The San Diego Chargers were one of three teams out of the AFC West to make the playoffs last year. San Diego earned the final Wild Card spot with a 9-7 record. They would go on the road and defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10, but would come up short the following week in a 17-24 loss to the Denver Broncos.
The Chargers are hoping that with a strong offseason they can not only contend for a division title, but be a serious threat to win the Super Bowl. To this point they have been relatively quiet. San Diego’s only notable free agent addition was running back Donald Brown. The other players that they signed are linebacker Kavell Conner, backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, corner Brandon Ghee and tight end David Johnson.
The good news is they were able to re-sign a number of their top free agents, including linebacker Donald Butler, center Rich Ohrnberger, guard Chad Rhinehart and corner Richard Marshall. While they parted ways with talented fullback Le’Ron McClain, he wasn’t a good fit for their system. Other players that won’t be back this year are wide out Danario Alexander, nose tackle Cam Thomas, corner Derek Cox, defensive tackle Vaughn Martin and veteran running back Ronnie Brown.
To take that next step in 2014, the Chargers are going to have to do well at the upcoming NFL Draft. San Diego has the 25th pick overall and one selection in each of the seven rounds. Here’s a quick look at the five positions I think the Chargers need to target when they are on the clock.
This is without a doubt the biggest need for San Diego. The Chargers ranked 29th in the league in pass defense and a big reason for that was they counted on the cornerback trio of Marshall, Shareece Wright and Derek Cox. While Marshall was brought back and Wright is under contract, they need to find a legit No. 1 corner. Unfortunately for the Chargers, most of the top corners will likely be off the board by the time they are up at No. 25. Unless they trade up, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Diego waited to address this position with their 2nd or 3rd round pick.
The Chargers were one of the worst teams in the league at putting pressure on the quarterback. Corey Liguet, who plays a 3-4 defensive end, led the team with a mere 5.5 sacks. The inability to generate pressure could be a big reason why their secondary struggled. If one of the top corners aren’t available, I look for San Diego to go after someone like UCLA’s Anthony Barr or Auburn’s Dee Ford.
Not only does San Diego need help in the secondary and at outside linebacker, but they also need to find someone who can at least compete with Sean Lissemore for a starting spot. This is without a doubt one of the most underrated positions in a 3-4. If the Chargers consider this their biggest hole to fill on defense, they could go after Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III with their first round selection.
One of the reasons that Philip Rivers was able to have a huge bounce back year, was the play of rookie wide out Keenan Allen, who the Chargers found in the 3rd round of last year’s draft. Allen has the looks of a future star, but Rivers could use some more help. Vincent Brown has been a disappointment and some believe Malcolm Floyd’s neck injury is career threatening. There’s too much depth and too many holes to fill on defense for San Diego to use their first round pick here. Look for the Chargers to try and find another mid round gem.
San Diego could probably make due with Jeromey Clary starting at right guard again in 2014, but he’s without question the weakest link up front. It would make a lot of sense for the Chargers to use of their picks in the middle/late rounds to try an find an upgrade over Clary.
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