TE Antonio Gates
Gates is the perfect player to start this list with.
The former basketball player for Kent State has put up great numbers throughout his career while revolutionizing the tight end position.
The 6-4, 260 pound athlete, has lined up virtually everywhere on the field for the Chargers quickly becoming quarterback Philip Rivers' favorite target.
When Gates has been injured or not 100 percent, the Chargers offense has struggled.
It is that simple. In ‘04 and ‘05, Gates broke onto the national scene by catching 80+ balls, 950+ yards, and double digit touchdowns both years.
Eight Pro Bowl appearances and three All-Pro team selections give the pass-catching athlete the respect he deserves. Injuries have slowed him down from accomplishing everything he “could” have done by now, but Charger supporters and football fans everywhere are hoping he will be back to full strength this season.
The fans have shown their support for him throughout the years and that’s why he makes the list as the No. 1 most loved player on the San Diego Chargers.
FS Eric Weddle
Eric Weddle is in his sixth season out of the University of Utah. The starting free safety for the Chargers since his second season has always been a solid, reliable player in the last level of the defense. Last season Weddle was tied for the league’s lead with seven interceptions and made the Pro Bowl.
The hard-nosed safety has quickly become respected by fans and players for his fearless playing style. At 5-11, Weddle isn’t the biggest player on the field but he plays with the most heart and would love to follow up last season with another terrific year.
The Chargers' safety tandem looks better this year than it has the last couple seasons with the addition of former Green Bay Packer, Atari Bigby. San Diego experimented with former Pro Bowler Bob Sanders last season and lost him for season due to an injury very early in the year.
Bigby and Sanders may look the same to fans due to their size and hair (dreadlocks), but everyone, including Weddle, hopes he can stay healthy and provide stability to the secondary.
QB Philip Rivers
In the 2003 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers had the first overall pick. They needed a quarterback of the future and the consensus first pick was Eli Manning. However, the days leading up to the Draft were filled with Manning whining about not wanting to play for the Chargers and hoping a team would trade up for him.
One question, why wouldn’t anyone want to live and play football in San Diego? Hmm. Nevertheless, the Chargers ended up getting Philip Rivers out of North Carolina State and he has proved to be a great NFL starter.
He may have an awkward release while Eli Manning has now won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, yet the Chargers are pleased with his efficiency over the years and believe he is still the quarterback that can lead them back to the Super Bowl.
He has posted four straight seasons of more than 4,000 yards thrown and has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times. Last season he threw a career-high of 20 interceptions which carried San Diego to a disappointing season with no playoff berth.
Rivers is the leader on this football team and is poised to have a bounce-back year and lead the Chargers back to the AFC West crown.
The Entire Offensive Line
After injury problems derailed the Pro Bowl careers of Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeil and forced them to retire, the offensive line of the San Diego Chargers has been an overall disappointing unit.
Last year's offensive line had so many changes throughout the season, it was hard for quarterback Philip Rivers to establish a consistent rhythm with the offense.
In my opinion you cannot succeed in the NFL if you do not have a solid offensive and defensive line. The battle of the trenches affects so many different facets of the game.
This year's projected starting unit will consist of LT Jared Gaither, LG yronne Green, C Nick Hardwick, RG Louis Vasquez and RT Jeromey Clary.
The season starts with a Monday night game vs. division rival Oakland Raiders and every fan is eager to see how the offensive line will produce this upcoming season. Almost any effort at all will be better than last season.
OLB Larry English
Larry English is a 6-2, 255 pound outside linebacker from Northern Illinois. It was a bit of a surprise when the Chargers selected him with the 16th overall pick in the 2009 Draft and he has not lived up to the hype thus far.
While starting every game his rookie season, English only recorded two sacks and did not give fans any reason to love him after the team spent such a high pick on an outside linebacker when they already had a few solid players at the position.
The Chargers could’ve used the pick on a position of real need. His second and third season’s in the league have been even less efficient: seven tackles and two sacks last year. English had a decent preseason though and can hopefully be a consistent contributor to a pass rush that hopes to excel this season.
RB Ryan Mathews
I was reluctant to put Mathews on this list because I still believe he will become a huge contributor for the Chargers in the near future. He also had a very good year last year. However, injury problems and the inconsistency throughout his short career so far, has landed him as the last player on my most hated list.
The former 12th overall pick has not lived up to high expectations since entering the league and having to step right into the starting job when Chargers legend Ladanian Tomlinson departed. He has had injury problems and has also had trouble holding onto the football as ball security is something he must improve if he wants to become an elite running back.
Last season he posted his first 1,000-yard rushing season to give San Diego fans hope, but he then broke a collarbone in the first preseason game and is expected to miss the start of the season. He is trying to return to action as soon as possible. Until then newcomer Ronnie Brown is expected to get most of the carries.
Newcomers who can quickly become fan favorites
RB Ronnie Brown - Former Miami Dolphin and Philadelphia Eagle will start while Mathews is out with injury and will continue to get vital carries throughout the season.
FB Le'Ron McClain - Former Baltimore Raven and Kansas City Chief is a great fullback who may be past his prime. Still a great goal-line blocker and ball carrier who will replace Mike Tolbert and give the team the nasty attitude they need.
WR Robert Meachem - Former New Orleans Saint. With Vincent Jackson now gone for the Chargers, Meachem will be starting and counted on to produce at a high level. Has big-play ability.
WR Eddie Royal - Former Denver Bronco. Used to be a division rival. Has been slowed by injuries the last year and half but can be a great slot receiver and huge contributor to the return game if he stays healthy.
OLB Jarrett Johnson - Former Baltimore Raven. Steady and consistent outside linebacker who is good in coverage. Underrated starting linebacker and will show leadership abilities this season.
OLB/DE Melvin Ingram - First round pick out of South Carolina and should have an immediate impact this year rushing off the edge in the Chargers' 3-4 defensive scheme. Can put up numbers similar to the 49ers' Aldon Smith did last year.
SS Brandon Taylor - Rookie from LSU has great athletic ability and started every game for LSU last year which had one of the best and deepest secondaries in the nation. Can be thrown into a starting role if an injury occurs.
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