At Chargers Park, the team's year-round training facility a few miles north of Qualcomm Stadium. There wasn't much to observe during my morning visit, as the squad was going through a pad-less walkthrough. Still, here are some thoughts from conversations with players, coaches and general manager A.J. Smith.
San Diego also has upgraded its personnel, adding linebacker Jarret Johnson and safety Atari Bigby in free agency as well as pass rusher Melvin Ingram and end Kendall Reyes via the draft. No one is more aware of the improvements on defense than Rivers, who sees it each day in practice. "I hate to say it but yesterday we threw two interceptions and they stripped four balls in practice," he said. "Our defense has a huge emphasis on that this year. It seems like they're just flying around. There are more contested balls in the secondary; they're getting their hands on 'em. I know it's making us better as an offense."
The schedule is conducive to a quick start. The Chargers open at Oakland, which is breaking in a new coaching staff and lost some key players in cost-cutting moves in the offseason, then they host Tennesssee and Atlanta. There's no reason to believe they won't come out of those games 3-0, which means nothing considering they lost six in a row last year after starting 4-1. Two key stretches that could greatly impact their season: Sept. 30 through Oct. 15, when they visit Kansas City and New Orleans before hosting Peyton Manning and the Broncos; then Nov. 1 through Dec. 9, when they'll host the Chiefs and visit the Bucs before playing four 2011 playoff qualifiers: at Denver, vs. Baltimore and Cincinnati, and at Pittsburgh.