HAMID KOLAHDOUZ. Sports Columnist.
These days the Chargers have found themselves in an odd position. The team is in a rebuilding mode and has a severe dearth of talent on the defensive side of the ball, yet the team is still finished in the top eight of the league, after losing in the divisional round to Denver. The coaching scheme, the play of Philip Rivers and his playmakers, not turning the ball over and a decent amount of luck just sneaked the Bolts into the playoffs.
The expectation for the Chargers from the organization and fans will be to win a championship, or at least get in the playoffs in the coming season. However, sneaking into the playoffs this year won’t be as easy. Last year, the Chargers played one of the league’s easiest schedules; next year, they will play one of the hardest and face stiff competition playing against the NFC West and, of course, in division. The Chargers can still realistically reach the post season if they avoid playing down to competition like they did this year against teams like Miami and Tennessee, winning all of their winnable games.
Due to the large amount of salary taken up by dead money owed to bad players no longer on the team, like Gaither, Meacham, and Cox, the Chargers will likely need to find solid starters for the defense in the draft, not free agency. Thankfully, the 2014 draft is expected to be the deepest in years and starters are expected to be found up into the middle rounds. The Chargers will have to draft starting-caliber players at the corner, nose tackle, and sub-package pass rusher. Starting-caliber players at these positions are likely far out of the Chargers price range in free agency and not much more than stop-gap players could be found, regardless.
On the offensive side of the ball, expect General Manager Tom Telesco to draft offensive linemen and add speed to the receiver position. The Chargers should have no trouble finding a quality right guard and a sizeable, speedy receiver to complement Keenan Allen.
If the Chargers are able to improve their already powerful balanced offense and field a serviceable defense, they, prove to be a very dangerous team next season.