The Chargers finished 2012 as the 31st ranked offense it’s pretty clear that a repeat production from their key pieces is not enough to get this team back to the playoffs, so who is expected to get this team back to the levels that this team was producing from 2004-2011.
Lets talk about 5 circumstances that should be reasonable goals for improvement for this offense, as well as signs of concern that may impede them from happening.
1.Philip Rivers must return to a over 4,000 yard passing with a 90+ passer rating: I will not put all the blame on Rivers for his 3,600 yard, 24 turnover season, 49 sack season. But the reality is that team needs him to return to the level he displayed from 2008-2010. The one drive he had against the Seahawks showed signs that QB is still there somewhere, the Bears game was a reminder that when his offensive line is outplayed, his level of play suffers severely.
Rivers and this offense in general must go to a 3 step, get the ball out his hand offense, where yards after the catch are the basis of success. And the few throws upfield are made by play action. I fully expect to see 2-3 tight ends sets on the field, to keep the pass blocking as good as possible, and to maintain flexibility; plus Ladarius Green is too talented to not get him on the field and accelerate his development.
From Rivers part, he must accelerate his decision process, and have more trust in his wide receivers. His level of play drops considerably when he appears to only target Gates. If his production goes up early the season, his confidence should rise and he can ride the momentum throughout the season.
Signs of Concern: As we saw from the Bears game, if the O-Line struggles Rivers follow suit, so there is clearly some “David Carr syndrome” in Rivers. He appears to drop his focus from upfield to the rush if the pressure gets there consistently. The unfair reality is that if Rivers doesn’t return to a 4,000 yard QB with a good pass rating, this may be his last season in San Diego, and the Chargers will be in position to draft his successor. So Rivers better improve the speed of his decision making, because this O-Line is not built for holding on to the ball waiting for option 4 to open up. The coaches must make Rivers QB life easier, by designing an offense with the limitations of the current personnel.