Philip Rivers (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Entering his tenth season in the NFL, Philip Rivers, quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, is facing a lot of criticism over his recent performance. In the past two years, he has averaged 1.7 turnovers (including fumbles) and only 1.65 passing touchdowns per game. If the quarterback of an NFL team is turning the ball over more then he his putting points on the board, it is very hard for that team to win games (The Chargers have not made the playoffs in either of the past two years). These numbers are even more concerning when the three years prior to the past two seasons, Rivers averaged 2 passing touchdowns and only 1 turnover per game.
Rivers has been selected to 4 Pro Bowls and has brought the Chargers to the playoffs 4 times. Now, many are questioning if Philip Rivers is still the quarterback he once was. Looking at the Chargers this offseason, there are multiple reasons why Rivers will undoubtedly turn things around.
The biggest change to the Chargers this offseason is new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Both these coaches will bring major changes to the San Diego offense that struggled significantly under former coach Norv Turner. Whisenhunt is known for bringing creativity to an offense, especially since his infamous trick play in Super Bowl XL that allowed the Steelers to pull away from the Seahawks. His experience as a head coach suggests that he is more then qualified for the coordinator position and should make an immediate impact.
Mike McCoy on the other hand is the former offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. While he has no head coaching experience, as a coordinator he was able to get offensive production out of a Denver offense led by Tim Tebow, who no longer is on an NFL roster. His lack of experience should be a non-factor as Whisenhunt can use his head coach knowledge to help McCoy develop as a coach. Together, the two offensive minded coaches should revamp and greatly improve the Chargers offense, which has long frustrated fans with the classic Norv Turner—3rd down with 5 to go handoff up the middle.
Speaking of Norv Turner’s terrible running strategy, the Chargers running game this season should improve River’s ability to be an effective quarterback. If current starter Ryan Matthews can stay healthy (which is always questionable), the Chargers will be able to keep defenses on their toes. This should allow the Chargers to mix up the play calling unlike last year, when passes seemed eminent at times. The addition of Danny Woodhead is also a huge plus for the running game. Woodhead is one of the most hardworking backs and is sure to provide some much needed production in all aspects of the backfield.
To add to the running back situation, Philip Rivers will also see improved passing options this next season: The Chargers retained Danario Alexander, Vincent Brown is coming back off a long injury, and the Chargers added Keenan Allen in the draft. All three receivers have incredible potential, which combined with the presence of tight end Antonio Gates, could create serious matchup problems for defenses.
Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The biggest wildcard in Philip Rivers next season is not Philip Rivers; it’s his offensive line. Last year the offensive line in San Diego was arguably the worst in the NFL; Rivers was frequently hurried, knocked down, and sacked by opposing defenses. This year, the Chargers have brought in fresh faces to try and improve this situation, but it may not be enough. With Nick Hardwick being the only solid player on last year’s line, there are four spots that need to be filled.
Max Starks, former Pittsburg Steeler, was brought in to play left tackle. He may not be the best player at his position, but he is an improvement to last year. D.J. Fluker was the first round pick for the Chargers and he will, without a doubt, make a major impact on the right side, be it at guard or tackle. This leaves two spots open to veterans Jeromy Clary, King Dunlap, Rich Ohrnberger, and Chad Rinehart. None of these are long term solutions, but the two that play the best this season will have to make do for now.
Philip Rivers has the pieces he needs to have another season similar to the one he had in 2008, he just has to put the pieces together.