Chargers’ Philip Rivers wary of Chiefs defense

Dec. 13, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford (55) sacks San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. (Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Chargers’ Philip Rivers wary of Chiefs defense

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Philip Rivers scans the Chiefs defense on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, he won’t see linebacker Justin Houston or former Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith, but he does expect a familiar foe.

“I think we expect them to be what they’ve been, which is a heck of a defense, at their place on opening day, which is going to be a heck of a challenge,” Rivers said.

The Chiefs meet San Diego at noon Sunday to kickoff the 2016 season, and Rivers will be leading a revamped offense the team hopes can return to playoff caliber.

Ken Whisenhunt has returned as the team’s offensive coordinator after a two-year hiatus as head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Rivers said it’s been a smooth transition back to Whisenhunt’s scheme.

“We had built and done some things in the two years he was that he liked and we kept. He obviously brought back some of his own ideas and really meshed everything together. I think you’ve seen in the preseason we’ve been a little more balanced, we’re running the football a little better.”

The Chargers are coming off a 4-12 season, and Rivers said it was a difficult year with injuries and tough losses.

“We lost eight games by one score,” Rivers said. “That made it even tougher that we were in every game and just never could find a way to win them.”

The receiving corps around Rivers remains anchored by veteran Keenan Allen and Dontrelle Inman. He believes free agent Travis Benjamin and youngsters Isaiah Bruce and Tyrell Williams will add a spark missing from last year’s team.

“We feel like we’re coming in with a healthy group, a group that’s in tuned together running back, receiver and tight end,” Rivers said. “We’re coming in with a little more juice than we finished the year with last time we were in Kansas City.”

Rivers said he expects linebacker Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry to be just as dangerous as ever. He did not expect Berry’s missing most of the preseason to be a factor.

“A guy like that, you expect him to be the player he’s always been,” Rivers said.

Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.