Chargers Preseason Team Awards

At the end of every season, the Chargers hand out a half-dozen team awards. Now that the roster is all but set, we look ahead and forecast the winners of each honor for 2012. Taking into account roster changes, injury news and other developments, we offer up a breakdown of the projected winers.

MVP: Philip Rivers

Rivers is a shoe-in to defend his title as the reigning team MVP. GM A.J. Smith has surrounded him with new weapons like Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Ladarius Green and Le'Ron McCain. That should help Rivers get the ball out more quickly and force fewer throws, which in turn will help him cut down on his turnovers. Norv Turner feels Rivers is capable of keeping his interceptions in the single digits; if Rivers can do that, he will be a candidate for league MVP honors.

Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Gates

With Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay, Gates is the de facto go-to receiver. While his ailing foot may never be 100 percent healthy, it was good enough to allow him to play in the final 11 games last season and still finish with more than 60 catches and 750 yards. With additional rest and rehab, he will be even stronger in 2012. Gates will also benefit from the addition of slot receivers Royal and Roscoe Parrish, who will open things up over the middle of the field.

Defensive Player of the Year: Shaun Phillips

Phillips struggled in 2011 due to a foot injury and a lack of pressure coming from the opposite side. But he is healthy now and ready to get back to stuffing the stat sheet as he enters a contract year. The addition of Jarret Johnson will help the Chargers put opponents in more obvious passing situations. And with Melvin Ingram rushing from the other side, opponents will no longer be allowed to double-team Phillips. That should free him up to bend corners, sack quarterbacks and force fumbles.

Lineman of the Year: Nick Hardwick

Hardwick won the award last season and is the frontrunner to claim the honor again. He is the most established member of the offensive line now that Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill have moved on. He makes all the line adjustments, picks up blitzers and gets out to the second level. He is also superb on screens. He will be flanked by two guards in contract years and pushed by two young centers (Colin Baxter and David Molk) gunning for his job.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Darrell Stuckey

Rich Bisaccia feels Stuckey should have won the award in 2011; that wish may come to fruition one year later. While Stuckey is stuck behind Atari Bigby and Brandon Taylor in the race for the starting job at strong safety, he has a chance to become the latest San Diego special teams star, a list that includes Carlos Polk, Hanik Milligan and Kassim Osgood. Stuckey is fearless and a sure tackler. His emergence last season was a big reason the special teams went from putrid to passable.

Most Inspirational Player: Quentin Jammer

Jammer struggled in 2011 as he went through a divorce and battled depression. He seems to have come to grips with his situation, though, which should allow his focus to return to the field. He will also benefit from a revved up pass rush, which will help him re-establish himself as a shutdown corner. If Jammer returns to form and consistently erases the opponent's top receiver, it will make life infinitely easier on young corners Antoine Cason, Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright.

Who do you think will win these team awards? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the 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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