Philip Rivers 'fired up' for Chargers' young nucleus

Last year at this time, Philip Rivers was surprisingly mulling early retirement while nursing painful back and rib injuries.

This time around, the veteran quarterback is "fired up" about the Chargers' future despite a 4-12 record in 2015.

In a Tuesday interview with Kevin Acee of XPRS radio in San Diego, Rivers identified cornerback Jason Verrett and linebackers Denzel Perryman and Manti Te'o as the nucleus of the organization's next great defense.

"I'm excited about the young guys we have who are becoming our core guys," Rivers said. "Verrett, those inside linebackers, I could go on and on. I'm excited about what that new core is becoming on defense."

That new core paid dividends down the stretch, as the Bolts' four December opponents averaged just 284 yards per game -- a figure that would have finished second only to the Broncos had it extended over the course of the season.

Provided the Chargers add a few free-agent pieces, hit on the No. 3 and No. 34 picks in the draft and avoid an injury plague of last year's proportions, Rivers believes they have a chance to improve from 4-12 to 12-4 in 2016.

"I know it was a tough year. And I know there's a lot of stuff that has to go on for us to be here a long time -- and hopefully that happens," Rivers continued. "But I sense that (the fans) are going to be reenergized. ... I think they feel 4-12 is not happening again. We're in every game, all that we dealt with."

Beyond the injuries, the Chargers were one of the unluckiest teams in the league, losing nine of their astounding 12 one-score games.

Rivers has emphasized the team's need for a "reload" rather than a full-scale rebuilding effort this offseason. If they Chargers improve their luck and add a couple of impact players on each side of the ball, they will be a prime candidate to challenge for a playoff spot next season.

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