After finishing off a late season run with a whipping of the Broncos, the Chargers eked into the 2008 AFC Playoffs with an 8-8 record and a division title, despite battling injuries and inconsistency for much of the season.
While they couldn’t get past the eventual Super Bowl champions Steelers, they did have an impressive victory over the Colts, and showed true grit, despite missing several key players.
Still, the Chargers remain a mixed bag of possibility and inconsistency, and while they’re immensely talented, their window for a Super Bowl run is beginning to close.
5. Can Philip Rivers Repeat his 2008 Success?
Rivers jumped from pedestrian stats in his first two years as a starter, to suddenly near-MVP production.
He has a strong arm with excellent accuracy, and benefits from a well-balanced offense and a full boat of offensive weapons.
The emergence of Vincent Jackson is what probably caused the biggest climb in production for Rivers, while Antonio Gates, Darren Sproles, and LT helped out immensely in the passing game.
There are rumors that the Chargers will try to run more than pass in 2009, but the odds are in favor of a very balanced approach.
Rivers has proven time and again that his work ethic and passion for the game never fails to match his growing talent.
Considering Norv Turner’s specialty is offense, Rivers’ production and efficiency don’t appear to be changing for the worse anytime soon.
If his supporting cast (namely LT and Gates) can get back to full health, Rivers will have all he needs to stay fantasy relevant, as well as possibly guide his team to the Super Bowl.
4. Is Norv Turner on the Hot Seat?
Turner is an offensive wizard. Yes, this is true.
But even Mike Martz gets fired.
Turner has kept the Chargers competitive and exciting in every year he’s called the shots, but if 2009 doesn’t see the Chargers improve significantly, it could be his last season.
An epidemic of injuries didn’t help the cause in 2008, but with his key players (LT, Antonio Gates, Shawne Merriman) expected back at 100 percent, there will be no excuses for Turner not producing with a team so heavy on talent.
3. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Darren Sproles
Regardless of the franchising of Darren Sproles, LT is still “the man” in San Diego, and will still see the bulk of the carries.
But the most important thing is not who will get you the most fantasy points (some would argue that), but the impact they can have on the team together.
Tomlinson can still run well inside the tackles, is extremely effective near the goal-line, and still has the speed and elusiveness to change games.
He may not be what he was two years ago, but even his “average” out-put is good enough to start for well over half of the league.
Sproles will continue to electrify the league on returns, while seeing increased touches and looks, both in the air and on the ground.
Rest assured—LT will keep the starting totes, while Sproles will hang around for one more year to help give the Chargers one of the more feared ground attacks.
2. Shawne Merriman’s Comeback
Before his double-ligament tear that ended his 2008 season, Merriman was a one-man wrecking crew that attacked opposing quarterbacks, stirring up memories of Lawrence Taylor.
Despite not being able to play last year, he displayed tremendous courage and work ethic in the offseason, as he still tried to play in the Chargers’ first game, despite having very minimal lateral movement.
The thanks? The Chargers drafted his potential replacement, Larry English.
While English may indeed become a good player, as well as a key defender for San Diego, it won’t be before Merriman puts together another 10+ sack season.
He’s had a full year to recover, and is reportedly back to full speed, and is entering his contract season with a burgeoning chip on his shoulder.
He may not be a Charger past 2009, but his comeback could be one of the more impressive story-lines of the season.
1. Will the Defense Get Better?
Judging by their woeful rankings (31st against the pass), the Chargers clearly have a lot of work to due.
The fact is, they weren’t a great pass-rushing team without Merriman’s tenacity on the outside, however, and lost even more help on the line with the departure of defensive end, Igor Olshansky.
Their secondary should be back to full force with Antonio Cromartie and tackling machine Eric Weddle (safety) leading the way, but unless Merriman can make a full comeback, and rookie Larry English can have an impact, they could suffer another long season.
Just like on offense, the talent is there for this team to succeed. However, that won’t matter unless the right calls are made by the coaches.
All of San Diego’s issues could form together in a domino effect, and the most important piece could very well end up being Shawne Merriman.
If he can get back to his 2006 form, or even 2007, their pass rush would be ignited, and the pressure would be eased on their secondary.
Considering Merriman is in a contract year, there’s a strong possibility he and the Chargers enjoy a successful season.
Posted by Kevin Roberts Date: Thursday, September 3, 2009
Whether you’re a Jacksonville fan or an eager fantasy owner anticipating your first round move for your draft, Maurice Jones-Drew and his immediate future are in your sights.
At least, it should be.
Considering all the amazing things he’s done in his short career, all while splitting carries with the Jaguar legend Fred Taylor, it’s almost jaw-dropping.
Just look at his first year in the league. He paired with Taylor to form one of the league’s best rush attacks, as he fell less than 60 yards short of 1,000 rushing yards, and also dropped in 13 rushing touchdowns.
Not bad for a rookie.
Oh, and then there was that bone-crunching block he delivered on the huge Shawne Merriman. You know, this hit.
Needless to say, MJD launched himself into the NFL as a star. He was easily a household name in Florida, while putting up good numbers and enough highlight reel plays, that he was probably already well known throughout the states.
This just in: Jones-Drew is good; really good. And in 2009, he’ll have the backfield all to himself.
Good-bye Fred Taylor. Hello rushing title?
The truth is, last season, despite seeing MJD cross the goal line 12 times, the Jacksonville ground game suffered.
The offensive line was terrible with constantly nicked up blockers, as several starters were lost for a slew of games, and some for the season.
Despite shady blocking for both the rush and pass, MJD put up over 800 rush yards, the previously mentioned 12 scores, and a respectable 4.0 yards per carry.
The line has been restored—on paper, at least.
David Garrard should be more comfortable, both with his new receivers (Torry Holt, and two rookies) and his growing connection with tight end, Mercedes Lewis.
The best part, though, is that the leash is being taken off, and the real MJD will finally be released.
For the past three years, the Jaguars have had too much depth at running back (didn’t know that existed), and Jones-Drew was being held back.
And in a big way, we all were being held back from greatness.
This is Jones-Drew’s time, both as a fantasy weapon for your team, and as an icon for the league.
He has the strength and drive to run inside. If he can blow up a guy like Merriman on that play at the goal line, he can handle just about anyone inside.
He has the speed, quickness, and overall athleticism needed to succeed in the NFL, and is regarded as one of the top running backs in terms of physical shape.
He is a specimen worth taking notes on.
But these are things you already know. All you need to do is hit up NFL.com, rotoworld.com, or Yahoo.com to find MJD’s stats.
Just read interviews with his teammates to hear how confident they are in his abilities as the feature back. Even ask the departed Fred Taylor.
There isn’t a general “feeling” that this guy is as good as advertised. It’s common knowledge.
So, the next time someone balks at you selecting him third on a long list of deserving running backs, don’t feel so bad.
The next time someone gives you a hard time for ranking him over everyone else but Adrian Peterson, just laugh it off.
Because even if the numbers don’t prove your point, 2009 will.
MJD is just too good to not become one of the elite running backs this season. And mostly, it’s because he already is one.