Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Chargers regular-season wrap-up
By Bill Williamson
Arrow indicates direction team is trending.
Final power ranking: 16
Preseason Power Ranking: 10
Safety Eric Weddle's seven interceptions were a bright spot for the Chargers' lackluster defense.
Biggest surprise: The slow start by quarterback Philip Rivers. There is no doubt Rivers, who turned 30 last month, is still an elite player. But he had a rough first 10 games in which he threw 17 of his 20 interceptions. Rivers made crucial fourth-quarter mistakes during the six-game losing streak that doomed San Diego’s season. Will anyone forget the dropped snap in Kansas City on Halloween night with the Chargers about to kick a game-winning field goal? That was the difference in the Chargers not winning the division title. But Rivers settled down late in the season and finished strong. Quarterback is not a problem in San Diego.
Biggest disappointment: The Chargers were not happy with the performance of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. They had a dominant unit under Ron Rivera, whom Manusky replaced after Carolina hired Rivera as head coach. Manusky promised an aggressive defense, but the players never really adapted to his way — and the Chargers were far from a special defense this season.
Biggest need: There are plenty of needs in San Diego. It needs help at every level of the defense and it may need three new starters on the offensive line with guard Kris Dielman (concussion), tackle Marcus McNeill (neck) and center Nick Hardwick as possibilities for retirement. While it’s difficult to pinpoint this team’s greatest need, a top safety could help the process on defense.
Team MVP: Safety Eric Weddle. He had seven interceptions and made several big plays. Weddle followed up his signing of a monster contract to stay in San Diego this summer with his first Pro Bowl. He is the quarterback of the defense and a clutch performer.
Future starts on defense: Expect a bunch of changes on defense. Every layer of the unit will likely see additions, and there could be big changes on the defensive coaching staff. The Chargers like their core on offense, but tweaking is needed on defense.