Offseason Playbook: Chargers

A look at San Diego's philosophy, team needs and a key free-agent move

Originally Published: March 7, 2013
By Gary Horton and Field Yates | ESPN Insider
Ryan MatthewsKirby Lee/Image of Sport/USA TODAY SportsRyan Mathews, despite missing four games, still managed 700 yards on the ground last season.

In a new offseason series, Insider takes an in-depth look at NFL teams before free agency begins March 12. What is each team's philosophy on offense and defense, biggest needs and one player who could make for an ideal signing in free agency?

Team philosophies

Offense -- New head coach Mike McCoy seems to be very patient in terms of instilling his offensive schemes, waiting until he sees his players and determines what he can fix before training camp. He has a reputation for being really good at adjusting his offense to the personnel he has on hand, which makes sense considering he had Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in Denver, two totally different quarterbacks. He'll likely be a pass-first coach and his biggest job will be to get Philip Rivers back on track. As good as Rivers is on the vertical seam routes, this offensive line's pass protection is so shaky that we might see more short to intermediate routes, creative use of tight end Antonio Gates, and a lot of regular screens and bubble screens as almost an extension of the run game.

In the run game, he prefers zone blocking schemes. That said, this offensive line may not be able to do it effectively, and he must get running back Ryan Mathews straightened out. We will likely see stretch plays with good play-action as a result, shotgun formations, a lot of one-back sets, and motion and pre-snap movement to create good matchups. New coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will call the plays, even though McCoy did it in Denver. He's more creative than you might think with some gadget plays and innovative looks.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.