While much of the talk about the Chargers of late has been regarding a potential move northward to Los Angeles, the team has put that rumor mill on hold until at least the end of the 2012 season. The on-field talk however needs to be addressed immediately if this team wants to avoid a slip back into the pool of mediocrity and a third consecutive year without a playoff berth.
The majority of fans are still a bit perplexed as to how or why Norv Turner hung onto the position as the club’s head coach, but he has the locker room behind him (somehow) and will look to use that solidarity as a building block for next season. Still there is no denying that General Manager A.J. Smith has his work cut out for him as the team has some clear needs at crucial positions. And even though the Bolts aren’t generally a franchise geared toward free agency, the need for instant impact players could force the GM to look in that direction this upcoming offseason.
There’s no doubt that defense needs to be at the forefront of the Bolts’ offseason priorities so let’s take a look at some potentials acquisitions the club could make.
First and foremost, the Chargers desperately need someone, anyone, to come in and help them apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. It seems safe to say now that first round draft pick Larry English is not going to be that guy so the club needs to move on and find a viable option.
ANTHONY SPENCER is my personal preference out of the available 3-4 outside linebackers in this year’s free agent pool. He has been overshadowed with the Dallas Cowboys playing alongside Demarcus Ware, but his skill set cannot be discounted. Spencer is stout and disciplined against the run while fast enough to come around the edge and get to the quarterback on a routine basis.
ROBERT MATHIS will turn 31 years of age soon, but he is still going strong even for an abysmal Indianapolis Colts’ defense. Mathis accrued 9.5 sacks in 2011 and has a proven track record of getting a quarterback off of his spot. He has played in a 4-3 system his entire career, but standing up in a 3-4 set could actually benefit him and add a few years onto his NFL lifespan.
As evidenced by the way the Oakland Raiders ran over the Bolts midway through the 2011 campaign, the Chargers’ run defense is anything but consistent. Adding a top notch defensive end could really give the depth needed to put this unit over the top.
CALAIS CAMPBELL is without a doubt the most attractive option at this spot and his eight sacks with two forced fumbles showed that he can be an effective 3-4 end. Campbell is strong at the point of attack and boasted an enormous wingspan to engulf offensive linemen and take up blockers allowing his teammates to get free and make plays on the edge. This asset is one of the most overlooked in the 3-4 scheme and could make him a sought after commodity when free agency begins.
The back end of the San Diego defense is where things really fell apart down the stretch with Eric Weddle running around doing the job of two or three players at times leaving the team defenseless in many areas. Putting another solid starting safety into the mix could take a lot of pressure off of the corners and make the secondary as a whole look so much better.
LARON LANDRY has the hard-hitting attitude that the Bolts have been missing since Rodney Harrison departed and would make a great addition to a defense lacking that real fear factor player. Steve Gregory looked helpless at times during the 2011 campaign and the strong safety spot really must be addressed. Plugging a player of Landry’s big hit ability in the middle of this defense could really elevate the play of the other ten guys on the field.
Chargers fans know all too well how our wish lists are often dashed by the beginning of free agency, but for some reason it feels like this year could be different. Jobs are on the line in 2012 and the sense of urgency has to be there to win now for the Bolts before that elusive championship window closes.
Now it’s your turn to give some suggestions. Which potential free agents do you see the team pursuing? Do you think there will be any big splashes made by the Bolts’ front office this offseason or will it be business as usual with very few additions outside of the NFL Draft? Could any of the players mentioned above vault this team right back to championship contender status in 2012? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!
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