Key Offseason Moves Can Help Chargers Go From 4-12 to 12-4
By Nick Matt
At the conclusion of the 2015 season, Tom Telesco wasted little time refining the Chargers’ roster for 2016. At the time, players didn’t know where they would call home, for there was the possibility that the Chargers would move to Los Angeles.
There were a lot of roster question marks going into the offseason, and every one of them have been met. They found key players both in free agency and through the draft that can come in and contribute right away. The Chargers also look to be on the right track towards building a new stadium in downtown San Diego.
When free agency began, the Chargers made quiet moves but also very important ones. The addition of Brandon Mebane, known for being a run stopper with the Seahawks, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, an up-and-coming young player with a burst of speed that would make Deion Sanders proud, and versatile corner Casey Hayward, who can play multiple positions in the defensive backfield and is a proven veteran.
Their recent free-agent acquisition was former Bears guard/center Matt Slauson. Slauson is a veteran leader who brings experience and figures to immediately start at center. While Slauson isn’t spectacular, he is reliable and a great locker room guy, and that’s exactly what the Chargers need right now after a very shaky 2015.
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Telesco didn’t take his foot off the gas heading into the draft either. He addressed key needs on both sides of the ball starting with defense right out of the gate. Telesco shook up the draft board immediately by taking Joey Bosa.
Even Bosa was shocked when he was drafted by America’s finest city, San Diego. The former Buckeye was arguably the best defensive player in this year’s draft class. He has the tools to be an elite defender in the NFL with his explosive motor, and he plays the run better than anyone else in this class because he uses his length and long arms to engage the offensive lineman to shed blocks. His athleticism makes him an offensive lineman’s worst nightmare because he can line up at almost every position except for nose tackle. More notably, he’s been compared to Texans’ star J.J. Watt.
After going offense in the second and third rounds, the Chargers upped their defense again by taking fellow Ohio State Buckeye linebacker Joshua Perry, who was an absolute steal in the fourth round. He is a physical specimen who will complement Denzel Perrymen very well because he flat out doesn’t miss tackles (only nince missed tackles in over 200 attempts, per Pro Football Focus). He was the heart and soul of that potent Ohio State defense.
Possibly the most exciting player the Chargers drafted was Jatavis Brown, the team’s fifth-round selection. Brown was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. Brown rewrote the history books for Akron with 20 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He also holds the record for most tackles for loss with 41.5.
Brown ran a 4.47 40-yard dash and is unbelievably athletic. He will come in and play right away because of his athletic ability and speed. He takes great angles and has outstanding acceleration along with a high motor like Bosa to cause havoc in the backfield. Not to mention, it will be an easy transition because he grew up next door to Benjamin.
Moving on to the offensive needs, the Chargers nailed all of them except for not addressing the offensive tackle position. which shows that Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy have full faith in King Dunlap. They took the best tight end in the class in Hunter Henry. The 6-foot-5 Henry, who was taken in the second round, has a chance to learn from future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates for two years.
However, Henry will get plenty of playing time in his rookie season. Henry ran a 4.6 40-yard dash. He’s big, physical and can help in the run game. More importantly, he does not drop the football (no drops last seasons, per PFF). He is being compared to Jason Witten, which is not a bad comparison at all.
Chargers third-round pick Max Tuerk, a three-year starter at USC, was a very nice fit because he has exceptional footwork and football IQ. Tuerk has versatility after playing guard and tackle, but he is primarily a center. Had it not been for an ACL tear early in the season, Tuerk would have gone much higher in this draft. Therefore, he is a steal in the third round.
Another really nice pickup is a man who Melvin Gordon is thrilled to have blocking for him, and that is former Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt, the brother of J.J. Most teams don’t go with a traditional fullback anymore, but Ken Whisenhunt can be creative in how he uses Watt in the running game. The familiarity between Watt and Gordon will only help Gordon’s growth in his sophomore season.
Only time will tell, but from the looks of it the Chargers made big strides this offseason with the potential billion-dollar stadium, fresh new faces, coaching changes and stellar additions through free agency and the draft. Chargers are poised for a big season.