Now that the regular season is over, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was for all of the AFC West teams that will not be participating in the playoffs.
Let’s start with the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers were one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL this season, as they finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. San Diego’s 2012 campaign started off well, with a 3-1 record in September.
From there, however, the Chargers would go on to lose seven of their next eight games, with many of those losses coming in close games and coming after the Chargers held leads in the second half. In the middle of the season, San Diego could not find a way to win games, so despite winning three of their first four games and then winning three of their final four games, the Chargers were not a factor in the playoff race down the stretch.
San Diego’s offense was not as potent as it has been in past years and not nearly as good as it needed to be. The running game was never able to get going, with or without pro-bowler Ryan Matthews, who missed time due to injuries. The play of the offensive line was poor all season, too, as the problems with the running game were magnified by a lack of pass protection. The struggles of the offensive line took attention away from quarterback Philip Rivers, who continued to show signs of decline in his career. However, despite the loss of Vincent Jackson last offseason, the Chargers had a new receiving target emerge this season in Danario Alexander, giving them plenty of quality targets for Rivers, he just wasn’t able to find them consistently enough.
One of the bright spots for San Diego this year was their front seven. With the addition of rookies Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes, as well as the play of Corey Liuget, the San Diego defensive line was arguably the team’s strongest unit. The Chargers were good against the run for much of the year and were also able to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, even collecting 11 sacks against the Jets in week 16. Unfortunately, they just didn’t get the support from the offense they needed.
Head coach Norv Turner has been on the hot seat for quite some time and his firing was inevitable. In addition to a new head coach and general manager, the Chargers will have to make some improvements along the offensive line and possibly among their group of running backs so that they can protect Rivers better and have a more balanced offense moving forward.
The Chargers appear to have a promising future at the wide receiver position, but with the signs of decline displayed by Rivers, it may be time for the Chargers to start thinking about their future at the quarterback position and draft someone they can develop over the next couple years and potentially replace Rivers one day. With a young and talented defensive front, the Chargers are in decent shape on that side of the ball. San Diego appears to be the second best team in the AFC West at the moment, but there is a wide gap between them and the Broncos; however, they aren’t that far away from competing for a wildcard spot, and a new head coach and a few changes may be enough to get them there next year.