More Speed on Offense
Philip Rivers has taken responsibility for his turnover-plagued season, rightfully so, but there is no denying a lack of team speed has hurt his productivity. San Diego's downfield passing game lacks a homerun threat and the receivers are struggling to get separation against man coverage.
Patrick Crayton, 32, is showing his age (why he is still returning punts ahead of Antoine Cason is a mystery). He has 152 receiving yards through nine games; last year, he had more than that in his final two games. He will be a free agent after the season and will not return.
Vincent Jackson is San Diego's most talented offensive weapon but disappears for long stretches (a nagging hamstring injury doesn't help). Jackson has deceptive speed for his size, helping him make big plays, but he lacks the straight-line speed to blow the tops off defenses. He will also be a free agent after the season, and while another franchise tag is a possibility, the Chargers may balk at paying him a huge salary and instead use those funds at add some faster playmakers to the arsenal.
More Heat off the Edges
When you have Everette Brown -- fresh off the streets -- playing meaningful snaps in one of the biggest games of the season, you know there are issues. Shaun Phillips' return from a foot injury will be a huge help, but the Bolts need another pass rusher or two in the worst way.
Larry English has officially entered Buster Davis territory and cannot be counted on going forward. Travis LaBoy, who did have a QB pressure against the Raiders that led to a Paul Oliver INT, has just one sack despite starting every game this season.
An increased pass rush should help a secondary that has been exposed this season. San Diego can ill afford to invest more on defensive backs -- Quentin Jammer and Cason were both first-round picks; Eric Weddle is the highest paid safety in the NFL; and Marcus Gilchrist (second round) and Shareece Wright (third round) were both high picks in the most recent draft.
More Toughness Across the Board
The Chargers are soft -- no other way to spin it. The additions of Takeo Spikes and Bob Sanders were supposed to fix that, but it turns out counting on Sanders was as foolish as the other 31 teams in the league felt it was. When Spikes left the Raiders game with a concussion, things got ugly.
The toughness issue is not limited to a defense that gave up 857 yards and 69 points over the last two weeks. The offense is littered with soft players, with Ryan Mathews and Malcom Floyd headlining that list. Apparently, neither of these men ever heard the phrase, "Don't start something you can't finish."
There are tough guys on this team (see Tolbert, Mike) but not nearly enough of them. Whether this team's softness is a reflection of Norv Turner, or rather Turner was given soft players by GM A.J. Smith, is certainly debatable. But what's clear is this: Until this team gets tougher, it is not going anywhere.
What is San Diego's biggest need? Talk about it inside the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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