SD's To-Do List Surprisingly Offensive

OG Kris Dielman (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Chargers get their offseason to-do list in order, and most of the holes needing patching are on the defensive side, right? Not so fast.

While the offense continues to be the most potent in the league, with quarterback Philip Rivers directing the attack, it's clear this side of the ball needs to be viewed as well.

The biggest concern, and one which comes with varying degrees of layers, is the offensive line.

The Chargers have enjoyed continuity here, with the same five guys basically manning the position the past couple of seasons. But that could change in 2012 - and drastically.

First up is Pro Bowl left guard Kris Dielman. He's under contract but a series of concussions has him contemplating retirement. If he decides to quit, the Chargers would be void of not only their best blocker, but the man providing a strong sense of nastiness to the unit.

To Dielman's right, at center, is another Pro Bowler in Nick Hardwick. Free agency is calling for Hardwick, and he could listen. But he's also hearing his body revolting from the demands of playing in the NFL and he has doubts on whether to continue playing or not, too.

If he does decide to play, the Chargers will make a supreme effort to keep him. And it appears Hardwick is interested in continuing his career with the team that drafted him.

Left tackle Marcus McNeill has progressed nicely since a neck injury landed him on injured reserve last year. He has said he wants to return and the Chargers will certainly take him. But they are concerned about his health long-term, which is why they will likely retain free-agent backup, Jared Gaither. Gaither, though, is a free agent as well and could command a price well above what a backup might receive.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson is another offensive player beeping on the radar. Jackson was the team's franchise player last year and could end up with that distinction again.

But Jackson, of course, is looking for a long-term deal. Whether the Chargers reward him with that after his third 1,000-yard season in four years remains to be seen. These two parties always seem to end up fussing and fighting over contracts, and they will probably draw it out again this year.

Bruising halfback Mike Tolbert is also a free agent, but the Chargers want him to return. His situation is worth watching as Chargers fans will recall the team once let Michael Turner slip away, a move it regretted.

Staying in the backfield, fullback Jacob Hester could also exit as a free agent. But the team likes his versatility - he morphed into a fullback after being drafted as a halfback - as he is a solid contributor on special teams, too.

Wide receiver Patrick Crayton is another player set for free agency. But the Chargers are believed ready to go younger and cheaper at his position as the No. 4 wideout.

And while Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates was able to fight off the pain in his foot to play most of the season, the Chargers have to be cognizant of his health. With backup Randy McMichael being a free agent, the Chargers will likely push to keep him as an insurance policy for Gates.

NOTES, QUOTES


SS Darrell Stuckey
Al Messerschmidt/Getty
--The Chargers could find their long-sought after upgrade at strong safety already on the roster. It appears Darrell Stuckey will enter his third season with a shot at a starting job; this after tying for the team-lead with 12 special teams tackles last year.

"The thing he has which is just paramount to special teams is he's got great speed," coach Norv Turner told Chargers.com. "He's got great acceleration and he showed this year he's very competitive as a player. I would love to see him be a guy that evolves into a Pro Bowl special-teams player, but I do believe he's a guy that's going to be a very good player for us in the secondary and I'm anxious for him to take the next step."

--Quarterback Philip Rivers fell short in his bid to win the NFL Man of the Year Award. But the finalist was clear that with or without the award, NFL players have an obligation to their young fans.

"I see it as a responsibility," Rivers said. "I hear it debated a bunch about whether players are role models, but there's no doubt that we are. Kids look up to us. That's just a fact. There's a responsibility that comes with this job, especially when you're given a platform to help people. I want to help us win a championship, but your legacy is greater than that. There's more to being a professional athlete (than) what happens between the lines."

--KGTV, a San Diego television station, reported that outside linebacker Shaun Phillips was sued for allegedly throwing a champagne bottle that hit a bar patron in the head more than two years ago. It reported that a civil lawsuit has been filed against Phillips because former teammate Antonio Cromartie implicated him in a 2009 incident at Bar West in Pacific Beach. Another patron, Kam Saran, claims he was injured by a thrown champagne bottle.

--The team did avoid a hit to their front office with Jimmy Raye, the team's director of pro personnel, not getting the Bears' general manager position. If Raye would have left, it's possible the Chargers would have felt his departure with some of the team's scouts looking to join him in Chicago.

--NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at his state of the league address that the team isn't looking for teams to relocate to other cities - a long-time NFL belief. But if so, and expansion is considered, that could lessen the Chargers' changes of moving to Los Angeles. The team would like to get a new facility built in downtown San Diego. The league is loaning the 49ers $200 million to construct their proposed stadium in Santa Clara, just south of San Francisco.

"We're excited about getting a new stadium built in California," Goodell said. "I certainly hope that it'll lead to more stadiums in California." Goodell noted that the fresh labor agreement and inked TV contract extensions could serve as "a runway of 10 years," for more conducive to stadium projects. "We want to keep our teams where they are," Goodell said. "We believe that's healthier for the league in the long term."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "As soon as Monday morning hits, we're all 0-0 again and everybody's chasing the next championship." - QB Philip Rivers on the Chargers' fresh start once the New York Giants prevailed on Super Sunday.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

While the team's attention soon turns to the personnel front, it does so with a full coaching staff.

Head coach Norv Turner is done tinkering with his staff, filling voids left by firings, retirements and guys moving on.

Linebackers coach Joe Barry was the last man added to a staff which needs to produce quickly with Turner on the hot seat.

Barry joins two other new faces: Ron Meeks, secondary; Steve Fairchild, offensive assistant.

MEDICAL WATCH

--While the other Chargers' injuries should have them all ready for training camp, LG Kris Dielman (concussion) remains the biggest Charger under the medical microscope. Dielman is still working with doctors to be cleared to return to playing; he also has to decide if he wants to continue playing after a series of concussions.



Can the Chargers afford to lose Vincent Jackson? Discuss in the message boards.




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