It's still the off season, and the start of football is too far away, but that just means it's the perfect time to start analyzing and then reanalyzing every position group. Today, we'll start by looking at reasons for optimism about the wide receiver corps.
1. Danario Alexander will be on the team in Week 1
Last year, Alexander didn't play in a game for the Chargers until Week 8 at Cleveland. He didn't catch a pass until Week 9 versus Kansas City. He didn't score a touchdown until Week 10 at Tampa Bay. Despite his late start, Alexander still finished second on the team in receiving yards with 658, first in yards per reception at 17.8, and tied for first in receiving touchdowns with seven. This year, he'll be on the team competing for the #1 receiver position in training camp. If he can stay healthy, and last year's good health suggests that's a possibility, he could easily be a 1,000-yard receiver and could continue to be a scoring threat.
2. Whisenhunt's offense is a much better fit for Robert Meachem & Eddie Royal
The topic has been beaten to death here and elsewhere, but Meachem was an absolutely terrible fit for Norv Turner's offense last season. He was regularly asked to run routes he wasn't suited to and was rarely given opportunities that played to his strengths. Whisenhunt's liberal use of the stack formation will go a long way toward keeping smaller receivers like Meachem and Royal clean. Both are speedsters that create difficult matchups, and this is especially true if they can get a free release at the line of scrimmage. Royal, also, would likely benefit from the screen package.
3. Vincent Brown is back and healthy
The former San Diego State standout showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie campaign and was everyone's pick to be a breakout player in 2012. He was unfortunately sidelined with an injury during the preseason that kept him out all year. Brown doesn't have a history that suggests he's injury prone, so we can feel comfortable writing last year's setback off as a fluke. Brown has the tools to play on the outside or in the slot and has the kind of consistent, reliable hands that will likely make him a favorite target for Philip Rivers. We can reasonably count on big things from the third year player.
4. The drafting of Keenan Allen
Keenan Allen, himself, is a legitimate reason for optimism. He's an excellent route runner with good size, good hands and he attacks the ball. However, the reason I'm listing him is more about what he represents. The San Diego Chargers have excellent depth at wide receiver. Alexander, Meachem, Royal, Brown, Allen, and Malcom Floyd are all legitimate starting caliber players. Some will quibble with one or two of those names, but the Chargers are six quality players deep at the position assuming nobody else on the roster outperforms expectations. The problem for Whisenhunt and Rivers will be finding a way to keep all of their good players involved. That's a nice problem to have for a team that in the past has been lacking for quality players, period.
5. The Danny Woodhead signing
Hey! Danny Woodhead isn't a wide receiver. Congratulations and shut up. Woodhead brings an element that has been lacking since Darren Sproles left. He's a receiving threat out of the backfield that the defense absolutely has to account for on every play. Nobody is Sproles except Sproles. I'm not trying to suggest they're the same, but Woodhead is honestly about as close as you're going to get and was certainly the closest approximation available in free agency this off season. Accounting for Woodhead and (let's not get greedy but) a potentially healthy Antonio Gates will open up the receivers to make plays against single coverage. This year's Chargers offense will put more weapons on the field than we've seen in San Diego in a few years. The best part is that this makes each individual piece more dangerous because they can't be the lone focus of the defense.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at five reasons for pessimism, but for now let us bask in the glow of off season optimism. Let me know in the comments if I missed any other good reasons to feel good about the wide receivers on this year's club.