2019 NFL Offseason: Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers (Last Year: 12-4)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Thomas Davis.

Early Draft Picks:
DT Jerry Tillery, S Nasir Adderly, OT Trey Pipkins, LB Drue Tranquill, QB Easton Stick. Chargers Rookie Forecast

Offseason Losses:
QB Geno Smith, WR Tyrell Williams, TE Antonio Gates, DT Darius Philon, DT Corey Liuget, CB Jason Verrett, S Jahleel Addae.

2019 Los Angeles Chargers Offense:
The Chargers sustained terrible luck several years leading up to the 2018 campaign. They’ve suffered numerous injuries each year and blew games with missed last-second field goals. This all changed in 2018, however. Things finally began going the Chargers’ way, and the end result was a 12-4 record and an appearance in the second round of the playoffs.

Philip Rivers continued to perform on a high level. The possible future Hall of Famer threw for 4,308 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. His completion percentage (68.3) and YPA (8.5) were the second- and third-best marks of his career, respectively. Rivers turns 38 in December, but there’s no reason to expect his play to decline.

Rivers has the luxury of throwing to two dynamic wide receivers. Keenan Allen battled constant injuries in his first four seasons as a pro, but hasn’t missed a single contest in the past two years. He caught 97 passes for 1,196 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. Mike Williams, meanwhile, emerged as a major end-zone target in his second year in the NFL. Williams barely played because of an injury as a rookie, but hauled in 10 touchdowns this past season. Williams has amazing talent, so the sky is the limit for him. Meanwhile, Rivers will have a better intermediate target at his disposal, as Hunter Henry will return after missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL. Henry was expected to have a big year as a young, emerging tight end. He’ll be 100 percent heading into training camp.

Rivers has a dynamic weapon to work with in the backfield as well. Melvin Gordon is a special player, as he’s coming off a season in which he averaged 5.1 yards per carry, scored 14 times and caught 50 passes for 490 receiving yards, despite missing four games. Gordon, however, has played a full season just once in his career thus far, so it’s a good thing the Chargers have some capable backups behind him. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson both played very well in relief last year.

The one concern the Chargers have on this side of the ball happens to be the offensive line. The blocking was very poor in the divisional-round defeat at New England. The interior struggled in particular. Nothing was really done to fix this area, so the Chargers will have to continue to roll with Dan Feeney, Mike Pouncey and Michael Schofield, which is far from ideal. They’ll be hoping that 2017 second-rounder Forrest Lamp can finally live up to expectations, but he’s been a major bust thus far.

There’s major concern at tackle as well. Blind-side protector Russell Okung was the best offensive lineman on the roster last year, but the Chargers don’t know if he’ll be ready to play by kickoff weekend because of an undisclosed injury. Right tackle Sam Tevi, meanwhile, was atrocious last season. The Chargers used a third-round pick on Trey Pipkins, and it’s possible that he could start as early as the season opener, based on Okung’s injury and how poorly Tevi performed in 2018.

2019 Los Angeles Chargers Defense:
The Chargers’ selection of Joey Bosa with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft appeared to be a mistake when Bosa held out prior to his rookie season and missed the first four weeks of the year as a result. However, Bosa has been a monster ever since. He tallied 10.5 sacks as a rookie and then improved that figure to 12.5 the following year. His sack total dipped to 5.5 in 2018, but that’s because he missed the first half of the year with a foot injury. Bosa and Melvin Ingram arguably form the best edge-rushing duo in the NFL. Ingram has registered 36 sacks in the past four seasons.

Bosa and Ingram are great, but the Chargers had nothing in the interior of their defensive line. They failed to pressure Tom Brady in the divisional-round playoff loss and were trampled by New England’s rushing attack. That would explain why the Chargers used their first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Jerry Tillery. The Notre Dame product is supremely athletic, but he was wildly inconsistent in college. He would completely disappear at times. However, one thing is certain: Opposing teams won’t be able to concentrate on Tillery at all with Bosa and Ingram rushing from the outside, so Tillery could contribute as a rookie. He’s expected to start next to Brandon Mebane, who is fine versus the run, but offers nothing as a pass rusher.

If Tillery lives up to expectations, the Chargers will have three players capable of putting heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This will provide a boost for the secondary, which didn’t need much help. The Chargers have three prolific players in their defensive backfield. Safety Derwin James had a dominant rookie campaign last year after inexplicably slipping to the team at No. 17 in the 2018 NFL Draft. Another young player, Desmond King, was exceptional in the slot. Cornerback Casey Hayward, meanwhile, continued to play at a high level on the outside.

The Chargers had a couple of holes in the defensive backfield entering the 2019 offseason. They may have plugged one of them by using a second-round selection on Nasir Adderley, another athletic prospect. Adderley was very productive at Delaware, making 45 collegiate starts. Level of competition is a question mark, but Adderley has the natural talent to transition well into the pros. Meanwhile, the other area of need was at cornerback across from Heyward. This area was not addressed, so the injury-ridden Trevor Williams is likely to continue to start in that spot, if healthy. If not, Michael Davis, who had a half-decent 2018 campaign, will start across from Heyward instead.

While the Chargers didn’t find a new cornerback, they were able to obtain a linebacker in free agency. The linebacking corps was a problem area for them as well, so they signed Thomas Davis. The long-time Panther turned 36 this offseason, but still performed well last year. He’s expected to play along with Denzel Perryman and Kyzir White in an upgraded linebacking group. Perryman is a good player, but has missed 16 games the past two years. White, meanwhile, showed some major potential last season as a fourth-round rookie, but managed to play just three contests because of a knee injury. White was excellent in coverage, so he was missed.

2019 Los Angeles Chargers Schedule and Intangibles:
There is no home-field advantage in Carson City, Calif. The Chargers constantly play in front of opposing teams’ fans, and it’s gotten to the point that it’s a complete embarrassment. The NFL will have to consider moving the Chargers, perhaps to Portland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Salt Lake City.

The Chargers were great on special teams last year, thanks to Desmond King. This was a major departure from previous seasons, as special teams were a problematic area.

Speaking of poor special-teams play, the Chargers had endured major kicking woes for years. That changed with Mike Badgley. He was 15-of-16 last year and missed only one extra point.

Donnie Jones was one of the worst punters in the NFL last season, ranking 31st in net average and struggling to pin the opposition inside the 20. The Chargers have opted to go with a new punter, Tyler Newsome, an undrafted rookie free agent.

The Chargers play some tough opponents outside of the division this year, but most of those games are at home. They’ll host the Colts, Texans, Steelers, Packers and Vikings.

2019 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.

2019 Los Angeles Chargers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Los Angeles Chargers Analysis: The Chargers endured miserable luck each year prior to this past season. That all changed, and they were able to finally get over the hump and reach the playoffs, ultimately falling in the second round to the Patriots. However, the Chargers won four games last year by four points or fewer, so if they had lost all of their close contests, they would have been 8-8. Variance could swing back the other way in 2019, especially if the offensive line is as bad as it would appear to be.

Projection: 9-7 (2nd in AFC West)

2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 12-4.

2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 5-11.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Chargers really struggled in the trenches during their loss to the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. They couldn’t protect Philip Rivers or stop the run. The offensive and defensive lines must be addressed. San Angeles also must acquire some help at cornerback.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: As expected, two of the Chargers’ first three picks were used to upgrade the trenches. Jerry Tillery was the first choice, and he’ll provide a nice inside rush to help rattle opposing quarterbacks. Meanwhile, third-round tackle Trey Pipkins has tremendous upside and could take over the blind side in a year or two.

The Chargers didn’t have any selections that graded worse than a C+. Their two best choices were second-round safety Nasir Adderley, who has tremendous coverage ability and play-making skills, and linebacker Drue Tranquill, who would’ve been chosen earlier had it not been for injuries.

I’d say San Angeles had a very solid draft overall, as it addressed big needs with nice values. An overall grade of something like a B+ makes sense.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

28. Jerry Tillery, DE/DT, Notre Dame C+ Grade
With Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford falling into the Chargers’ lap, I figured they would address their pedestrian offensive line. Apparently, that’s not the case, as they’ve opted to fix the other side of the trenches instead. I think this pick is just fine; it could’ve been better, but it makes sense. New England’s offensive line pushed around the Chargers’ front in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs, so the defensive line had to be addressed. Tillery is a talented player, for sure, but didn’t always try his hardest at Notre Dame, so will he continue with his inconsistent effort while earning a seven-figure salary?

60. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware A Grade
Nasir Adderley is another prospect who could have been chosen in the opening round. Adderley has tremendous coverage ability and play-making skills. He should have been chosen earlier than this, but the Chargers won’t complain, as they’re getting a much-needed upgrade next to Derwin James.

91. Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls B+ Grade
The Chargers absolutely had to improve their offensive line after seeing Philip Rivers get heavily pressured in the divisional-round playoff loss to the Patriots. Trey Pipkins isn’t ready to play right away, as he needs to get stronger, but he has a terrific frame and length for a tackle, and he could develop into a solid tackle. Pipkins makes sense here in the third round.

130. Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame A- Grade
Drue Tranquill is a rock-solid player, and he offers tons of upside with his great athleticism. The problem with Tranquill is his extensive injury history. If he can do that, he might be able to develop into a starter for the Chargers in a year or two. I like the potential with this choice.

166. Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State B Grade
The Chargers had to find a quarterback to develop behind Philip Rivers, but they took the wrong quarterback. Easton Stick, however, is not a bad pick. He’s a smart, mobile quarterback with decent accuracy. However, he lacks the arm strength to be a viable starter in the NFL. Stick should become a solid No. 2 signal-caller.

200. Emeke Egbule, LB/ST, Houston B Grade
Emeke Egbule was an impact special-teams player at Houston, so I imagine that’s exactly why the Chargers drafted him. Egbule offers some upside with above-average athleticism, but he’s a project as a defensive player. Still, this is a fine choice, as Egbule will be able to contribute.

242. Cortez Broughton, DT, Cincinnati B+ Grade
Cortez Broughton never made it into my mock draft, but I always had him in consideration to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick. This is a solid selection by the Chargers, as Broughton has good athleticism and potential to be a situational interior pass rusher in the NFL.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
Things finally went right for the Chargers, and some thought they were the best team in the AFC when the playoffs began. However, they were thoroughly embarrassed in Foxboro against a Patriot team that isn’t as good as it normally is.

Offseason Moves:
  • Chargers sign QB Tyrod Taylor
  • Chargers sign OLB Thomas Davis

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: The Chargers must bolster their offensive line to protect Philip Rivers as he continues to age, and also the new quarterback who eventually replaces him. Right tackle is a major weakness up front.

    2. Guard: The interior of the offensive line must be addressed as well. The Chargers have recently spent two early draft picks on guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, but neither has played well yet.

    3. Defensive Tackle: San Angeles must upgrade the trenches on both sides of the ball. Two of the team’s top three defensive tackles, Darius Philon and Brandon Mebane, happen to be free agents. Even if one is re-signed, an interior pass-rushing presence is needed. Re-signed Brandon Mebane

    4. Young Quarterback: Philip Rivers won’t last much longer, so this could be the offseason in which the Chargers finally obtain a successor for him.

    5. Linebacker: Denzel Perryman is an impending free agent. He’ll be missed if he departs, so a replacement will be needed if that happens. Re-signed Denzel Perryman; signed Thomas Davis

    6. Edge Rusher Depth: Another edge rusher could be added just in case Joey Bosa or Melvin Ingram misses extensive action again.

    7. Punter: Donnie Jones was one of the NFL’s worst punters last year. He’s an impending free agent anyway.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Thomas Davis, OLB, Panthers. Age: 36.
      Signed with Chargers

      Thomas Davis played well in 2018 despite being 35 years old. He was solid in coverage, proving that he can still perform decently despite being in his mid-30s.

    2. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Browns. Age: 30.
      Signed with Chargers (2 years)

      Tyrod Taylor was miscast as a starter with the Browns. He didn’t fare well as a result, but he’s still a stellar backup quarterback in the NFL.

    Los Angeles Chargers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Denzel Perryman, ILB, Chargers. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Chargers (2 years)

      The Chargers missed Denzel Perryman down the stretch after he suffered a knee injury. Fortunately for Perryman, he’s expected to be 100 percent for 2019. Perryman will continue to be a very well-rounded linebacker. Only 26, Perryman might be able to improve his game.

    2. Darius Philon, DT, Chargers. Age: 25.
      Signed with Cardinals (2 years, $10 million)

      Darius Philon, a former sixth-round pick, has developed into a solid starter. He stuffed the run very well last year and also notched four sacks. He’s only 25, so he should continue to improve.

    3. Trevor Williams (RFA), CB, Chargers. Age: 25.
      Trevor Williams was excellent in 2017. Unfortunately for him, he had an injury-ravaged 2018 campaign. Williams was hobbled with an early ankle injury, then was lost for the year because of a knee issue. He’s young enough to bounce back next year.

    4. Corey Liuget, DT, Chargers. Age: 29.
      Corey Liuget is still an effective player when he’s able to play. Unfortunately for Liuget, he hasn’t been very reliable. Liuget is constantly injured and thus has missed 14 games over the past two seasons. He’s still young enough to have a bounce-back year or two, but should be signed to a short-term “prove it” deal.

    5. Jahleel Addae, S, Chargers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Texans (1 year, $1.1 million)

      Jahleel Addae has been an inconsistent player over the years. He was good enough to warrant a 4-year, $22 million contract a couple of offseasons ago and played well in 2017, but struggled last season. As a result, Addae was dumped for salary reasons.

    6. Brandon Mebane, DT, Chargers. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Chargers

      Brandon Mebane tore his biceps in November, and Ian Rapoport reported that he would be done for the year. This turned out to be fake news, as Mebane missed just a few games. Mebane is excellent at stuffing the run, but his age (34) is becoming a concern.

    7. Adrian Phillips, S, Chargers. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Chargers

      Adrian Phillips was previously a backup, but was given more snaps toward the end of the 2018 season. He did well with them. He deserves a chance at a full-time role next year.

    8. Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Raiders

      Tyrell Williams is a couple of years removed from a 1,000-yard campaign. Williams is a deep threat with great size (6-4, 205), so perhaps he can flourish elsewhere.

    9. Jason Verrett, CB, Chargers. Age: 28.
      Signed with 49ers (1 year, $3.6 million)

      Jason Verrett is a very talented cornerback, but he just can’t stay healthy. He’s played in just five of 48 possible games the past three years.

    10. Kyle Emanuel, LB, Chargers. Age: 28.
    11. Damion Square, DT, Chargers. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Chargers
    12. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers. Age: 39.
    13. Donnie Jones, P, Chargers. Age: 39.
    14. Geno Smith, QB, Chargers. Age: 28. — Signed with Seahawks
    15. Hayes Pullard, LB, Chargers. Age: 27.
    16. Jaylen Watkins, S, Chargers. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Chargers
    17. Geremy Davis, WR, Chargers. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Chargers (1 year)

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

    2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 12

    Fantasy Football Rankings - May 9

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12