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NFL preview: New faces should spark Chargers play this season Trent Warren | Thu, Sep 05 2013 04:57 PM

The month of September is here. In other words … it’s football season.

With the high school and college football seasons already under way after this past weekend, it’s time for the NFL season to get ready to kick off as well.

The NFL season officially begins on Thursday, Sept. 5, with the Denver Broncos squaring off against the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

But on Sunday Sept. 8, (and don’t forget the debut of "Monday Night Football" on Sept. 9) the rest of the NFL teams are scheduled to play and begin their journey toward a Super Bowl championship.

One of those teams looking for their first Super Bowl victory is the San Diego Chargers. Fans have moved past from last year’s disappointing season and are ready to move forward with the establishment of a new coaching staff and front office for the Chargers.

Charger’s head coach Mike McCoy will make his debut as a NFL head coach when the Chargers face off with the Houston Texans on Monday at Qualcomm Stadium. Kick-off is 7:15 p.m. in front of a national cable TV audience (and KUSI-TV locally).

McCoy, who previously was an offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos for three seasons, replaced Norv Tuner as head coach in January.

McCoy and new general manager Tom Telesco have addressed many of the Chargers’ needs at certain positions.

Upgrades have been made to the offensive line through free agency and draft picks and it seems that the Chargers have improved at the line of scrimmage, at least on paper.

Key additions such as first round draft pick right tackle D.J. Fluker and free agent left tackle King Dunlap will help quarterback Phillip Rivers in pass protection situations. Rivers was sacked an astounding 49 times last season.

Not only should both Fluker and Dunlap help in pass protection that almost seemed non-existent last season, the two offensive linemen should help create running lanes for running back Ryan Matthews this season.

Mathews, however, has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t played a full season since he was drafted as a Charger back in 2010.

If Mathews is able to stay injury free for the entire year, the Chargers’ running back should be projected to have a solid year.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers are filled with young talent and players looking to play major roles this season.

Impact players on the defensive side of the ball include Pro Bowler and three-time all-pro strong safety Eric Weddle and newly acquired free agent outside linebacker Dwight Freeney from the Indianapolis Colts.

Weddle is one of the oldest defensive players the Chargers have on their roster and is known as a ball hawk for his instinctive nature and play around the football.

Freeney was obtained after outside linebacker Melvin Ingram suffered a season-ending torn ACL earlier in the offseason.

The veteran Freeney should be able to provide a similar pass rush to that of Ingram’s.

But if it wasn’t already apparent, all eyes will be on second-round inside linebacker draft pick Manti Teo from Notre Dame.

Teo was involved in a faux girlfriend scandal that made national headlines earlier in the year. He will be looking to put the story behind him with solid play in his rookie campaign.

One of the biggest mantras for the Chargers is to be able to stay healthy throughout the year. In the most recent years it has been injuries that have been the most detrimental to the team.

Thus far, wide receiver Danario Alexander has been placed on season-ending injured reserve after a torn ACL and, as previously mentioned, Ingram is out with an ACL injury as well.

With just a little luck on their side, the Chargers could have a chance at winning a wild card spot and being able to sneak into the playoffs.

The AFC West will be challenging with the Super Bowl contending Denver Broncos stealing the spotlight.

Week one game prediction: Texans 28, Chargers 17

 

Trent’s Picks
Super Bowl match-up:
San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos -- stout defenses, dynamic offenses

Super Bowl champion:
San Francisco 49ers -- Colin Kaepernick's first full year as QB is a success

Most Improved AFC Team: Kansas City Chiefs -- new QB Alex Smith, new head coach Andy Reid and upgrades to offensive line

Most Improved NFC Team:
Philadelphia Eagles -- Chip Kelly helps team double their amount of wins from last year

Sleeper Team:
Cleveland Browns -- new coaching staff, front office; Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson have breakout year under Norv Turner

Offseason's Biggest Loser:
New York Jets -- still without proven QB in week one

 

 

Tony Jefferson — defying all odds
In high school, Tony Jefferson was a Division I San Diego Section champion, a 2009 USA Today All-American selection, four-star recruit by Rivals.com and listed as the No. 4 cornerback prospect in the class of 2010.

In college, he was a 2010 Freshman All-American by College Football News and The Sporting News, Big 12 Conference Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year, a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2012 and was named AP All-American in 2012.

Jefferson was projected to be drafted during the mid rounds in the 2013 NFL Draft.

However, Jefferson didn’t hear his name called and went undrafted.

It is not completely clear why Jefferson went undrafted. Some claim he doesn’t have the ideal height for a strong safety to play at the next level. Others believe his tackling technique is poor and think he wouldn’t be durable enough to play in the NFL.

Despite all the naysayers, Jefferson was on a mission to accomplish his dream of becoming a professional football player.

He would sign as an undrafted free agent for the Arizona Cardinals and play in their preseason games with hopes to make their final roster.

It would take a remarkable preseason and a little bit of luck but Jefferson would survive the final cut.

He had a stellar performance in the Cardinals second week preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys when he recorded five tackles and made two interceptions during the game. Such a performance wouldn’t go unrecognized and he was rewarded with a roster spot.

Jefferson is currently listed as the No. 2 strong safety on the team and hopes to see playing time as a rookie.

Among all of the doubters, non-believers and critics, there were also the fans, friends, coaches and family alongside him supporting him throughout the entire way.

Once upon a time Jefferson was an Eastlake Titan tearing it up on the field under the Friday night-lights.

Now he will be playing on Sundays, living the dream as a professional football player.

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