After the Kansas City Chiefs stopped wearing the Cinderella Story mantle, the San Diego Chargers picked it right up. They finished the season on a high note, winning their last four games. But, they also won their last game against Kansas City's backup players. And, they just barely won it at that. After dispatching the Cincinnati Bengals in impressive fashion (on the road, no less), the Chargers went toe-to-toe with the Denver Broncos and lost.
The season was most notably marked by Philip Rivers' return to the upper-echelon of QBs in the NFL. It seems as if Rivers responded well to his new head coach, Mike McCoy. He was also aided by the breakout of rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen. The Cal product is looking like an absolute steal in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
The major challenges that the Chargers faced last season were primarily on defense. LB Donald Butler continued to be a solid contributor, but the linebacking corps suffered from inconsistent play (Manti Te'o) and injuries (Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney). Another big culprit on the defense was the secondary. Look for the Chargers to upgrade their cornerbacks, at the very least.
Charlie Whitehurst, QB; Ronnie Brown, RB; Chris Gronkowski, FB; Seji Ajirotutu, WR; Donald Butler, LB; Cam Thomas, DL; Danario Alexander, WR; Chad Rinehart, OL; Darrell Stuckey, S; Rich Ohnrnberger, OL; Richard Marshall, CB; Reggie Walker, LB; Lavelle Hawkins, WR.
As I mentioned above, LB Donald Butler was a key player for the Chargers, so look for the Chargers to try and keep him around. I don't foresee them doing much more, however, due to how cap challenged they are. The team entered the offseason $836,170 over the projected salary cap. The front office has very little wiggle room money-wise, so I imagine a few players will be departing. If they do try to keep some additional players beside Butler under contract, they will likely be Ohrnberger, Marshall, Walker, or Brown.
The Chargers have the 25th pick in all seven rounds. Due to their cap issues, I imagine that they will be looking to address needs created by the loss of certain free agents and poor play through the draft.
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