Chargers Needs Index

Any time an NFL team wins just four games in a season, it cries out for changes to be made. For the San Diego Chargers, it is more than evident that they need help – and soon. They didn't make a splash in free agency, so now the Chargers must look to the draft in order to prepare for the future in what will be another rebuilding year.

The following is a list of the holes the Chargers need to address, in order of most dire need to least:

Quarterback: The Chargers have been cursed in recent years in their search for a long-term quarterback. In 1998, San Diego drafted Ryan Leaf, who developed into a malcontent disaster instead of the big gunslinger that would lead them to the promised land. The Chargers had an opportunity to draft Michael Vick three years ago, but they instead traded down to the No. 5 pick to draft LaDainian Tomlinson. Drew Brees, who was drafted in the second round, was unable to handle the number one job last season evidenced by a 67.5 QB rating, and the Chargers would be taking a risk if they pass up a quarterback in the first round in order to hand the ball back over to Brees. Drew Brees and Doug Flutie combined for 15 interceptions, accounting for an -11 turnover differential, second worst in the AFC. Thus, the Chargers need to use their draft status to get a franchise quarterback. If the Chargers hold onto their No. 1 pick, they will most likely draft Eli Manning out of Ole Miss. Even if they do trade down with the New York Giants to the No. 4 pick, Miami-Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger and NC State's Philip Rivers will be there for the taking. It seems that San Diego falters when its quarterback fails, and Marty Schottenheimer needs to find himself a man whom he can mold into a leader and a performer.

Offensive Tackle: Currently, the only offensive tackles on the roster are Phil Bogle, Courtney Van Buren, and Leander Jordan. Bogle split time at guard and right tackle last season, and considering that he's slated to be the starting left tackle, the Chargers have major issues on their line, particularly at left tackle. Van Buren went from inactive to active at the beginning of his rookie season and played 11 games before sustaining a knee injury at the end of the season and is largely an unproven talent. Jordan is an effective run blocker, but he is not exactly a premium lineman against the pass rush and lacks game experience. The Chargers are desperate for a versatile tackle that can play well against upper echelon pass rushers.

Defensive Line: The Chargers entire defense could use a big facelift: the Bolts defense allowed the second most points in the NFL and was ranked 27th overall, 25th against the run, and 21st against the pass. Where they're most lacking is at defensive end, where all that remains after losing experienced ends in Marcellus Wiley and Raylee Johnson is Adrian Dingle, Omari Hand, and Otis Leverette – not exactly pass rushers who strike fear into the hearts of offensive linemen. What the Chargers really need is big, fast end who can play well against both the run and the pass, and San Diego's going to have a tough time finding one. But without a decent pass rush, opposing quarterbacks are going to throw as much as possible on the Chargers, leaving the Bolts vulnerable to the run. Jamal Williams at defensive tackle is big and experienced, but is an average nose tackle at best.

Wide Receiver: When the starting running back is second on the team in yards receiving, there are depth issues at wide receiver. San Diego expected a natural Drew Brees-David Boston connection to develop last season, but it never really happened. Boston had an average year, catching seven touchdowns for 880 yards, and that is much less than what the Chargers expected when they acquired him a year ago. He's now gone, and their best wide out is now Kevin Dyson, who missed almost all of 2003 with a torn Achilles tendon. Not only has he played little football the past year, but during his career season in 2001 with Tennessee he caught seven touchdowns for 825 yards, numbers that are nearly identical to Boston's a year ago. The Chargers have an extremely young receiving corps, but nobody is a standout, and no receiver on the current roster caught for over 300 yards last season.

Placekicker: With Steve Christie a free agent, the Chargers need a placekicker, plain and simple. Christie was automatic under forty yards last season and didn't miss a single kick in that range, and the Chargers need to find a similarly effective replacement. Mackenzie Hoambrecker, who was signed to the practice squad last season, is the sole kicker on the roster at this point and is a huge question mark considering his lack of experience.

Linebacker: The Chargers didn't sign too many players this offseason that are worthy of being starters on most NFL teams. But they did sign Randal Godfrey, and Zeke Moreno, who was tendered as a three year restricted free agent, is most likely gone after Godfrey's signing. Godfrey, who comes from the Seahawks, is capable of starting on most NFL teams and should boost the San Diego defense, especially against the run. But Godfrey is no longer an elite linebacker as his numbers have gone down over the past three years, partially due to injuries. Donnie Edwards is 31 years old like Godfrey, but his 163 tackles were near the top of the NFL leader board last season, and he was awarded as an injury replacement on the AFC Pro Bowl squad. The two veterans will play inside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme with Ben Leber on the outside and free agent signing Steve Foley as the pass rushing linebacker. Godfrey and Edwards' experience will be invaluable to Leber's development, but Foley is a big question mark. As a backup with the Texans after missing all of 2002 with a shoulder injury, he was mostly used in run situations because he is weak in space and is not very fast. San Diego is set on the inside, but they might be wise to look for a young, fast outside linebacker to compliment the other three.

Defensive Back: The youth movement in San Diego is most apparent in the secondary, where cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Sammy Davis, both 24 years old and both former first round picks, are currently atop the depth chart. The Chargers traded David Boston to Miami for Jamar Fletcher, who adds experience and youth and will most likely fill in as a nickel back. The pass defense was not good last year, but as Jammer and Davis get more experience, they will get better with time. Whether or not they will emerge this year remains to be seen, but they are the future of the Chargers' secondary. San Diego is hoping similar development with safety Terrence Kiel, and 34 year old Kwamie Lassiter, who was not spectacular last season and is past his prime, will move back to his natural position at free safety as Kiel will fill in on the strong side. The Chargers need to add another veteran defensive back in case one of the younger players falters and might be wise to search for a future younger replacement for Lassiter, but the Charger defense can be much improved if Jammer and Davis start to emerge as the type of corners they were projected to be.

Offensive guard/Center: The Chargers have good inside presence with young linemen such as Toniu Fonoti and Jason Ball, who will only get better next season. Free agent signing Mike Goff is a solid starter and a good run blocker. Expect LaDainian Tomlinson to continue to find holes in the middle of his line next season.

Tight end: The Chargers hinge their hopes on Antonio Gates, who had an impressive rookie year, considering he hadn't played football in four years. He was third on the team with 389 yards receiving, numbers which are bound to go up with a year of experience under his belt, and the Chargers should continue to play him and let him develop.

Running back: The Chargers have nothing to worry about LaDainian Tomlinson, who was snubbed from a Pro Bowl selection after gaining 1,645 yards rushing, 725 yards receiving, and 17 total trips to the end zone. Lorenzo Neal will return as the fullback and will help pave the way for Tomlinson. All the Chargers lack at tailback is a dependable second string back that can help carry the load off Tomlinson's shoulders. But with Tomlinson's versatility, Schottenheimer doesn't really need someone to share time with him.

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