yard per carry?” It all depends on if your Defensive Ends and OLB’s hold the edge and don’t let opposing running backs bounce outside and make a 6 or 7 yard gain. Keep the running back where all the action is and make them run in-between the tackles, don’t let them get into the open field.

The Chargers were also 23rd worst in the NFL in sacks with 35.0. If Dwight Freeney is able to come back this year for his final year on his contract, it could help them out tremendously, if he is able to stay healthy for a full season. He is entering his thirteenth year in the league after being drafted 11th overall in the 2002 NFL Draft.

San Diego will fix this need through free agency or this years NFL Draft.

San Diego also will be looking to add depth to their Wide Receiver corp. With Malcolm Floyd’s future uncertain and Danario Alexander still recovery from knee surgery, the Chargers will need to add a big target for Philip Rivers and a deep-threat opposite of rookie standout Keenan Allen. Third year wide-out Vincent Brown showed potential this year and regardless of his below average stats (471 yards and one touchdown) has GM Tom Telesco excited. “It was almost like a rookie year,” GM Tom Telesco said of Brown. “He showed promise as a route-runner and making some plays downfield. So we’ll see where it goes.”

The Chargers have many options to find that receiver opposite of Keenan Allen. Here are a few players that could possibly fill the role: Eric Decker (Broncos), Mario Manningham (49ers), Tiquan Underwood (Buccaneers), James Jones (Packers), Brandon LaFell (Panthers) and Andre Roberts (Cardinals).

For a full list of this years Free-Agents: click here.

Key Players to Re-sign:

One key player to re-sign was unrestricted free agent ILB Donald Butler. As of last Friday, Donald signed a new multi-year contract that will keep him around San Diego for at least 3 more years. His first three years he will earn just under $20 million. Than an optional four more years will earn him $8-9.5 million more.  So in total he could possibly be in San Diego seven more years.

Butler was ecstatic about re-signing with the team and said that staying in San Diego was his goal.

Butler was elected team captain for the 2013-14 campaign. A real honor considering captains are voted on by teammates, Butler is highly thought of in the Chargers organization on and off the field. He had 84 tackles (71 solo, 13 assists), 0.5 sacks, one interception and five defended passes during the regular season. During the 2013 playoffs he racked up 18 tackles (14 solo, 4 assists), one interception, one pass defended and one forced fumble.

He is a big play guy and can change games. A prime example was his forced fumble on Cincinnati Bengal rookie RB Giovani Bernard during this years Wild Card game.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Cincinnati Bengals were driving down the field looking to take a seven point lead before halftime. After a 49 yard pass from Andy Dalton to Marvin Jones, Cincinnati was at San Diego’s 34 yard line. The next play Andy Dalton completed a pass to Giovani Bernard and he took off running for the end zone. Donald Butler chased him down from behind, forced the fumble and corner Richard Marshall recovered and returned it 13 yards.

Had Donald Butler not given 100%, Bernard may have scored or at least got Cincinnati inside the Chargers five yard line. The Bengals would have scored and went up 14-7 at halftime, having all the momentum going into the locker room and would receive the second half kick-off trying to extend its lead.

Granted Cincinnati did still kick a field goal before half-time, however, a field goal is much better than seven points and a field goal does not build as much momentum as a touchdown.

Another key unrestricted Free Agent is RG Chad Rinehart. Rinehart came in last season to upgrade a weak lineman squad and found himself in the starting lineup alongside RT D.J. Fluker.

Rinehart was an upgrade to previous guard Jeromey Clary, who just was flat out not good. If San Diego is able to re-sign Chad, than that right side of the Chargers offensive line should be set for next season.

Special Teams captain Darrell Stuckey‘s contract also has expired. Although Stuckey did not factor in much on the defensive side of the ball, he was elected special teams captain and was a consistent force in that category. The Chargers special teams unit is already sub-par as it is and losing him would be a major blow to the team.

Other key unrestricted free agents for San Diego are RB Ronnie Brown, NT Cam Thomas, WR Seyi Ajirotutu and CB Richard Marshall.

NFL DraftThe NFL Draft is coming up May 8-10 and it will be here before you know it. This years draft in particular is filled with depth at multiple positions and more importantly positions the the Chargers need to improve upon. Here are a list of my top prospects in this years draft that the Chargers could go after with their 1st or 2nd round pick this year:

CB: 

— Justin Gilbert: Oklahoma State – Gilbert has outstanding size-speed ratio and is incredibly athletic. Shows ability to recover on routes (if burned). He is also a very good interceptor and comes out of breaks well. He has very good sense of where he is and great vision. He is also a threat returning kickoffs and punts.

— Jason Verrett: TCU – Very good footwork and is quick. Great instincts for the ball, good eyes and has good recovery speed. He recorded a 4.38 second 40 time in Indianapolis at the Combine. He’s small at 5’9″ and is coming off a shoulder surgery. Makes plays on the ball and is willing to come up and make tackles from his position and is very aggressive for his size.

— Bradley Roby: Ohio State –  Also a very hard-nosed player for his size (5’11”). Aggressive tackler, has terrific balance, quick feet and speed. Very good at turning hips and running with defenders, can break on the ball well. He has experience in off-man coverage and zone. Has a good vertical (38.5″) which allows him to jump and make plays on jump balls. Very competitive and can be used in special teams as well.

If San Diego does not go after a corner-back during free agency they will most likely use their first pick in the draft on one. Out of these prospects I see San Diego taking Bradley Roby with their first round pick. He is a great cover corner and can make tackles. A well polished jewel that if given the opportunity San Diego should take it. Gilbert and Verrett may not be on the board still come the 25th pick, however anything is possible.

 OLB: 

— Ryan Shazier: Ohio State – Good all around player that plays well in the passing game and running game. Very good at shooting gaps, creating tackles for loss. Can get away from blockers and flows well. Has a good first step to beat offensive tackles on the outside, accelerates easily. He can also play with backs coming out of the backfield and can run with tight ends.

— Devon Kennard: USC – Muscular build. Led team in sacks with nine on the year. Can run with backs and tight ends and plays well in coverage. Has experience in multiple positions, very smart. He is tough nosed and a leader. Has a football background as his dad, Derek Kennard, played in the NFL 11 seasons.

— Kyle Van Noy: BYU – Very well built, muscular. Knifes gaps, disrupts running games. Had 13 sacks and forced six fumbles his senior year. Playmaker who is all over the field and can help you in multiple categories defensively, never gives up on plays. Good pass-rusher and if he does not get to the quarterback he has good instincts to put his hands up in the air and get in passing lanes. Can run with backs coming out of the backfield and tight ends, very quick to make decisions, very smart.

Kyle Van Noy is just a freak athlete which is just what the Chargers need to bolt their defense. He can play the run game well and excels in the passing game. He can make big plays at big times in the game and is a leader. San Diego desperately needs a edge-rusher and KVN is just what they need. If the Chargers do not use their first round pick on a corner they very well could use it on Ryan Shazier who is also a very good pass-rusher. However, considering the fact of the matter is the Chargers secondary is terrible, they will most likely draft a corner with their first pick leaving Van Noy available in the second, third or even possibly fourth round.

WR: 

— Kelvin Benjamin: Florida State – A 6’5″ powerhouse who is a mismatch physically for any corner-back he is matched up with. Has breakaway ability with his long strides, not easily knocked off course. Wins most jump-ball situations. Has great balance. Uses body well, adjusts to over-thrown and under-thrown balls. Breaks tackles and is not easy to bring down, able to block in the run and pass game, very clutch and makes big plays.

— Josh Huff: Oregon – Good size and would be a great slot receiver due to his speed. Good balance. Can take a hit from defenders and still make the catch. Great ability to create yards after catch, averaged over 18 yards per catch as a senior. Willing blocker and can be used in special teams as a returner.

— Odell Beckham: LSU – Quick, has good balance. Great leaping ability.  Great option as a slot receiver and can play a #2 role as well. Creates yards after catch, big play maker. Can be utilized in the return game.

— Cody Hoffman: BYU – Great size at 6’4″, long arms. Wide catching radius, can catch balls that are under-thrown and over-thrown, quick on routes. Experienced, was a four-year starter at BYU. Led team in catches and yards. A good option as a No.3 or No.4 receiver.

Out of all of these receivers Josh Huff is San Diego’s best bet. He has good size and can make plays in space, which can free up Keenan Allen who is a great route-runner. Hoffman is also a good option in the fifth or sixth round, who could be useful in the red-zone and on third-and-long situations.

LG:

— Gabe Jackson: Mississippi State – Good size at 6’3″, very lean, has long arms. Good technique, quick out of his stance, strong and can pack a punch in the run game. Mirrors in passing game, walls off running lanes, athletic enough to pull occasionally. Smart, good eyes, four-year starter and is a NFL caliber guard.

— Ryan Groy: Wisconsin – Great size (6’5″), football smart, has enough strenth to hold his ground. Very good puller, can work well into the second level and block linebackers. Competes, experienced, three-year starter at Wisconsin. Good work ethic, good character.

These two guards are great options in the second round of the draft. Both are capable of being long-term solutions at left guard, a position that San Diego desperately needs to fill. If they draft one of these two prospects and re-sign RG Chad Rinehart, their offensive line should be in great shape come next season.

Overall, if the Chargers can upgrade their defense as a whole they should be find to make the playoffs again next season. Their offense is already full of weapons and young talent (Ex: Ladarius Green, Ryan Matthews, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown). Their defense and special teams is what they’ll focus on this off-season.

All of this madness will begin in one week (March 11th) when Free-Agency officially begins and it’s possible for teams to sign free agents. In a way it’s the NFL’s version of March Madness.

What do you think the Chargers should focus on this off-season? Do you think that San Diego will return to the playoffs next season? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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