The 2011 season was a nightmare for San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Not only did he not play to the elite level that we have come accustomed to since he took over as the starting quarterback for San Diego back in 2006, but the Chargers also missed out on the playoffs for the second straight season causing some to question whether or not Rivers is truly an elite quarterback in the National Football League.
Well I have news for all the doubters. Rivers is elite. And even though 2012 was admittedly not his best season as a pro, Rivers is motivated and ready to prove himself all over again in 2012.
The strange thing about Rivers 2011 season was that while he started off slowly, the team was winning games. Over the first seven games of the season, Rivers threw just seven touchdown passes to go along with 11 interceptions, but did still manage to throw for an impressive 297 yards a game as the team got off to a solid 4-3 start.
However, it was over the last nine games of the season that the old Rivers began to show himself. Despite the team posting just a 4-5 record over his final nine starts, Rivers definitely got back to his old form as he averaged 282 yards passing a game in addition to throwing 20 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions during that same stretch.
Had the Chargers went 5-4 during that stretch of games, which would have given them a 9-7 record and the AFC West title, Rivers would certainly have been given credit for leading his team to the playoffs with a great second half of the season and his status among the elite quarterbacks would not be questioned.
Yet, the Chargers came up short, which reflects negatively upon Rivers and because of that his stellar play down the stretch tends to be forgotten. Now the Chargers have lost former Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, which in the eyes of some means Rivers will now have one less weapon to throw the ball to and will contribute to an even less productive 2012 season for Rivers.
Those who think Jackson’s loss will be felt in any way are sorely mistaken. He is among the most overrated players in the NFL and last season caught only 52 percent of the passes thrown to him. In fact, only once in Jacksons’ seven-year career has he posted a catch percentage above 60 percent.
Robert Meachem, who the Chargers signed to replace Jackson, had posted two consecutive seasons with catch percentages over 66 percent. Meachem also outshines Jackson in another critical metic; yards per target. Meachem a 10.3 yards per target average in 2011, while Jackson finished the season at 9.6 So basically for less money, the Chargers are getting a player of equal value, who simply just did not get enough targets in New Orleans to shine.
Since Meachem is more than capable of filling Jackson’s role, Rivers should have more than enough weapons to put up elite passing numbers again in 2012. After all in addition to Meachem, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal form a pretty solid group of pass catchers that should allow Rivers to once again pass for close to 300 yards a game.
Besides the only real negative about Rivers performance in 2011 was his turnovers. 20 interceptions is far too many but before this season he has averaged just 12 interceptions a season, so the high total last year is likely just an abnormality.
Believe it or not, Rivers threw for 289 yards a game last season, he completed 62 percent of his passes. His 27 touchdown passes also ranked eighth in the league, while his yardage total was sixth best in the NFL and 20th all-time. The majority of quarterbacks in the NFL would gladly take those numbers, which is why it is silly to question Rivers elite status at all.
Those who are doubting Rivers will soon be eating crow because when you really step back and take a look at his production there is only way to classify Rivers as an NFL quarterback, which is among the elite.