Rivers still finding his way without Jackson

Posted Sept. 17, 2010 @ 9:29 a.m.
Posted By Michael Blunda

The final numbers might not have reflected it, but the absence of WR Vincent Jackson clearly affected QB Philip Rivers in the Chargers' Week One loss at Kansas City.

Facing a Chiefs defense that ranked 30th in 2009, Rivers had issues finding open receivers all night long, completing just 56 percent of his passes after being a 65 percent passer the past two seasons. While the wet weather was certainly a factor, the quarterback's troubles had more to do with his inability to connect with his wideouts, only three of whom saw playing time in the opener.

Rivers' biggest problem seemed to be getting on the same page with Malcom Floyd, the man charged with replacing Jackson as the Bolts' No. 1 receiver. Never more than a complementary player during his career, Floyd appeared unready to fill Jackson's shoes as Rivers' go-to downfield guy, being targeted a team-high 12 times yet hauling in only three balls.

At least for now, Rivers seems to have a better rapport with Legedu Naanee, who made some big grabs in the opener. Naanee led all wideouts with five receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown, and his 59-yard scoring grab helped keep San Diego in the contest. From what we hear, however, Naanee's days as an outside receiver could be numbered.

That's because Patrick Crayton, whom the Chargers acquired from Dallas on Sept. 3, could take over opposite Floyd. We're told that the team sees Crayton, a seventh-year vet who had 37 catches for 622 yards and five scores last season, as a better fit outside than Naanee. Since joining the club, Crayton has put in lots of work and hours to get up to speed on the Bolts' schemes.

While the team isn't upset with Naanee's play, it thinks his talents fit best in the slot, where he primarily resided during his first three pro campaigns. This move would be bad news for Buster Davis, who could once again find himself without a regular role after it appeared he would finally get a chance to contribute this year.

Rivers is going to have to get accustomed to not having Jackson around, as the Pro Bowler won't be playing for the Chargers again. He could be on another roster soon, however, if somebody is willing to meet GM A.J. Smith's trade demands.