Chargers by Position

The San Diego Chargers will again be busy this offseason, as they revamp the roster yet again in their bid to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1995. The quarterback position, and both lines, need some attention. A key decision is what the Chargers final evaluation is on Drew Brees, and if they decided to bring in either a veteran, or draft a quarterback and start over again.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Drew Brees. Backups -- Doug Flutie, Cleo Lemon. No player regressed more during the season than Brees (11 TD passes, 15 INTs). In his second year as a starter, and third in this system, Brees was supposed to elevate his game. Instead, he was benched for five starts and yanked from two other games. The organization's faith in his as the quarterback of the future took a real hit; he's 4-16 in his last 20 starts. The team will bring in a veteran -- or draft someone -- to compete with him next year. The Chargers wouldn't mind Flutie returning, but not at the $6 million cap hit he now represents.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson, FB Lorenzo Neal. Backups – RB Jesse Chatman, RB Leon Johnson, FB Andrew Pinnock. Tomlinson was stud for the third time in his three-year career, rushing for 1,645 yards and catching 100 passes for 725 yards; he totaled 17 touchdowns. He was sensational, as many of those rushing yards came on his own behind a shaky offensive line. Neal delivered the punishing blocks to spring Tomlinson; nothing wrong with his showing. Chatman didn't give much, same goes for Johnson. Pinnock was a special-teamer. Hopefully the Chargers can surround Tomlinson with some talent before they burn him out.

TIGHT END: Starters -- Antonio Gates, Justin Peelle. Backups -- Josh Norman, Stephen Alexander. Gates, an undrafted rookie who didn't play football at Kent State, was the find of the year for the Chargers. He ended up a starter, and showed time and again he has the speed to get down field and the hands to make the difficult catches. Peelle was used mostly as a blocker and did OK. Alexander is toast, after another year spent mostly on the sidelines with injuries; he has a $3.8 million cap figure next year. Norman's star dimmed, as he dropped way too many passes.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – David Boston, Kassim Osgood. Backups -- Tim Dwight, Eric Parker, Justin Peele, Dondre Gilliam. Boston was decent, just not worth the $47 million contract the Chargers gave him. He finished with a team-high 880 yards and seven TDs receiving, on 70 catches. Again, not bad. But the Chargers were hoping for more, and all of it wasn't Boston's fault as Brees struggled and the line couldn't block long enough for routes demanding double moves. Caldwell was hurt, inconsistent and is looking more and more like a second-round bust. Dwight and Parker had their moments, but both these undersized targets ended the year on IR. Parker will be back; Dwight might not, with his $3.225 cap number for '04.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Damion McIntosh, LG Kelvin Garmon, C Cory Raymer, RG Phil Bogle, RT Vaughn Parker. Backups -- T/G Solomon Page, C Jason Ball, OL Michael Keathley, T Courtney Van Buren, G Toniu Fonoti, G Kris Dielman. This unit was a kept together with glue and tape as injuries visited here early and often. It figures to have a different look next year, with McIntosh, Garmon and Page becoming free agents. They will likely bring McIntosh and Garmon back, but maybe not Page. Parker, too, will be a 10-year veteran, coming off a major knee injury and have a $4.3 cap number in '04. Ball and Raymer give them great depth at center, as they are two of the most reliable players along the line. Have to see something in '04 from Fonoti, who spent the year on IR.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- RDE Adrian Dingle, RDT Jason Fisk, LDT Jamal Williams, LDE Marcellus Wiley. Backups -- DT DeQuincy Scott, DT Joe Salave'a, DT Jacques Cesaire, DE Omari Hand, DE Otis Leverette. The Chargers need to look hard at this line. The pass rush never materialized, something that was supposed to help mask an inexperienced secondary. But the leader sacker here was Scott, whose 6.5 sacks led all defensive tackles. The end place was suspect, as Wiley managed but three sacks, and Dingle, who bumped Johnson from the starting lineup, finished with six sacks. The interior remains shaky against the run, although Williams is supposed to be the big body the Chargers also wanted in the middle. Fisk is but a guy, and hasn't been the player as advertised -- a replacement for John Parrella. Wiley will have to fiddle with his contact -- a $ 9 million, '04 cap number -- if he wants to return. The Chargers, if they don't go for a quarterback, could draft load up on defensive linemen in the draft.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- MLB Zeke Moreno, WLB Donnie Edwards, WLB Ben Leber. Backups – MLB Carlos Polk, WLB Stephen Cooper, SLB Matt Wilhelm. Edwards had a great year, and probably should have received more consideration for the Pro Bowl with 162 tackles -- no NFL linebacker had more. Moreno, in his first year as a starter, struggled. He was out of position too many times; he finished with 95 tackles, but look for the team to try and improve here. Leber struggled early on, then came on at the end. The backups mostly saw their action on special teams. The Chargers need to surround Edwards with some more physical players. He relies on finesse, speed and technique. The team needs some blowup guys here.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Quentin Jammer, RCB Sammy Davis, SS Terrence Kiel, FS Jerry Wilson. Backups -- CB Kevin House, CB Drayton Florence, FS Tony Okanlawon, SS Kwamie Lassiter, S Vernon Fox, S Hanik Milligan. Plenty of burn marks here, where Jammer and Davis were picked on with regularity. Jammer, though, came on toward the end and finished with a team-high four INTs. Davis had two picks, but he was overmatched for the majority of the team. He needs to get stronger to have an impact next year. Lassiter hurt his knee and landed on IR. Kiel showed some promise, but again, he got nailed like most rookies do. Wilson was OK, but he could be out if the Chargers decide to pair Kiel with Lassiter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Steve Christie, P Darren Bennett, KR/PR Leon Johnson, K/P Mike Scifres. Christie was 15 of 20, but again had trouble with his consistency from long range. The Chargers will look elsewhere next year. Same goes for Bennett, a member of the franchise's 40th anniversary team. Bennett averaged nearly 42 yards per attempt and had 28 downed inside the 20. He's solid, but he is making too much money -- $1 million -- for the Chargers' taste; look for Scifres to take over next year. Johnson came on late as a returner, as the Chargers burned through Parker and Dwight as injuries chased them to the sidelines.

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