For the San Diego Chargers, Thursday’s (July 30) first day of training camp offers the team and its fans hope for a return to the AFC playoffs come January.
After rolling to several division crowns (2006-09) what seems like many years ago, the Chargers missed the playoffs in 2014, this after getting in as a wild card the previous year and winning on the road at Cincinnati. The 2013 season campaign would end a week later in Denver, but the Bolts seemed to be on the right track.
In 2014, however, the Chargers took a step backwards, finishing with a 9-7 record, ultimately meaning they sat home on the couch and eventually watched New England win it all last February.
So, what does the 2015 season hold for a team that may not even be in San Diego come 2016 (we’ll skip all that talk for another day)?
Focus on Gordon and defense
As this season goes, the primary focus will be on new running back Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin).
With the oft-injured and fumble-prone Ryan Mathews going back East to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles in the off-season, the Bolts needed to address the running back position. Moving two spots up in the NFL Draft, San Diego swapped picks with San Francisco and landed the former Badger.
While Gordon (ran for an astounding 2,587 yards and 29 TD’s in Madison last fall) will have some help in carrying the pigskin, it will be interesting to see if the rookie can take 16 weeks (and hopefully more) of NFL pounding.
The Chargers will have to go the first four weeks of the regular season without one of their best-ever offensive threats, as veteran tight end Antonio Gates sits out due to a performance-enhancing suspension.
Lastly, while there was chatter during the off-season about veteran QB Philip Rivers possibly going to Tennessee or elsewhere, it turned out to be just that, chatter.
Rivers enters this season with career numbers of 36,655 yards passing and 252 touchdowns. Yes, he has not eclipsed legendary San Diego QB Dan Fouts as far as his place in Chargers’ quarterback history, he is well on his way to being in the discussion of the greatest San Diego quarterback of all-time.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers have continued for a number of years now to be vulnerable to the pass.
Despite having All-Pro free safety Eric Weddle back there, San Diego’s opponents are not the least bit hesitant to test out the secondary. In order for the Bolts to improve on defense this season, the secondary will have to come up big in shutting down the likes of opponents Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith among others.
Secondly, if the Chargers can get anything out of their pass rush this season, it could mean the difference between winning some close games and coming out on the losing end of some tight games.
As for the schedule, while it is not the toughest in the world, road trips to Cincinnati, Baltimore and Green Bay (along with the usual division jaunts) will be a challenge.
Editor’s note: Look for breakdowns of the offense, defense, special teams, opponents and more in the coming weeks.