Los Angeles Chargers (Last Year: 5-11)
2017 NFL Season Preview:
RB Kenjon Barner, OT Russell Okung, S Tre Boston.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Mike Williams, G Forrest Lamp, G Dan Feeney, S Rayshawn Jenkins, S/CB Desmond King. Chargers Rookie Forecast
RB Danny Woodhead, WR Stevie Johnson, OT King Dunlap, G D.J. Fluker, ILB Manti Te’o, CB Brandon Flowers.
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Offense:
The Chargers have sustained terrible luck in recent years. They’ve suffered numerous injuries each year, and that was quite prevalent at the beginning of the 2016 campaign. Keenan Allen endured a season-ending injury in the opening week of the season, and Danny Woodhead was knocked out for the year the following week. Over the next several games, offensive linemen were banged up, and by the end of the season, Philip Rivers was once again working with a skeleton crew of an offense.
Rivers, as a consequence, had one of his worst years as a pro. He threw a career-high 21 interceptions, and he completed only 60.4 percent of his passes – his lowest such figure since his second year in the NFL. Some could point to Rivers’ age – he turns 36 in December – but his poor play in 2016 had more to do with the disappearing talent around him. Thus, the Chargers’ front office made sure to add some weapons this offseason to prevent something similar from happening again.
The Chargers spent the No. 7 overall pick on Mike Williams, a massive, Andre Johnson-type receiver out of Clemson. If Allen suffers another injury – he has played in just nine contests the past two years – Rivers will at least be able to count on Williams, who should be a force in the end zone. Rivers still has Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman at his disposal, as both are solid depth options at receiver.
General manager Tom Telesco’s No. 1 priority this offseason was to upgrade the offensive line, and he added three key blockers during the spring. The first came in free agency, as Russell Okung was signed away from rival Denver. Okung is very talented, but like Allen, hasn’t been able to stay healthy in recent years. That may sound dubious, considering the Chargers’ history, but Okung will certainly be an upgrade over King Dunlap at left tackle when he manages to stay on the field. The other two blocking additions were found in the draft, with Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney being chosen on the second day. The offensive line class was weak this year, but Lamp and Feeney were considered two of the few good blockers, ranking atop some guard rankings. Guard has been a very weak position for the Chargers, so both Lamp and Feeney could start and immediately be upgrades.
The other two starters on the offensive line are right tackle Joseph Barksdale and center Matt Slauson. The latter is a solid player, while Barksdale needs to rebound from a poor 2016 campaign. Barksdale performed very well the year before, so perhaps he’ll be able to bounce back.
Two very talented players round out the rest of the Chargers’ offense. Melvin Gordon struggled as a rookie because of injuries, but was one of the top running backs in the NFL last season. Gordon scored 12 touchdowns and caught 41 passes. His yards-per-carry average was just 3.9, but that can be attributed to the Chargers’ poor blocking. Meanwhile, Hunter Henry flashed as a rookie, scoring eight times. He won’t be the team’s full-time tight end yet because Antonio Gates is still on the roster, but he’ll almost certainly be utilized more often in his sophomore campaign.
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Defense:
The Chargers shocked everyone when they selected Joey Bosa with the third-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The move looked like it was a mistake when Bosa held out prior to the season and missed the first four weeks of the year as a result. However, Bosa was a monster as soon as he took the field, tallying 10.5 sacks in just 12 games. Bosa, who won’t even be 22 until the middle of July, could record anywhere between 15 and 20 sacks in his sophomore campaign, as opposing offenses had no answer for him.
Bosa is one of several extremely talented players the Chargers have in their front seven. In fact, the entire linebacking crew last year was phenomenal. Melvin Ingram will once again start across from Bosa, and he’s a very effective second edge rusher; he has notched 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons. It remains to be seen, however, how Ingram will translate to the Chargers’ new 4-3 scheme, as he seems like a 3-4 player primarily.
The other defensive linemen should be better off in Gus Bradley’s 4-3. In fact, Corey Liuget seems like a better fit as a three-technique. Liuget plans to play at 290 pounds in 2017, rather than his 315 weight this past season. Being quicker should help his sack total, which has dwindled the past couple of years. Liuget will start next to Brandon Mebane, who excels at stopping the run.
As for the players who will stay at linebacker, the group is comprised of Korey Toomer, Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman. Toomer and Brown were fantastic in 2016. Perryman may have been as well, but he dealt with a problematic hamstring during the middle of the season. Brown and Perryman are both only 23, so the sky is the limit for them. If they continue to improve, the Chargers could have the top linebacking corps in the NFL.
The Chargers could also have the best cornerback. Casey Hayward was impossible to throw against last year. He’ll turn just 28 in September, so he should have three or four more years of high-level play remaining in the tank. Jason Verrett is also a young and very talented cornerback, but he played in just four games this past season because of a torn ACL. The Chargers will be hoping that both players can remain healthy because they’re very thin at the position. It’ll help if fifth-round rookie Desmond King can step up, but his speed concerns could mean that he’ll have to switch to safety.
Speaking of the safeties, the Chargers were expected to select Malik Hooker No. 7 overall as a replacement for Eric Weddle, but they passed on him and opted for Mike Williams instead. As a consequence, Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery will have to start again. Addae is a quality player as long as he can control his penalties. He performed very well last year despite missing eight games with a broken collarbone. Lowery is pretty mediocre and should have been upgraded. Perhaps that’s where King or fourth-round rookie Rayshawn Jenkins will factor in. Tre Boston was also signed, so perhaps he’ll offer an upgrade.
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Schedule and Intangibles:
Thanks to a dwindling fan base, the Chargers have absolutely no homefield advantage, and it’s only going to get worse in Los Angeles. The team is 18-30 as a host since 2011, including 5-11 the past two years.
The Chargers were atrocious on special teams in 2015. They were outgained by a vast margin on kickoffs and punt returns. Absolutely nothing changed in 2016.
It’s a bit ironic that Josh Lambo kicks in front of no fans. Lambo has gone 26-of-32 in consecutive seasons, but was 0-of-3 from 50-plus in 2016.
Mike Scifres used to be a great punter for the Chargers, but he’s no longer with the team. Drew Kaser proved to be a mediocre replacement, ranking 19th in net average.
The Chargers seem to have a balanced schedule. For every Patriots, Cowboys and Eagles, there’s the Dolphins, Browns and Jets.
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Rookies:
Go here for the Chargers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Analysis: The Chargers finished 5-11 last year, but could’ve boasted a much better record. They blew a big lead at Kansas City in Week 1; they lost in the final minute in Indianapolis in Week 3; they dropped their next two contests by a combined four points; they had a golden opportunity to win in Denver, but lost because of some horrific play-calling at the 2-yard line; and they also suffered countless injuries. If the Chargers can stay healthy, they’d have a great shot at making a deep run in the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, that’s not something they’ve been able to do in recent years, so it’s reasonable to expect their season to capsize toward the end once new injuries begin accumulating.
Projection: 7-9 (Tied 3rd in AFC West)
2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 5-11.
NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade
Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: Philip Rivers is entering the twilight of his career, so the Chargers need to make sure that he’s finally protected adequately. Upgrades to the secondary and defensive line are also needed, but finding help for Rivers’ pass protection is priority A, B and C. Unfortunately for the Chargers, this offensive line class sucks, so they have to wait until the second day to pick up blockers.
2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Chargers certainly agreed with my assessment that they needed to improve Rivers’ pass protection. They spent three picks in this draft on blockers, including two of their initial three selections. They managed to obtain Forrest Lamp at No. 38 overall, and then followed that up with Dan Feeney at No. 71. Both players were steals. Lamp could’ve been chosen toward the end of the first round, while Feeney was regarded as a second-round prospect. Sam Tevi was also chosen later, but he’s more of a project.
The Chargers didn’t refrain from upgrading the talent around Rivers outside of adding blockers. In fact, their first selection was used on Mike Williams, though I thought that was a bit of a mistake. Superior talents like Malik Hooker and Jonathan Allen would’ve been better picks, though there’s no denying that Rivers will be happy throwing to a big possession receiver like Williams, especially if Keenan Allen gets hurt again.
Beyond the first two days, the Chargers also fared well, especially when they scooped up Desmond King. This was a positive draft overall, and I’m willing to give Los Angeles’ new team an A- for what they accomplished. This would’ve been an “A,” or even an A+ had the seventh-overall pick would’ve been Hooker or Allen.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
7. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: B Grade
There were better players available who filled needs, such as Jonathan Allen and Malik Hooker. Both would’ve made more sense than this. However, I don’t think Mike Williams is a bad selection by any means. It makes sense to add Williams, as Keenan Allen has been so injury-prone over the past couple of years. Williams provides the Chargers with an excellent No. 2 receiver and some insurance just in case Allen gets hurt again. I have to imagine Philip Rivers is happy about this move.
38. Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky: A+ Grade
Wow, what a steal! Forrest Lamp could’ve been chosen as high as the early 20s, so it was a surprise that he fell out of the first round because he was the top interior offensive lineman by a wide margin. This is a great pick for the Chargers, who desperately needed to give Philip Rivers better protection in the twilight of his career.
71. Dan Feeney, G, Indiana: A+ Grade
This might end up being the best pick in the third round. Sure, it’s another guard, but the Chargers were desperate for offensive line help across the board, save for center. No one had to teach the Chargers that they had to bolster Philip Rivers’ protection, and Dan Feeney provides great value in the third round when he could’ve gone early in the second frame.
113. Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami: C Grade
I had Rayshawn Jenkins going in the seventh round, so I’m not a big fan of this selection. I can see why the Chargers picked him, however. Jenkins is a very good athlete and has strong upside. He also fills a need, but happens to be a project.
151. Desmond King, S/CB, Iowa: A+ Grade
I wrote earlier that I didn’t think I’d love a pick more than Jake Butt in the fifth round, but that apparently isn’t the case anymore. Desmond King is an absolute steal in the fifth round. Back in the fall, he was projected to be a fringe first-round pick! King was torched at the Senior Bowl, and he dropped in our mock as a result, but I still thought he’d be chosen in the third frame. The consensus is that he’ll have to move to safety, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t perform well there. King could potentially start for the Chargers sooner rather than later.
190. Sam Tevi, OT, Utah: B Grade
The Chargers needed to continue to bolster Philip Rivers’ protection, and Sam Tevi could do that. Tevi is a lengthy blocker, but lacks athleticism. Still, he could be a decent swing tackle for the Chargers.
225. Isaac Rochell, DE/DT, Notre Dame: B Grade
I’m sure 3-4 teams, even those in Milan and Minsk, would’ve appreciated this pick of Isaac Rochell. However, I’m not sure where he plays for the Chargers, who are moving to a 4-3. My guess is he’ll be a rotational, interior pass-rusher. That’s my prediction with Rochell, as Rochell has solid athleticism and could be a decent contributor.
Whether it was against the playoff-bound Chiefs in Week 1, or the winless Browns in Week 16, the Chargers usually found a way to lose in 2016. It was a shame, as they were definitely more talented than their record says they were. Perhaps they’ll have better luck next year.
- Two Offensive Tackles: Both of Los Angeles’ tackles were awful in 2016. King Dunlap regressing was hardly a surprise, but Joseph Barksdale’s decline was, as Los Angeles paid him lots of money the prior offseason. The Chargers giving Barksdale another chance is understandable, but they desperately need to upgrade Dunlap – perhaps with Cam Robinson in the opening round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Signed Russell Okung
- Two Guards: Los Angeles’ need to bolster the trenches includes the interior, where Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker have struggled the past two years. Some help can be found on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
- Two Outside Linebackers: Here’s another the position the Chargers need multiples of. They’ll have to find only one though if they manage to re-sign Melvin Ingram. However, with Joey Bosa playing on the line of scrimmage, Los Angeles should find a bookend pass-rusher across from Ingram. Franchised Melvin Ingram
- Safety: It’s obvious that the Chargers missed Eric Weddle this past season, and now they stand to lose Jahleel Addae to free agency as well unless they manage to re-sign him. Re-signed Jahleel Addae; signed Tre Boston
- Cornerback: With a salary of $9 million in 2017, Brandon Flowers could be a cap casualty. If so, the Chargers will have to find a new cornerback to go with Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett.
- Quarterback Depth: Philip Rivers just turned 35, so it’s time for the Chargers to think about finding a successor for him. Re-signed Kellen Clemens
- Running Back Depth: If the Chargers don’t re-sign Danny Woodhead, they should find a capable backup just in case Melvin Gordon gets hurt again. Signed Kenjon Barner
- Punter: Drew Kaser was one of the worst punters in the NFL last year as far as net average was concerned.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Russell Okung, OT, Broncos. Age: 28.
Signed with Chargers (4 years, $53 million)
Russell Okung is certainly one of the most physically gifted left tackles in the NFL, but he definitely has an extensive injury history that is weighing his ranking down. Okung did, however, play in all 16 games this past season, and was one of the few bright spots on Denver’s offensive line.
Tre Boston, S, Panthers. Age: 25.
Signed with Chargers
It’s pretty confusing as to why the Panthers waived Tre Boston. He’s a solid player who is only 25 (as of June). Any team with a safety need should be interested. Some of those teams include the Bears, 49ers, Chargers and Texans.
- Kenjon Barner, RB, Eagles. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers Free Agents:
Salary Cap Space: $25.5M.
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, Chargers. Age: 28.
Franchised by Chargers
Melvin Ingram is a terrific edge rusher. He’s collected close to 20 sacks over the past couple of years, and he’s also a force against the run. He has about three more years of high-level play, so he’s definitely deserving of a huge contract.
Jahleel Addae, S, Chargers. Age: 27.
Re-signed with Chargers
Jahleel Addae missed half the season in 2016 because of a broken collarbone, but he has played very well since his return. Addae has a history of being flagged for too many penalties, but has performed well when under control.
Brandon Flowers, CB, Chargers. Age: 31.
Brandon Flowers was released because of his $9 million salary, but he can still play very well when healthy. His durability is a big concern, however. He played just six games in 2016 and has a history of concussions. Still, he could provide great value on a 1-year “prove it” deal.
Dontrelle Inman (RFA), WR, Chargers. Age: 28.
Tendered by Chargers (2nd round)
In the wake of some injuries, the 6-foot-3 Dontrelle Inman became Philip Rivers’ go-to receiver. He’ll take a back seat to Keenan Allen next year, as it would be a shock if San Diego allowed Inman to hit free agency.
Orlando Franklin, G, Chargers. Age: 29.
Orlando Franklin is very talented – hence the $36.5 million contract he signed two offseasons ago – but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy since. The Chargers had to cut him because of his high salary, but some team should sign him as a reclamation project. Some teams that make sense for him include the Cowboys, Bengals and Vikings. Perhaps he could return to Denver.
Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. Age: 32.
Signed with Ravens
Danny Woodhead had a fantastic year for the Patriots. Wait, sorry, for a second I thought I was Jeff Fisher and not paying attention to the NFL at all. Woodhead logged 120 total yards and a touchdown in the opener against the Chiefs, but went down with a torn ACL the following week. Woodhead is now 32, so his days of being a nifty receiver out of the backfield appear to be coming to an end, though he may have one more quality season left in the tank.
Korey Toomer (RFA), ILB, Chargers. Age: 28.
Re-signed with Chargers (1 year)
Korey Toomer has become a solid, two-down linebacker for the Chargers who happens to excel in run support. He’s not a liability in pass coverage either.
D.J. Fluker, G/OT, Chargers. Age: 26.
Signed with Giants (1 year)
D.J. Fluker was the 11th-overall pick in the horrible 2013 NFL Draft. He played well the first two years, but he’s been awful since, thanks in part to multiple injuries. Fluker has a chance to bounce back, but that would require him to stay healthy for once.
King Dunlap, OT, Chargers. Age: 32.
King Dunlap has come a long way since being benched in a playoff loss while with the Eagles. He went to San Diego and performed well while on the field. However, Dunlap’s issue is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, missing 18 games in four seasons while on the Chargers’ roster. I’m sure Dunlap will have some demand, given how desperate teams are for offensive line help, but the franchise that signs him better make sure they’re prepared for Dunlap missing action.
- Damion Square, DT, Chargers. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Chargers
- Branden Oliver (RFA), RB, Chargers. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Chargers
- Manti Te’o, ILB, Chargers. Age: 26. — Signed with Saints
- Sean Lissemore, NT, Chargers. Age: 29.
- Tourek Williams, DE/OLB, Chargers. Age: 26.
- Stevie Johnson, WR, Chargers. Age: 31.
- Sean McGrath (RFA), TE, Chargers. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Chargers
- Kenny Wiggins (RFA), G, Chargers. Age: 29.
- Tenny Palepoi (RFA), DT, Chargers. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Chargers
- Ronnie Hillman, RB, Chargers. Age: 25.
- Caraun Reid, DT, Chargers. Age: 25.
- Jeff Cumberland, TE, Chargers. Age: 30.
- Kellen Clemens, QB, Chargers. Age: 34. — Re-signed with Chargers
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