Last year's offense was the 24th best such unit on a per play basis. They were slightly better passing (16th overall) compared to rushing (28th), but they were decidedly below average. It's hard to say how predictive that will be of success this year with a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, new offensive philosophy and an almost entirely new offensive line. The optimistic Charger fan has to look at head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt as improvements over the previous regime. They are likely more flexible in their approach than Norv Turner was and, given that the offense lacks a dominating anything, it's going to take some flexibility to gear the offense to the strengths that are present.
Philip Rivers is likely still a top 10 quarterback if he can get even adequate protection from his offensive line. It's hard to imagine he'll see worse protection in 2013 than he did in 2012 and that's some cause of optimism. Also, don't forget that he may end up wearing gloves full time, which for whatever reasons seemed to help him last year. Maybe it's a mental thing, but we'll take what we can get. Charlie Whitehurst is just a guy and Chargers fans should hope he doesn't spend any amount of time on the field in high leverage situations for the Chargers this year.
There is still a chance we'll see another running back either taken late in the draft or picked up as an undrafted free agent after, but the 2013 backfield looks mostly set and it bears a strong resemblance to the 2012 backfield save one important difference. The addition of Danny Woodhead gives the Chargers a third down back that can actually strikes some semblance of fear into the hearts of the defense. Ronnie Brown was an effective player in that role last year, but he wasn't turning dump offs into big gains or otherwise creating something from nothing the way that Woodhead can and hopefully will. Ryan Mathews' chances of being as injured this year as he was last are, thankfully, very low. Broken clavicles are fluky injuries no matter how much we may want to attribute them to some personal flaw on Ryan's behalf.
Vincent Jackson is still gone and the Chargers still lack that superstar presence on the outside. Malcom Floyd still brings durability concerns, but when he's on the field he's a big play threat with very good hands that Philip Rivers trusts to be where he's supposed to be. That can't be understated. Danario Alexander was a dynamic playmaker in a partial season, but his durability concerns put Malcom's to shame. Also, he could still end up getting signed away as the Chargers placed the lowest tender on him this off season. Vincent Brown missed all of 2012, but will probably be a popular breakout candidate again this year. It's nearly impossible for Royal and Meachem to be less valuable this year than they were last, so yay?
Antonio Gates is another year older, but Ladarius Green has had another year to add bulk to his frame and to learn the finer points of playing tight end in the NFL. Free agent signing John Phillips is a quality blocker and has adequate hands. He should see a lot of the field this year.
LT: King Dunlap LG: Rich Ohrnberger C: Nick Hardwick RG: Chad Rinehart RT: Jeromey Clary
Backups: Colin Baxter, Michael Harris, Kevin Haslam, David Molk, Stephen Schilling, Johnnie Troutman
Goodness. That starting lineup (guessed about as it is) does not inspire much confidence Dunlap is a major upgrade over Michael Harris, though, and it's hard to imagine (maybe I lack imagination) anyone playing worse than Tyronne Green did at left guard. Well, at least we still have the draft next month. I think it's going to be important to get some talent added to this unit because yikes.
A large chunk of the coaching staff was shown the door, but John Pagano and his staff is mostly still intact. This isn't in spite of the defense being slightly below average last year. It's because slightly below average was almost certainly proof that Pagano was getting somewhere close to the best possible results out of his players. The front seven has some promising young players and the secondary still has Eric Weddle. The defense, if it can add a few players in the draft, can and probably should be the strength of the 2013 San Diego Chargers.
I count two starters and one legitimate backup for the defensive line. That's probably not going to get the job done. On the plus side, the two starters, Kendall Reyes and Corey Liuget, are worth getting excited about. Liuget was a flat out stud in 2012 and he's still getting better. Reyes made a relatively smooth transition into the NFL and we can expect improvement in his second season. Cam Thomas is a quality backup, but will probably be an uninspiring starter if that's how things shake out.
This unit had the illusion of depth in 2012, but now it lacks even that. Jarret Johnson is the only proven starter on the outside and he's not a pass rusher (nor is he getting any younger). Melvin Ingram has potential, but he'll need to be used creatively by defensive coordinator John Pagano to reach that potential. Larry English sure is still on the roster.
Donald Butler is already on his way to becoming a great player, but the Chargers don't have anyone worthy of starting next to him on the current roster. Jonas Mouton supposedly can't play the Mike position, though the sourcing on this claim is suspect. Andrew Gachkar is a special teams player, not a linebacker. Bront Bird sure knows how to get penalized. And I don't know who Phillip Dillard is. Anyone?
The cornerback situation seems like it could use some depth behind Cox, Wright and Gilchrist (the presumptive starters on the outside and at the nickel). Johnny Patrick is some depth, and I guess Gatson could make the team, but unless he's better than he was last year (and he could be) I hope not.
Unless Brandon Taylor is a remarkably fast healer, there is nobody to start next to Eric Weddle. The free safety spot is and has been settled for some time now thanks to the All Pro, Weddle, but strong safety remains a complete black hole of suck. Taylor could turn into a player, but losing out on the off season isn't helping him and a rookie year spent almost entirely on the bench was less than optimal for his development as well. Darrell Stuckey is an amazing special teams player, but he hasn't gotten on the field as a safety yet (not in any meaningful way at least) and it's looking like he never will. Depth is lacking and needed here.
The special teams specialists are all pretty solid, but the unit as a whole will be led by a new special teams coordinator in Kevin Spencer.