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NFL Draft preview: Chargers focused on their own

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers returned to offseason workouts on Earth Day and anyone for recycling 2013?

That's fine, to a degree, with the Chargers.

Under first-year head coach Mike McCoy, they snapped a three-year skid of not reaching the playoffs. Then they won on the road, defeating the Bengals for a post-season triumph, before bowing to the Super Bowl-bound Broncos in the AFC divisional round.

But this year's go-around will be different. Just like any year on any NFL roster, the tweaking, cutting and adding has been done -- well, until next month's draft.

The Chargers didn't charge into the free-agency market with an empty basket looking to be filled. Instead they were cautious in adding a couple players that won't light up the marquee, but might help illuminate the scoreboard -- or keep rivals from doing the same.

Running back Donald Brown was added to complement Ryan Mathews, after the Chargers' former first-round pick had a career season. That bodes well for a running game that disappeared in the playoffs when Mathews was hurt.

The other free agents lured to San Diego aren't likely to move the needle: backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, tight end David Johnson, inside linebacker Kavell Conner and cornerback Brandon Ghee.

Instead, the Chargers focused on taking care of their own. The key player coming back is inside linebacker Donald Butler, someone with Pro Bowl potential.

Among the others keeping their bolts are offensive linemen Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger and defensive backs Richard Marshall and Darrell Stuckey.

Add it all up and the Chargers still have some holes, with the cornerback, linebacker and defensive tackle spots jumping off the page.

But at the least, the Chargers have jumped back into action with their offseason drills.

They hope on Earth Day they planted a seed that blossoms into another season that includes the playoffs.

"The one thing over the years I've learned is the season gets here in a hurry," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "It's not turned up to a training-camp level but you got to make the most of the short period of time that we have together."

But at least the main bunch -- coaches and players -- are together for the second year. Rivers admits that's a big difference from last year at this time when a green McCoy had replaced Norv Turner and there was much to be learned.

"It's not like we are starting from scratch," Rivers said. "We understand what the expectations are and how we do things. It is night and day different."

The Chargers hope one thing remains: once again being a playoff team.
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