Mike McCoy, Chargers expect Philip Rivers to play better in 2014

SAN DIEGO -- Can quarterback Phillip Rivers play at a Pro Bowl level again without Ken Whisenhunt calling the plays?

Whisenhunt left San Diego to become the Tennessee Titans' head coach, leading to a promotion for former quarterbacks coach Frank Reich, who's now tasked with running the Chargers' offense.

How much of the play-calling the former Bills quarterback and first-time coordinator will do is still unknown. But the bigger question might be whether Reich can find the magic in the bottle that revitalized Rivers' career and a Chargers' pass offense that improved from 24th in 2012 to fourth in the league last season.

"Without a doubt -- we actually expect him to play better. And I think he'll tell you the same thing," second-year head coach Mike McCoy says of Rivers' upcoming season. "There's some things he can improve on."

McCoy says the goal last season, his first ever as a head coach, was to lay the foundation and establish his system on offense, teasing, "There's plenty of things we didn't even use last year."

While the Chargers will add some new wrinkles on offense, at the same time, they seem focused on fixing some of last season's problems.

"We did a nice job last year moving the football," McCoy says, "but we stubbed our toes too many times in the red area. We gotta finish with touchdowns."

The Chargers practiced in pads for the first time during Saturday's training camp session. McCoy called the two-hour morning session "a good physical practice" that served as an eye-opener for some of the young players.

The grind and pace seemed to take its toll on a few of them -- guards Chris Watt and Johnnie Troutman both left the field early because of dehydration. McCoy says he cut practice short by a few minutes after players looked like they were wearing down.

McCoy adds his number one priority is getting the team in better football shape; at his request, second-year linebacker Manti Te'o came to camp five pounds lighter, looking noticeably leaner.

"If you look at our team as a whole, our team's just faster. We look faster, we're moving, we're more explosive," says Te'o. "Everyone out there's feeling good and flying around."

Three days into camp, people in and around Chargers Park are optimistic. The energy is high, the pace is fast, but it's not the physical play that has caught McCoy's attention the most -- what's impressed him has been the way his players have retained information.

"The mental part has been outstanding so far," says McCoy.

But it all comes down to Rivers, the 32-year-old signal-caller.

"When you have a guy like that, you got a chance every Sunday to line up, go out there and succeed," McCoy said of his quarterback. "We're very fortunate to have him as the leader of our organization."

Follow Alex Flanagan on Twitter @Alex_Flanagan.

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