The occasion of the Chargers losing the most and probably last important game of the year seems a good time to review the state of the roster and to some extent the team as a whole. If you attended the game thread, you know I tried to will the team to victory with beer. I was unsuccessful. I did manage to consume a decent quantity of beer though, so please forgive any egregious factual errors on my part and just assume that I meant whatever sounds smartest to you. Anyway, this will probably look like a half-assed depth chart with too much commentary, but that’s not my goal. I’m not going to bother reviewing the backup QB situation, or debate how many WR vs DL are going to be on the 2013 roster. I'm going to try to discuss the various questions at each position. Read the drivel below, and feel free to mock my rambling in the comments. Not really though.
QB: Rivers is the guy. Sorry if that bothers you. If you're familiar with my beliefs about football you know that I consider long-term strategy a gamble. In this case, you're gambling that Rivers is who he used to be, not who he is with a shoddy line and poor supporting cast. (Interesting note: I don't gamble)
RB: Mathews. Brown, Battle, Brinkley, and some rookie will fill the rest.
FB: McClain is so, so done. I'd like to see Hester back so we could start getting short yardage again, but whatever. Just keep an extra RB.
WR: Floyd, Alexander, Brown, Meachem, Royal, Ajirotutu, Goodman. Am I missing anyone? It's an injury-prone group, but Rivers can succeed with these guys even if there is room for improvement. I'd like to see a big WR drafted, but I don't see where he would realistically fit. The top four probably aren't going anywhere. Alexander is an RFA and should be brought back. Royal and Goodman play special teams. Tutu doesn't do much but is a nice backup. All that is to say a move of significance wouldn't really surprise me, but I don't expect it.
TE: Really an interesting situation. Gates has slowed down, but isn't going anywhere (no, trades don't really happen in the NFL). Behind him are McMichael, Rosario, and Green. Rosario is the most immediately useful receiving TE, but he's a FA next year. McMichael is a considerably better blocker and has shown receiving ability when called upon to start. Green looks like a pure receiving project, and has just started to get playing time. Hopefully that will continue. My guess is Rosario walks, which is a shame. This is an area of future need, but not immediate.
LT: The biggest hole on the roster. Gaither is gone. Harris is a backup. One of the several OTs projected for the first round is drafted and expected to start.
LG: Green is fine if he isn't covering for the guy to his left. Trouble is, he's a FA next year. Could be re-signed and would be pretty cheap. Hadnot is a one-year guy. Troutman is probably the backup next year and will probably push for the starting role eventually. He has started practicing, and it's not impossible that he's good enough that they let Green walk. Given that Green isn't great, it's a safe risk.
C: Hardwick is awesome. He won't be there forever. Molk is the future here. He's already getting reps in the heavy package (as an extra body, not C), which I love. He's getting experience playing against NFL competition and seems to have the intelligence to play the position. I love the way this position is transitioning so far.
RT: I could write an entire article. Clary is the guy. Seriously, get over it. He does what he does and everyone on the line knows what to expect from him. Harris will probably get a chance to push for the job but Clary will win.
(Note that I'm ignoring the possibility of a coaching change that leads to a conversion to the 43; maybe I'll do an article on that at some point. Probably not.)
NT: Franklin is a FA. Thomas is the backup and future. Garay is gone. I'd like to see Franklin re-signed for a reasonable sum and Thomas mixed in even more than he has been. I would not be upset if they drafted somebody here.
DE: Liuget, Martin, Reyes. Martin's a FA and would be cheap insurance. He is not good, but could very conceivably be a late bloomer given his history and his physical skills. There aren't a lot of other options so he'll probably be kept at a low rate (sorry, SDB). Liuget is a monster. Reyes is a pass rusher, but has all he needs to develop into a proper 34 DE. This is another spot I could see a guy drafted.
ILB: Butler is awesome. Spikes is old. Williams is solid. Spikes is here through next year. Williams is a one-year guy but has played well and could come back. Mouton is a huge question mark because we don't really know much. He needs playing time, but the three guys ahead of him are solid NFL players who can't be benched just to give the kid a chance. I don't necessarily see any big changes here next year. Williams will be back or they'll bring in another vet for cheap. Mouton may actually take that role.
OLB: Ingram, Phillips, Johnson, Barnes, English. Oh man. What to do. Phillips is a FA. Keep him? I don't know. Probably. Depends on how much money he wants. He won't be very expensive, I think, so if possible he should be kept. Ingram will get more playing time over Johnson as time goes on, and Johnson could be cut any time and it wouldn't surprise me. His contract is back-loaded and he won't be here past next year I think. Barnes seems to have lost whatever he had but is a situational/backup guy anyway. English... I don't know. He seems to be caught in the logjam at the position with Phillips, Johnson, and Ingram all ahead on the depth chart. He's a solid run defender and can rush the passer, so I think he should be starting opposite Phillips if Ingram isn't going to get the job. But he's not getting reps. Maybe the team has given up on him. That would be a shame, as talent was never really his problem. I'm not a huge fan of Johnson, if you can't tell. I appreciate what he has done in the past, but I don't see much of it these days, on this team.
CB: Jammer, Cason, Wright, Gilchrist. Both starters are FAs next year. It's a bad situation to be in. I think Jammer comes back, in whatever role. He won't be getting a huge deal anywhere else and he's a career Charger. He may have another year at CB left in the tank, and if not he can get reps at SS. His ultimate value could be as mentor to the younger guys, particularly Gilchrist who plays a similar style. Speaking of, Gilchrist has been getting the reps at nickel and is doing well. His skills translate well there and he could actually be something of a weapon in the role (he would be so great at SS, just saying). He could learn to play outside but at the moment Wright is the better pure coverage corner, though he has a lot to learn. What all this means is that the Chargers have talented depth this year, and a big hole next year. You can't really draft a CB to play immediately ( I mean you can, but he'd better be a very high pick, or you'd better be ready to accept a ton of mental errors, i.e. TDs). I really think they should retain both Jammer and Cason at reasonable cost and begin the transition of Jammer to the safety/nickel role. Wright or Gilchrist can fill the CB and NB roles as necessary. This is a position of need. I expect a CB to be drafted. I expected that last year too, though.
SS: Bigby sucks at everything other than running into people at high speed. You have to get Taylor some time so you can see what you have there. Lynch is also a possibility but may be more of a FS type. I would also like to see Stuckey get some time on defense; he already occupies a roster spot, so you may as well try to maximize his potential (also more of a FS).
Obviously, coaching changes could change a lot of things about this team's makeup. It's also possible that we'll see things in the coming weeks that change my perceptions. I expect Norv to be fired, but I don't expect a huge personnel turnover largely because I think this roster has what it takes to win, with a couple glaring exceptions.