Eleven weeks into the season gives me a solid look at how the San Diego Chargers’ 2007 roster has performed. While there certainly is much football to be played, it’s never too early to start looking towards the future. The Chargers are a franchise that now has the expectation of being competitive every season and with a new stadium dangling like a carrot, the horse will hopefully keep running.
As I see it, the Chargers top offseason needs are as follows:
1. Defensive Tackle
The Chargers are way too thin along the defensive line and making things even more difficult is that not all defensive linemen can play two gaps effectively. The Chargers have an excellent group of starters in Castillo, Williams, and Olshansky but the threat of injury is very real for these guys and we have seen how important having quality backups is to a 3-4 D-line. It is difficult to say how high the team is on Brandon McKinney, but he is the key here because as a Nose tech, he plays perhaps the most important position on the defense. Jamal Williams is getting up there in age and there is no telling how much longer his knees will hold up. McKinney has impressed me with his commitment to getting bigger and stronger in an attempt to establish himself as a possible successor to Mr. Williams but it remains to be seen if he is going to be that guy. Regardless, the team still needs to get more depth behind Castillo and Olshansky. Jacques Cesaire has been a very good player but his role is limited to the ends and he is a better pass rusher than a run stopper. Because there is a need across the line for youth and depth, drafting a defensive tackle should be a focus in the 2008 draft for the Chargers. There are no Haloti Ngatas this year (prototypical nose tackle) and I am leery of guys like Frank Okam who has that damning label of not playing 60 minutes of football (Gabe Watson, Alan Branch). So instead of looking for that 330lb college player, I think the Chargers would be better served getting a strong and athletic player like a Dre Moore of Maryland. Moore is 6’4”, 311lbs and incredibly strong. To go along with that strength is an incredible amount of athleticism; Moore can stop the run with the best of them but he can also get to the quarterback and is said to have run a 4.8 forty. If the Chargers drafted Moore, they could play him all along the line and allow him time to carve out his true niche, whether that be as an interior player or an end.
2. Running Back
Michael Turner has proven to be a valuable asset to the team but he is gone at the end of the season (not a guarantee, but a realistic likelihood) and the team will have all-world Ladainian Tomlinson and a group of un-drafted players backing him up. LT will be in his eight season and will need to be carefully handled for the next few of years if he is to have an extended career (LT is signed through 2011). The Chargers need to take a hard look at their current running backs and decide if they are comfortable. In my mind, the team would be best served to address the position with a very good college back, just as Michael Turner was in his days at Northern Illinois. Luckily for the Chargers, there is an extremely impressive crop of Junior running backs this year and if many declare draft eligible, then the Chargers stand a very good chance of getting one. What is also impressive about both the senior class and junior class of runners is the average size of these players. Many of the top runners stand 6’0” or taller and weigh in at over 200lbs (Felix Jones, Kevin Smith, Ryan Torain, Matt Forte). Adding a big back to compliment Tomlinson will add a dynamic one-two punch to the offense and will help take the pressure off of Rivers with the ability to pound the football. Also, some of these running backs have good return skills which is something that this team has been looking for.
Check out part 2 here
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