QB Billy Volek (Andy Lyons/Getty)
Over the next few weeks, SDBoltReport.com will take a position-by-position look at the Chargers roster, analyzing each unit’s performance in 2008 and projecting what lies ahead for 2009. Up first are the quarterbacks, which is a great place to start for Chargers fans. Because as many holes as this team has, you won’t find any here.
The Chargers quarterback depth chart is a thing of beauty, a model that nearly all general managers hope to replicate. San Diego has its franchise quarterback to carry the team; its battled-tested veteran waiting in the wings; and its young prospect with a big arm and a high ceiling.
It all starts at the top with Philip Rivers, who is coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history. Rivers set a new team record with 34 touchdown passes, led the NFL with a 105.5 passer rating, and topped the 4,000-yard barrier for the first time.
What made Rivers’ season so special is that he accomplished all of this despite a laundry list of obstacles. He entered training camp less than seven months removed from major knee surgery; he enjoyed little support from his running game; and his offensive line was riddled with injuries and mired in inconsistency.
Despite the long odds, Rivers raised his game. He improved his decision making, averaging just one interception per 43 attempts. He also bettered his mobility, sliding around in the pocket to buy time and often improvising plays on the run. Finally, he improved his deep ball, completing 12 passes of 40-plus yards after hitting only nine such passes in the previous two seasons combined.
Backup Billy Volek was not needed in 2008, but he remains on standby incase disaster strikes. Volek cemented his value in the eyes of the team during the 2007 postseason, when he subbed for Rivers and led the Chargers to a comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round.
The Chargers inked Volek to a new three-year deal after that playoff performance, meaning he’s locked up for another two seasons. Volek is now completely comfortable in Norv Turner’s offense and is capable of putting up big numbers in the right situation – with the Tennessee Titans in 2004, he became just the fourth player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in consecutive games.
Occupying the final spot on the depth chart is Charlie Whitehurst, a third-round from Clemson back in the 2006 draft. Whitehurst has not seen the field since Volek was acquired via trade early in the 2006 season, but the team remains high on him. Whitehurst has a strong arm and a knack for pushing the ball down the field.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely Whitehurst will ever realize his potential in San Diego. Whitehurst enters the final year of his contract and will likely test the free agent market next offseason in search of a legitimate shot at playing time.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.