What a day.
What a draft.
General manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy have made it clear: the San Diego Chargers aren’t going to be pushovers. After a solid offseason of adding quality talent through free agency and now the draft, the Chargers are here to compete.
You’re probably thinking, what team isn’t ready to compete? But the Chargers have been an afterthought in the AFC West.
Rightfully so. They did nothing last year to prove otherwise. San Diego finished with its worst record (4-12) in over a decade. They couldn’t run the ball; they couldn’t stop the opposing team from running the ball. The Bolts were broken–literally and figuratively.
But it appears that will all change. The defense got stronger, and the offense got more dynamic.
After drafting defensive end Joey Bosa with their first pick, the Chargers started off the day by drafting Bosa’s teammate at Ohio State, linebacker Joshua Perry. The chemistry is already there, and both of these men will add an aggressive mentality that’s been sorely missed.
Bosa will wreak havoc on quarterbacks and running backs, and he is a leader the Chargers need. Not only does Perry add much-needed depth, but he has the chance to take over the starting role at middle linebacker. Oh, and he can hit hard and tackle (only nine missed tackles on 209 attempts over two last two years, per Pro Football Focus). It’s fair to say that free-agent acquisition Brandon Mebane, who will be the Chargers’ first solid option at nose tackle since the Jamal Williams days, will have a major impact on the former Buckeyes.
Speaking of linebackers, the Chargers took Jatavis Brown at the end of the fifth round; but he’s not your ordinary linebacker. Brown, who is a linebacker-safety hybrid, is a small-school prospect who can rush the passer, stop the run and cover. He’s no Myles Jack, but he’s a jack-of-all-trades (see what I did there). He’s another tough football player who not only adds strength but is one of the fastest linebackers out there (ran a 4.47 at the regional combine and is reportedly even faster). At 5-foot-11, 227 pounds, the athletic Brown will make an impact on special teams right away as well as in sub-packages before possibly becoming the Chargers’ starting safety.
Speaking of the secondary, the Chargers made their upgrades in free agency with the signing of Casey Hayward, one of the top slot corners who has experience on the outside, too. They also added journeyman Dwight Lowery, who was no slack last year with the Colts after finishing with a career-high four interceptions. For now, fourth-year pro Jahleel Addae will go into camp as the starter at strong safety, but don’t sleep on Brown or even Dexter McCoil, a CFL addition and another tweener.
Now on to offense. The Chargers gave quarterback Philip Rivers more weapons with the addition of wide receiver Travis Benjamin and now Hunter Henry, the Chargers’ second-round pick. Benjamin will stretch the field and give Rivers a deep threat to go along with Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson, while Henry (and his 6-foot-5 frame and glorious hands) will be a nightmare matchup all over the field and hopefully become the replacement for Antonio Gates.
More importantly, they also supplied Rivers with what he needed most: a center. Max Tuerk, who was arguably the top-rated center prior to injury, is the key to making the entire offensive line better, and he’s on track to compete for that starting role. The Chargers found more depth in the seventh round with the selection of former Michigan State guard Donavon Clark.
And you know 2015 first-round pick Melvin Gordon was ecstatic after hearing Derek Watt’s name called in the sixth round. Watt, who is related to Texans’ star J.J. Watt, was the lead blocker for Gordon at Wisconsin. In 2015, he finished with the second-highest run-blocking grade among fullbacks and caught all 16 passes thrown his way, per PFF. Henry will also be a huge factor in the running game. Again, more chemistry and another physical presence to help Gordon run.
Let’s just revel in what Telesco and company did. He found tough, talented and versatile football players who can come in and make an impact right away. There’s a difference between being completely optimistic and being right.
The Chargers have talent. They’re not a bad team. They were just a soft, injured team.
Let’s hope they won’t be anymore.