Back at Zero!

Eli bitch-slaps the Pats for his 2nd ring.

The Giants won again.  The Patriots lost again.  (Whew!  I was not ready to hear about Tom Brady being the greatest quarterback of all time for the rest of my life.  It’s bad enough hearing how Eli Manning is suddenly better than Peyton.  Saying Tom Brady is one of the greatest?  Okay.  The greatest? Ugh.)  Outside of wanting the Patriots to lose I wasn’t particularly invested in the game.  My brother is a huge Giants fan, though.  So he’s ecstatic.

Tom Bundchen dejected

If you’re a football junkie like me you’re now chomping at the bit for the combine, free agency, and the draft.  The best part of the Super Bowl being over is that everyone’s record goes back to 0-0.  It was another excellent finale to the football season.  And now everybody gets to look forward to their team making a run.

As a Chargers fan, there’s less off-season upheaval than I’d hoped considering the way the season went.  I fully expected head coach Norv Turner to be fired–with GM A.J. Smith possibly getting his walking papers as well.   That didn’t happen.  So now Turner, who has watched his teams slip into mediocrity, and Smith, who has arguably let more talent walk out the door in the last eight years than any other GM in the league, both begin their 2012 campaign on the hot seat.  The pressure is on Smith early.  His draft needs to be gangbusters.  He probably needs at least two immediate play-makers out of it.  He also needs to make a mark in free agency.

It’s still early for the draft, but free agency is right around the corner.  And the Chargers will need both to stock a somewhat depleted roster.

Superhuman specimen Vincent Jackson

The team’s 1st priority should be retaining Vincent Jackson.  If they let him test the free agency waters the price could get steep.  Unfortunately, Smith is notorious for dragging his feet when the time comes to re-sign players.

The next priority is the offensive line.  Oft-injured left tackle Marcus McNeill, guard Kris Dielman, and center Nick Hardwick could all be gone next year due to injury or (in Hardwick’s case) retirement.  Jared Gaither played well in place of McNeill this year and could probably be retained at a reasonable price.  If Dielman does retire, the team should make a run at one of the better guards available in free agency like Carl Nicks or maybe Ben GrubbsTyronne Green could step in for Hardwick if necessary.  No matter what, a lineman should be drafted in the first three rounds.

The third biggest team need is an outside pass rusher.  I would expect improvement from rookie DE Corey Liuget, but the Chargers need an OLB opposite Shaun PhillipsAntwan Barnes played extremely well last year but is more of a situational player than an every down starter.  At the very least, the team needs to find someone to compete with him.  Depending on who’s available, this is the position I think the team should probably draft with its 1st round pick.  Alabama’s Courtney Uphaw, USC’s Nick Perry, and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram would be choice.  I also like Andre Branch out of Clemson and Vinny Curry coming out of Marshall in the 2nd round.

Eric Weddle needs help in the defensive backfield.

The final hole on the Chargers roster is a safety to start opposite Pro Bowler Eric WeddleLaRon Landry could be an impact player, but he’s got serious injury questions that need to be answered.  Steve Gregory should be affordable if the Chargers want to retain him…but only for a back up role.

The Chargers have a lot of potential free agents on the roster, including Mike Tolbert among others.  It should be interesting to see what direction they decide to take.

LaRon Landry is bad for opposing offenses' health.

(Giants win image from:  Sad Tom Brady image from:–missed-opportunities–in-Super-Bowl/11459010?newsId=126317  Chargers logo from:  Eric Weddle image from:  LaRon Landry image from:  Vincent Jackson image from: