Less than a week away from meaningful football, we as fans no longer need to have meaningless discussions such as "Whitehurst over Sorensen" or "D.J. Smith shouldn't have been cut for Reggie Walker" or the famous "Fozzy Whittaker should make this roster." If all goes as well, none of our preseason arguments, or the players mentioned above, should see the field for any kind of meaningful snaps.
Now that it's officially game week, the staff at BFTB has decided to put together some predictions as to what we think will happen for the San Diego Chargers in the upcoming season. All these predictions will include normal injury luck. We'll do four predictions, including what we think the final record of the Chargers will be, where the offense will rank, where the defense will rank, and who will be the breakout player.
With a roster so young, there are several candidates for a breakout player for the Chargers. There's three new starting members in the secondary, there will be either a rookie or a 24-year-old undrafted free agent starting at inside linebacker, two very young defensive ends, and possibly 3three pass catchers who will be asked to contribute a lot throughout the year. Let's get to who everyone thinks will break out, I'll start it off.
From the moment he was drafted out of USC two years ago, I always felts like he could be special, and once last year when he came in for Quentin Jammer, I knew Shareece Wright was a special talent. I loved what I saw from him then, and this preseason he's already shown a combination of awareness/physicality/aggressiveness to me that both starting corners last year didn't have. Some questioned his speed, but he turned and ran with Patrick Peterson (4.33 40-yard dash) this preseason and that should've silenced any doubters on his speed.
Wright has shown he's not only a willing tackler, but a good open field tackler. He also is not allowing yards after the catch (2.9 YAC in preseason) which as you know, was another big issue the corners had last year. A lot will be asked from Wright this year, and he'll be targeted early and often as a first year starter, but I think he's more than capable of handling himself. In fact, to make this an even more bold prediction, I'm expecting Wright to lead the team in interceptions.
I think he'll have a year much like Antoine Cason did his first year starting in 2010, giving up a few touchdowns, but also making his fair share of plays, being aggressive, breaking up passes, and allowing a low completion percentage his way. There's a lot to like when it comes to Wright.
Keenan Allen. Different from Norv Turner's offense, this new passing game seems like it's meant to get receivers the ball in space and let them pick up yards after the catch. Allen, in my opinion, is the most talented receiver on this roster with the ball in his hands. I think he'll quickly become a favorite option of Philip Rivers on third down, where he can find the soft spot in front of the first down marker and run for the conversion.
Ladarius Green. Gates is slowing down and has been injury prone, and Green had a terrific preseason. It is likely that Green will at some point this season find himself receiving significant playing time, and I think he will shine when given that opportunity.
Kendall Reyes. Reyes really progressed as a rookie, tallying 23 quarterback pressures in the second half of the season compared to 10 in the first half(Pro Football Focus.) He still has some work to do on run defense but he is extremely athletic for a 300 pound man and is already having success as a pass rusher. He will have plenty of opportunity to break out playing opposite Corey Liuget and with little depth behind him.
Ladarius Green. Can't count on Gates being healthy for 16 games anymore, if Gates misses a few snaps then Green steps in and makes a name for himself. Green could take snaps and keep Gates (and the offense) fresh while providing a new weapon for Whisenhunt to create mismatches.
Ryan Mathews. Yes, I said Ryan Mathews. While you pick your collective jaws off the floor, this is with the caveat that I still often disagree with the decisions he makes on the field(stop jumping over every pile, you moron!) Fact of the matter is that Ryan looks more comfortable than ever. In fact, against the Cardinals, we may have seen the first juke move of Ryan's career. As he continues to get more looks, he only stands to get better.
Important: Ryan claimed that camps under Norv were "complacent"-well, it seems that the complacency may have been more of a personal problem, but you can't question the increase in production under the new staff. With another caveat for his (always dubious) health, I think Ryan is primed for a big year. In fact, I think Ryan's one of the 3 most important players on this roster-there's no one else that approximating the big tease his potential + experience represents. Running behind Fluker and Clary and staying fresh by rotating with Woodhead, I can see Ryan gaining 1200+ yards.
I also agree with Ryan Mathews. The offensive line still looks like it will struggle to protect Rivers, so I feel like the ground game will have to be a reliable source of offense. So far Mathews has looked great as a runner and feel like two of his 18 or so carries a game will be big chunks of 10 or more yards. He could easily be a top ten back this year and if everything goes right, top five. As much as I’d like to pick a receiver, the lack of production from all but Malcom Floyd has me doubtful any one of them will truly have a breakout year. That’s why I’m sticking to Mathews. He’s teased us over and over in regards to his potential. This is the year he puts it all together.
Vincent Brown is my choice. I have watched him regularly since he was an Aztec and thought he had a great NFL ready skill set. Fearless over the middle, his YAC potential will get full run in this quick hitting offense. We have all gotten a little taste of the hands, speed, ability to separate, and route running so far. I see a 1,100 yard, 80 reception, 10 TD season from VB.
Partially responding to my fellow BFTB staff writers, I can also make the case for Mathews (I really don't see his YPC ever being much more than middle to high 3.5's), Green (loved what I saw of him in the preseason, but not a breakout player for the Chargers unless Gates goes down) and Brown. Ultimately, I see Vincent Brown as the breakout Chargers player of the year. We all know how his first two years here in San Diego were beset by injuries. However, with all that's transpired for the Chargers at wide receiver, and Brown being the route runner he is, I see Brown immediately making a huge contribution as we come from behind. That and the lack of relevant tape for opponents to plan from has Vincent Brown as my Chargers breakout player of the year.
Vincent Brown He was showing signs of promise in 2011 when he caught 19 passes, 17 of which were good for first downs. The collective "we" were already expecting big things from him heading into the 2012 season, until he broke his ankle in the preseason. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise seeing as he didn't have to get too comfortable in Norv Turner's offense. His style of play is more conducive to picking up yards than Malcom Floyd's patented "jump up for the ball then fall down" style of play. If Rivers can consistently hit Brown in stride, I expect big things from Vincent Brown this year.
Impossible to predict
It happens every year, someone we don't see breaking onto the scene having a huge year, whether it's last years duo that dominated in Liuget and Danario Alexander.
In 2011 we saw Jared Gaither dominate and Antwan Barnes burst on with an 11 sack season.
2010 gave us Antonio Garay and Eric Weddle thrusting himself into the upper echelon of safeties.
2009 the Chargers lost Nick Hardwick half way through week 1, and Scott Mruczkowski comes along and was the best lineman on the team for the next 15 weeks.
Back in 2008 if you told me LaDainain Tomlinson would average under 4 yards a carry I would have slapped you, then had Richard ban you. That year was also time I've seen 1 player completely control another teams run game, Jamal Williams was special.
The point is, it's impossible to predict these things, so many factors play into all this, health being a huge reason. So now that we've given you our predictions, it's your turn. Who do you think will be this years breakout player for the Chargers?