- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here is the San Diego Chargers’ team preview page. Now, onto the intelligence report:
Five things you need to know about the Chargers:
1. New blood: The Chargers added more than a dozen veteran free agents to the roster. It was an interesting approach for a team that needed to bring in some new life after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. Under Smith, the Chargers haven't been big spenders in free agency. This year, they didn't add any huge names, but they added several good players in every facet. Several key San Diego players, such as Philip Rivers and safety Eric Weddle, said seeing all the new faces has given the team a fresh approach.
2. Offensive line needs health: Rivers struggled for the first 10 games last season, and a big reason why was incredible flux on the offensive line created by injuries. San Diego played a whopping 13 offensive linemen last season and was pulling players off the street and onto the line. The unit settled down late last season and played better. If left tackle Jared Gaither can get healthy and has a solid season, it should go a long way toward ensuring improved play from this unit. If not, there could be trouble.
3. Antonio Gates, circa 2007? The future Hall of Fame tight end has been the talk of Chargers camp. He is finally healthy after dealing with foot-related injuries for the past four years. Gates has lost five pounds and looks terrific. Teammates say it's the best Gates has looked in five years. Gates performed well despite his injuries even though he barely practiced. Now that Gates, 32, has totally regained his health, it will be interesting to see if he can dominate again.
4. Another rookie of the year? Last year, Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award after the 2011 No. 2 overall pick recorded 11.5 sacks. Early in the offseason, Miller worked with South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram. Shortly afterward, Ingram was taken by the Chargers with the No. 18 pick. I wouldn't be shocked if Ingram follows in his friend's footsteps and wins the same award Miller did last season. The Chargers are going to unleash Ingram and let him use his immense skills. I expect an instant impact from Ingram.
5. It's Ryan Mathews' time: The Chargers are hoping for Mathews to hurry back from a shoulder injury that he suffered in the first preseason game. His could miss a game or two, but when he returns Mathews will be expected to carry a big load. This is the third NFL season for Mathews. He has progressively improved and made the Pro Bowl last season after he rushed for 1,091 yards and averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. He is going to be given the opportunity to run the ball 25 times a game, catch several balls out of the backfield, play in short yardage and perhaps be the third-down back. Mathews is going to be busy.
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