The 2011 San Diego Chargers offense was nothing to sneeze at, but it is clear that the Bolts need a more consistent effort from that side of the ball in the coming season. While the club did manage to put up some solid numbers across the board, turnovers and predictability became the team’s enemy down the stretch. Thankfully the front office has done quite a bit to ensure that those same issues don’t continue to plague the team in 2012.
Points weren’t really a problem for last year’s Bolts as the team averaged 25.4 points per game which was tied for fifth in the league. The team also ran 1,048 plays a year ago ranking fifth, racked up 393.1 yards per game which ranked sixth, and had very little trouble moving the chains with 22.4 first downs per contest, third in the NFL.
The Chargers’ 116.5 rush yards per game in 2011 ranked in the middle of the league, but was up year-over-year from 2010 and is a huge improvement from the struggles of 2009. That may have also contributed to the team’s success on third downs as they ranked second in the league converting 49 percent of the time. There’s no doubt that the increased rushing numbers positively affected the time of possession stat which saw the Bolts hold the ball an average of 32:27 per game ranking third in the league.
THE NOT SO GOOD
It’s no secret that the team had difficulties taking care of the pigskin last season as their turnover margin was -7 ranking 25th in the NFL. Interception issues for Philip Rivers early and often doomed that number as the quarterback threw a career-high 20 picks. Much of those struggles came due to a depleted offensive line in front of him leading to plenty of forced, untimely throws. Nine fumbles by Rivers due to that pressure also was a recipe for disaster as the Chargers shot themselves in the foot time after time in 2011.
Ryan Mathews doesn’t escape without blame either after he put the ball on the turf five times as well. Ball security must be a focus for him in 2012 as he is expected to have an increased workload in the season ahead.
While the stats don’t support this theory, the fact is the Chargers’ offensive line played poorly last year. The team may have allowed just 30 sacks and 57 QB hits on the year ranking among the league’s best in those areas, but the struggles from Rivers when under duress speaks for itself. Only after the team added Jared Gaither with five games left in the season did Rivers seem comfortable in the pocket.
Partly cloudy doesn’t apply to the Bolts outlook for the coming year as the team has completely retooled on offense. Vincent Jackson and Mike Tolbert may no longer be in town, but Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, and Ronnie Brown are more than adequate replacements.
The depth on this Chargers’ offense is impressive going four deep at tight end with Antonio Gates, Randy McMichael, new addition Dante Rosario, and incoming rookie Ladarius Green. At running back the team has Ryan Mathews, LeRon McClain, Ronnie Brown, and Curtis Brinkley. Wide receiver is obviously outstanding as well with Malcom Floyd, the aforementioned Meachem and Royal, second-year man Vincent Brown, new additions Michael Spurlock and Roscoe Parrish, as well as special teamer extraordinaire Richard Goodman.
While it’s easy for us as fans to sit and drool over a depth chart dreamily wondering how this season will play out, hearing how excited quarterback Philip Rivers is about these new guys tells the tale. Rivers said: "It's as new as an offseason as has ever been for me. There's Meachem, there's Royal, there's (fullback LeRon) McClain. There's Rosario. There are more guys from a communication standpoint, that I throw the ball to, who are new. So it's as crucial of an offseason from a standpoint of getting in a groove of, who we're going to be? It's exciting, it's fresh. We've got different types of guys, from the standpoint of the way they move and some of the things we can do with them. Meach, in a lot of ways, is similar to Vincent from the standpoint of the way he pushes it down the field and he can really run and he's rangy. He's not as big, but he plays long. So far it's been smooth, but it's been new. When we talk or they ask questions, I'm getting questions that I haven't really had to discuss in a while because, for the most part, we had the same guys. But this is different because, from day one, you know you're going to have to build something and you know who it's going to be with. The question now is, 'Hey, who are we? What are we like? What wrinkles, what things are we going to do?' It's fun to see it progress."
Offense may not have been an area of deep concern for the team heading into the offseason, but the overhaul executed by General Manager A.J. Smith is one that should excite fans. This team has the potential to put up points in bunches and in today’s NFL where many games are won and lost on offense, that should bode well for the 2012 Chargers.
Now it’s your turn. What did you see as the strongest area or the Bolts in 2011? Where do you think the team’s weakest link was on offense? Is the retooling done by the front office enough to get this club back to where it belongs in the coming season? Do you think this is a team that can outscore anyone on any given Sunday? What do you make of Philip Rivers and his optimism about the freshness of this 2012 Chargers team? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts and predictions on how the offense will fair in the coming year!
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