The Chargers have missed the postseason in each of the last three seasons, their win total declining from nine in 2010 to eight in 2011 to seven in 2012. New head coach Mike McCoy and first-year GM Tom Telesco inherit a club with some strengths — but also some glaring weaknesses. Here is a closer look at the Chargers’ draft needs:
Offensive tackle: The Chargers, who hold the No. 11 overall pick, don’t necessarily have to add a tackle in Round One; in fact, seven years ago, they found a solid, multi-season solution at left tackle in Marcus McNeill in Round Two. Nevertheless, the Chargers would be wise to add to their options on the edges of their line, with the left side (the blind side of quarterback Philip Rivers) a more pressing issue than the right side. Rivers lacks mobility and needs to be well-protected to perform at an optimal level, but he can still hurt defenses if he has the necessary time in the pocket.
Outside linebacker: Shaun Phillips, who led the Chargers in sacks in 2012, is an unrestricted free agent. While second-year pro Melvin Ingram can surely be more of a rush threat that he was as a rookie (one QB sack in 16 games), the Chargers might want to add to the OLB depth chart. Jarret Johnson is tough but not an exceptional pass rusher, and he will be 32 at the start of the season. Also, fourth-year pro Larry English, who hasn’t produced as hoped, will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Cornerback: San Diego could be replacing both starting corners from a season ago with Antoine Cason signing with the Cardinals and 33-year-old Quentin Jammer unsigned. Ex-Jaguar Derek Cox and third-year pro Marcus Gilchrist will be two primary contributors at this position, but there is a little uncertainty thereafter, and the depth could stand to be bolstered.
Interior offensive line: The Chargers added guards Rich Ohrnberger (Arizona) and Chad Rinehart (Buffalo) in free agency, and center Nick Hardwick has been a dependable nine-season starter. However, the Chargers must continue to improve in the trenches given their struggles protecting Rivers and getting much out of the ground game in 2012.
Defensive tackle: With Aubrayo Franklin moving on to the Colts and Antonio Garay now with the Jets, the Chargers might want to add a little bulk in the middle behind starter Cam Thomas, the only defensive tackle currently on the roster.
Giving Rivers the best chance to succeed has to be a top priority for the Chargers, who have one pick in each of the draft’s seven rounds. San Diego has enough skill-position talent to be competitive, but Rivers can’t be sacked 49 times like he was a season ago if the Chargers are to be in the playoff mix. It’s hard to believe, but no AFC team in 2012 gained fewer yards per game than San Diego (297.3).