Five Questions: San Diego Chargers

What have the San Diego Chargers been up to this offseason? Scout.com NFL analyst John Crist puts together another installment of Five Questions with SDBoltReport.com publisher Michael Lombardo.


Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 66.0 percent of his passes for 4,710 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in 2010. (Justin Edmonds/Getty)

John Crist: The easy answer is to say terrible play on special teams, but how is it even possible that the Chargers finished first in the league in both offense and defense but somehow missed the playoffs? They even had a QB, Philip Rivers, that was in the conversation for MVP.

Michael Lombardo: Poor play on special teams not only submarined San Diego's playoff hopes, but it positively skewed the Chargers' defensive and offensive numbers. Because opposing offenses often started with great field position, San Diego's defense had fewer yards to give up. Also, Rivers was forced to pass his way out of some early holes dug by the special teams, resulting in less balance but more yards.

The defensive ranking was a sham. The Chargers feasted on sub-par quarterbacks like David Garrard, Derek Anderson, Alex Smith and Tim Tebow. The offense, however, is the real deal.

JC: Take us back to the NFL Draft. Who was your favorite of San Diego's picks? Least favorite? Did the team properly address its biggest needs and get good value with each selection? If you had been in the war room, is there anything you would have done differently?

ML: My favorite pick was local prospect Vincent Brown, the receiver out of SDSU that the Chargers snagged in the third round. Brown is an excellent route runner with sure hands. He could end up being the No. 3 receiver behind Vincent Jackson and Patrick Crayton if Malcom Floyd leaves as a free agent.

My least favorite pick came one selection later in USC CB Shareece Wright. Although supremely talented, Wright is short on experience and long on red flags. He was the second cornerback drafted by the Chargers (behind Clemson's Marcus Gilchrist) and is also stuck behind veterans Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason.

The Chargers definitely addressed their biggest need -- help on special teams -- but may have gone overboard at the expense of landing potential impact players. Picking up Missouri LB Andrew Gachkar in the seventh round to chase down kicks is a great idea. Using a second-round selection on Michigan LB Jonas Mouton, who may end up contributing in a similar fashion, is a stretch.

JC: Usually we have free agency and then the draft, but this year -- eventually -- it's going to be the other way around. Now that the draft is in the rearview mirror, what position would you most like to see the Chargers address in free agency, and who could be a possible target?

ML: One position the Chargers wanted to address in the draft but didn't was outside linebacker. The team may make a run at someone like former first-round pick Kamerion Wimbley, which would also weaken division rival Oakland.

San Diego could also be in the market for a veteran receiver, given the mess that was the Chargers' receiving corps a season ago. There is a rumor going around about GM A.J. Smith putting together a package for Carolina's Steve Smith. Unlike most rumors this time of year, this one might have legs.

JC: On the offensive side of the football, the ground game was surely a bit of a disappointment this past season and put too much pressure on Rivers to move the ball by himself. A trendy pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Ryan Mathews only had 678 yards rushing. Is his future brighter?

ML: It is too early to call Mathews a bust, but his rookie season was certainly a flop. He was plagued by nagging injuries -- something that haunted him in college, as well – and struggled to hang onto the football. It didn't help that the Chargers spent too much time playing catch-up, leaving him a spectator far too often late in games.

Mathews should make a more sizable impact in 2011. However, the Chargers will be a pass-first team so long as Rivers is at the helm, and Mathews still has to share carries with power back Mike Tolbert. The good news for Mathews is that Darren Sproles figures to leave as a free agent, which should make the backfield slightly less crowded.

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JC: Defensively, Eric Weddle will be perhaps the most coveted free agent in the league at the safety position once the lockout ends. Has the organization already started to go another direction, or is it possible Weddle will put on the powder blues again?

ML: The Chargers landed some level of protection by agreeing to terms with former Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders shortly before the lockout began, but the preference is to pair Weddle with Sanders, not to replace the former with the latter.

Weddle is the team's top priority to re-sign. However, he will not come cheaply. The Chargers have a lot of other significant free agents and will not tie up all their money in one player. If Weddle prices himself out of the Chargers' range, 2010 fourth-round pick Darrell Stuckey will have to step up his game. Weddle leaving would also help Paul Oliver, a veteran free agent that is unlikely to return otherwise.

For all the latest news, notes and quotes on the Chargers, visit SDBoltReport.com.

Five Questions: Chicago Bears
Five Questions: Detroit Lions
Five Questions: Green Bay Packers
Five Questions: Jacksonville Jaguars
Five Questions: San Francisco 49ers
Five Questions: Kansas City Chiefs
Five Questions: New England Patriots


John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com. Michael Lombardo is the publisher of SDBoltReport.com.


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