The Chargers may have subtracted wide receiver Vincent Jackson from their aerial attack this offseason, but that doesn’t mean that the team won’t still have success throwing the football. Some may argue that the Bolts passing game actually grew stronger heading into the 2012 season with the additions made by General Manager A.J. Smith in free agency and via the NFL Draft.
At wide receiver, the star power is lacking a bit, but that shouldn’t bother quarterback Philip Rivers who is used to spreading the ball around. His ability to find the open man regardless of name or number is second to none and with just two of the thirteen widouts on the roster having caught passes from him in 2011, that will be a necessary trait to have.
Only Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown remain from the group of receivers that was awfully productive a season ago. The number of players at the receiver position however has greatly increased due to some savvy acquisitions made by GM Smith in the offseason. The Bolts now have thirteen players on the depth chart listed at wideout and that number will have to be significantly trimmed when roster cuts roll around.
Receiver isn’t the only area of weaponry that saw a substantial boost in bodies as the tight end position also gained some serious depth. Obviously Antonio Gates is still the headliner of the group and is likely to see the majority of quarterback Philip Rivers’ passes this upcoming season. He too is quite impressed with the slew of new targets that the team has added this season as last month during the offseason workouts, he said: “I’ve never been around this kind of group. We all make plays. It’s our little motto.”
While the motto of most teams able to produce an NFL-record 400 or more points in eight consecutive seasons is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, the Chargers have taken a different approach entirely. As a team that has underperformed expectations on a regular basis when it comes to success in the playoffs, the Bolts clearly decided that overhauls at several key positions might be just the spark this locker room needs to regain its direction.
Rivers has been the catalyst for much of the team’s offensive successes during that stretch of record point scoring, but last season, he experienced a bit of a hiccup himself on his career stat line. A career-high 20 interceptions put the team behind the eight ball many times and led to a second straight year of watching the playoffs from the couch.
That is why, even with all of the roster turnover that this team has experienced during the offseason, Rivers might be even more optimistic than ever that this will be the year things turn around. When addressing the subject of all the new faces at key positions, he said: "They've won where they've been. They've had big years where they've been. They're veterans, they know how to operate. We have a chance to be as dynamic as we've been on offense."
His faith is quite impressive considering the fact that more than a third of his offensive production from a year ago is no longer with the club. In addition to just two of the receivers on the roster catching balls in games a year ago, just three of the six tight ends caught one and only three of seven running backs. For a trust-based relationship where the quarterback has to anticipate the receiver’s every move, Rivers has quite a bit of conviction that his current assembly of characters can get the job done.
When talking about the mini-camp process and just what the new players hope to achieve during that period of time, new receiver Eddie Royal said: "You've got small windows and it has a lot to do with timing. It's great to have a guy who's accurate and on-time.” That he is referring to (Rivers) said: "It's always nice when you have some timing things come up, or you have some things come up when you have to throw it early, having to hope you're right with what he's about to do. When he's thinking what I'm thinking, and I throw it where I hope he's going, and he does go there, that's what this time of year is all about."
What the Chargers really hope is that all of this change makes January a time for playing football rather than watching it. All of the roster upheaval looks great in shorts and t-shirts, but when the contact comes and the rubber meets the road, the Bolts need to be ready to perform come crunch time. Judging by the optimism that both the players and the coaching staff have expressed this early in the process, it seems that the team may actually be better on offense in 2012 than in any of the years previous.
Now it’s your turn! Do you think the Chargers will be better on offense this year than any previous seasons? Will the adjustment of new targets to throw to have a negative effect on Rivers this year? Is the depth chart stronger at all of the skill positions than in year’s past or is that too optimistic? Can the Bolts continue their streak of exceeding 400 points per season in 2012? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts on the Chargers’ offense!
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