There have been a multitude of injuries thus far into the preseason. These injuries are deeply going to effect how the final 53-man roster shakes out. These injuries will without a doubt have an effect on the entire season as a whole, considering the quality of the players lost, like Melvin Ingram, Danario Alexander, etc. Who steps up, if anyone, determines what kind of season the Bolts will have. If people fill in well and produce, good things will happen. If nobody steps up, this season will be long and treacherous. Here's how I think things will shake out:
-Philip Rivers: Thus far in the preseason, he has had mixed results. His first game was stellar, but his game against Chicago, not so much. Regardless of what people say, he'll have two season to prove himself to the new regime.
-Charlie Whitehurst: He also has had mixed results, but he is experienced, and that matters. Against the Bears, he played very well, but against Seattle, he looked quite dreadful. When he has had protection, he has made plays.
-Brad Sorensen: He has played tremendously. He has great arm strength, and can make all the throws. He hasn't quite done enough to unseat Charlie, but things COULD change in the final two games. I think he has played his way onto the roster, but he will be third string this season.
-Ryan Mathews: Without a doubt, he has pleasantly surprised everybody so far. He has been running with power and has been very decisive. He is playing like the first round talent he was supposed to be from day one. He hasn't been going down on first contact, and has gotten yards after contact on the majority of his runs. If this play continues, Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense will have a much easier time moving the ball.
-Danny Woodhead: He hasn't played yet, but he will make plenty of plays this year, running, catching, and even returning the ball on special teams. He, in my opinion, is a BETTER version of Darren Sproles. He is faster, running a 4.33 in the 40 yard dash. Sproles ran a 4.48. It may not seem like much, but football is a game of inches, and Woodhead can slip by defenders better. I expect a very solid season from Danny.
-Ronnie Brown: He hasn't played very much this preseason, but he has a good connection with Philip Rivers in the passing game, as he finished second on the teams in reception a year ago, with 49 catches. He'll be battling for playing time, though.
-Fozzy Whittaker: He leads the Chargers in all rushing categories through two games, and has played remarkably well. He has earned a spot on this team in my opinion. He will have a similar role to Ronnie Brown.
-Le'Ron McClain: His numbers weren't the best, but he can block decently and when called upon, can do a little of everything. He's even playing special teams. He's a better option at fullback than "Little Gronk".
Receivers and Tight Ends:
-Malcom Floyd: He is hurt as of now, but should be ready for Houston come week one. He hasn't given any reason to not make this team. He was the leading receiver a year ago, and there isn't any reason as to why he couldn't do it again this year. His numbers have progressively gotten better year after year.
-Vincent Brown: He is going to be relied upon heavily to make plays this year. He's showcased talent when he's been on the field, and is a viable number two option. If he has a big year, the Chargers will be in a good place.
-Eddie Royal: He's a solid option at the slot position when he is healthy, and he should be returning kicks instead of Richard Goodman, who has failed miserably at his only job through two games. With this new up-tempo system, Royals numbers should improve.
-Keenan Allen: He's a big target for Philip Rivers, at 6'2", and has all of the skills. Charlie Casserly of NFL Network compared Allen to Reggie Wayne when going through the drafting process. That isn't a bad comparison if you ask me. I'm not expecting gaudy numbers from him, but he should do just fine.
-Mike Willie: He had a two touchdown game against the Bears, and showed he has durability, after getting leveled by rookie linebacker Jon Bostic. That should bode well for him when it comes time to trim down the roster.
-Robert Meachem: He had a good reception last week. That should help him build confidence. I think that is what he is lacking. This is a perfect system for him to excel, but his confidence must be rubble after the abysmal numbers he put up last year. His contract is likely the only thing keeping him here, though.
-Antonio Gates: I think Antonio has plenty left in the tank. If he stays healthy, I honestly think he is a top five tight end in this league. He still has the hands, and shows just enough burst to get open when he needs to. He may only have a few years left, but he is still great to me.
-John Phillips: A run blocking specialist, Phillips has underrated hands. While he will mainly be asked to open holes for Ryan Mathews, he is an underrated threat on third downs.
-Ladarius Green: I actually thought he may be on the roster bubble after hauling in only 4 passes last year, but his play so far this preseason has shut all speculation of that down. He's tied with Mike Willie for the most touchdowns for the Chargers through two games, and has proven himself to be a red zone threat.
-D.J. Fluker: His run blocking has been out of this world. He finishes every play and provides passion and talent for this group. Though he got beat in the Chicago game, he is an adequate pass blocker, and he'll only get better with time. I think Tom Telesco found a keeper with the 11th pick.
-King Dunlap: His play hasn't been stellar, but he's outplayed Max Starks for the starting gig at left tackle. He has size, at 6'9", and is nimble for being a large as he is. As the season progresses, I think the line as a whole will gel together.
-Nick Hardwick: The only returning starter on the offensive line, he blocks well and does not have to worry about being overtaken for his position.
-Max Starks: Although he hasn't played all that well, the offensive line needs depth, and there really isn't anything better available on the market.
-Steve Schilling: he hasn't played himself out of a roster spot yet.
-Chad Rinehart: He plays well in both the running and passing game, and he is a projected starter at guard.
-Nick Becton: He has played well when he has been on the field, and is a better option than Mike Harris to protect Rivers when called upon.
-Jeromey Clary: He'll be starting at the guard spot opposite Chad Rinehart. I think Clary will play much better at guard than tackle.
-David Molk: Molk will learn under Hardwick and see some time this season as a reserve.
-Corey Liuget: A Pro Bowl snub a year ago, Liuget has the potential to be a star in the NFL. So far this preseason, he's made play after play. He had a sack and a tackle for a loss against the Bears. Let's hope his shoulder injury isn't serious, because we all saw what happened when he left the game.
-Kendall Reyes: He also has the talent to be a star, and if he continues to improve, he could help this defense become elite.
-Cam Thomas: Cam has the talent to play at a high level, it's just a matter of if he will develop into the NT that the Chargers need. He plays both the run and the pass well, and if he blossoms, the Chargers could boast one of the best defensive lines in the entire league.
-Kwame Geathers: Kwame has been efficient with his playing time, and has earned the reserve spot behind Thomas.
-Jarius Wynn: Had a sack last week, and will back up Liuget and Reyes.
-Jamarkus McFarland: Made plays last week, and adds needed depth along the line.
-Donald Butler: Another Pro Bowl snub from last year, Butler is an all around great player. He has great instincts and makes plays everywhere. Butler can possibly elevate into an upper echelon linebacker this year with another solid season.
-Manti Te'o: Paired with Donald Butler, Te'o gives the Chargers a formidable duo at inside linebacker. He can help this unit with his leadership and instincts, and is my sleeper candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, if you could call him a "sleeper".
-D.J. Smith: He's played solid defense the last couple of weeks, and will have his opportunity as a backup.
-Bront Bird: Bird started in place of the injured Manti Te'o and didn't make any fatal errors. The fact that he held his own against first team talent proves he should be on this team.
-Jarret Johnson: Johnson has played explosive defense so far this preseason, and he made life hell for Jay Cutler last week. He is a great run stopper, but so far has shown the ability to rush the passer.
-Dwight Freeney: Although he hasn't recorded a sack as a Charger, Dwight has undoubtedly made his presence known in both games when he's been on the field. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and is showing why thus far.
-Larry English: English is on his last legs, to say the least. He hasn't been able to stay on the field. It sure makes me upset to think about the fact that A.J. Smith could have drafted Clay Matthews, Percy Harvin, or Jeremy Maclin instead.
-Tourek Williams: He has pass rushing ability, but is trying to transition from a college DE to NFL OLB. His numbers won't be eye popping, but he has a chance to learn from the best.
-Thomas Keiser: Hasn't made the fatal error and will provide OLB depth. Can also put his hand in the dirt on a four man front.
-Derek Cox: Has all the talent in the world. Has tremendous size and will be a sure thing to start this season.
-Shareece Wright: Wright was on pace to have a solid season, but an injury on the opening kick of the season hampered him and he just wasn't able to bounce back. Shareece has talent, and we'll see if he's worthy of being a starter once we're playing meaningful games.
-William Middleton: Is going to get his spot in place of injured Steve Williams. Middleton can play in the nickle spot and play on special teams.
-Johnny Patrick: Is probably going to be the third corner this season, playing the slot.
-Eric Weddle: The third of three of San Diego's defenders to be snubbed of the Pro Bowl. Weddle was also, to my shock and disbelief, left out of the Top 100 Players list. He is in my opinion the best free safety in the league. Yes, Ed Reed is great and all, but Weddle is superior in the run game, and he has ball skills. He is a tackling machine and I expect him to show that he is here to stay as a top player.
-Marcus Gilchrist: He is making the transition to safety, where he spent some time at Clemson. He will battle Brandon Taylor for the starting job once Taylor is 100%. Gilchrist excels in the return game, as he proved as a Tiger in Clemson.
-Brandon Taylor: He has plenty of talent, and can contribute a lot when he returns to play. Brandon will compete with Gilchrist for the starting gig at strong safety.
-Jahleel Addae: Addae has played himself into a roster spot. He excelled at training camp, and has been in the right spots when he is on the field. He's doing his job, and has really impressed overall.
-Darrell Stuckey: He makes his plays as a special teams ace. He has some areas he needs to improve on defensively, but he'll squeak onto the 53 man roster.
-Mike Scifres: One of the best at what he does, I just can't get his performance against Indianapolis in the playoffs a few years back out of my head. This guy isn't human.
-Nick Novak: Not my favorite kicker, but he'll have to do, I guess.
-Mike Windt: His job will be long snapper. Nothing else I can really say about him.
On the Bubble:
-Brandon Moore: He hasn't made enough plays to unseat McFarland, but a couple of solid performances to close out the preseason, you never know, he could easily make the squad.
-Dan DePalma: He's been making a few plays, but he's also had some drops.
-Marcus Cromartie: He has talent and size, but the fact that Gilchrist is a hybrid CB-SS means he could very well leave San Diego jobless.
-Edwin Baker: Finally showed some burst last week, but it very well may be too late for him, especially with Fozzy Whittaker making the plays he's been making.
-Johnnie Troutman: Essentially entering his rookie season, Troutman just hasn't looked comfortable, and has made his share of mistakes in the first two games. He still has time to prove himself, though.
-Seyi Ajirotutu: He just signed, but if the other receivers keep improving, he may just be the odd man out in San Diego.
-Sean Cattouse:He's been all over the field, but the safety position is crowded. He'll have to keep improving if he wants to push Addae for his roster spot.
-Luke Tasker: Son of Bills great Steve Tasker, Luke will make this team if he can be even half the special teams wizard his dad was.
Must-Add Practice Squad Players:
-Dan DePalma: Has talent, just needs to develop some more. With how injuries have been shaking out, keeping him around may be a very smart move.
-Johnnie Troutman: If he doesn't make the roster, he should be kept around just in case the injury bug starts sweeping the line again.
-Philip Rivers: The obvious choice, I don't think Rivers will put up the 4,700+ yards and 34+ touchdown he did a few years ago, but I think he'll play plenty better, especially if Ryan Mathews stays healthy and gets going. My prediction: 3,700 yards with 29 touchdowns. His numbers may not be huge, but he'll be more efficient in this new system.
-Ryan Mathews: If you would have asked me this question three weeks ago, I probably would have said Ronnie Brown, but the way Mathews has played has been phenomenal. If he stays healthy, he could easily have his best season yet. My prediction: 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns (IF he stays healthy).
-Antonio Gates: There is a reason why he and Philip Rivers have the all-time record for most touchdown passes from QB to TE, the chemistry. It's like he and Philip think with one mind. He'll be the leading receiver only if he stays healthy. My prediction: 900 yards and 10 TD. If he gets hurt, I think Vincent Brown will be the leading receiver.
-Manti Te'o: This seems like the obvious pick, and it seems like this is what everybody thinks. When he gets 100% healthy, and get fully acclimated to the tempo and speed of the NFL, he'll dominate. His instincts are other-worldly, and his zone coverage skills are second to few when talking about inside linebackers. With the big men up front opening holes, and teams likely game-planning for Butler more, he'll kind of be under the radar when it comes to who opposing teams prepare for. My prediction: 120 tackles, 2 INT.
-Donald Butler: Teams will be weary of throwing in the direction of Eric Weddle, and Derek Cox doesn't intercept too many passes, but Butler excels in coverage, and he showed that last week. Not only is Butler good at tracking the ball, he knows what to do once he gets his hands on the ball. My prediction: 5 INT, with one for a TD.
-Eddie Royal: He showed Charger fans first hand what he is capable of on special teams a couple years ago on national television, with a punt return and a kick return for touchdowns in the same game. He is speedy and knows how to read his blocks. My prediction: 1 kick return TD. I won't give him a punt return TD just yet, I want to see what Mike McCoy has up his sleeves (He was quoted as saying he's not going to show much this preseason when it comes to special teams, because he has something planned for the opener against the Texans).
-Week 1: Houston is super stacked and is a contender for the Lombardi Trophy. San Diego, despite what they are saying, are in a rebuilding phase of sorts. I think It will be a fun game to watch, but in the end, the Texans just have too much firepower on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: 35-28 Texans
-Week 2: The Eagles' defense is suspect, because they are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4. It's an early game, so Philly probably won't be at their best defensively. That opens up room for both the running game and passing game to get going, and I think the Chargers will move the ball at will. The Bolts defense played very well against Russell Wilson, and they should play Michael Vick just as well, if not better, considering the Seahawks' offensive line is far better than the Eagle's.
Prediction: 31-17 Chargers.
-Week 3: The Titan's offensive line is much improved, but they really haven't gotten much better elsewhere. It is unknown if Jake Locker is Tennessee's franchise quarterback. The addition of Bernard Pollard gives the Titans some protection on the back side of the defense. I think the Chargers' defense will play very well, and they will hold CJ2K to minimal yardage.
Prediction: 25-14 Chargers.
-Week 4: Dallas has been playing pretty well thus far in the preseason. Monte Kiffin has their defense flying, and Dez Bryant is playing excellently. Travis Frederick is showing why Jerry Jones took him in the first round. I think if the Chargers are going to win this game, they need to stop Demarco Murray. If they don't, then it will be a long day.
Prediction: 24-21 Cowboys.
-Week 5: I'm not a big fan of Matt Flynn, and Run-DMC can't stay healthy. There are question marks at TE, and the offensive line is suspect. I think the Raiders are in a rebuilding phase, and they aren't in a place to really compete. I doubt the additions on defense will not really be all that beneficial to Oakland. Charles Woodson is in his final stages, and the only other proven commodity in Tyvon Branch. I think the Chargers run the ball at will here.
Prediction: 31-10 Chargers.
-Week 6: Andrew Luck and Company caught many teams by surprise last year, and they, in my opinion, overachieved. The offensive line isn't all that great either. Defensively, I don't know what they'll bring to the table. San Diego has their best ever pass rusher in Freeney, and Robert Mathis is their only proven pass rusher. I think this one is a battle, but I think Rivers will get the best of Luck this time around.
-Week 7: Jacksonville is a team in disarray, and really only have MJD as their offense. Blaine Gabbert is a bust, and Justin Blackmon has been suspended for the first four games, so he won't be in any kind of groove. Defensively, this team really doesn't have any cornerstones. I think San Diego has a complete game against arguably the worst team in football.
Prediction: 35-3 Chargers.
-Week 8: BYE week.
-Week 9: Washington is one of the teams on the rise in the league. The have the second leading rusher in football with Alfred Morris, and one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league with RG III. The Redskins have Brian Orakpo back, and their defense will be stout this year. I think the Chargers play well, but they just won't keep up with Washington.
Prediction: 28-17 Redskins.
-Week 10: The Chargers have a bad taste in their mouth after the monumental collapse they had last time Denver came to town. I think Peyton Manning will play well again, but defensively, there are questions. Elvis Dumervil is a Raven, and Von Miller will likely miss the first 6 games. Miller will probably take a while to get going, and the secondary isn't that great behind Champ Bailey. I think the Chargers redeem themselves in a close one.
Prediction: 31-28 Chargers.
-Week 11: With Dustin Keller gone for the year in Miami, the Chargers defense can focus more on Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller. The Dolphins defense is going to be solid this season. San Diego doesn't do the best when it comes to long road trips with a good team. I think this will be a defensive battle with a low score outcome.
Prediction: 17-14 Chargers.
-Week 12: Kansas City was probably the most talented 2-14 team ever last year. Andy Reid is one hell of a football coach, and Alex Smith knows how to protect the ball. I think the Chiefs biggest acquisitions are the CB's they signed. Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson are extremely talented cornerbacks, add the to a group that already has Brandon Flowers, and I think you have one of the best secondary's in the game.
Prediction: 24-21 Chiefs.
-Week 13: Many consider the Bengals the favorite to win the AFC North. They are going to have a great offense, as they drafted likely the best all-around back available back in April. They also drafted the best TE available in Tyler Eifert. Add the new weapons to the likes of A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, and Mohammed Sanu, and they are set to be potent. Defensively, the have the best some of the best pass rushers out there, and their secondary is no joke, either. I think Cincy has too much for San Diego to gameplan for, and the Bengals pull it out.
Prediction: 28-10 Bengals.
-Week 14: New York has a talented roster, no doubt. They have a test in San Diego, though. They'll have their hands full with the Chargers though, with Osi Umenyiora gone, the Giants are moving Mathias Kiwanuka to DE, and Jason Pierre-Paul isn't healthy, and didn't have the best 2012 campaign. I think The Chargers will attack the secondary of New York and Malcom Floyd and company will make plays.
Prediction: 30-21 Chargers.
-Week 15: The Chargers are going to have their hands full with Denver. I think the Broncos get revenge, and put together a complete game at Mile High.
Prediction: 35-20 Broncos.
-Week 16: Oakland is coming to town, and the Chargers are aching for another win. The Raiders put together an awful game, while the Chargers just unload on them. The Chargers play one of their best games of the year and get back into the win column.
Prediction: 42-13 Chargers.
-Week 17: San Diego finishes the regular season at home against Kansas City, who outlasted them a few weeks prior. The Chargers embrace the home crowd, and they get revenge on the Chiefs to close out the regular season on a 2 game winning streak.
Prediction:: 17-3 Chargers.
So, the Chargers finish a solid 10-6 season, and make the playoffs as a Wild Card Team. Depending on who the Chargers face, they may or may not win a playoff game. I see them facing Cincinnati in the Wild Card round, and them actually getting the best of Andy Dalton, who hasn't won a playoff game in his two prior seasons.
Prediction: 21-17 Chargers.
They'll move on to face the number two seeded Patriots, but Tom Brady knows how to win in the post season, and the Patriots bounce the Chargers.
Prediction: 28-14 Patriots.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.