If you read any of the NFL preview magazines, listen to sports talk radio or watch any of the sports stations on television there is one common prediction for the Chargers: third-place in the AFC West.
The big concern among the pundits is the lack of talent and depth up and down the roster. Every team in the NFL loses players for the season but it seems the injury bug targeted the Chargers for failing to take advantage of their talented teams that dominated the division from 2004-2009.
With Eddie Royal (bruised lung and concussion) joining fellow receiver Malcom Floyd (strained knee) as the walking wounded on the sideline and rookie fifth-round cornerback Steve Williams out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, GM Tom Telesco and his staff have their work cut out for them.
As with every NFL franchise, the Chargers will be scanning the waiver wire over the next couple of weeks hoping to sign a player(s) who will undoubtedly get caught up in the numbers game and get cut from another team.
Starting off 0-2 in the preseason isn’t necessarily a prelude for the season, however, there is no doubt this team is going
to be a team of flux where players will be signed and released throughout the season – as the Colts did last year – depending on what the coaching staff needs.
As Vice President of Football Operations for the Indianapolis Colts last season, Telesco played a major role in turning around
a last place 2-14 team (2011) into an 11-5 team that played in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs (2012). In the span of one year, he had a hand in revamping a roster that fea- tured 36 new players from the end of 2011 – 19 of whom were signed during the regular season.
“From day one, when Tom (Telesco) and I got here, we’re going to do whatever we can to help the football team out, regardless of where the players are coming from,” McCoy stated in a press conference following Royal’s injury. “The next two weeks
become the – I hate to say – bad part of the business…
“It’s all part of the business. It’s not something I’m looking forward to but we’ve got to find the best 53 guys. Tom and I said, ‘Regardless of how you get them, you’ve got to find them.’ That’s our jobs as coaches, to get the football team the best opportunity to win so we’re always trying to improve it.”
Five questions with veteran OG Chad Rhinehart
AG: With the starters having played just a handful of series during the first two preseason games, how do you feel the offensive line has performed so far?
CR: I think we look inconsistent, to put it frankly. Sometimes we look really good and sometimes we look terrible like this last game (Bears) we give up three sacks in one quarter. We just need to improve and be consistent every play.
We need to be stickler with details on every play and having good technique on every play. I feel like when we play up to our capabilities we’re definitely doing well but it seems like on every play there’s one guy that’s a little off and you can’t have that on the offensive line (to be successful) – you need all five guys going together.
AG: You are entering your 6th season in the NFL, what do you feel you bring to the Chargers as one of the unrestricted free agents they signed over the offseason?
CR: I’d like to say that I play smart, tough and physical – so I try to bring that. In the run game – getting on guys and getting movement in the trenches and in the pass game getting consistency with my sets and just being there every play for the guys.
AG: I know that consistency is one of the keys for success along the offensive line. With Nick (Hardwick) being the only returning starter at the same position, how is the communication between you, Nick and Jeromey (Clary) going so far?
CR: There’s definitely good communication there. Fortunately here, Nick is always prepared for the games and he gets the calls out. I’ve been in places where the guards do a little more communicating, but here Nick gives the call and I base my calls on what he says and he’s just the leader out there with everything.
AG: Do you feel that gives you an advantage with one guy making the calls or do you prefer the other way where the guards have more input in the line calls?
CR: In a way it’s easier because you have to know who’s in charge that way I’m not giving a call and Nick’s giving a different call. You just need someone to set the call and base everything off of that – so really either way I’m comfortable with it. It’s just knowing which way you need to go so you don’t have any miscommunication.
AG: Earlier you said you said the O-Line looks inconsistent after two games, how important is this third preseason game for you guys up front?
CR: Yeah, this first game we played one series and this last game against the Bears I think we played five or six series but a couple of them weren’t very long. We need to have the mindset of playing the whole game, I think that’s where you want (the starters) to play the most. So I think we need to take it as a regular season game and be consistent with our play and be satisfied at the end.
Although most football fans find preseason games boring to watch, now is not the time to change the channel. Chargers fans will finally get a long look at how this team performs in a game-time setting because the third preseason game is usually when both teams leave their frontline players in the game longer in order to get them ready for the start of the regular season.
With many roster spots yet to be decided, you can bet the players considered ‘on the fence’ will be going 110-percent to impress not only the Chargers staff, but those other 31 football staffs looking finalize their rosters. So before you change the channel, remember two former studs who shined during the fourth quarters of the 1994 preseason — #37 Rodney Harrison and #83 Andre Coleman – two rookies who turned out to be all-time greats in Chargers history.