The San Diego Chargers have bottomed out. The six-year period of decline where they fired Marty Schottenheimer for his failure to get to the Super Bowl have predictably ended with a franchise that can no longer even make the playoffs, and a regime change. Mike McCoy is the new head coach entrusted with clearing out the manure left by former GM A.J. Smith and his puppet coach Norv Turner, and McCoy is going to need time.
Philip Rivers looked like he had a dead arm throughout last season, and the 31-year-old quarterback averaged less than seven yards per pass. In fairness to Rivers, he hasn’t had any real help at receiver in recent seasons, and with tight end Antonio Gates now 33-years-old, I don’t know that we should expect that to change.
Nor will the running game provide any relief. San Diego ran the ball more than any team in the NFL last season, but was second-worst in yards-per-play, and there have been no significant personnel additions. McCoy was the offensive coordinator in Denver and likely will be more committed to the running game than was Turner, but expectations for an immediate turnaround will be modest.
The Charger defense was at least tolerable in the 2012 season, ranking in the middle of the NFL. They did a particularly good job defending the run, and this has the chance to be a real strength this year.
First-round draft pick Manti Te’o will be at one inside linebacker spot, and the other ILB is young Donald Butler, a good player who was hit with nagging injuries last season. Butler and Te’o are a nice duo that will help San Diego plug the middle.
But the secondary is a problem, and for a 3-4 defensive scheme, there is precious little hope of pressure coming from the outside linebackers. Melvin Ingram, last year’s first-round draft pick, is on the PUP list and there’s little else available in the way of help.
TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis measures teams against their Over/Under win prop in Las Vegas, and the Chargers are posted at 7.5. After everything I’ve just written about this team, is there any reason to think I would pick them to go .500? No way, San Diego goes Under.