The Chargers have gotten to the middle of the football season with a (4-4) record. They will tell you they are like so many other NFL teams still in the playoff hunt, with much of the league separated by a game or two in the standings and with eight more weekends to play. I will tell you they are very much in danger of missing the playoff for the third season in a row.
Here’s SWRNN.com’s mid-season report card for the Chargers:
QB: In a league driven by quarterback excellence, Philip Rivers is no longer elite. Interceptions, fumbles, quarterback sacks and decision-making have all become part of the conversation about Rivers’ play. In prior years, it was all about touchdowns, big passing days and come-from-behind wins. He has been victimized by a poor lineup around him, an eroding team and now apparently an eroding confidence. Grade: C
RB: When Ryan Mathews isn’t fumbling the ball, he makes big plays. When he’s not nicked up, he is a danger to go all the way on any play. But he has not proven his game is bullet-proof and he has not proven he can stay on the field. Ronnie Brown has found his niche as a pass catching third down specialist and is giving value. There has been virtually no productivity from fullback Le’Ron McClain. Grade: C
WR: Vincent Jackson is gone to Tampa Bay, averaging 21 yards per catch. No one has replaced him. Tight end Antonio Gates is no longer dominant. The big money free agents, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal have not been trustworthy. Losing Vincent Brown to a broken ankle was a setback and now there is little depth beyond Malcom Floyd. Clearly this collective group has shown no consistency and strikes fears in no one. Grade: D
OL: This is a hodge-podge of starters, with very shaky results. They are almost as important to team success as Rivers and they have played poorly. Jared Gaither has had two injury issues and is giving up sacks and taking penalties. The same is true for the other tackle Jeromey Clary. The rest of the offensive front has played marginal at best. A year from now some of their young draft picks will likely be starting. Grade: D
DL: Not a sexy position — this group is getting better, though it does not show up weekly in the stat sheet. Last year’s first round pick Corey Liuget has become more active and makes plays and causes turnovers. Defensive end Vaughn Martin has been a disruptive force. And the inside defensive tackles have been a force against the run led by newcomer Abrayou Franklin. Grade: B
LB: Donald Butler is an emerging star. Shaun Phillips has had an active season with sacks and pressures. Old dog Takeo Spikes has been stout against the run. Free agent Jarrett Johnson has been adequate at best. First round pick Melvin Ingram is a physical-fast force, but cannot play coverage and is work in progress. Ex-top pick Larry English cannot get on the field. Overall, still not enough sacks, but their future might be ahead of them. Grade: B
CB: A lousy year in the making from an erratic Antoine Cason and an aging Quentin Jammer. The future lies in Shareece Wright, who has been hurt, and Marcus Gilchrist, whom they are force-feeding on the field without good results. In a league that throws a lot, the Chargers have deficiencies. Grade: D
S: Eric Weddle, though an expensive free agent, has become a dominant player all over the field. Atari Bigby has provided toughness and does make some plays. Better hope neither gets hurt, but these two have had a strong first half. Grade: B
K: Nick Novak is your journeyman kicker for the rest of the year with the release of Nate Kaeding. He is solid, but maybe not as good at long distances, but maybe better in postseason, if there is one, where Kaeding failed. Punter Mike Scifres is solid. Grade: B
KR-PR: Richard Goodman is gone for the year with an injury and Michael Spurlock was lost in a waiver claim. Suddenly this area looks shaky and undependable. Grade: D.
Coach: Norv Turner’s career record in San Diego might be decent at (57-39) but remember, much of that has been in the awful AFC West, a weak division for years. His postseason record shows just one win in the last four years and his team might not make the post season this year again. His stay here has been marked by classic underachievement, postseason disappointments and gruesome in-season losses to bad clubs. As a head coach, he is a good offensive coordinator and that’s all. Grade: D
GM: It’s AJ Smith’s team and his early years of success have been erased by his recent season’s decisions — shaky drafts, strained relationships with players and agents and the annual decision to run-off players who have gone elsewhere and had success, as his team has slipped into mediocrity. This last draft looks good and the free agent spending spree has solidified the team. The fans and the media however will not forget those who were here and good, and then left. Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, Michael Turner, Drew Brees, plus the veterans they pink-slipped in his early years, like Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, John Carney, Donnie Edwards. He’s never replaced those he got rid of. His coach is disrespected too. The arrow on the franchise is pointing down. Grade: C.
Team: Remember when the Chargers used to strike fear in the hearts of teams at the line of scrimmage? They could score from anywhere on the field. Remember when the defensive blitzed relentlessly and forced turnovers? Remember a quarterback who you forever believed in? All that is gone. The window closed. The promising era is over. The franchise is one quarterback sack or injury away from becoming Buffalo or Jacksonville. Can you say franchise in trouble? Team Grade: D
What is your mid-season grade for the Chargers? Tell me in the comments section below: