Jay Paris: Summer is here and so are — surprise — the Chargers

It’s the initial time out of the season, so embrace it.

Stadium talk takes a brief seat in the back after riding shotgun this offseason.

Where will the Chargers go, where could fresh digs be built, how much will it cost taxpayers — yada meet yada and yikes we’ve had enough.

Instead let’s focus on the Chargers, you know the dudes with the cleats and helmets. It’s time to talk about pad level instead of legal pads and thank goodness late summer is here.

The Chargers start tuning up this week, opening what could be their last training camp in San Diego. While many questions for coach Mike McCoy and his players will center on venue possibilities, let’s zero in on football.

First things first, is No. 17 still pulling his pickup truck into the players’ lot?

Yep, quarterback Philip Rivers remains in these parts and we reckon all that chatter of him going to Tennessee was just that.

He’s the ultimate titan of the Chargers, with leadership qualities that touch every player on offense, defense and special teams.

Rivers has flourished under McCoy’s up-tempo system and there’s no reason for Rivers to find reverse. As long as he’s under whatever center the Chargers employ, this team has a chance.

But Rivers needs help and we offer the last five seasons as proof. Despite having an elite quarterback, the Chargers have missed the postseason in four of the past five years.

Shame on two front offices for squandering the second half of Rivers’ career, one that has been marked by extreme highs and lows.

Rivers has some new options and we commend general manager Tom Telesco. He’s no rock star GM — we’ll leave that to the Padres’ A.J.Preller of Encinitas.

But Rancho Santa Fe’s Telesco had an offseason, which didn’t garner national attention; something we’ve learned doesn’t guarantee success.

Telesco traded up to draft running back Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin is known for beer and brats, but this former Badger was acquired to deliver bruises and bravado.

Gordon, who led the big-boy colleges in rushing last year, will provide an immediate boost to a pedestrian running game.

There’s nothing a keen quarterback loves more than a rushing attack to lean on — in case you’re wondering about Rivers’ toothy grin.

Rivers also has a new target in Stevie Johnson, a pair of reliable hands and the quicks to get open.

The front line is looking to get back to normalcy. After starting five centers last year, the Chargers pray the offensive line rotation halts.

Chris Watt gets the first shot of replacing Nick Hardwick as the line’s anchor. Good luck to Watt, who earned his stripes as guard at Notre Dame.

Orlando Franklin settles in at left guard, coming over from Denver.

The other faces are familiar as they long to open holes while introducing a physical Gordon to the NFL.

But a red flag still flaps on a defense that has very few meetings at the pocket. Ever wonder the price of an inconsistent pass rush? Circle back to that embarrassing number about the Chargers being playoff-free.

So it’s another Melvin we call on and Ingram will produce at some point, right?

The team’s No. 1 pick showed four sacks last year. The sad part is that was but one-half sack shy of tying for the team lead.

It’s well past time for Ingram to wreak havoc and resist the lure of the trainer’s room. If Ingram can stay fit and productive — big “ifs” — the defense could be decent.

Corey Liuget passed decent a long time ago and that’s why the team presented a long-term deal. But the standout end needs a few more hands on deck to really shine.

What was doom-and-gloom last year was the run defense. It was another aspect of a mediocre team and if you don’t believe so you fell asleep after the Chargers drafted Gordon.

The next pick was Miami’s Denzel Perryman. When you draft a run-stuffer where there are two returning starters in Donald Butler and Manti Te’o, that’s revealing.

The cornerbacks are set with Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. Flowers was kept off the free-agent market — a good move by Telesco. Verrett showed flashes in his rookie season, but he must prove his frame can shoulder the physical toll the NFL extracts.

All-Pro safety Eric Weddle is in camp and grumpy. He’s ticked the Chargers denied his request for a multi-year contract and he didn’t hide his displeasure. A motivated Weddle is a good thing as he’ll be eager to prove the Chargers made a mistake.

What would be a crime is if the Chargers flee. A larger blunder is letting lawyers and spokespeople trump layout catches and spiking the football.

The Chargers are back and for how long we don’t know? What’s clear is footballs are filling the sky, a cherished respite from the hot air, which dominated the offseason.

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.

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