Is Philip Rivers headed to elite level?

By Arturo Solano

After learning behind Drew Brees in his first 2 seasons in the NFL, Philip Rivers became a starter in 2006 for the San Diego Chargers. He took the league by storm early in his career as a starter, averaging 4,399 yards a season from 2008 to 2011.

However, the past two seasons, Rivers has seen a significant increase in turnovers. He has been among the league’s leaders in turnovers in recent seasons with 47 turnovers (35 INTs and 12 fumbles lost) coming in the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined.

His growing number of turnovers can largely be attributed to the diminishing talent to San Diego’s offensive line. After playing only 6 games in 2011, 2x All-Pro Guard Kris Dielman retired due to head injuries. Similarly, Pro Bowl Left Tackle Marcus McNeill played 9 games in the 2011 season due to spinal problems before he retired following the end of the season.

A massive overhaul of the offensive line took place in the offseason with new starters at each position besides Center.

San Diego drafted mammoth Right Tackle DJ Fluker in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL draft to address part of the concern with the O-Line. The move also forced the former Right Tackle and human revolving door, Jeromey Clary, to slide inside to Right Guard where his weakness in pass-blocking is less at risk of being exposed. The Chargers then acquired free-agents King Dunlap and Chad Rinehart to hold down the left side of the offensive line.

With this revamped line and a small sample size of 2 games, Philip Rivers is now on pace to get sacked 24 times this season after getting sacked 49 times in 2012. 24 sacks would be the least amount of sacks taken by Rivers since the 2007 season when he was sacked 22 times.

Rivers has produced with the protection he has been receiving as of late. He has gone 50-76 for 614 yards with 7 TDs and 1 INT in the two games played this season.

ESPN’s quarterback rating system ranks him as the best QB not named Peyton Manning so far this season. This solid play has not gone unnoticed by the league; Rivers was named the AFC’s player of the week after the Chargers’ week 2 win at Philadelphia.

Sure, Philip Rivers has made his share of errors throughout the past couple seasons in which he has struggled, but perhaps it was San Diego’s offensive line or coaching staff that needed “fixing” rather than the quarterback.


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