The 2013 NFL Season will decide the fates of quite a few players, as usual, including that of Philip Rivers and his future as the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, after two disappointing seasons, taking the ‘elite’ label off of him.
The Chargers have missed the playoffs three consecutive years, and that led to a big overhaul of the coaching staff and the general manager, but part of the failure has been Rivers himself, turning the ball over 22 times last season, 15 on interceptions.
Part of the blame was the offensive line, allowing Rivers to be sacked 49 times. But it’s not all about the offensive linemen. Rivers and his seven-step-drop took too long to develop in a play, and since the departure of Vincent Jackson, the lateral passing game just hasn’t been working quite as it used to.
So Rivers, who’ll count $15 million against the salary cap in 2014, is on some sort of probation. No one is taking the starting spot away from him, but another season like last one (3606 yards, 26 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, sub-90 passer rating) might mean the Chargers won’t think his salary is worth the production anymore.
So what’s being done to rectify the situation? Besides the additions to the offensive line (King Dunlap, Max Starks, Chad Rinehart, Rich Ohrnberger and first round draft pick D.J. Fluker), the Chargers are expecting Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead to be major contributors. But the change in the offensive schemes seems to be the big difference.
The Chargers will be playing a lot more short-to-medium range passing game, and almost giving up on the play-action, knowing that their running game at this point isn’t something teams respect a whole lot.
In short, a lot more West-Coast like offense, with plenty of screens, crosses and most importantly quick releasing from Rivers to avoid letting the mediocre offensive line come under too much pressure for too long.
If that doesn’t work, and we’ll see another 8-8 or 7-9 season from San Diego, with Rivers not picking up his form and performance to the pre-2011 level, a chance at the most important position on the field might become somewhat of a reality.