Vincent Jackson has improved during each of his five seasons, a progression that continued last year when he caught 68 passes for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns. His dominance continued in the postseason, as he caught seven balls for 111 yards against a New York Jets team that led the league in pass defense.
But Jackson is now gone, at least for three games due to a suspension, but likely for at least 10 due to a bitter contract dispute. If he comes back in time for San Diego's playoff push, the team will be thrilled. Regardless, Coach Norv Turner must prepare for the season as if his No. 1 receiver will not be available.
Moving to the head of the pack is Malcom Floyd, a 6-foot-5 receiver with great hands and a penchant for hauling in jump-balls deep down the field. There are still some concerns with Floyd, including his willingness to catch passes in traffic and his ability to stay healthy for a 16-game schedule. Nonetheless, he is a hard-working player who should be in line for the first 1,000-yard season of his seven-year career.
WR Legedu Naanee
Naanee's draft classmate, Buster Davis, is also staring at a golden opportunity. A former first-round pick, Davis' career has never gotten on track due to injuries and a slew of talented players in front of him. Now, Davis will be given every chance to be the No. 3 receiver and the featured player out of the slot. He has the elusiveness to thrive in that role…if he can stay healthy.
The Chargers bought some "Buster Davis insurance" in the form of Josh Reed, who spent his first eight seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Reed -- who like Davis, played his college ball at LSU -- is a reliable slot receiver and dependable on third downs. He also has starting experience (52 games) in case Floyd or Naanee is dinged.
The battle for the No. 5 receiver spot will be one of training camp's best. Gary Banks, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent in '08, has a leg-up in the competition because of his experience in the offense and his effectiveness on special teams.
However, the Chargers will give undrafted rookies Jeremy Williams (Tulane), Seyi Ajirotutu (Fresno State), Richard Goodman (Florida State), Ernest Smith (Baylor) and Bryan Walters (Cornell) a chance to take Banks' position, likely in that order.
No matter how this plays out, San Diego figures to keep at least one extra receiver on the practice squad, at least while Jackson remains MIA.
Who will pick up the slack with Jackson out? Discuss inside the message boards.
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. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.