Chargers Use Offseason To Address Needs, Yet Still Have Question Marks

When you step back and look at the San Diego Chargers 2010 offseason, the are a few themes which become quite evident; The Chargers needed to get more physical, and they needed to get younger at key positions. Using both free agency and the draft, the Chargers were able to address those needs. However, the Chargers still have some question marks in regards to the roster and it will be interesting to see how events unfold. Let's review the major points of the offseason thus far and talk about what challenges lie ahead for the team.


Looking back at the Chargers of 2009, the word physical is certainly not a term you could use to describe the Bolts as a whole. Sure there were some physical players on the squad, but the offense wasn't pounding anybody into submission and the defense couldn't stop the run for a majority of the season.

The Chargers released some big-name players who didn't fit their direction going forward; For all the talent that Antonio Cromartie possessed, he didn't seem to quite ever get around to the fact that football is a physical sport requiring contact. And for all the wonderful things Ladainian Tomlinson has done for this team, father time is catching up with the prideful running back and he simply couldn't hold up to the pounding running between the tackles entails. As for Jamal Williams, his body began to break down and it became clear the team needed to infuse some youth into the middle of that three-man front.

For as much as the Chargers seemingly gave up for Ryan Mathews, it may prove to be worth it. I say this after a few nights' sleep and a clear head. Mathews was the most physically gifted and displayed the most toughness of any of the top-ranked running backs in his class. During the draft however, I sarcastically mentioned on Twitter that the Chargers must think Mathews is Adrian Peterson, but the fact is he may be closer than many of us think. There's no question I felt Dan Williams would have been a perfect fit for the Bolts, but when you look at the draft as a whole, the Chargers were able to get their running back of the future and still improve the middle of their defense.

They didn't use their next pick on a defensive tackle, causing my blood to go from a simmer to a boil. Instead, they went inside linebacker and drafted Donald Butler - trading up in the process. Doing some research on Butler, I can see why they were enamored; thickly built, excellent speed, prototype MIKE 'backer. He'll fit in on the strong side and really help against the run, but he is versatile. We may even see Butler use his speed and blitz from time to time. Well spoken, team captain, and All-Pac 10 shows he's a baller and his work-ethic will endear him to his teammates quickly. On top of all of that, he'll contribute right away on special teams.

The Chargers just can't seem to draft a safety they're happy about. They moved up to the top of the second round for Eric Weddle. They participated in the Supplemental Draft and got Paul Oliver. They drafted Kevin Ellison last year. And yet even after all of that, they seem to still be looking for a playmaker. Hopefully fourth round pick Darrell Stuckey is that guy. A standout player at Kansas, he's got a nice size/speed combination and figures to be in the mix at free safety. Although in the Chargers' scheme the safety positions are more or less interchangeable, I still think Stuckey's speed lends itself well to deep coverage more so than in-the-box. Stuckey's arrival will undoubtedly light a fire within Eric Weddle and Kevin Ellison, two tough guys who won't concede their jobs without a fight. I expect the entire safety group to get better through competition.

As the second, third, and fourth round progressed, internally I kept urging the Chargers to draft Cam Thomas, one of the few true nose tackle prospects available in the draft. To see Thomas slip all the way to the fifth round is a bit surprising, but fortunately the Chargers felt my telepathic powers and decided to pull the trigger on the big man. Thomas may very well prove to be a steal, and his contributions to the defense could pay real dividends as the Chargers look to improve against the run. With one of the best performances on the bench press at Combine, Thomas proved his power and strength. What he now needs to display is consistency and endurance, two attributes that will benefit from the rotation in which he'll play.

Rounding out the draft, the Chargers took quarterback Jonathan Crompton, a guy we selected in our mock draft, and Dedrick Epps who is a tight end that could potentially develop into an effective pass blocker/pass catcher.


If you're the Chargers and you have a roster full of young, solid linebackers, why do you draft another one when you could be without two starting wide receivers in 2011? Isn't providing your franchise quarterback with weapons crucial to the success of the team?

On that same note, you're starting tackles are playing on one year, restricted free agent contracts, yet you do not draft anyone at that position. Is this a sign that you intend on resigning them to long-term contracts, or are you willing to gamble that you have adequate depth this year and can draft a starter next year?

Also, with all the talk about being able to find running backs later in the draft, why move up to the 12th overall pick for a running back? Are the fans to expect Ryan Mathews to be an elite, Pro-Bowl player who will revitalize the offense? I have no problem with Ryan Mathews, and indeed I think he will be a good player. But what the Chargers are saying by moving up so high in the draft and making Mathews the 12th selection overall (highest drafted player by the Chargers since Shawne Merriman) is that we should all expect Ryan Mathews to be a very good player, who will have a very good rookie year.


Very interested to hear your takes on the offseason thus far. Have the Chargers made the right moves? Are they headed in the right direction? Did they address all of their needs? Sound off in the comments section below, your contributions are always welcome and appreciated.

April 27, 2010

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Anonymous said... Apr 27, 2010, 9:35:00 PM


Anonymous said... Apr 27, 2010, 9:39:00 PM

"Isn't providing your franchise quarterback with weapons crucial to the success of the team?"
Um how many weapons do we need? Jesus lol....Mathews is a HUGE weapon for our offense.

"On that same note, you're starting tackles are playing on one year, restricted free agent contracts, yet you do not draft anyone at that position."
McNeil will get signed long term, They like Dombrowski and Clary.....and they picked up that UDFA TCU tackle.

"If you're the Chargers and you have a roster full of young, solid linebackers, why do you draft another one when you could be without two starting wide receivers in 2011?"
Young, solid LBs? Like who? Merriman might not be back, Phillips is 28, Burnett is injury prone and we might not offer him a new contract next year. Cooper is 31 or so and will be gone after this season. Siler will have to get signed long term when his contract runs out after next year.

As far as WRs, we have VJ/Floyd (one will get signed long term no doubt). Buster who can't even get on the field. And we picked up some nice big UDFA WRs

Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 5:44:00 AM

I completely agree with your assessment of the draft.

However, I think it is important to include the key undrafted free agents in the equation. Based on what I have been able to see from various sites, it appears that the Chargers were able to get 2 "4th round" talents in WR Jeremy Williams (WR - Tulane) and Brandon Lang (DE/LB - Troy). Also, they signed 3 "6th-7th round" talents in Seji Arijotutu (WR - Fresno), Kion Wilson (LB - S. Fla) and Nic Richmond (OT - TCU).

Having said that, I feel that the Chargers need to add a bit more depth on the O-Line. Ciron Black from LSU appears to be the best UDFA still available.

Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 6:12:00 AM

well, how it played out, they got a franchise RB and a NT of the same level. so, it was a good draft.

the offense was great last year, and with a little more consistency on the OLINE, i think the run game wouldve been better, but overall, it was one of the best offenses in the league. mathews will help the team a lot, but i still dont think that we will run the ball 25+ times a game. this year, i would love to see a speedy, quick slot receiver on the team. a great thing would be to split out sproles and have mathews in the backfield. i guess that opposing defenses would be scared. but with the increased playing time of sproles i think an additional return man would be great. he cant handle everything by himself.

defense was solid, but two things were a little bad: lack of big plays, fumbles and ints. from my mind, i only remember the fumble return TD by gregory i think and two TDs from hester on special teams. maybe stuckey and butler can give the team that.

overall: the team had superbowl-quality and just beat themselves against the jets. so they dont have to improve a lot. just solidify two or three spots and a deep playoff run could be on the menu.


Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 8:42:00 AM

Great article and great comments! Bolts had a great draft for now and the future. Beefing up the middle of the defence was my main concern and AJ accomplished that. I wish it was monday night against the chiefs right now...

JeromeW said... Apr 28, 2010, 8:47:00 AM

Heres my take on the questions u provided:

Matthews is nO APeterson ..much mOre under cOntrol runner/and hangs on to the rock ...LOL ...Dan Williams?? ..undersized for 3-4 scheme ..reminds me of Amobi Okoye==>HOU/DT ..can push pocket but can he bat balls down from 6'6 Peyton, 6'4 Brady ?? ..itOtally agree with the rest of ur draft assessment

As for the Tackle situation....if MMcneil's "neck" holds up..(( will be extended by week i said b4...ive never been a huge fan of Clary((..stiff..and often looks lost)) but this 6'7 kid outta TCU should light a fire...there are tackles in every single draft !! ..we plugged Mcneil right in..we wont be afraid to do it again

Agreed on VJ...((isent a tweet asking when the last time we had a #1WR??..TMartin?..Bambi??))..bottome line is sign the dude AJ..cant act bougie wit this one..WE groomed him...the verdict is still out on MFloyd...i personally llove the dude but was no show in playoff game..ibelieve we wait to see if he can produce for a full 16 weeks...then go from there

I personally dont expect Matthews to be "elite", we chose him because he blends the power/vision/quickness a la 2001draftpick LT, the others we're speed heavy or power heavy...if u put a good player in a good situation..u usually get good results((see:PRivers,Flacco))..all in all i think we made the right moves for"this" team .."this" season

Idont disagree wit anything AJ does but if we dont trade up i was envisioning something:
RB Toby Gerhart (late1st) Mt. Cody (2nd) Jordan Shipley (3rd) Dbutler (4) and get JDwyer (6) ..ithink isholuda been in the war room!!

Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 9:34:00 AM

@Rob Zepeda... Finally, good article. Although I see some of the positions different than others. For example, WR, I believe the QB makes the WR not the other way around. That being said I'm not too worried about the WR spot. I strongly agree w/ you regarding the physicality of our offensive line and signing players to fit that role. I believe AJ brought in some possible prospects to learn the system in case we don't sign mcneil and others. I would like to see us resign mcneil but not for big bucks. I believe he is solid at LT but not elite and I wonder if the chargers will pay elite money. To wrap everything up, I feel we are a better football team than last year and I'm excited to see if we can get to the SB and win! Go Bolts!


Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 10:30:00 AM

I question how we went about the draft, particularly in the first 4 rounds. That being said, we got our guy (AJ's guy) in Mathews, so if he pans out, all will be well in the end. Much is riding on him, due to the significant picks we gave up to get him. I do fear he is not a top 6 or 7 guy in the league, which means we defnitely overreached on his draft position, but as long as he becomes a middle of the pack NFL RB, say ~1100 yards a season with good pass blocking/catching skills, then we should be okay. At this point I think he was a significant reach at a significant cost, but time will tell as several lower round picks have gone on to become stars and many top picks flame out.

Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 11:20:00 AM

Sometimes I even wonder if we kept our #28 and #40. And drafted Jahvid best at 28 and Gehart at 40. That to me souds like a Deadly combination. And have the rest of the draft how it panned out. I think 2 is better than 1. We'll see. I like matthews but he kinda looks like and average back that got hyped up a bit. I hope it works...

Anonymous said... Apr 28, 2010, 12:44:00 PM

It seems to me like they might be looking at Butler as the 'Mo' inside linebacker then the 'Mike', seeing as how they've been praising his pass coverage and that's more what the 'Mo' does, I think the 'Mike' spot will belong to Siler, either way I'm excited to see these young guys grow as it seems Cooper could be let go after this season.

Ed said... Apr 29, 2010, 12:13:00 AM

I can only complain about one player drafted. We need players that can come in and contribute right away. That QB we draft is not going to do this. He is a project player. If the Chargers picked J.Dwyer, he would have produced right away. Imagine Mathews & Dwyer for at least 6 yrs punishing tacklers in the 4th qtr. That is my only complaint, now I am going to sleep and dream of this combination, because that is where I will only get to see it.

Hanford Larry said... Apr 29, 2010, 7:04:00 AM

With this group and the vets,their going to win it all!

Bryan said... Apr 29, 2010, 12:00:00 PM

Totally agree with your frustrations. I was hoping when the trade happened we were picking up Dan. I figured we could get that NT and pick up Ben Tate in the third. Why a Premier RB when we did so well with our passing last year right? Well I didn't really like the pick until Dallas took Dez Bryant. I figured you can never have too many weapons on Offense. I also liked the other picks. Cam Thomas in the 5th!! Such a steal!! I like the Free agent recievers we picked up too. i just wish we addressed Tackle and 3 tech on D. Nice Job buddy

D. Mel said... Apr 30, 2010, 1:16:00 AM

Mathews is an elite back that will pound it and break off big plays. I think it was worth the 2nd round pick to ensure we got him. I think Tolbert should get more carries and spell Mathews. Tolbert brings the big body and and soft hands. Those two bigger backs combined with Sproles just makes this offense SCARY!! I love the UDFA receivers from Tulane and Fresno State. I'm hoping they will catch on. As well as the UDFA Linebacker (Lang) from Troy. Looking back at this draft with the addition of Butler and Cam, I think it can possibly be the best one yet!!! Go Bolts!!

Los said... Apr 30, 2010, 8:54:00 AM

I think the Chargers are taking advantage of the CBA disputes as much as they possibly can... They have no need to sign these players now and if there is a lockout I'm pretty sure the player's former team still retains rights to sign the player after an agreement is reached. If they do negotiate and there is a new cap the chargers are playing things smart and holding out until they know exactly how much money they can spend. Make no mistake about it, McNeil and Jackson are of more importance and will get deals from the some point. Floyd is almost 30 so he won't cost much and they're probably already preparing for his departure (Seyi Ajirotutu), Clary is not that great of a tackle and they can find a rookie starter in the next draft...

Ryan Mathews was the best RB in the draft and he fit perfectly with the chargers.

Donald Butler was one of the better ILB prospects in the draft and with Cooper getting older and his production beggining to slip, seems to me like it was a good move at the perfect time.

Stuckey is the last safety the chargers will need to draft for a while. He'll be great in rotation with Ellison, especially in passing downs where Ellison could have been a liability. The chargers wanted to add as much youth, speed and talent to their secondary as possible and they achieved that with Stuckey.

Cam Thomas might be the steal of the draft if he can be more consistent in games...I though Torrel Troup was the better prospect but Thomas just might pay off.

The chargers satisfied all their needs for this season... they didn't sign any big contracts because they don't know how long it'll take for an agreement to be reached. Merriman, Floyd and Clary probably won't get another contract from the chargers. Sproles should get a 3 yr contract but I don't know that he'd be happy with what the chargers will offer. McNeil and VJ will get contracts FOR SURE, its just a matter of time... They're very important to the chargers offense and the chargers know they can't afford to lose them.

Chris said... Apr 30, 2010, 4:40:00 PM

I like what the Chargers have done so far this offseason. I was a little worried when we decided to take Mathews over Dan Williams, well actually, i was down right pissed just like you Rob. Why put so much emphasis on the RB position when we are a passing team?

Mathews has the ability, but he needs to show he has durability. I am worried the Chargers are stretching themselves too thin by not having a veteran presence at the RB position. Tolbert is good no doubt, but hasn't shown what he is truly capable of.

Relying too much on rookies may be the down fall this year. we got better in the middle of our defense, NT ILB S. I like the rotation with Garay/Thomas this year at NT but like i said i worry that we are relying to much on rookies and the season hasn't even begun yet.

Anonymous said... May 1, 2010, 9:37:00 AM

Your insight is entertaining to read. I agree with most of your assessment, including the fact that Jackson and McNeill should be re-signed soon. However, Gates' contract expires in one year. He should be included in the "need to re-sign" category.

Anonymous said... May 1, 2010, 10:06:00 AM

why is alot fans doubtful of matthews. the man was clearly the best RB in the draft, cj spiller is just faster and more explosive, but we need a back who can run between the tackles, and jahvid best had more injury concerns than matthews. if matthews stays healthy he will be an elite part of this offense.

Anonymous said... May 1, 2010, 2:18:00 PM

Why didn't we draft or sign a UDFA KICKER? Someone to challenge Kaeding...I don't want to see Nate lose any more playoff games for us!

Anonymous said... May 1, 2010, 4:25:00 PM

I have to say AJ did a great job in the draft. He drafted based on needs not wants. We r an improved team and a team with a very weak schedule....let's hope this is the year we send them J..E..T..S packing!!! Go Bolts!

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