You can’t drop passes on third down; you can’t overthrow wide open receivers; and you definitely can not afford to miss extra points. The Chargers sit at 1-2 after yet another close loss, and with injuries and losses mounting, it’s time to ask ourselves a serious question: Are the San Diego Chargers a playoff team?
Sep 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats San Diego 26-22. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into the season, the Chargers looked to be something special. Keenan Allen would return from the IR, we’d get a stud on the defensive line in Joey Bosa and an heir to Antonio Gates’ throne in Hunter Henry. Tom Telesco also went out and brought in a real cover corner in Casey Hayward along with some presence up front on both sides of the line with Brandon Mebane and Matt Slauson.
It looked like we may have even had a chance to run at a championship. All of us fans know, this didn’t really go as planned. Not even the preseason had arrived and we lost a key part of our offense in Stevie Johnson when he went down with a torn meniscus. Although it sucked, this injury was survivable so long as Allen could stay healthy.
Week 1 in Kansas City, Allen was torching Marcus Peters, flat out frustrating the second-year Pro Bowl corner, when on a big play he tears his ACL and we lose him for the season. To add to this, we lost Danny Woodhead to another torn ACL just one week later. And the week after that? Manti Te’o goes down with a torn Achilles tendon and is done for the year, per ESPN’s Eric Williams. Same thing that happened to Branden Oliver and Jeff Cumberland in the preseason. Johnson’s and Allen’s injuries literally took away Rivers No. 1 and No. 2 already going into Week 2. This team looked to make noise early, but these Injuries have been far too severe. Bosa has yet to suit up for the Chargers, and Henry just fumbled on the last drive of the game to seal a Colts’ victory.
Aside from the negative, here is what has worked out for the Chargers thus far. Melvin Gordon has done a complete 360 and has become a threat and true asset to this Chargers team. He got his first 100-yard game and has four touchdowns already this season. Tyrell Williams has made a huge leap since last year and is getting catches more often. Travis Benjamin is doing exactly what we knew he would with his speed, but also these two wide receivers had key third-down dropped passes against the Colts. Hayward has been phenomenal so far, reeling in three interceptions and playing solid in coverage. Mebane has helped a deadbeat Defensive line from a year ago find some life and get pressure without blitzing, while on the other side Matt Slauson has brought the offensive line together and has them playing fairly well, which was better than anyone could have predicted. Henry made some big catches but also lost a fumble at the worst possible time and will be looking for redemption in his second start as we are unlikely to see Gates in Week 4.
Sep 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) runs with the ball against Indianapolis Colts safety Clayton Geathers (26) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Can the Chargers make the playoffs? We’ve stayed in every game so far, but in the playoffs, we will be facing very good defenses. The offense has to prove it can keep moving forward despite losing arguably the most important parts of our offense. If the Chargers’ offensive three-and-out woes from the last two seasons return, we can kiss any hopes of the postseason goodbye, as good teams will capitalize and put those games away.
Philip Rivers and Gordon are what can take us to the playoffs. Both of them have had electric starts to the season and are the two players this team needs to ride into the playoffs. Sure, the receivers are capable, but they’re more valuable when our running game is working at full speed. This is already an improvement over last year, as it was all about Rivers, and teams knew that when gameplanning against us.
Sep 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (15) runs down the sidelines away from San Diego Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers (24) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
On the flip side, the defense has been inconsistent but very promising thus far. Our weaknesses since Week 1 have been Te’o and Brandon Flowers in coverage, and on occasion not being able to stop the run. Te’o going down has opened the door for rookie Jatavis Brown, who already showed he is better in coverage and has unmatched horizontal speed in his position group. He stepped up big and that is what we need all of our players to do. Dexter McCoil looked good all offseason but has a missed tackle that led to T.Y. Hilton’s game winner in Indy. Verrett could have certainly used Jahleel Addae’s enforcement style of play as help against Hilton.
Flowers gave an abundance of huge plays to Hilton and Philip Dorsett, and it is beyond me as to why he is still our outside guy alongside Verrett. Hayward has shown prowess in the secondary and should very soon be the No. 2 guy on our roster behind Verrett. There are moments where this defense looks stellar and like a legitimate shutdown defense, but it is often forgotten when they give up huge plays because they can’t apply any pressure to the quarterback–and is especially forgotten when we lose close games. This defense has to make a huge leap to be a playoff defense, so we will see if they are up to the task.
The San Diego Chargers need to focus on winning. They seem defeated before the game was over in Indy and they don’t make plays when it counts. Once these major faults are fixed, this unit has a chance to do big things. Realistically, if the Chargers do make the playoffs, they will lose the battle of depth. They’d be doing so without their superstar wide receiver and defensive captain and so many other important players. All playoff teams will have ways to expose holes on any defense as well as weaknesses offensively. The Chargers can win games this year, but the clock is ticking on Rivers’ career, and they need to get it together before the slight chance at a championship run we have is retired.
There seriously has to be some evaluations done as to why so many injuries are occurring on our team year after year. If we can have our starters longer than the first half of the season, then the sky is the limit for the Chargers. But for now, we need to focus on winning games with what we have when we have an easier schedule than we’ve had in years.