If you'd told me during the off season that it would be more difficult to come up with reasons to feel good about the offense than the defense at this point in the season I wouldn't have believed it, but here we are. Through six games, the Chargers have been a bottom–10 offense in the NFL. However, there are reasons for optimism and it's worth focusing on those as well as the failings.
1. Malcom Floyd is one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Floyd was statistically great last year, but people doubted whether or not he could continue to produce at the rate he did in 2011 while drawing opposing teams' top corners. I think it's safe to say the doubters can go ahead and start in on their crow now. Malcom is the top wide receiver in the AFC by DYAR (3rd in the NFL) and is second in DVOA (3rd in the NFL). 88% of his catches have gone for 1st downs and he is by far Rivers' most reliable receiving option this year. With the rest of the team's receivers unable to do much this year, Floyd is still consistently coming up with the big catch when called upon to do so.
2. The offensive line is very solid when Jared Gaither is healthy.
Nick Hardwick is a seasoned veteran at Center and is as reliable as ever. Louis Vasquez has become one of the best guards in the NFL. His ability to pass block, in particular, is outstanding (makes sense since he played at Texas Tech, I suppose). Jeromey Clary isn't an All Pro by any stretch of the imagination, but his pass blocking has shown clear improvement and he's actually an asset in the running game. Tyronne Green had an ugly start to the season, but actually looks like a professional when he's working with Jared Gaither rather than undrafted free agent rookie Mike Harris. There's a huge drop off from Gaither (arguably the best lineman on the team) to Harris (by far the least effective lineman to get snaps this year).
Good news: Jared Gaither should be healthy enough to play at Cleveland.
3. Philip Rivers bounced back after a similarly bad start last year.
Through six games in 2011, Rivers played exceedingly poorly in three, about average in one and well in two. His struggles this year have also been highs mixed with lows; the issue has been one of consistency.
In 2011, he managed to turn it around and play lights out over the second half of the season. Overall he was still a top 10 QB for the year in spite of the slow start. In 2012, he's matched the slow start (some would say he's outdone himself, really). The precedent for randomly turning it around in the second half is there, though.
He can't get worse. Can he?
4. Ryan Mathews is insanely good when he's not fumbling.
That's even better news than it sounded in the offseason because he really appears to have bought into protecting the ball on every carry. Does that mean no more fumbles? Of course not, even BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumbled the ball this year, but it does mean that Mathews can secure the ball well enough to be great.
Last year, even without getting his fumbling under control, Mathews was one of the best in the NFL. He looks, if anything, even better than last year at carrying the ball. He has shown the flashes of being a player that would justify what the Chargers spent to get him and he's done it over long enough periods that it's reasonable to expect that he'll continue to do it. Those are strong reasons for optimism if Norv Turner will just call Mathews' number more often.
5. Vincent Brown was primed for a big year before he was injured.
Everyone and their brother were predicting a huge year for the second–year wide receiver out of San Diego State. During the preseason, those predictions started looking even more likely as Brown at times looked like the best receiver on the field. Nobody honestly thinks he's better than Malcom Floyd or Antonio Gates, but at this point I think we're all just about ready to believe he's better than Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal or Richard Goodman. That's not just wishful thinking, either. Brown was better as a rookie than any of those guys have been this year (better than Royal or Goodman have ever been, in fact). The good news here is that Brown is eligible to come off Injured Reserve and will do so once he's ready to play, which if we're lucky will bee sooner than later.
So, I have to say, it was difficult to come up with five whole reasons to be optimistic, but I feel better after doing so.