Here are nine questions to help us preview the upcoming season for the 2013 San Diego Chargers.
Who is the easiest player on the roster to root for?
The obvious answer is Antonio Gates. The guy came out of nowhere to have a Hall of Fame career. On top of that, he's been a team leader for the better part of a decade and works as hard as anyone else in the league. It doesn't hurt that he's a genuinely good guy with a thousand watt smile, either.
Some people would choose Philip Rivers here, but I think a few take issue with his temperament during games. Eric Weddle would be a good choice, but you could argue that he does more showboating than Gates. Also, who doesn't like rooting for offensive players that score touchdowns?
If you could buy a ticket to just one game this year...
I'd buy a ticket to the season opener against the Houston Texans. It will be Mike McCoy's first game as a Head Coach and there will be tons of excitement. Plus, it'll serve as a great measurement for how far the Chargers are from competing with a playoff team. Also, there's a chance that the season could get awfully depressing in a hurry after Week 1.
Which veterans could be cut before the season due to salary cap issues?
Robert Meachem. In fact, I'll be surprised if he makes the team. Players in his situation, where it would cost more to cut him than to keep him, often keep their roster spot if they have had success in the past. However, considering he was brought in by the previous General Manager and Head Coach, I think it'll make more of a statement if the new guys cut him loose and free up cap space for next season.
Which second year player is going to make the biggest leap?
Vincent Brown, who is technically a third-year player but missed all of last season after breaking his ankle in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Not only will he get the opportunity to start, due to Danario Alexander's torn ACL, but he looks the part of a star in this offense when you watch him at practice.
What are the odds of your head coach getting fired?
0% chance of that happening because it's his first season. This isn't the Miami Dolphins and Mike McCoy is not Cam Cameron. Even if the team ends up going 0-16, McCoy and Telesco will be given a chance to build "their team" with "their guys".
What franchise or NFL records could be broken this season?
Antonio Gates, who is already the franchise leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns, could finish the season as the team's all-time leader in receiving yards. He is currently third, sitting about 880 yards behind Charlie Joiner and about 1,250 yards behind Lance Alworth.
Which rookies will see regular playing time this year?
D.J. Fluker will be the team's starting right tackle on day 1 and will remain in that spot until he gets injured or his contract expires. That's how good he has looked and how high the team is on him.
Despite missing most of the preseason, Manti Te'o is still expected to be the starting inside linebacker next to Donald Butler. Keenan Allen will see regular time as part of a wide receiver committee that will change regularly. Undrafted free agent Kwame Geathers looked to have locked down the backup nose tackle position, which will get him on the field regularly.
Predict the order of finish in your division.
1. Denver Broncos
2. San Diego Chargers
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Oakland Raiders
What do you expect your season-end record will be?
7-9. It all depends on injuries, because the 2013 San Diego Chargers are very talented but not very deep. The running game will be improved, and the passing game will improve as the season goes along. The offense, as a whole, should end up being less explosive but more consistent. The defense will probably be really good to start the season, but one or two injuries will knock them down to earth. It will take a miraculous bit of luck for this team to be as healthy as it needs to be to compete with the Broncos in the AFC West.