Contenders hope bold moves will upgrade offenses

Despite making the playoffs last season, the San Diego Chargers were 31st in the NFL in rushing.

Exit LaDainian Tomlinson. Enter Ryan Mathews.

Mathews will be a player of intrigue in training camp — a rookie running back replacing a San Diego icon. The Chargers have Super Bowl aspirations, but they lacked balance last season.

"I think people will be surprised how much Norv Turner may run the football this year," Hall of Fame QB and CBS analyst Dan Fouts said. "Philip Rivers really has a handle on Norv’s system now, and he’s a super quarterback. But if Mathews gives their running game the boost they expect him to, their offense could be even better."

Jay Cutler and Mike Martz will combine to try to get the Bears offense clicking.
Jay Cutler and Mike Martz will combine to try to get the Bears offense clicking.

A look at three other teams taking a different offensive look into training camp:

Chicago Bears

What’s new: Mike Martz as offensive coordinator.

Under Martz’s guidance, the Bears hope QB Jay Cutler will cut down on his league-high 26 interceptions. However, coach Lovie Smith loves to run the ball and Martz has a history of forgetting to call run plays. Can Martz and Smith coexist?

"Lovie Smith is a great coach," former Ravens coach and NFL Network analyst Brian Billick said. "Mike Martz is a great coach. But Lovie and Mike have vastly different perspectives on what it takes to win. I’m going to be very interested to see how their vision fits together."

Philadelphia Eagles

What’s new: Kevin Kolb as the QB.

For the first time since coach Andy Reid arrived in Philadelphia in ’99, he will begin a training camp without Donovan McNabb.

But keep this in mind: Of the 12 starting quarterbacks in the playoffs last season, only rookie Mark Sanchez had a lower regular-season completion percentage (53.8) than McNabb (60.3). The Eagles hope Kolb is more accurate and makes the passing attack more consistent. But is Kolb ready to lead?

"Andy Reid is an outstanding coach—no one can question that," Billick said. "But Andy’s had Donovan from Day 1. As a coach who never had much quarterback continuity, I look at that with great envy. They’ve been attached at the hip. Now, we’ll finally see Andy with somebody different."

Buffalo Bills

What’s new: Chan Gailey as head coach.

The Bills ranked 30th in total offense last year, one reason the team took running back C.J. Spiller with the ninth overall pick in April. But Gailey has many problems. First, he must choose a starting quarterback among Brian Brohm, Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then, Gailey must hope that his choice is good enough to win games.

Gailey has made it clear that heading into training camp, the quarterback job is up for grabs.

"We’ll have a pecking order, but nothing is in concrete," Gailey told reporters. "Everybody still is going to have a chance to win the job. It’s close."

Not only are the quarterback options unproven, but the Bills’ offensive line is young.

"If they can play, it doesn’t bother me," Gailey said. "If they can’t play, it bothers me. Age doesn’t bother me. We’ll play the best guys."

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

Despite making the playoffs last season, the San Diego Chargers were 31st in the NFL in rushing.

Exit LaDainian Tomlinson. Enter Ryan Mathews.

Mathews will be a player of intrigue in training camp — a rookie running back replacing a San Diego icon. The Chargers have Super Bowl aspirations, but they lacked balance last season.

"I think people will be surprised how much Norv Turner may run the football this year," Hall of Fame QB and CBS analyst Dan Fouts said. "Philip Rivers really has a handle on Norv’s system now, and he’s a super quarterback. But if Mathews gives their running game the boost they expect him to, their offense could be even better."

Jay Cutler and Mike Martz will combine to try to get the Bears offense clicking.
Jay Cutler and Mike Martz will combine to try to get the Bears offense clicking.

A look at three other teams taking a different offensive look into training camp:

Chicago Bears

What’s new: Mike Martz as offensive coordinator.

Under Martz’s guidance, the Bears hope QB Jay Cutler will cut down on his league-high 26 interceptions. However, coach Lovie Smith loves to run the ball and Martz has a history of forgetting to call run plays. Can Martz and Smith coexist?

"Lovie Smith is a great coach," former Ravens coach and NFL Network analyst Brian Billick said. "Mike Martz is a great coach. But Lovie and Mike have vastly different perspectives on what it takes to win. I’m going to be very interested to see how their vision fits together."

Philadelphia Eagles

What’s new: Kevin Kolb as the QB.

For the first time since coach Andy Reid arrived in Philadelphia in ’99, he will begin a training camp without Donovan McNabb.

But keep this in mind: Of the 12 starting quarterbacks in the playoffs last season, only rookie Mark Sanchez had a lower regular-season completion percentage (53.8) than McNabb (60.3). The Eagles hope Kolb is more accurate and makes the passing attack more consistent. But is Kolb ready to lead?

"Andy Reid is an outstanding coach—no one can question that," Billick said. "But Andy’s had Donovan from Day 1. As a coach who never had much quarterback continuity, I look at that with great envy. They’ve been attached at the hip. Now, we’ll finally see Andy with somebody different."

Buffalo Bills

What’s new: Chan Gailey as head coach.

The Bills ranked 30th in total offense last year, one reason the team took running back C.J. Spiller with the ninth overall pick in April. But Gailey has many problems. First, he must choose a starting quarterback among Brian Brohm, Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then, Gailey must hope that his choice is good enough to win games.

Gailey has made it clear that heading into training camp, the quarterback job is up for grabs.

"We’ll have a pecking order, but nothing is in concrete," Gailey told reporters. "Everybody still is going to have a chance to win the job. It’s close."

Not only are the quarterback options unproven, but the Bills’ offensive line is young.

"If they can play, it doesn’t bother me," Gailey said. "If they can’t play, it bothers me. Age doesn’t bother me. We’ll play the best guys."

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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