Preseason is underway! And as we get closer to the start of the regular season, we continue our opponent preview of each team the San Diego Chargers will be facing this year. Each team has made different moves in order to improve their roster, and this series will help you become more familiar with each opponent.
In other words, KNOW YOUR ENEMY...
The New England Patriots enter the 2014 season knowing their championship window could be closing soon as Tom Brady nears the end of his career. A focus on the rushing attack thrusted them into the AFC Championship game last year, after Wes Welker bolted to Denver, and Rob Gronkowski missed most of the season with injury, as Brady had to help develop a new young cast of receivers. This season, they look to be a more complete team with the improvements on the defensive side of the ball, but will this be enough to help Brady and Bill Belichick get another ring before this chapter in New England sports' history ends?
The addition of Darrelle Revis will not only improve the secondary, but also help a defense that ranked 20th in total DVOA. The returns of Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Tommy Kelly from injury last year will be very impactful as well for this defense; one that has not been able to achieve a top 10 defensive DVOA ranking since 2006. If this defense can become a dominant unit and compliment an offense that ranked 4th in the league in DVOA, they very well could be taking another trip back to the title game.
Additions: Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell
Departures: Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher
29. Dominique Easley DL Florida
62. Jimmy Garoppolo QB Eastern Illinois
105. Bryan Stork C Florida St.
130. James White RB Wisconsin
140. Cameron Fleming OT Stanford
179. Jon Halapio OG Florida
198. Zach Moore DE Concoria
206. Jemea Thomas S Georgia Tech
244. Jeremy Gallon WR Michigan
At first glance, the Patriots 2014 draft doesn't stand out, besides the fact that they used a 2nd round pick on a QB, the highest draft pick ever used on a signal-caller since Belichick took over. Garoppolo could be the answer for them after Brady decides to hang his cleats, but using a high-round pick on a player that won't see the field for a few years, if at all, shows they are preparing for the end of an era.
The potential Easley brings could pay dividends for them down the line, however, after tearing both of his ACL's in college, there is a concern, but the risk/reward was too good to pass up for them. Drafting three offensive linemen should help beef up a line that ranked first in Adjusted Line Yards, which led to a rushing attack that ranked 6th in DVOA. This offense has the potential to be just as good as it was last season, with what looks to be a healthy Gronkowski, however, one concern is the lack of a true #1 WR. Brandon LaFell could help in that regard, as Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Julian Edelman didn't quite grasp that role last year.
Coming into this week 14 matchup, the San Diego Chargers will look to right the ship, after losing five of the previous six meetings between these two teams, with the Patriots leading the all-time series 22-15-2, and the most recent match coming in 2011.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers will have a tough task ahead of them facing this Bill Belichick-led defense, especially with his new toy, Revis. For the Chargers to come out successful in this matchup, they will need to play sound, efficient, and mistake-free football, along with keeping the ball out of Brady's hands. The Chargers found success last year in controlling the ball, ranking first in time of possession, yards per drive, and plays per drive, to go along with 2nd in points per drive.
The Chargers defense will also need to play sound football, and not allow Brady and the rushing attack of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley to get going, as this is one of the more efficient offenses in the NFL as well.
Rivers is 0-5 in head-to-head matchups against Brady, with his only win against the Pats coming in 2008, the year Brady missed with a torn ACL. However, with a new offense which helped him return to Pro-Bowl form, and entering their second season together under Mike McCoy's system, Rivers and this offense will look to secure a victory over a long-time rival.