Chargers season preview: Rivers running out of time

*Around the NFL's season preview continues with the AFC West *

Change we can believe in

After just missing the playoffs, the Chargers didn't overhaul their roster. But some small upgrades throughout the team and improved health could result in a dangerous squad. Stevie Johnson appears to already have a mind meld with Philip Rivers. Orlando Franklin should help an offensive line with plenty of questions. Pass-rusher Melvin Ingram looks far more explosive this preseason, while cornerback Jason Verrett and receiver Keenan Allen are back to full health. Rookie Melvin Gordon will lead a committee at running back.

The Chargers had two elephants in the locker room this offseason with Philip Rivers' future and the team's potential move to Los Angeles looming. At least they addressed one of them in training camp with Rivers' new contract. He remains a top-10 quarterback at the tail end of his prime, just hoping the talent around him plays better this year.

Biggest Concern

Rivers' second-half decline was dramatic last year. It was injury related and due to a weakened offensive line, but there's no guarantee those issues will improve this season. The Chargers have been shuffling their line throughout camp, with 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker moving inside to guard. Joe Barksdale will be at right tackle. While the right side is a concern, the team's left side, anchored by King Dunlap and Franklin, looks better than it has in a long time.

If Rivers has time, he has plenty of weapons to throw to. Keenan Allen has enjoyed a strong camp. Antonio Gates will be back from suspension after four games. The backfield is deep with Gordon, Branden Oliver and third-down back Danny Woodhead.

Training camp surprise

The relative fortunes of the team's Melvins has been a surprise in camp. Ingram has looked like a new man, showing off the explosive pass rushing skills in the preseason the Chargers desperately need. Gordon, meanwhile, looked tentative in his two preseason appearances. He also missed time with an ankle injury. Gordon was expected to be the primary rusher for the Chargers, but now he looks more likely to be part of a committee.

What we'll be saying in February

I see the Chargers making the playoffs this year, but the Around The NFL group as a whole believes they will fall just short.

Predicted finish: Second place in AFC West, No. 8 in AFC, No. 15 in Around The NFL's Power Poll.

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