Entering the 2013 season, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was given more control of the offense. A large emphasis was put on Rivers’ ability to read and diagnose the defense. Allowing Rivers to read the defenses before the snap worked out pretty well during the season. Rivers completed a career and NFL high 69.5 percent of his passes. San Diego ranked behind only the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos in offensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders. Building off that success last season, Rivers reportedly will be given even more control of the offense in 2014.
According to some reports out of Chargers OTAs, San Diego will be unveiling a more up-tempo no huddle style offense for the upcoming season. Rivers will be able to make more calls at the line, with a play call style akin to Peyton Manning. While we shouldn’t be comparing anyone to Manning’s ability to call plays at the line, the comparison of process will have some merit. New offensive coordinator Frank Reich was Manning’s quarterbacks coach while the two were in Indianapolis.
Per the drive stats on Football Outsiders, San Diego led all offenses in yards per drive, plays per drive and time of possession per drive in 2013. That was all while ranking 31st in seconds per play run at an average of 29.47 seconds between plays. Only Carolina’s 29.93 seconds per play was a slower pace. Now the Chargers were efficient by being a slower paced offense, but an increase in no huddle doesn’t mean the Chargers are suddenly going to become the Eagles. Even though the Broncos did have the second fastest pace in the league, by seconds per snap, the Chargers don’t have to become that either.
San Diego can stick to whatever pace they want, though preferably not coming in as one of the slowest offenses in the league again. The important aspect here will be the use of the no-huddle. Bringing everyone back up to the line immediately after a play is finished puts the defense in a disadvantageous situation. Usually, the defense doesn’t have enough time to sub out players, or they take the risk of the ball being snapped in the middle of a substitution. Through the course of the game, the more tired defenders become, the easier it will be to take advantage of them. In no way is that a revelation, but recently more teams are putting more effort into tiring out the defense.
Rivers was great in 2013 and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to handle more responsibilities on the offense. This won’t just affect Rivers, though, as the rest of the offense should benefit from this system. At the most basic level, the cat and mouse chase between an offense and defense comes down to a numbers game. Allowing a quarterback to asses the defense at the line tends to give the offense the bigger advantage. If there’s eight or nine players in the box, the quarterback can easily check to a pass play to expose the parts of the field that can’t be covered when the defenders are playing close to the line. The opposite can be done as well if the defense spreads out. If the quarterback can identify more blockers than there are defenders, it’s an easy check to a run play. That will allow Rivers to identify more mismatches for the playmakers like Keenan Allen, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead.
All of that should sound logical to many people, but it’s amazing how many offenses don’t give a quarterback that much free reign to make those calls at the line. There’s some quarterbacks who just can’t handle those types of reads before the snap. There’s also still some offensive coordinators with the mindset of “This is my play call. This is the play we’re going to run.” It’s a good sign both Reich and head coach Mike McCoy are comfortable trusting Rivers to make these types of calls at the line.
Allowing to Rivers to make and adjust to more pre-snap reads worked well for San Diego last season. Giving Rivers more control over the offense will benefit everyone involved. It might be hard to statistically improve upon what the Chargers did last season on offense, but giving this type of control to a very good quarterback is a big step in staying as one of the top offenses in the league.
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