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"Five Things to Watch" Part I: Training Camp
1. What will a Frank Reich offense look like?
Tough. Toughness is a word that offensive coordinator Frank Reich described as the most important quality in an offense and looks to instill it both mentally and physically in his players during training camp and throughout the season.
“You have to be an aggressive play caller,” Reich said. “That doesn’t mean more passes than runs. It means situational football, knowing what to do, how to take advantage of it and trusting your players to do what you call.”
Look to see Reich and the Chargers run more of a no-huddle, up-tempo offense, something he is familiar with from the 14 seasons he played in the NFL.
“I love everything about the no-huddle,” he said. “You mix the tempo. You mix what you are doing. You keep teams off balance and get them tired. It presents communication problems for them.”
As for ways the team can improve? Chargers fans should see a better red zone offense in 2014; something Reich said is a big area for growth this season.
2. What impact will Brandon Flowers have?
Brandon Flowers’ biggest impact in the Chargers’ secondary will be his versatility. Flowers is a natural outside corner who has also spent time playing inside nickel and prides himself on playing a “complete game.” He’s a player who according to Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Spanos, plays “bigger, faster, and stronger than his measurables.”
Entering his seventh NFL season, Flowers joins San Diego off of his first Pro Bowl season where he recorded 68 tackles, seven passes defensed and one interception with the Chiefs.
Flowers is set to make an impact off the field as well. One of the things he is most looking forward to in San Diego is mentoring the team’s 2014 first round draft pick, Jason Verrett.
“I just want to let him know the ins and outs about this league,” Flowers said. “If I can help (Jason) and his situation, the more comfortable he’ll be on the field to make plays. And that will be big for our team as a whole.”
3. How will the wide receiver rotation work?
San Diego’s 2014 wide receiver corps is one of the deepest positions on the roster. After his stellar eight-touchdown rookie season, it’s hard to deny the talent and productivity of Keenan Allen. He has quickly become a San Diego fan favorite as well as a favorite target of quarterback Philip Rivers, being targeted 104 times in 2013. He set franchise rookie records for yards and catches and it’s clear that the chemistry between he and Rivers will only continue to grow.
Alongside Allen is the Bolts’ prime slot receiver Eddie Royal. Royal finished 2013 with 47 catches for 631 yards and eight touchdowns.
A welcoming sight for Chargers fans is the return of veteran receiver Malcom Floyd. After suffering a neck injury in Week 2 many believed Floyd’s career was in jeopardy, yet after working tirelessly to come back, Floyd was an active participant in the team’s OTAs. While there are still unknowns to Floyd’s return, he believes he has no doubts about his progress and hopes to make an impact on the team this season.
Look for newly re-signed receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, Vincent Brown, and Tevin Reese, the final draft pick of the Chargers’ 2014 draft to make impacts as well.
4. What will Dwight Freeney’s return mean to the defense?
A healthy Freeney will greatly benefit the Chargers’ defense both on and off the gridiron.
After suffering a torn quad in week 4 of last season, it’s natural to call Dwight Freeney a returning member to the Chargers’ lineup, however the veteran linebacker is looking to make more of an entrance than a revisit this season.
“In my mind, I haven’t yet played for the Chargers. I don’t consider three games enough,” Freeney said. “I’m a guy who takes pride in being there all year-round and really picking up during playoff time.”
While he participated in the first portions of the offseason, he’s still rehabbing yet calls himself “right on track” for the start of the 2014 season.
The Chargers finished 11th in team defense last year and the return of Freeney at full-strength should benefit the Bolts down the stretch in the latter half of a season that consists of playing opposite a couple of the league’s most accurate passers.
Freeney is the most experienced outside linebacker on the roster right now, and his knowledge should benefit some of the younger players including 2014 second round draft pick Jerry Attaochu.
5. Can Philip Rivers repeat his career-year performance?
With a year of Head Coach Mike McCoy’s system under his belt, the promotion of Reich, and a healthy receiving corps, there’s no doubt Philip Rivers can capitalize on the most successful season of his career.
In 2013, Rivers set a career milestone and led the NFL by completing 69.5 percent of his passes. He threw 32 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions.
While it’s clear Rivers flourished in last year’s system, McCoy feels the promotion of Frank Reich will benefit the Chargers’ signal caller for 2014.
“With Frank as offensive coordinator, we will be able to maintain continuity on offense and help maximize the production by Philip and the entire unit,” McCoy said. “He has a great feel for the offense we have created and he has been a valuable asset to Philip.”
As for his receivers, Rivers threw 16 of his 32 touchdowns to Eddie Royal and then-rookie Keenan Allen but with a healthy Malcom Floyd back in the lineup, more targets means more touchdowns and more production for number 17.