The Chargers started the season on a high note in a comeback effort at home against the Lions. The Chargers then got to 2-2 before a six game losing streak swiftly ended their season. For a team that was decimated by injuries this seemed to be a year that many can shrug off. The high of the season had to be the win in potentially the Chargers last home game in San Diego. The low happened in that same stadium when the 2-2 Chargers lost to the Michael Vick led Steelers on Monday Night Football. The Chargers had to use a silent count in that home game to avoid the crowd noise of Steelers fans and Vick played about as poorly as you can imagine in a team win.
Mike McCoy was given another year after a disappointing 2015 campaign. As mentioned, injuries across both sides of the ball put him in a tough situation and he really shouldn’t have taken all the blame. Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich was released, and with Ken Whisenhunt out in Tennessee, it would make a ton of sense for him to return to San Diego where he made the playoffs as the OC in this Rivers’ offense. John Pagano will be back at Defensive Coordinator and deservedly so. The team will have to draft better, but again the majority of the coaching staff did well enough given what was put out there.
Nobody will remember this as a classic Phil Rivers season, but Rivers was as impressive this year as he ever has been. Rivers, without his main man Antonio Gates most of the year, absolutely no run game, and with one of the league’s most shuffled offensive lines still completed 66% of his passes and averaged 7.2 yards per attempt. Essentially without Rivers there is little to talk about with this football team.
The Chargers 2015 draft pick does not appear to have been a bright one. In a league where running backs seem to grow on trees the drafting of Melvin Gordon in round one meant he had to be a stud. Personally thinking he was over drafted I will try to remain patient, but he does not have the vision to make cuts in tight spaces. It will require the Chargers to have a solid offensive line, and it really limited the offense this season. Danny Woodhead is a player. In a change of pace, receiving type of running back role Woodhead will certainly remain with this team. The problem is that right now the Chargers need him to be their top carrier, which just isn’t built for his game. Without a bigger year from Gordon this offense is going to have a lot of trouble.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
It is only speculative but a lot of people could assume that this is the end for Antonio Gates. After spending four games sidelined with a steroid suspension, he only started in four games and just didn’t look nearly as dynamic as the Gates we know and love. He is a free agent now and it would be a wise career move to just call it a career than to push this any longer and linger on the wire. Malcolm Floyd will certainly retire this year and for how long his career was, it was not filled with health. The health of Keenan Allen absolutely will have an affect on where this team goes. A possession receiver with size, Allen started eight games, averaged ten targets a game and caught over eight passes per game. In 2016 the emergence of Allen could open the slot up for Stevie Johnson who had an up and down season. In the last eight games he was thrust into being the top option, and just isn’t that player at this point. Johnson can thrive in the slot, but will not win for you outside much anymore. Guys like Dontrelle Inman and Javontee Herndon got plenty of experience with the injuries to Johnson and Allen but neither have proven they belong in the long term plan, and it leaves the Chargers moving into the off season with a need for a down field threat and an outside receiver at that. Ladarius Green was banged up at times as well, and is a free agent, but if Gates is to truly retire his value is greater this year than the rest of his time.
It is tough to tell what to make of the offensive line because for the majority of the season every single starter was either out or playing in a different position at some point. Still, King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, Chris Watt, and DJ Fluker are all signed and all four should be starters next year. Joe Barksdale is a free agent, but it wouldn’t be bad to sign him and another swing tackle, and they could roll the dice and hope the injury bug doesn’t strike this season.
Like wide receiver and the offensive line this team had injuries on the defensive side that put them up against the wall compared to the rest of the league. Corey Liuget was banged up early and only played in 10 games this year and without his presence at 100% the line lacked toughness from any other player. Aside from depth players this team has no other signed lineman and will head into the off-season looking to bolster the front the seven. Having a quarterback in place makes a top three pick a much easier decision and if the cards go their way they can wind up with a great defensive talent.
Melvin Ingram quietly had a solid season. With little help in front of him he did what he could and could make plays laterally as well as having 10.5 sacks this season. Jeremiah Attaoachu is an up and down player and may be a better rotational player. Fortunately for them Kyle Emmanuel seemed to emerge throughout the year. In the middle Manti Te’o is becoming a capable starter next to Donald Butler and another strong emergence by the rookie Denzel Perryman. It leaves linebacker as a less pressing need in the off season .
Add Eric Weddle, Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett to the list of players that were injured all year. Eric Weddle will leave the team on bad terms leaving a glaring hole at the safety position, but the 2016 combination of Verrett and Flowers is promising. Patrick Robinson is signed on, but adding competition isn’t out of the question. Both safety positions are currently in the air, and it would be very likely both will be addressed out of house this season.
Where do they go?
As mentioned, having a quarterback is a great start point. I would hire Whisenhunt as my offensive coordinator, build a defensive line, add secondary help and a wide receiver and see what happens with a healthy team. The third pick gives them a chance to get a couple of nice prospects and help build up the defense or add a young playmaker.