The Los Angeles Chargers are in a difficult spot. Their defense is one of the best in the league, led by an elite secondary. The offensive line has added pieces around whoever is going to play quarterback, be it Tyrod Taylor, or Justin Herbert. Austin Ekeler will now be the workhorse out of the backfield with Melvin Gordon heading to the division-rival Denver Broncos. The Chargers are trying to make the most out of their great defense, but the quarterback question marks are a major concern.
Make sure to check out all of our in-depth power rankings here.
- Overall – 79.42 (20th)
- Offense – 77.915 (23rd)
- Defense – 81.745 (11th)
- Coach and Culture – 80.5 (T-16th)
- Home Field Advantage – 69, 32nd (4% Defense, 2% Overall)
Quarterbacks – 72, 26th (36% Offense, 27% Overall)
Head coach Anthony Lynn has worked with Taylor in the past in Buffalo. Taylor hasn’t started a game since week three of the 2018 season for the Browns, where he completed less than 50 percent of his passes through the first two and a half games. He is a high-floor, low upside player who won’t turn the ball over. The most interceptions he has thrown in a season is six. Taylor is already familiar with the system, while Herbert hasn’t had any time to prepare with his receivers and the playbook.
I wasn’t as high on Herbert through the draft process as he isn’t that accurate. He has a cannon for an arm, similar to Philip Rivers who has moved on to Indianapolis. Taylor should get the first few starts in the season but if the Chargers have a losing record by week six, I’d expect Herbert to be thrust into the starting role. Easton Stick is a developmental prospect who the Chargers selected in last year’s draft. Many thought that Stick could’ve been the starter this year, but Los Angeles opted to go with Herbert’s upside instead.
Running Backs – 80, 20th (4% Offense, 3% Overall)
Ekeler will take over as the star in the backfield this year with Gordon’s departure. He posted over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. His role will be similar to Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. All three are capable of getting 1,000 yards rushing as well as receiving. Ekeler was only seven yards away from having a 1,000-yard receiving season last year as he totaled 993 yards on 92 catches last year. It is unknown if Ekeler will take all of the workload that left with Gordon, which is the reason why this ranking is lower than most expected.
Justin Jackson averaged almost seven yards per carry on 29 attempts last year but unfortunately dealt with injuries. He will likely be the goal-line back and short-yardage back this year. However, he will have to fend off Joshua Kelley for the second back in line. Los Angeles spent a fourth-round pick on Kelly this year. He totaled over 2,300 yards in his two years at UCLA and will find a role this year, and potentially be the partner to Ekeler.
Pass Catchers – 81, 16th (17% Offense, 8% Overall)
The Chargers were seven yards away from having three 1,000-yard receivers last year. The duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams had 2,300 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Those totals are expected to go down as Taylor won’t have those big passing stats that Rivers had. Ekeler is primed to have another big year receiving. Hunter Henry is back for at least another year after posting 55 catches, 762 yards, and five touchdowns last year while only appearing in 12 games.
The Chargers used two day-three selections on Joe Reed and K.J. Hill, who will battle with the likes of Andre Patton and Darius Jennings for the third receiver spot. Reed is simply a deep-threat who will likely take over as the kickoff and punt returner. Hill would likely line up in the slot if he were to make the team but will have some issues as he only ran a 4.6 40-yard dash time. Hill makes up for it in his superb route tree and will likely be able to find a role somehow if he makes the 53-man roster.
Offensive Line – 83, 8th (24% Offense, 12% Overall)
General manager, Tom Telesco made the offensive line a priority during the offseason. He traded an aging Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for Trai Turner, who is one of the best guards in the league today. Bryan Bulaga was brought in during free agency and will make the transition to left tackle. Mike Pouncey mans the middle of the offensive line and has been cleared to play following a neck injury last year.
The right tackle spot is a major question mark and could be a three-man battle between Sam Tevi, Trey Pipkins, and Forrest Lamp. Tevi has started at right tackle the last two years and has been a liability at times while Pipkins is a developmental project still. Dan Feeney will start at left guard and has shown some improvement in the last two years.
Lamp needs to take a step forward and potentially be able to make the switch from guard to tackle. He has struggled to stay healthy in his short career but has shown flashes when he is on the field. Trent Scott and Scott Quessenberry were forced into starting roles last year due to an abundance of injuries and provide some solid depth at the least.
Run Defense – 81.5, 16th (6% Defense, 2% Overall)
The Chargers were super active in free agency, as they also brought in Linval Joseph. Joseph is one of the best nose tackles in the league at defending the run and will join Justin Jones and Jerry Tillery on the interior. Tillery needs to be more productive as he only started three games last year and it will be even more difficult for him to be on the field with the addition of Joseph. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are great against the run as well on the perimeter of the front four. Los Angeles traded back up into the first round to select Kenneth Murray. Murray is always around the ball carrier and will now team up with Denzel Perryman and Drue Tranquill at the second level.
Pass Rush – 83.5, T-8th (21% Defense, 10% Overall)
The Chargers only managed to have 30 sacks last year. The tandem of Bosa and Ingram is one of the best in the league but depth players need to produce as well. Uchenna Nwosu was one of my favorite players when he was drafted but didn’t take the step many thought he would as a pass rusher, only securing 2.5 sacks last year. The trio of Jones, Joseph, and Tillery need to get an interior pass rush going alongside Bosa and Ingram for the pass rush to get to the top step of the league. Isaac Rochell is a solid rotational piece as well.
Linebackers – 75, 23rd (15% Defense, 4% Overall)
The Chargers had a lot of developmental pieces at the linebacker spot and that was before the selection of Murray. Perryman is the veteran of the linebacking group that could be phased out as the team tries to work in younger players like Tranquill and Murray. Tranquill will likely be the middle man at the second level unless he suffers an injury. Tranquill in the middle will lead Murray to be more of an outside linebacker during his rookie campaign.
Kyzir White has shown some flashes but the coaching staff hasn’t given him some of the opportunities many thought he would have. Nick Vigil comes over from Cincinnati where he had over 100 tackles last year for the Bengals and provides solid depth in case of injuries. Malik Jefferson was selected in the third round of the 2018 draft by Cincinnati but couldn’t make their horrendous linebacker room last year. Jefferson will likely be cut this year by the Chargers as the team has added Vigil and Murray and retains the trio of Perryman, Tranquill, and White.
Secondary – 86.5 3rd (26% Defense, 17% Overall)
The secondary is the best part of this roster. The trio of Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and newly signed, Chris Harris is a tremendous trio that brings a ton of starting experience and production. Even behind those three, the Chargers have a ton of depth. Michael Davis and Brandon Facyson are more than reliable as the fourth and fifth options at the position. Derwin James is perhaps the best safety in the league today. James is your do it all safety who can also play some box linebacker and rush the passer when needed.
Opposite of him will be Rayshawn Jenkins who had three interceptions last year. The Chargers tend to play a lot of three safety sets on defense. Nasir Adderley needs to take a major step forward after an abysmal rookie year which saw him only be on the field for ten snaps due to a hamstring injury. Adderley has a ton of tools to be one of the best safeties in the league but might have to fight for snaps with the addition of Alohi Gilman. Gilman has been compared to former Charger, Adrian Phillips, and could play that role, as well as a ton of special teams in his rookie year.
Coach and Culture – 80.5, T-16th (19% Offense, 28% Defense, 15% Overall)
The losses of Rivers, Gordon, and Okung on the offensive side of the ball is certainly painful. Instead of being a pass-oriented team, the Chargers will now turn to a play-action, run-oriented style team with Taylor at the helm for at least the first few weeks. Telesco made the offensive line a priority and upgraded two positions on the offensive line during the offseason. Due to some long-time players not being retained, the Chargers rank 22nd in offensive coach and culture.
While the Chargers welcome a few new starters on defense, the core of their superstars remain in Bosa, Hayward, Ingram, and James. The Chargers defense might now have to carry them to the playoffs if need be. Los Angeles has a ton of experience in the secondary and that along with Gus Bradley’s experience leads them to rank 15th in defensive coach and culture.
The Chargers are in quite the predicament. They have a quarterback controversy but also a roster that is ready to win now. Besides a hole at right tackle and the depth on the interior of the defensive line, Los Angeles doesn’t have many needs to address. They could potentially make the playoffs if Taylor plays well, but could also be in the cellar of the AFC West if Taylor plays poorly and Herbert is thrown to the wolves earlier than expected.
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