Alex Perl Aug 6th, 2019
The 2018 season for the Los Angeles Chargers and Head Coach Anthony Lynn was a pleasant surprise. In 2018 the offense and defense clicked, which culminated in a 12-4 record with seven Pro Bowl selections. Despite losing in the divisional round of the playoffs, and the ongoing contract saga of Melvin Gordon (more on that later), expectations for 2019 in Los Angeles are now even higher, with talk of even a possible Super Bowl appearance, which would be the franchise’s first super bowl appearance since 1994.
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Los Angeles had a rather quiet offseason, the biggest signing was the veteran linebacker, Thomas Davis. The three-time Pro Bowler had spent the last 13 seasons as a member of the Carolina Panthers, despite being well past his prime at the age of 36, is still highly productive and will bring a veteran presence to the defense. The NFL draft for the Chargers was fixated on improving their already razor-sharp defense. With their first selection, the Chargers selected Jerry Tillery, a defensive tackle out of Notre Dame. In the second round selected was safety, Nasir Adderley. Two guys that despite being rookies will factor in immediately for the Chargers.
In terms of losses, the Chargers lost former Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett, who despite missing the entire 2018 season with an Achilles injury, was signed by the San Francisco 49ers. Also lost was wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who signed a lucrative deal to play for the Oakland Raiders. The losses were not major for coach Lynn, as the team does have significant depth at both of these positions.
Not much will change from an offensive perspective. Despite the loss of receiver Williams to the Raiders, the offense remains almost completely intact. The team will still be under the leadership of eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers. His receiving corps will be led by two-time Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen and the rapidly developing Mike Williams. At tight end will be Hunter Henry, who after tearing his ACL during OTAs missed the entire season, he will look to get back into sync with Rivers once again. The offensive line will once again be anchored by veteran Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey. Now this is where things get murky, as of now Melvin Gordon is the starter at running back, but with contract negotiations at a standstill, the situation at hand is one in which the Pro Bowl running back may be on the market. If Gordon is indeed moved, the team will rely on a combination of second-year back Justin Jackson and receiving specialist Austin Ekeler, not a bad position for the Chargers to be in but not ideal, especially when you consider the exceptional talent of Gordon.
The defense will once again be led by the two-headed pass-rushing attack of defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, on the inside next to a now fully healthy Bosa and Ingram figures to be nose tackle Brandon Mebane and rookie Tillery. Behind them will be the linebacker corps led by newly signed veteran Davis. The secondary will be anchored by the play of shutdown all-pro cornerback Desmond King and Casey Hayward, second-year All-Pro safety Derwin James who after only one season in the NFL has already made first-team All-Pro, as well as receiving Pro Bowl honors is expected to make an even bigger jump in play this year. Also, do not be surprised to see rookie safety Adderley play a major role in the secondary.
On special teams, The Chargers have brought back first-team All-Pro special team safety Adrian Phillips. Desmond King is also expected to return in his role as full time punt and kick returner. Starting at kicker will be Michael Badgley, who as a rookie set franchise records for Longest Field Goal made at 59 yards, as well as having the highest single-season field goal percentage in franchise history at 93.8%. At punter, Ty Long could be the pick here, as he is the most consistent on the roster.
53 Man Roster Predictions
Quarterbacks (3): Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
With the signing of Taylor who should be a competent back up to Rivers and fifth-round selection Stick, The Chargers seem to have a solid backup and quite possibly one for the future in Stick.
Running Backs (4): Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome
On paper, this is quite a strong unit, but with the contract stalemate of Gordon, a significant change could occur among this unit. With Gordon, you have not only one of the leagues best, but an overall great unit of backs, but this could change to a committee if Gordon is indeed moved. Look for Jackson to have a huge jump after his first season.
Fullback: (1): Derek Watt
Incumbent starter Watt is expected to once again take over starting duties, but this could be interrupted if he does not fully recover in time due to shoulder surgery.
The Chargers will be without Tyrell Williams whose big-play ability is now in Oakland, but Mike Williams should receive an even bigger bulk of the load, and be more than capable of filling the void left by Tyrell. Benjamin will be called upon to fill the third receiver role, expect a big improvement from Davis.
Tight End (3): Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Sean Culkin
After tearing his ACL, Henry looks set to again take on his role as the leading tight end. This may finally be a turning of the tide, as the team might finally be done with veteran and all-time leading receiver Antonio Gates.
Offensive Line: Russell Okung, Dan Feeney, Mike Pouncey, Michael Schofield, Sam Tevi, Forrest Lamp, Scott Quessenberry, Trent Scott, Trey Pipkins
This unit had a dramatic improvement in 2018, the main concern is the status of Okung, there is not much depth at tackle behind him. The competition at left guard is a battle that could continue beyond the preseason.
Defensive Line (8): Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Mebane, Justin Jones, Jerry Tillery, Damion Square, Isaac Rochell, T.Y. McGill
With Bosa returning to full health, expect another monster season from him and fellow end Ingram. Tillery can end up being a huge steal and should provide immediate pressure on the inside to help out Bosa and Ingram.
Linebackers (7): Thomas Davis, Denzel Perryman, Uchenna Nwosu, Kyzir White, Jatavis Brown, Drue Tranquill, Nick Dzubnar
Despite being 36, expect Davis to have a solid year in 2019, his veteran leadership should keep this group very solid if not spectacular.
Safety (5): Derwin James, Adrian Phillips, Nasir Adderley, Rayshawn Jenkins, Jaylen Watkins
James is expected to have an even larger impact compared to his tremendous first season, expect to see him in more blitz packages this season. Adderley despite being a rookie, can compete for major playing time right off the bat.
Cornerback (5): Casey Hayward, Desmond King, Michael Davis, Trevor Williams, Brandon Facyson
With King manning the slot, a now-healthy Williams will be competing with Davis for the starting cornerback spot opposite Hayward, expect a lengthy battle if not a rotation of both players.
Specialist (1): Michael Badgley, Ty Long, Mike Windt
Badgley will take charge of a job that has been a revolving door for the Chargers in recent years. He looks to capitalize on his record-setting first season.
With depth on both offense and defense, as well as a slew of star power, the Chargers 2019 season should be a strong one. Despite the question mark on Gordon and his contract status, the offense still has the talent to be among one of the best in the AFC. The defense if healthy can also be one of the best in the league. The franchise is doing more then it’s fair share to keep up with its in-city rival the Rams.
The schedule is pretty brutal, despite the strength of this team, an eleven win season is more than acceptable. Especially considering tough matchups with the Colts, Texans, Packers, Bears and two matchups with division rival Kansas City linger. Philip Rivers should lead this team through a deep postseason run, with a strong shot at a super bowl appearance.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images