The San Diego Chargers announced that the team waived center Nick McDonald on Monday. McDonald, 27, signed a futures contract with the Chargers in January.

It appears the team released McDonald in order to make room on the 90-man roster for another center.

According to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, the Chargers agreed to terms with undrafted rookie free agent center Khalil Wilkes. The team has not confirmed this report.

At 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, the Stanford product attended San Diego’s rookie minicamp in May after the draft as a tryout player.

Wilkes earned second-team, All-Pac 12 honors last season, and played in the East-West All-Star game.

When the Wilkes’ signing becomes official, the Chargers will have 15 offensive linemen on the roster heading into the start of training camp on Thursday, and five players with experience snapping the football in Nick Hardwick, Rich Orhnberger, Chris Watt, Johnnie Troutman and Wilkes.
video

Sam Farmer, the Los Angeles Times' NFL reporter, breaks down the chances of the NFL moving a team to L.A.
Good morning. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com put together a list of six veterans who could be possible roster cuts once training camp begins this week.

And pass-rush specialist Dwight Freeney of the San Diego Chargers was a surprise addition to this list.

Rosenthal: “Freeney was quietly effective last year in San Diego. But he took a pay cut just to remain on the team and he’s 34 years old coming off a torn quadriceps muscle. That’s an injury that often shortens careers, even for younger players.”

I’d be surprised if a healthy Freeney is not on San Diego’s 53-man roster to open the regular season. The reason the Chargers adjusted Freeney’s salary is they wanted him around in 2014. Freeney is the only proven pass rusher on the roster. He still has some gas left in the tank and will serve as a mentor for younger players in his position group.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com previews San Diego’s defensive line in anticipation of the opening of training camp this week.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego profiles first-round selection cornerback Jason Verrett.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland placed Keenan Allen on the fringe of his top 50 players in the NFL list.

ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton says to expect offenses to use no huddle to run more plays this season.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated ranks the Chargers No. 12 in his first Fine Fifteen of the 2014 campaign.

Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth writes that shotgun snaps were used on 58 percent of all offensive plays last season.
With the San Diego Chargers scheduled to begin training camp on Thursday, we take a closer look at the team’s opponents for the 2014 regular season.

Fourth up: Jacksonville Jaguars

When: For the third time in four seasons the Chargers face the Jaguars. San Diego will host Jacksonville at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 28.

Last season: Under first-year coach Gus Bradley Jacksonville struggled early, but finished 4-4 down the backstretch of the season, posting a 4-12 record in 2013.

All-time series vs. Chargers: San Diego holds a 4-2 edge all time over the Jaguars, and has never lost to them at Qualcomm Stadium.

Last meeting vs. Chargers: San Diego defeated the Jaguars 24-6 on Oct. 20 last year in Jacksonville.

Super Bowl odds: 250-1

Key offseason additions: The migration of players from Seattle to Jacksonville familiar with Bradley’s defensive philosophies continued in 2014, with the Jaguars signing ex-Seahawks defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant in free agency. Jacksonville also signed former Broncos offensive lineman Zane Beadles to beef up the interior offensive line, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and Toby Gerhart from the Minnesota Vikings to serve as the team’s every-down running back. In the draft, Jacksonville’s surprise selection, No. 3 overall pick quarterback Blake Bortles, likely will not see the field if starter Chad Henne plays well. But receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are expected to make an impact in their rookie seasons.

Key offseason losses: The face of the franchise, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, left in free agency to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders. His backup, Justin Forsett, signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Starting offensive guard Will Rackley also signed with the Ravens in free agency. But the most talented player possibly not returning is receiver Justin Blackmon. The Oklahoma State product continues to deal with off-the-field issues and has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Blackmon’s availability for 2014 is uncertain.

The skinny: The Jaguars continue the second year of a rebuilding process that appears headed in the right direction. Jacksonville should be better on the defensive side of the ball with the addition of Clemons and Bryant, particularly at stopping the run. Jacksonville allowed 132 rushing yards a contest last season, No. 29 in the NFL.

But for Jacksonville to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC, the offense has to drastically improve. The Jaguars finished last in scoring last season, averaging just 15.4 points a contest. The Chargers dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in last season’s win at Jacksonville. And although the Jaguars are improved, San Diego should handle this team up front again as long as they don’t overlook the Jaguars.
Examining the San Diego Chargers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

The Chargers kept three quarterbacks on the active roster last year, but could pick up a roster spot if they feel comfortable enough with sneaking Sorensen through waivers and onto the practice squad.

Running backs (4)


Grice is my pick to return kicks as it stands now, but don’t count out Kerwynn Williams or Branden Oliver as possible kick return options.

Receivers (5)


Ex-CFL standout Dontrelle Inman has a shot to earn a job. Rookies Tevin Reese, Javontee Herndon and Micah Hatfield are possible practice squad candidates.

Tight ends (4)


With the development of Green, the Chargers will run two-tight end sets more this season. Johnson also can be used as a fullback. If healthy, Phillips provides depth as a blocking tight end. Ryan Otten also looked promising as a pass-catching threat during offseason workouts.

Offensive linemen (9)


With Jeromey Clary possibly beginning the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list coming off offseason shoulder and hip surgeries, the Chargers have some inexperienced players at interior offensive line in Troutman and Watt. So it will be important for veteran players like Hardwick and Ohrnberger to help those young guys along during training camp. Undrafted rookie free agent Craig Watts could compete for a job on the active roster.

Defensive linemen (6)


Quality depth and experience remains a concern at this position after Liuget and Reyes. Geathers and Carrethers have potential but have to show during preseason play that they can work in as part of the defensive line rotation. Tenny Palepoi and Damik Scafe also have a chance to earn time during training camp.

Linebackers (11)

This is probably the deepest position on defense, and some tough decisions will have to be made here. Thomas Keiser and Tourek Williams, impact players last season, both have a realistic shot of making the roster.

Cornerbacks (4)


It’s hard to leave Richard Marshall off here, but his salary is not guaranteed and Flowers could be his eventual replacement if the Fresno State product does not have a good training camp.

Safeties (4)

Arizona State undrafted rookie free agent Alden Darby flashed during offseason workouts, and has a chance to work himself onto the back end of the roster.

Specialists (3)


The Chargers have an experienced, consistent group of specialists and likely will not make a change here.
Good morning. Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego takes a closer look at the defensive back position for the San Diego Chargers heading into training camp.

Krasovic ranks San Diego’s secondary second in the AFC West behind Denver, and says new addition Brandon Flowers is the player to watch during camp.

Krasovic: “Shareece Wright returns as the starter at right cornerback. Telesco released left corner Derek Cox and brought back Cox's mid-season replacement, Richard Marshall, on a one-year deal. Flowers, 28, played mostly in the slot last year and made the Pro Bowl though it wasn't his best season. He has spent most of his career at left corner, though. There, he would be a threat to Marshall, who added muscle in the offseason but didn't dazzle in June.”

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com places San Diego safety Eric Weddle at No. 6 on his list of the best safeties in the game. Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks tops the list.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com offers five things to watch when camp begins for the Chargers next week.

I talked with Mike Costa of Xtra 1360 AM radio about Ryan Mathews and the start of training camp for the Chargers in this audio link.

Ryan Mathews talked with Ben Higgins and Chris Ello of Xtra 1360 AM radio about his preparation for the 2014 season in this audio link.

Brandon Flowers gets a tattoo to back up his claim that he’s the best cornerback in the NFL in this video.
With the San Diego Chargers scheduled to begin training camp on July 24, we take a closer look at the team's opponents for the 2014 regular season.

Third up: Buffalo Bills

When: The Chargers travel to the East Coast for their first 10 a.m. PT start on Sept. 21 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Last season: The Bills continued the franchise's streak of missing the playoffs to 14 seasons after finishing 2013 with a 6-10 record. They have the longest active postseason drought in the NFL.

All-time series versus Chargers: San Diego owns a 22-12-2 record all-time over the Bills. The Chargers hold an 8-6-1 record on the road at Buffalo, but have lost three of their last four at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Last meeting versus Chargers: San Diego defeated Buffalo 37-10 at Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 11, 2011.

Super Bowl odds: 75-1

Key offseason additions: The Bills were not major players in free agency, but they added some solid complementary pieces in middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (Patriots), running back Anthony Dixon (49ers), cornerback Corey Graham (Ravens) and offensive lineman Chris Williams (Rams). But the players likely to make the most impact were selected in the draft. The Bills got who could be the most explosive playmaker in this year's draft in Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and middle linebacker Preston Brown also have a chance to contribute as rookies.

Key offseason losses: Buffalo's defense took two major hits, one in free agency and the other due to injury. The Bills lost their best player in the secondary when Jairus Byrd signed with the New Orleans Saints. Aaron Williams will move from cornerback to man the free safety position for the Bills. Buffalo also lost one of the top playmaking linebackers in the league, after Kiko Alonso tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while working out at his former stomping grounds, the University of Oregon. With Jim Schwartz taking over as Buffalo's defensive coordinator, Alonso was slated to move to weak side at outside linebacker, with Spikes taking over as middle linebacker in the 4-3 defense. Now the Bills will look for a replacement for Alonso from someone already on the roster, perhaps Nigel Bradham or Brown.

The skinny: Buffalo has one of the more imposing defensive fronts in the NFL. The Bills set a franchise record with 57 sacks last season. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2013. Marcell Dareus earned a Pro Bowl invitation with 71 tackles and 7.5 sacks, and Mario Williams finally played up to his potential, finishing with 38 tackles and 13 sacks. San Diego's offensive line will have its hands full protecting Philip Rivers.

The key for the Bills will be how much quarterback E.J. Manuel improves as a passer in his second season. The Bills ran a league-high 546 times last season. Manuel completed just 58.8 percent of his passes in 2013, throwing 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Buffalo needs to get more production from the passing game in order to score points in the red zone and keep opposing defenses from stacking the box to bottle up C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
SAN DIEGO -- Let’s do it again.

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews likely has that familiar refrain from the popular song by the Staples Singers in his thoughts when contemplating his performance last season.

In 2013, Mathews finished with a career-best 1,255 yards on a career-high 285 rushing attempts, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He rushed for more than 100 yards six times, second to Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy. The Chargers finished 5-1 in those games.

[+] EnlargeRyan Matthews, Wesley Woodyard
Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver PostSan Diego's Ryan Mathews, center, ran for 1,255 yards on 285 carries last season, his best as a pro.
But the Fresno State product wants to take it a step further in 2014. Because of a severely sprained ankle suffered against Oakland toward the end of the 2013 season, Mathews was ineffective in the playoffs, rushing for a total of 78 yards in two contests against Cincinnati and Denver.

Although he played a full 16-game season for the first time in his four-year NFL career, Mathews is focused on being on the field and at his best when the games matter most -- the playoffs.

“It was hard, not being able to finish the year out,” Mathews said. “Sixteen games is 16 games. I played a full season, but I didn’t really get to contribute in the games after the season -- the real games when it really counts.

“That’s my expectation this season. I’ve got to do more and do better, so I can be there with my guys to be able to help them out as much as I can when we get there again.”

To that end, Mathews went to work this offseason. He did running and agility drills at the beach to strengthen the smaller muscles in his legs and maintain his chiseled 220-pound frame.

“I think Ryan is going to have a great year, probably better than last year,” Chargers offensive tackle D.J. Fluker said. “He looks faster.”

Mathews played with a hop in his step and looked healthy during San Diego’s minicamp. At 26 years old, he’s more comfortable with his role on this team. Mathews is no longer burdened with trying to live up to the impossible expectations as this team’s first-round selection in the 2010 draft, set by the person who held onto the job before him, future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.

Mathews smiles more. He wore rainbow-colored Under Armour cleats he said were named after Superman and the Incredible Hulk during offseason workouts at Chargers Park.

“I feel good,” Mathews said. “I feel honored just being able to be out here with my teammates, going through the plays and everything, just getting acclimated to football conditioning and football training. I’m just having fun. I feel great.”

But Mathews also will have some company in the backfield, with the Chargers signing running back Donald Brown during free agency to a three-year, $10.4 million deal. Brown is expected to serve as a complementary back to Mathews and talented third-down back Danny Woodhead.

With Mathews and Woodhead both entering a contract year, Brown provides some protection for the Chargers should they lose either player in free agency. Brown will make $4 million in total compensation in 2014, twice as much as Mathews’ $1.978 million.

Still, new offensive coordinator Frank Reich maintains that Mathews will once again serve as San Diego’s workhorse running back. That approach makes sense. The Chargers finished 9-2 last season when they rushed for at least 112 yards as a team.

“Ryan is as tough as a runner as I’ve been around,” Reich said. “He’s just a physically dominating runner. And he brings a physical presence to the game, which we love. The offensive line senses it, and they love blocking for him because of his physicality.

“He’s just a tough guy. There were times last season where I knew he was hurt, but he was just not coming out of the game. So he’s a tough guy, and a physically dominant runner.”

Mathews says he has to make the most of his opportunities when he’s on the field.

“Everybody wants the ball,” Mathews said. “If you’re a running back, you want the ball. But there’s only one ball in the game, so we all got to take turns. And when we’re in there, we have to do our best with it.

“We’re all competing against each other every day. We’re always striving to make each other better, and really to get the best out of one another. Just being able to have three different backs do three different things with our three different running styles is great. You can use us for anything.”
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's Eric D. Williams examines the three biggest issues facing the San Diego Chargers heading into training camp.

Freeney's health: The Chargers have not had a player finish with double-digit sacks since 2011. Dwight Freeney is the only edge rusher currently on the roster to post at least 10 sacks in an NFL season. At 34, Freeney returns to the field from a torn quad injury that cut his 2013 campaign short, and he is expected to be healthy for the regular-season opener at Arizona. Freeney told reporters during offseason workouts in June he was healthy enough to play a game at that point in his rehab. However, San Diego coach Mike McCoy needs to make sure Freeney makes it through training camp and the regular season healthy by limiting Freeney's workload during practice and in games. The Chargers need Freeney to set the tone for a young group of pass-rushers. If Freeney can return to his old form, it will take pressure off of young pass-rushers like Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu. The Chargers finished tied for 23rd in sacks last season with 35. San Diego was even worse on third down, totaling 10 sacks in 2013, second worst in the NFL.

Find a home for Flowers: John Pagano said he plans to use recently acquired cornerback Brandon Flowers all over the field, but during training camp San Diego's defensive coordinator must find a consistent home for the 28-year-old Pro Bowler. Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright were San Diego's starting cornerbacks at the end of offseason workouts. But with first-rounder Jason Verrett expected to take the field after his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery and Flowers in the fold, Pagano has options on the perimeter of his secondary. The Chargers need more production from a unit that totaled 11 interceptions in 2013. The Chargers allowed an average of 259 passing yards a contest last season, which ranked No. 29 in the NFL. San Diego also gave up 58 passing plays of 20 yards or more, tied for No. 24 in the league. The Chargers did a better job in these categories during the backstretch of 2013, but continued improvement is needed.

Find snaps for Attaochu: Second-round selection Attaochu brings speed and athleticism as a pass-rusher for the Chargers, something the team sorely lacked last season. Pagano needs to figure out how to effectively use Attaochu without giving him too much to think about on the field in terms of scheme, slowing down his play speed. Pagano could look to the way the Seattle Seahawks used speedy edge rusher Bruce Irvin during his rookie season in 2012 as a blueprint for Attaochu. Irvin played in 405 snaps and finished with eight sacks as a rookie, playing mostly on passing downs. The Chargers could use Attaochu in a similar manner and hopefully get the same type of impact.
With the San Diego Chargers scheduled to begin training camp on July 24, we take a closer look at the team’s opponents for the 2014 regular season.

Second up: Seattle Seahawks

When: The Chargers host the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks on Sept. 14 at Qualcomm Stadium for the team’s 2014 home opener.

Last season: In his fourth season in Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll led his team on a campaign that ended with the Seahawks overwhelming the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, 43-8 -- winning the Vince Lombardi trophy for the first time in franchise history.

All-time series vs. Chargers: Seattle owns a 26-23 advantage, but San Diego is 14-9 against the Seahawks at Qualcomm Stadium.

Last meeting vs. Chargers: On the strength of two Leon Washington kick returns for touchdowns, Seattle defeated San Diego at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 26, 2010.

Super Bowl odds: 7-1

Key offseason additions: The Seahawks spent the most money in free agency retaining key players from their top-rated defense, including signing cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and defensive end Michael Bennett to lucrative, multi-year deals. Seattle’s only free agency signing of note was picking up former San Diego Chargers interior offensive lineman Stephen Schilling. A Seattle-area native, Schilling will compete for a back-up job during training camp. Seattle selected two receivers in the draft who have a chance to make an impact: University of Colorado speedster Paul Richardson and polished route runner Kevin Norwood out of Alabama. Second-round selection Justin Britt will get a chance to compete for a starting job at right tackle.

Key offseason losses: Seattle will have to replace a ton of production on the defensive side of the ball, with defensive ends Red Bryant (Jaguars) and Chris Clemons (Jaguars), along with defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (Bucs) and cornerbacks Brandon Browner (Patriots) and Walter Thurmond (N.Y. Giants) all moving on in free agency. Offensively, the Seahawks lost starting right tackle Breno Giacomini (N.Y. Jets) and receiver Golden Tate (Lions). While those losses hurt, the Seahawks have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, with talented options to replace those players.

The skinny: While Seattle’s defense is very talented, offensively San Diego actually matches up pretty well. Because of the physical way the Chargers run the ball, San Diego will not be bullied at the line of scrimmage. And with tight end Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, the Chargers can attack one of the few weaknesses of Seattle’s defense, the middle of the field.

But the real matchup will be how San Diego’s defense can handle Seattle’s physical, explosive running attack, led by Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin.
The San Diego Chargers bucked the trend of playoff-caliber teams adding bigger cornerbacks to their defenses this past offseason.

Denver, the defending AFC champs, signed 6-foot-1 Aqib Talib in free agency and drafted 5-foot-11 Ohio State product Bradley Roby in the first round. The New England Patriots, who played Denver in the AFC title game last season, replaced Talib with one of the best cornerbacks in the game, 5-foot-11 Darrelle Revis.

The Patriots also signed 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner in free agency to play opposite Revis once he serves a four-game suspension.

Flowers
San Diego’s AFC West rival, the Kansas City Chiefs, released 5-9 Brandon Flowers in a cost-cutting move, and will have a projected starting cornerback tandem of 6-2 Marcus Cooper and 6-3 Sean Smith.

The Chargers recently signed Flowers, cutting 6-1 cornerback Brandon Jones to make room on the 90-man roster. Of course, the Chiefs promptly signed Jones because he fits the team’s profile for a press cover corner.

Teams such as Denver, New England and Kansas City are trying to emulate the success the Seattle Seahawks have had with tall, lanky cornerbacks like Richard Sherman (6-3) and Byron Maxwell (6-1). Over the past two seasons, the Seahawks have the most interceptions (46) during that time frame.

The Chargers are 25th in the NFL the past two seasons with 25 interceptions. With an average of 5-10 and 192 pounds, San Diego has the smallest secondary in the league. However, defensive coordinator John Pagano will rely on an improved pass rush, along with more speed and athleticism in the back end to improve his team’s pass defense.

San Diego hopes to get an impact from first-round selection cornerback Jason Verrett, who fits the team’s profile for a cat-quick cornerback at 5-9 and 190 pounds. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said before this year’s draft that he believes size is not an issue at the cornerback position. And Telesco can look to past successes with drafting smaller defensive backs in Indianapolis like Tim Jennings and Bob Sanders as evidence of that theory.

“We need guys who can cover people, No. 1, and tackle,” Telesco said in an interview before this year’s draft. “And if they come in a smaller size, they come in a smaller size. If they’re average-sized, they’re average-sized. But if you hold out looking for just Richard Sherman, you’ll be waiting a long time.”

Verrett, who hopes to be fully healthy at the beginning of training camp after offseason shoulder surgery, believes his height will not be an issue.

“It’s just moving my feet and playing a lot smarter on the field,” Verrett said. “I played against a lot of guys that were 6-2, 6-3 (in college). I didn’t really try and get my hands on them too much. And once the ball is in the air, definitely being a competitor (is important).”

[+] EnlargeJason Verrett
AP Photo/Gregory BullJason Verrett expects to be cleared for contact by the time training camp begins next month.
Why size matters

In his return to the NFL, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll focused on developing a defense with an emphasis on speed, ball anticipation and size. That’s particularly evident in the secondary, where Seattle has one of the biggest cornerback tandems in NFL with Sherman and Maxwell.

Carroll brought back the bump-and-run technique made famous decades ago by such physical cornerback tandems as Pittsburgh’s Mel Blount and J.T. Thomas, Oakland’s Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes, and Kansas City’s Dale Carter and James Hasty.

The concept is simple: create pressure on the passer with a ferocious pass rush up front, and make the quarterback complete tough throws over the lanky arms of his rangy defensive backs.

Even though guys like Sherman might get beat by a step or two, with their length, they still have an opportunity to recover and get back in the play.

The best example of that is Sherman’s tipped pass on a Colin Kaepernick offering to Michael Crabtree that linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted, which sealed Seattle’s trip to the Super Bowl last season. Check out the play here.

Sherman was beat by a step on the play, but his length allowed him to knock the pass down.
Maxwell also uses his length to pick off Eli Manning on a shallow cross, which you can check out here.

How to play big

The Chargers have to compensate for their lack of size by playing with great anticipation. And doing that requires good film study, understanding receiver splits, down and distance and what route concepts teams like to run in certain situations.

Few are better at putting this all together than San Diego safety Eric Weddle.

Playing against a much bigger pass-catcher in Dallas tight end Jason Witten, Weddle twice shut him out on third down last year in a win against the Cowboys.

The Chargers played with three safeties, three cornerbacks and a middle linebacker, using a four-man rush, something you might see a lot of this year in passing situations. Check out the video here (starts at the 8-minute mark).

Weddle said better communication will be the key this season in improving San Diego’s play in the back end of the defense, something the young secondary struggled with in 2013.

Malcom Floyd fighting for No. 1 WR spot

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
10:00
AM ET

video 
ESPN.com San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about Malcom Floyd's comeback from a neck injury.
Good morning. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com put together his list of the most complete running backs in the league right now. And San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews earned a spot on the list at No. 8.

Even though Danny Woodhead serves as San Diego’s running back on passing downs, Mathews still has the ability to make things happen as a pass catcher. More importantly, he developed into one the most effective runners in the league last season, rushing for a career-best 1,255 yards in 2013.

Brooks: "The additions of Donald Brown this year and Danny Woodhead last year have turned Mathews into a bit of a role player in the Chargers' offense, but he still displays the skill and versatility to be a three-down back. The fifth-year pro has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in two of his past three seasons, exhibiting the balance, body control and vision to be effective between the tackles or on the perimeter. Mathews finished 2013 with six 100-yard games (he narrowly missed a seventh, posting a 99-yard effort in Week 16) and caught at least three passes in four different contests. Although his receiving numbers were greatly affected by Woodhead's prominent role in the passing game, Mathews' skills as a runner/receiver make him worthy of consideration as one of the league's most complete running backs."
With the San Diego Chargers scheduled to begin training camp on July 24, we take a closer look at the team's opponents for the 2014 regular season.

First up: Arizona Cardinals

When: The regular-season opener for both teams is on Monday night, Sept. 8, at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Last season: The Cardinals finished 2013 with a 10-6 record, but missed the playoffs. Arizona was the only team to defeat the Super Bowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks, at CenturyLink Field last season, a 17-10 win on Dec. 22.

All-time series vs. Chargers: San Diego has a 9-3 record against Arizona during the regular season. The Chargers are 3-2 on the road against the Cardinals.

Last meeting vs. Chargers: San Diego defeated Arizona 41-10 at Qualcomm Stadium on Oct. 3, 2010. The last time San Diego played at Arizona, the Chargers lost 23-15 in on Sept. 22, 2002.

Super Bowl odds: 50-1

Key offseason additions: The Cardinals added some much-needed help to the offensive line with the addition of left tackle Jared Veldheer from Oakland. Arizona also signed former Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie to play opposite Patrick Peterson from the New York Jets. Talented return man Ted Ginn Jr. was brought in to bolster a receiving group led by Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. First-round selection Deone Bucannon is a hard hitter who should upgrade an already talented secondary.

Key offseason losses: Ginn replaces receiver Andre Roberts, who signed with Washington in free agency, as Arizona’s slot receiver. Underrated middle linebacker Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland. That loss is made worse by the fact that Pro Bowl linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Tyrann Mathieu is not expected to return from a torn ACL until October.

The skinny: Quarterback Carson Palmer is in the final year of his contract, and he provided some stability at the most important position on the field for the Cardinals. He threw for over 4,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013. But Palmer turns 35 this December. He was sacked 41 times and threw 22 interceptions last season. Arizona needs a long-term answer at the quarterback position, and the team hopes fourth-round draft pick Logan Thomas can develop into that guy. Although he turns 31 in August, Fitzgerald remains one of the best receivers in the game, and the emergence of Floyd gives the Cardinals one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL.

But the Cardinals are led by their defense. Arizona finished as the No. 1 rushing defense last season, allowing just 84 yards a contest. Led by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Cardinals finished No. 6 in total defense in 2013. Arizona has one of the best cover corners in the game with Peterson. The LSU product finished with three interceptions and 13 pass deflections last season. Defensive linemen Calais Campbell (nine sacks) and Darnell Dockett (4.5 sacks) anchor one of the better defensive fronts the Chargers will face in 2014.
Good morning. Lindsay Jones of USA Today offers this training camp preview of the San Diego Chargers, with the team expected to begin practice at Chargers Park in 11 days.

Jones expects the offensive line to continue to improve if the group can remain healthy in 2014:

From Jones: “The blocking was vastly improved last season. Rivers was sacked 30 times compared with 49 in 2012. The upgrade was due in large part to the play of tackles King Dunlap and 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker. The unit could make even bigger strides if it can stop playing musical chairs because of injuries. Dunlap, who suffered three concussions last season, is the key player to watch. The team re-signed guard Chad Rinehart, who is expected to start next to longtime center Nick Hardwick.”

In this ESPN Insider piece Insider, the Chargers rank No. 9 in ESPN's NFL Future Power Rankings.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego talks with Ryan Mathews about his offseason training leading up to training camp at the end of this month.

Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth predicts a return to the playoffs for the Chargers.

Troy Hirsch of Fox 5 San Diego takes aerial yoga with Shareece Wright in this video.

Marty Caswell of The Mighty 1090 talks with Wright about his goals for the upcoming season in this video.

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com ranks Donald Butler a solid starter in his ranking of the linebackers around the league.

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