Why the San Diego Chargers Will Return to the Playoffs in 2014

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

After a surprising trip to the playoffs in 2013, here is why the Chargers can come back with another strong season and a trip to the playoffs.

Continuity

It is essential for teams who are rebuilding (or reloading, if you don't like that word) to keep their own talent. If you are constantly losing your players, then you have to spend valuable resources (draft picks and money) on players that you do not know as much about.  If you keep your key players and draft well, your team is going to be very strong in no time. In that regard, so far, so good for GM Tom Telesco. He found key crucial offensive contributors DJ Fluker and Keenan Allen, some defensive players that are still developing in Manti Te'o and Steve Williams. He also added undrafted rookie Jahleel Addae, who played a huge role in the nickle package on defense.

Following a 9-7 season with a lot young contributors, Telesco made it a point to keep the team intact. They lost underachieving NT Cam Thomas, but not much else. They locked up starters Donald Butler and Chad Rinehart, depth players Rich Ohrnberger and Seyi Ajirotutu, as well as special team stud Darrell Stuckey. A young team coming off of a playoff victory who didn't lose key players in free agency is one I want to root for.

Building on Strengths

The only major noise the Chargers mad in the offseason was  with the signing of running back Donald Brown. This was a puzzling move at the time, and I will be the first to admit I was hoping they would put the money into a cornerback instead.

However, thinking back to last season, how did the Chargers manage to beat the Broncos in prime time? They ran the ball hard, with Ryan Mathews collecting 127 yards on 29 carries. By the time they met again in the postseason, Mathews was worn down and missed a chunk of the game with an injury. The running game never got going and the Bolts fell behind with a lot of pressure on the defense. The signing of Brown will ensure that San Diego will not be left without a power running game to help out the defense, as well as Rivers. The drafting of running back Marion Grice and interior offensive lineman Chris Watt further demonstrates the Charger's strategy of building on their strengths.

Returning Stars

In week 12 of 2013, the starting outside linebackers for the Chargers were Reggie Walker and Tourek Williams. Let that sink in for a few seconds. The Chargers will get Dwight Freeney back, who was off to a tremendous start in his first season in San Diego. Melvin Ingram, who played well just seven months after recovering from a torn ACL, will have be completely recovered by the time the season rolls around. While depth is an issue for a lot of the roster, the drafting of Jerry Attaochu shows that the front office wants a lot of depth when it comes to pass rushers.

Another star who could make a huge impact for the team is Malcom Floyd. If he is close to 2013 form, he should secure the number two wideout spot to help out Keenan Allen and give the team the deep threat they lacked in 2013. Everything on Floyd's neck has been positive as of late, and his return will give a huge boost to the offense.

A couple of under the radar players coming back from injury are Mike Harris and Steve Williams. Harris followed a horrendous 2012 campaign in which he had no business starting with a solid start to 2014 before an ankle injury sidelined him for the year. He could be key to the offensive line if the oft-injured King Dunlap misses any time in 2014. Steve Williams was a fifth-round rookie who missed the entire regular season, but will bring some much needed depth and lots of speed to a secondary which lacked both last year.

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