Most NFL franchise can not escape the preseason without a major injury to a starter. Keeping all 24 of those guys healthy through four weeks of games and practices after a few months off is a monumental task. So, here's the question that I've been wondering about: Which Chargers player would most negatively affect the 2013 season if they were to get a major injury in the preseason?
Before his injury in May that will likely keep him out for the upcoming season, Melvin Ingram is a name that I would've considered as the most important Chargers player to remain healthy. Now that he's been temporarily replaced by Dwight Freeney, I imagine Freeney just replaces him in that respect.
The pass rush is very one-sided, with the team knowing that Jarret Johnson isn't going to contribute much in that respect and with Antwan Barnes being signed by the New York Jets, and there isn't much depth at the position. If Freeney goes down the way Ingram did, it wouldn't be surprising to see San Diego finish last in the league in sacks.
Unless your team employs Alex Smith, losing the starting Quarterback for a significant period of time is always going to be a big deal. In the case of the Chargers, who have Charlie Whitehurst and a few projects on the bench, losing Philip Rivers to injury would probably make for a lost season. That's not even touching on Rivers being the team leader and captain of the offense.
Call me crazy, but I think the Chargers' offense could survive without Ryan Mathews. I think they'd have to be creative, and a bit lucky, and rely heavily on a spread-passing attack....but it could be done. Take Danny Woodhead out of the equation and, well, you have a one-dimensional running attack filled with (what have been) one-dimensional players.
There's a reason Tom Telesco signed Woodhead. Actually, there's a few. One of the bigger ones is that he completely changes the face of the San Diego backfield. That makes him very valuable to what the Chargers are trying to do, and there's nobody on the roster that could replace him.
I don't know how to separate these two. They both need to be healthy for the majority of the 2013 season, because they are arguably the most important pieces of the defense. They are the first line of defense against the run and pass, and the second line of defense isn't nearly as good.
I honestly don't know who would replace these guys if either of them went down with an injury.
You know what? I was going to let you guys take a vote on this, but I'm going to make the decision for you. Eric Weddle is the player the Chargers can least afford to lose to injury this season.
Think about it. Weddle covers more ground than anyone else on the defense, he's going to be responsible for helping whoever the starting Cornerbacks are and he's going to have to spend a lot of his time helping whoever is playing Strong Safety. There are at least four positions and half of the defense riding on Eric Weddle. If he were to go down with a major injury in the preseason, the Chargers might end up going 0-16 in 2013.
Stay healthy, Eric.