Yesterday we tackled five reasons for optimism about the offense, but today we reenter the land of reality and look at five reasons for pessimism. Pessimism is inherently better than optimism because it's win-win. You either end up right or happy and you can't beat that. And so, without further ado, the list:
1. Last season Philip Rivers had the worst year of his career largely thanks to spending the majority of games fearing and/or running for his life. This coming season the Chargers will trot out an offensive line missing two of its best players from last season (and in team history) in Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill. And who will be replacing these former Pro Bowlers? The winner of a position battle between Tyronne Green and Brandyn Dombrowski will take Dielman's place and a guy un-ironically nicknamed Big Lazy (Jared Gaither) will be asked to protect Rivers' blind side. That should inspire more fear than optimism.
2. Vincent Jackson is gone. Jackson has been the most dynamic big play threat on this team for years now and there is no clear replacement on the team. Malcom Floyd had a very solid year when he managed to stay on the field, but that was with Jackson drawing opposing teams' top corner game in and game out. There's no guarantee Floyd can stay on the field or that he can succeed as the team's number one receiver if he does. Robert Meachem was the big get in free agency, but we're talking about a guy that was the sixth option in New Orleans. The Saints are one of the better offensive teams in years and they didn't think he deserved more looks than Lance Moore. As for Eddie Royal, if he has a good year as a receiver in 2012 it will be the first of his career.
3. Ryan Mathews still hasn't shown that he can hold onto the ball or stay on the field and now Mike Tolbert plays for Carolina. I know Mathews had a great year statistically in 2011, but can anyone say they really expect him to stay healthy and stop fumbling while being asked to carry more of the load in 2012?
4. The offense absolutely needs Antonio Gates to stay healthy to function at a high level. Antonio Gates hasn't been healthy for a whole season in years. In 2012, he will, in fact, be older (and more likely than not more injury prone) than he was in 2011.
5. The Chargers still haven't found a way to replace Darren Sproles. Tolbert did a respectable job of picking up the slack in pass protection, but he's gone now and Mathews still hasn't matured into a pass blocker. We can hope that he grows into that role over the off season, but that's all we have: hope. Royal will be asked to step into the role of being a threat to take short passes to the house, but he has never shown the ability to consistently do that. Sproles commanded double teams coming out of the backfield and still converted looks into big plays. Charger fans will be lucky if Royal is able to turn in the occasional big play while drawing single coverage.
Too much of the 2012 offense is built on hope. I hope Rivers returns to form. I hope Gaither doesn't turn back into a pumpkin. I hope other teams' castoffs can replace VJ and Sproles. I hope Gates and Mathews stay healthy. I hope Dombrowski/Green can manage not to embarrass themselves trying to replace one of the best offensive linemen to ever play in San Diego. Hope in one hand...
Anyway, let us just hope that I'm wrong.