Every offseason, journalists write thousands of articles predicting what will happen in the upcoming season. There are many good predictions made, as many of these writers are incredibly knowledgeable about the sport.
However, football is full of unpredictable outcomes. Players constantly surprise the country with breakthrough seasons as well as disappoint us when they do not live up to their previous ones.
The San Diego Chargers are no exception to this trend. If we look at last season, we would say the biggest surprise was Danario Alexander’s success after joining the roster mid-season. We also would say we were incredibly disappointed with Phillip Rivers and pretty much the rest of the offense. This year, there will be a new surprise and a new disappointment.
Surprise: Corey Liuget
The 2011 first round pick for the Chargers, defensive end (DE) Corey Liuget, now enters his third season in the NFL. In his rookie season, Liuget recorded 19 combined tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes deflected, and 2 stuffs (tackles for a loss or no gain). Last season he became a starting DE in San Diego. As his playing time increased substantially, so did his stats. In that season he recorded 51 combined tackles, 7 sacks, 9 passes deflected, and 6 stuffs. These numbers don’t scream superstar, but they do calmly tell you that Liuget is a starting defensive end.
In the upcoming season, there is no reason why we shouldn’t see Corey Liuget take his game to the next level. He now has one more year of experience and should already be comfortable in the starting role. Dwight Freeney, now with the Chargers as well, has a long career of dominant DE work and could be a helpful mentor for the 23-year-old Liuget.
However, the main reason Liuget will be better this season is that he is simply becoming a better football player. He has reportedly lost 8 pounds this offseason, which should improve his mobility and endurance in upcoming games. Defensive line coach Don Johnson stated, “He definitely looks a lot more explosive.” A simple quote to say the least, but the message seems clear, Liuget is coming to play next season.
Disappointment: Injury Prone Players
Despite having a mediocre 2012 campaign, San Diego has a good-sized talent pool on their roster. The biggest problem for some of this talent is consistency, not consistency in on field play, but consistency in playing at all. Ryan Matthews, Danario Alexander, Antonio Gates, and Derek Cox, are four players who will either make a huge impact or disappoint fans with another injury.
Ryan Matthews has yet to play a full regular season in his 3-year career. In the games he does play in, he always has some sort of nagging injury that limits his performance. He has yet to have the breakout season that is long overdue. This season could be the one Chargers fans have been waiting for, or it could be just another broken collarbone.
Danario Alexander became an instant fan favorite last season by providing the Chargers with one (and the only) offensive threat last season. He also was not troubled with injuries during the year, which gives fans hope for the young receiver’s future. However, if Matthews’ chance of being hurt is a flip of a coin, then Alexander is the other side of that coin. Every year Alexander played for the Rams, he shared similar injury tendencies to Matthews, leading to his release from the team.
Antonio Gates is still considered one of the best tight ends in football, when healthy. In his career, Gates has only had two injury free seasons: 2003 and 2004. It has now become an expected occurrence for Gates to be listed as questionable come week 8 of the regular season.
Finally, new addition Derek Cox is expected to make huge improvements to the Chargers young and energetic defense. Cox has great athletic ability and is always capable of making big plays. However, in 2011 he was on the injured reserve due to knee problems and there is always a risk that these problems come back.
If healthy, the Chargers might make the playoffs as a wild card, but unfortunately, that if seems rather unlikely.