One of the biggest enigmas in the NFL is the Norv Turner coached San Diego Chargers. They seem to have the talent needed and at times look like a championship caliber team, but they struggle with consistency and go on prolonged losing streaks. The streaky offense can be a nightmare for fantasy owners too, so we asked Ernie Padaon of the FanSided blog Bolt Beat to help us preview the Chargers.
Zach Thompson, FantasyCPR: Hey Ernie, thanks for joining us at Fantasy CPR as we continue our previews of the 2012 NFL season. The Chargers had a disappointing season after a late-charge following a tough start. They seem to be up-and-down and tend to charge late every year after getting off to a slow start. Can they avoid the same frustrating start to the season this year?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: That seems to be every year for the Chargers since Norv Turner took over the team. We thought we had it figured out last season after starting 4-1, but then we hit that slide of losing 6 straight games. The biggest focus to start the season will be the defense and Philip Rivers. If both can perform, then we should be sitting pretty.
Z: Philip Rivers had a down-year statistically last year. What do you think was the chief cause of his struggle? And do you think he’s back to elite form again this year?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: Philip seemed to put a lot of pressure on himself to win games last year and he forced a few balls into situations that he shouldn’t have. He always seems to start a little slower and warm up toward the end of the season, but last season was an AWFUL start. He should be back to top form again. He is one of the biggest competitors I have watched and he should have a nice bounce back year.
Z: Top wide-out Vincent Jackson fled to the other coast signing for big money in Tampa Bay. What’s the general sentiment in San Diego about his departure?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: We knew it would happen and it doesn’t worry Bolts fans. A couple of seasons ago, we played most of the season without him and we finished with the top offense in the league. We added a couple of nice weapons on offense with Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem.
Z: In the wake of Jackson’s departure, what will the Chargers do at WR and who do you see stepping it up as Rivers’ new favorite target?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: Antonio Gates will still be Philip’s favorite target and Malcom Floyd will see a nice boost in numbers. If Floyd is healthy, he can have a monster year, but he has to stay healthy.
Z: Antonio Gates struggled with injuries last year and it hurt his numbers (as well as Rivers). Do you think he has a bounce-back year this year, or was last year the beginning of the end for the veteran TE?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: He should bounce back, but he won’t be Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez. Gates struggled with that injury all through the offseason last year and carried it into the season. From all the reports we have seen, Gates looks to be healthy again and in better shape. Expect good numbers still from him.
Z: Ryan Mathews emerged as a feature back last season and had huge value by the end of the year. Can he hold up the whole season without a platoon partner?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: Since there is nobody competing with him for carries, he should see a lot more action on the field. We still have to see how tough Ryan is. The last couple of seasons, he has let little nagging injuries bother him and it took him off the field. He will be a question mark on how many snaps he can last before an injured toe pulls him out of the game.
Z: I’ve been hearing some love for Jacob Hester as a sleeper pick to pick up some TD’s. Do you think he will get any run in the backfield?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: That is an interesting thought, but Mathews or McClain could be a better choice to vulture up the touchdowns. Hester could get into the game during those situations, but it would be to block in front of McClain. There is also a possibility of Ronnie Brown taking some of those snaps.
Z: The Chargers used their first-round pick on Melvin Ingram who I think was a huge steal. What were your thoughts on the draft as a whole and any impact players for this year that the Bolts picked up?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes are going to be immediate impacts on the defense. The defense was hurting for playmakers and both should get plenty of chances to make some good things happen. The other draft picks will help out in the future, but we can’t expect too much from them until later.
Z: Last one, give me your realistic expectation for the Chargers this season. In a stacked AFC West can they beat out the Broncos and Chiefs? What do they need to have go right to be Super Bowl contenders again?
Ernie Padaon, Bolt Beat: They need Philip Rivers to play like Philip Rivers. The league is a passing league and a good passing game can cover up a lot of things. The Patriots made it to the Super Bowl with that terrible defense last season. The offense will need to score touchdowns, instead of settling for field goals and the defense needs to create more big plays and turnovers. There is a quiet confidence from people in San Diego that this team has what it takes.