Bolts try to end 2-year playoff drought

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 30, 2012
They've missed the playoffs the last two seasons and have one playoff victory the last four years. Their quarterback was a mess last year, accounting for a whopping 25 turnovers, the most in the NFL. And, perhaps only in soft and sunny San Diego, posting a double snowman - an 8-8 record - was good enough of a showing for embattled coach Norv Turner and polarizing general manager A.J. Smith to keep their jobs with the San Diego Chargers. Team president Dean Spanos didn't feel compelled to give Turner and Smith the heave-ho, much to the chagrin of a growing segment of the ticket-buying public. Something would certainly have to give at the top if the Chargers miss the playoffs a third straight season. Turner has never been on the hot seat like he is now, and it seems like he's been on it since right after the Chargers hired him before the 2007 season. In an effort to both fill their many holes and perhaps to ward off the hot seat for Turner and Smith, the Chargers loaded up on free agents - an uncharacteristic move for them - and then made a run on defensive players in the draft to try to fix a unit that was the league's worst on third downs. Now they've got to try to find a way to still be playing in January. ''We're going to have to do better in the division than 3-3 to win it,'' said Philip Rivers, whose 20 interceptions and five fumbles, including a botched snap that sealed a loss at Kansas City, had a lot to do with San Diego's misfortunes last year. ''The last two years, we've been 3-3. We've definitely got to do better. I think everybody's gotten better in the division. At least that's what we all think now. We've got to go do it.'' San Diego went 4-1 at the beginning and end of last season but was undone by a six-game losing streak in the middle. One more win would have earned the Chargers the title in the mediocre AFC West. ''Expectations are always high here, as it should be,'' said fullback Jacob Hester. ''Gosh, if you thought, man, we're not that good, then you're not going to be that good. So you always come out, no matter good, bad or what, as a team. We've got high expectations here.'' The defense is expected to play better than in 2011. San Diego fired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and replaced him with linebackers coach John Pagano, brother of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano. The Chargers then used their first three draft picks on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, defensive end Kendall Reyes of Connecticut and LSU strong safety Brandon Taylor. They are expected to add some impact to the defense. Although the Chargers won their first three exhibitions, there were already signs of trouble, mostly on offense. Running back Ryan Mathews, a Pro Bowler last year, broke his collarbone on his first carry of the exhibition season. Already having lost left guard Kris Dielman to retirement due to a concussion, the Chargers were without left tackle Jared Gaither due to a mystery back injury. Center Nick Hardwick, who contemplated retirement before returning, sustained a concussion in practice. While tight end Antonio Gates and wideout Malcom Floyd are back, wide receiver Vincent Jackson bolted to Tampa Bay for a $55.55 million, five-year contract and promising second-year pro Vincent Brown broke his left ankle in the second exhibition game. Wide receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal signed as free agents. Rivers is looking to bounce back from all those turnovers. ''Personally, I want to throw completions,'' Rivers said. ''Just throw completions. With the guys we've added, the guys we already have here, get them the ball. If they have the ball in their hands, then good things are going to happen.'' --- Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
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