2_San Diego Chargers2

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Chargers Special Teams Mike Scifres was good as a punter and Nick Novak was fine as a kicker, but there was never really anything special about the 2013 Chargers special teams. Yes, the punt squad limited opponents on Scifres’ 56 punts for a 43.2 yard average, with only 19 returned for 158 yards. But outside of that, there was nothing to write home about, which is why San Diego ranked 15th in special teams, according to Football Outsiders. Novak was inconsistent, making only 13 of 16 30-thru-39 yarders, while nailing a perfect 11-for-11 on anything over 40. By that same token, Novak was subpar on his kickoffs, as his fellow specialists were on their returns, with the kickoff return committee putting up subpar numbers as well (32 kickoff returns for 22.1 yard average; 22 punt returns for 7.5 yard average). Prediction You’ve got to like a team that went 9-7, had many of their standouts establish fine comeback (Rivers, Mathews, Gates, Woodhead, Royal) or breakout seasons (Allen, Green) and really lose nobody of consequence on offense or defense. Consensus everywhere has double-digit win predictions for San Diego. to its offense, time and time again, only to have Rivers & Co. bail the D out and move the ball at will against nearly every opponent. Yes, these Chargers had a decent pass rush from a wide variety of rushers (16 different Chargers contributed sacks). When broken down with advanced analytics, San Diego ranked 15th in adjusted sack rate, which takes into account down, distance, opponent and intentional grounding penalties. That aside, the rest of the defensive coordinator John Pagano’s D did very little from keeping opposing teams from moving the ball at will on a play-by-play basis. If the Chargers don’t make massive improvement in 2014, you’ll see mass changes in 2015, whether it be with third-year DC Pagano or many of his 11 returning starters. Free safety Eric Weddle, cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebacker Dwight Freeney are the only Chargers who grade out as good starters in Pro Football Focus’ analysis of this team. Denver showed the world you can get to the Super Bowl with a No. 1 offense and a mediocre defense, ranked 15th by Football Outsiders. But we also saw in 2013, a No. 2 offense combined with a No. 32 defense, according to Football Outsiders, will only get you 9-7, as the Chargers painfully found out. This D has to go from horrible to mediocre for the San Diego team to become great again. Defensive Player to Watch The underrated Weddle is no longer unsung, with the Madden 15 video game people rating the 29-year-old as the tied for third-best free safety in football (for what it’s worth, Madden uses Pro Football Focus for its ratings). The game gets right all of his characteristics too, as the NFL’s best tracking free safeties, who is known to lead his peers in tackles at his position. It’s a nice measure of respect for Weddle, in an otherwise frustrating season, which saw the Chargers grade out as the NFL’s worst defense in the advanced analytics forums. The Chargers have added ex-Chief Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers and first-round corner (25th pick overall) Jason Verrett to the secondary, which should allow Weddle’s teammates to take advantage of his good defensive quarterback skills as a communicative field general. SCOREBOARD 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH DIV - - - DIV REGULAR SEASON W-L 9-7 7-9 8-8 9-7 13-3 POINTS PER GAME 24.8 21.9 25.4 27.6 28.4 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 21.8 21.9 23.6 20.1 20.0 YARDS PER GAME 393.3 297.3 393.1 395.6 360.1 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 366.5 326.4 346.6 271.6 327.0 TURNOVERS 21 26 28 29 17 TAKEAWAYS 17 28 21 23 25 Key Additions: RB Donald Brown, QB Kellen Clemens, LB Kavell Conner, TE David Johnson Key Subtractions: None. Rookies: CB Jason Verrett, LB Jeremiah Attaochu, G Chris Watt, WR Tevin Reese, RB Marion Grice Antonio Gates CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT


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