The San Diego Chargers enter the 2012 off season in utter turmoil after missing the playoffs for the second year in a row and facing a fan revolt. This makes the off season a vital one as the team seeks to retool the roster to make another run at the playoffs and Super Bowl.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the off season occurred when the first major decision made by the owner of the Chargers did not go the way anticipated. To the shock of nearly everyone, head coach Norv Turner and general manager AJ Smith were not fired. Instead, they were given one more year to get the team moving forward. Realizing time was of the essence, they aggressively approached the off season. I was certainly disappointed to hear this shocking news. After last years disappointing finish, I was embarrassed about owning Charger tickets.
Philip Rivers is the best player by far, but he is not the most mobile of quarterbacks. With the offense line in disarray due to injuries and the forced retirement of guard Kris Dielman, the first move AJ Smith made was to solidify his offense line. He re-signed long time center Nick Hardwick and added left tackle Jared Gaither. It defiantly put me at ease to hear this news, making it easier to renew my Chargers tickets for next year. Gaither played left tackle for the team at the end of the 2012 season and obviously made a strong impression. He has long been considered talented, but lacking in work ethic. As such, giving him a four year deal is definitely a risky proposition.
The next major area of concern became wide receiver when controversial star Vincent Jackson left the team and signed a huge contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Charges reacted quickly by signing New Orleans Saints deep threat Robert Meacham and later bringing in Eddie Royal from the division rival Denver Broncos. Meacham is a deep threat that can stretch offenses, a critical need in the offense favored by head coach Norv Turner. Royal is more of a possession receiver, but comes with the added benefit of being a tremendous kick off and punt returner. They know this full well since Royal had multiple kick returns for touchdowns against the team while playing for the division rival Denver Broncos. I was just happy to know that this team has started improving on an issues plaguing them for years, special teams. It would crush me every time at the very start the opposing team would kick off return for a touchdown.
The team also moved to establish a bit of offensive depth. They brought in fullback Le’Ron McClain to block for stud running back Ryan Matthews. In one of the more interesting developments, they also brought in quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to back up Philip Rivers. This signing is particularly interesting because it was only a few years ago that Whitehurst was traded to the Seattle Seahawks for third and second round picks in one of the great fleecing of the last three years. They knew full well that Whitehurst could never be a starter in the league, but Seattle had to learn the hard way.
If there has been one thing surprising about the off season, it is that they’ve done surprisingly little on the defensive side of the ball. The defense was their biggest weakness during the 2011-2012 season. The one player of significance that they did sign, however, is a real talent.
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson was signed away from the Baltimore Ravens much to the chagrin of Baltimore. While Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs attracted all the media attention in Baltimore, those that know the NFL recognized that Johnson was the key to the defense of the Ravens. This is a player who is mean, tough and terrorizes offenses. He is known for doing the “dirty work” on a defense, the type of player San Diego has lacked for years. The Chargers have developed a reputation of being soft on defense. Johnson will put an end to that in the first game he plays when he wipes out some offensive player.
All and all, San Diego has moved aggressively to rectify the roster problems they have faced last few years. This off season may have seen the loss of stud wide receiver Vincent Jackson, but the feeling is that players that have been brought in will more than make up for his loss by filling holes in the roster at key positions on both sides of the ball. Buy your now to ensure you opportunity to see this newly built team.
It is now expected that the team will focus on defense in the upcoming draft. Once that process is completed, the team will have significantly turned over its roster, a move Charger fans hope will get the team back into the playoffs after being absent for two years. It is also a development that AJ Smith and Norv Turner hope proves successful since their careers are on the line.