We have returned with another FY 2016 NFL team preview! Don’t care for the San Diego’s zoo of a football team? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Minnesota; New England; New Orleans; New York Giants; New York Jets; Oakland; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh.
Where They’re Coming From
Earning their highest draft pick since Eli spurned them.
Last year was San Diego’s first truly awful season since going 4-12 in 2003. (Their first round pick even threw a fit again; just like old times!) But while that ’03 team had LaDainian Tomlinson to do the heavy lifting, the ’15 Chargers rushed worse than my college frat, Omega-3 fatty acid.
San Diego could point the blame at anything from injuries to relocation distractions, but neither problem will be going away this year. Chris Watt and Stevie Johnson are already out and the cloud of moving to L.A. next season still hangs over this team.
Where They’re Going
On a head coaching hunt.
The favorite to get axed first this year, the supposedly offensive-minded Mike McCoy has seen the Chargers offense drop from 12th to 17th to 26th in scoring during his three-year tenure. While the aforementioned excuses kept him employed last season, he’ll need to start fast to save his hide. With such a late bye this season, a Week 6 Thursday nighter against the Broncos appears to be the best spot to dump him if San Diego can’t get a few wins early.
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: WR Travis Benjamin, OL Matt Slauson, DE Joey Bosa (drafted)
Losses: S Eric Weddle, TE LaDarius Green, P Mike Scifres
What to Watch For
Philip Rivers is still a gamer.
No matter what this team trots out at receiver or running back, Philip Rivers still balls out and keeps his team in games. Nine of San Diego’s losses last year came by a single score, while Rivers finished second in the league in passing yards. One of the toughest players in the league, period, Rivers will continue to perform every week, no matter how hopeless things look. You have to love that.
Who to Watch For
Melvin Gordon, RB
God help Gordon if he experiences a sophomore slump, because the 15th-overall pick in 2015 couldn’t have had a worse rookie year if his knee blew out. Gordon rushed for just 641 yards, never topped 100 yards from scrimmage in a game, missed the final two games with a knee injury, and scored zero touchdowns! Not exactly an encouraging performance from a supposed feature back.
All the injuries along the Chargers’ offensive line certainly didn’t help the rookie find holes, but Gordon displayed a complete lack of vision in his first season. He looked better this preseason, thanks in part to a better o-line with Matt Slauson at center. However, San Diego is still thin if injuries should strike again.
What Could Go Wrong
Big play differential.
Brian Billick believed it wasn’t enough for his teams to win the turnover battle, his offense had to generate more big plays than the opponent. His “toxic differential” statistic (big play differential + turnover differential) has since become a pretty good indicator of success in the modern NFL. Ten of the top-12 teams in that category made the playoffs. The Chargers finished dead last.
Without his top targets last year, Philip Rivers couldn’t get much going in terms of big shots downfield but, unsurprisingly, the running game was even worse. San Diego backs managed just 28 runs of ten yards or more, while opponents gashed this lackluster defense for 53.
Joey Bosa is expected to improve the pass rush in his rookie season; limiting the run game will fall on the shoulders of last year’s disappointment of a linebacking corps. Of course, the Chargers feel they gained an addition by subtraction, releasing overpaid backer Donald Butler. But if this defense can’t stop getting gouged on the ground, than San Diego’s offense needs to become more explosive, making Gordon even more of an X-factor.
Where They’ll End Up
Last in the AFC West, not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Having Rivers at the helm always means San Diego could go on a run. But on paper, this looks like the least talented and thinnest bunch in a strong AFC West. Personally, I’m not buying the Chargers until they find themselves a new home.