The Chargers, losers of five of their last six games, have essentially conceded the division to the…
The Chargers must decide if Ryan Mathews is a franchise running back. He is a strong between-the-tackles runner with vision, patience and balance, but his fumbling problems and inconsistencies in pass protection have him spending too much time in the dog house.
Mathews has yet to deliver a 100-yard game this season and has just one touchdown. Part of that is due to Norv Turner using a stable of running backs -- Mathews has carried 20-plus times in just two games -- but the Chargers need to see more from a player in whom they have invested so heavily.
2. Learn Which Receivers Can Play
Philip Rivers is underperforming, but he needs more help from his wide receivers. Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and Danario Alexander are all out to prove they can be part of a championship-caliber offense. Meachem and Royal showed more with their previous teams than they have in their first year in San Diego, while Alexander has been on fire over the last few weeks but has never caught more than 26 passes in a season.
Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown figure to be key parts of the rotation in 2013. Meachem, Royal and Alexander will use the next five weeks to prove they belong in that mix, as well.
Speaking of young pass catchers, it's time for the green but gifted Ladarius Green to get some run, as well.
3. Shake Uo the Secondary
Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason will both be free agents after the season. That, combined with San Diego's No. 20 ranking against the pass, indicates the secondary is in for an overhaul. But before the Chargers determine what they need, they must figure out what they already have.
Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright need expanded roles as to figure out if they are worthy replacements for Jammer and Cason. There is a similar situation at strong safety, where recent draftees Brandon Taylor (2012) and Darrell Stuckey (2010) deserve a chance to show they can outperform journeyman Atari Bigby.
Which players are a part of the future in San Diego? Talk in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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