AFC West Preview: San Diego Chargers

Over the next several weeks, we'll go around the AFC West and take an in-depth look at each divisional opponent. From their offseason gains and losses to their prospects for 2008, we'll break down all three of Kansas City's rivals as the young Chiefs prepare to survive in one of the NFL's most heated divisions.

Today we start at the top with the defending AFC West champions, the San Diego Chargers.

2007 recap

For a team coming off an impressive 14-win campaign in 2006, significant issues swirled around the Chargers at the beginning of last season. The big question was how the team would respond to new head coach Norv Turner, whose career record at the time of his hiring was a less than inspiring 58-82.

The Chargers started off well enough, beating the defending NFC champion Chicago Bears in the opener, only to drop the next three games. For a fan base that began the season with title aspirations, things became so bleak during San Diego's Week 4 loss to Kansas City that Chargers fans began chanting "Marty" in support of their former head coach.

Indeed, halfway through the season it appeared the decision to replace Marty Schottenheimer had blown up in San Diego's face. The Chargers fought back to even out their record at 3-3, but after 10 games were still stagnating at 5-5. The team with the NFL's best record in 2006 was sitting at .500 with just six games left to go.

Then the lights finally came on. San Diego ran the table, finishing the season 11-5. In the process they won the AFC West for the second straight year and earned the #3 seed in the playoffs. Hosting the Tennessee Titans at home in the wildcard round, the Chargers earned their first playoff victory in 13 years.

From there, it was onto Indianapolis, where San Diego gutted their way through an impressive performance. Despite losing both LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers to injury during the game, the Chargers upset the favored Colts and moved onto the AFC championship.

Though they ultimately fell in the title game to the then undefeated New England Patriots, one is left to wonder how the result may have looked if the Chargers had been at full-strength. Their three best offensive players – Tomlinson, Rivers, and Antonio Gates – were all injured for the game, and Tomlinson hardly saw any action at all.

It was something of a roller-coaster season for the Chargers in 2007. Now that they've finally gotten a taste of playoff success, there's no doubt they'll be looking for more in 2008.

Offseason additions

As is becoming their custom, the Chargers were mostly silent during free agency this offseason. Of course, when a team drafts as well as San Diego has over the past several years, there's no need to look elsewhere for talent. The Chargers did make one addition after the draft, signing offensive tackle L.J. Shelton.

Offseason losses

Backup running back Michael Turner left San Diego in free agency, finding a new home in Atlanta. Turner has the talent to be an NFL starter, so it just wasn't feasible for the Chargers to pay him the kind of money necessary to keep him around. But it has the potential of being a painful loss should Tomlinson again suffer injury.

Cornerback Drayton Florence left in free agency for Jacksonville, but the former first-round pick became expendable with the rise of budding star Antonio Cromartie. The Chargers released fullback Lorenzo Neal, offensive tackle Shane Olivea, and safety Marlon McCree.


San Diego had just 5 picks in the 2008 draft.

Round 1: Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona

Round 3: Jacob Hester, FB, LSU

Round 5: Marcus Thomas, RB, UTEP

Round 6: DeJuan Tribble, CB, Boston College

Round 7: Corey Clark, G, Texas A&M

Division outlook

Looking at the head-to-head matchups in the AFC West, the Chargers are currently riding a nine-game winning streak over the Oakland Raiders. They've also swept Denver in each of the last two seasons, with blowouts of 41-3 and 23-3 in 2007.

The only team to mount a challenge to San Diego over the past few years has been Kansas City. The Chargers and Chiefs are both 3-3 in their season series dating back to 2005. But even if they were to trip up against the Chiefs again this year, San Diego's domination over the rest of the West gives them a great chance of earning their third straight 5-1 record inside the division. And in all likelihood, they could finish 6-0.

Next time: reasons for both optimism and concern as it relates to the Chargers in 2008. Plus, a prediction for their upcoming season. Top Stories