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Norv Turner is back in San Diego again. The Chargers have now missed the playoffs for two straight years where they came in as prohibitive favorites in the AFC West, and when one more win each year would have been good enough to win the division. What is there to say about the Chargers? Nothing that can’t be said while going through a montage of Norv Turner photos, that’s for sure.
Norv made that skyward look 20 times last year with Rivers’ interceptions, not to mention that whole fumbled snap mess in Kansas City. Same old story with San Diego, if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot, they can be good. And if my aunt had a . . .
Did you know that the Chargers have finished Top 5 in points now for eight consecutive years, pre-dating the arrival of Turner. If it is going to extend to nine, several questions have to be answered. Robert Meachem, who never really took the reins and made a big leap in New Orleans, needs to effectively offset the departure of Vincent Jackson. Philip Rivers needs to show that last year’s early struggles were not a sign of decline. Antonio Gates is 32 this year. Can he find whatever fountain of youth Tony Gonzalez has used? Many star tight ends have declined at about this age, from Todd Christensen to Dave Casper. Kyle Brady even recorded his last 200 yard receiving season at age 31, then fell to 103 yards the next year.
The offensive line also had its struggles in 2011 with protection, something they hope is addressed by getting a full year out of Jared Gaither at left tackle. Then, there’s the running back situation.
The Chargers will rely on Ryan Mathews for a much bigger role this year, after letting Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert go in free agency in consecutive off- seasons. The backups are a 50-year old Ronnie Brown and some guy named Jackie Battle, who I’ve gotten to know intimately every preseason for the last decade with the Chiefs. It felt a little weird not seeing him out there in red this August. Anyway, the point is, Mathews better stay healthy.
In other news, Ryan Mathews broke his clavicle on the first carry of the preseason.
Norv Turner has a good relationship with the officials. Occasionally they screw him over, but as evidenced by his 48-67 career record in games decided by 8 points or less, they always give him the calls with the game on the line. Look for his stellar working of the game officials and decision making in close games to continue. Why change what works?
Norv Turner failed to win the division last year because he couldn’t beat the Broncos when they had Tim Tebow at quarterback. Now, they’ve got this guy. I’m sure it will all work out well when Denver is down 3 with 2 minutes left and Norv punts on 4th and 1 at midfield.
The biggest cause for concern, though, was the defense last year. Particularly the pass rush. The team hoped to address that with the addition of Melvin Ingram in the first round. He had a thigh injury in the preseason but is expected back for the opener. If San Diego wants to bounce back in 2012, it will have to be on the defense to be at least slightly above average.
So should you pick Norv Turner and the Chargers to win? On paper, they look like slight favorites again. But I wouldn’t fall for that trick again. 9-7, lose the division on the 3rd tiebreaker, lose the wildcard spot on the 10th tiebreaker. And Norv returns for 2013.
[photos via US Presswire and Norval Turner]