|National Football League|
Bolts working to get back to postseason
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) It's never too early for the San Diego Chargers to contemplate what it's going to take to get back to the playoffs.
The Chargers have missed the postseason for two straight seasons and have one playoff win in the last four years. Despite the underachieving effort, team President Dean Spanos brought back both general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner, much to the dismay of many fans.
Looking to reverse the slide, the Chargers had a big haul in free agency. They signed two of their own free agents, center Nick Hardwick and left tackle Jared Gaither, and brought in several other free agents, including linebacker Jarret Johnson, fullback Le'Ron McClain and wide receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, who will help ease the loss of Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay.
San Diego used its first three draft picks on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, defensive end Kendall Reyes of Connecticut and LSU strong safety Brandon Taylor. They are expected to add some impact to a defense that was the NFL's worst on third down. The Chargers used the rest of their picks on players expected to bolster their depth.
Now they've got to put it all together during training camp to try to regain the form that carried them to four straight AFC West titles. Quarterback Philip Rivers said missing the playoffs certainly will be a big motivating factor as the Chargers open training camp.
"I think to make it a little more specific, not winning the division the last two years. Obviously that includes not making the playoffs, but it starts in the division," Rivers said. "We've always said that, we've always driven that home. But we've been 3-3 in the division the last two years. If you win your division games, you're going to get in. We know how important division games are, and all games, but we've got to focus on the AFC West. If we do that, we'll give ourselves a chance to play in the postseason."
Rivers said the focus of camp offensively "will be protect the ball. It always has been. But if there's a way to turn it up even more, we are. That doesn't mean play scared or play careful, but take care of the football. The team that wins the turnover battle usually wins."
Rivers is looking to bounce back from a season in which he committed an NFL-high 25 turnovers, including 20 interceptions.
"Personally, I want to throw completions," Rivers said. "Just throw completions. With the guys we've added, the guys we already have here, get them the ball. If they have the ball in their hands, then good things are going to happen."
Meanwhile, Turner believes it will be tougher to make the 53-man roster than in any other year since he took over in 2007.
"We have some really great competition on this team," Turner said at the end of minicamp. "I think it's going to be a hard team to make. It's going to be a real hard team to make the 46-man roster, the guys that dress on game day.
"Then when you go through every situation, whether it be kickoff coverage or punt return or third-down defense or short-yardage offense, it's going to be hard to be one of the 11 guys on the field. That competition is great in terms of helping guys improve, but the other thing it certainly gives us is some added depth, so if we're in the situation we've been in the last couple years, if we have an unusual amount of injuries, hopefully we have guys who have been here, who have practiced. Those are the guys that will be playing instead of having to go to the waiver wire and get a guy ready in three or four days."
The biggest battles will be for backup spots, particularly at tight end, running back, outside linebacker and on the offensive and defensive lines.
Updated July 24, 2012