Nick Hardwick. Gone. Danny Woodhead. Gone. Manti Te’o. Out indefinitely. Ryan Mathews. Sitting out a few weeks, perhaps up to a month. A promising season has now become an outpatient clinic for the San Diego Chargers. This is not what the Chargers envisioned for the 2014 NFL season. Four parts of the team’s ingredients to this season will now be watching games in street clothes for the rest of the year.
In the case of Mathews, that should be limited to four to five games. But the picture of aspiring Super Bowl contenders took a couple of left upper cuts and right jabs with the injury bug that has hit the team thus far. But then again this is why you have a depth chart. One man down, next man up. So goes the rule of law in the NFL. The biggest question for the Chargers is how well center position will be manned now that Hardwick, the team’s longtime center, will be MIA for the rest of the year, quite possibly, for good?
The buck at the offensive line stops at the center, a place where outside of quarterback, the man in the middle is second in command on the offense side of the ball. In some situations the center is the de facto leader for the offensive unit. Hardwick has been that kind of player for the Chargers the last 10 plus years until he went down with a season-ending neck injury at the beginning of the season.
This is a big loss for quarterback Philip Rivers. But coach Mike McCoy has a stable of solid, young offensive lineman at his disposable to try to compensate for the loss of Hardwick. That means young Rich Ohrnberger will have to fill the big shoes left behind by Hardwick. So far, so good. However, a top-notch center is virtually indispensable for any NFL team.
Only the long season will provide a gauge of how smooth the transition of going from Hardwick to Ohrnberger have gone. Just like Hardwick, losing Woodhead is another big loss. The Chargers’ unofficial sparkplug as a player that moves the chains as a running back, slot receiver and occasional wideout, Woodhead is one of those players that every team needs or wants on their ballclub.
Woodhead’s injury, which he sustained against on the road against the Buffalo Bills in Game 3, is season-ending in the form of a broken right leg. Mathews accrued his knee injury in the Chargers’ 30-21 win against the Seattle Seahawks. On another front, Te’o, just coming into his own as perhaps the spearhead of the Chargers’ revamped defense, has been forced to sit because of yet another foot malady.
How much these injuries will sidetrack the Chargers on the their Super Bowl quest won’t be known for some time. This is a long season. Players get acclimated and adapt very quickly. With that being said, however, the Chargers simply cannot afford another major injury if they are to derail the Denver Broncos as AFC West Division champs.