Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos game preview

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12: Keenan Allen
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12: Keenan Allen /

Game Day is here.  The offseason is finally over and we get to enjoy another season of Chargers football.

Most fans are filled with optimism at the beginning of the season, carefully detailing how every minor offseason move has made their team a Super Bowl contender. The reality is, however, that none of us really know how it’s all going to play out.  It’s not until you start playing for real that you can really start to evaluate how the moves worked out.

The Chargers and Broncos matchup is a curious one indeed.  In 2016, the Charger offense and defense both finished statistically in the middle of the pack.  The Broncos boasted a top 5 defense in 2016 while having a bottom dweller offense.  The question we need to ask ourselves is has enough changed in the offseason to make us believe that any of these units will be any better.

There are two big changes in the Charger offense from a year ago.  One, they are healthy.  Two, they have retooled their offensive line.  The biggest question here is if the line is actually improved.  The addition of

Russell Okung

seems to be an improvement, but the addition of developmental players Spencer Pulley and Kenny Wiggins makes a fan wonder if the interior of the line got any better. The success of the Chargers offense will hinge on the offensive line.  If the line can be average the Chargers will have a top 10, if not top 5 offense.  If this unit struggles so do the Chargers.

Broncos Offense: The Broncos offense was not good last year.  They have also retooled their line, but whether it has improved much is yet to be seen.  They failed to upgrade at quarterback and for Monday starting running back Devontae Booker is out.  For the Broncos offense to be any better than last year, Trevor Siemian is going to have to be much improved from last year. The other real factor here is Mike McCoy.  While Broncos fans may be happy to have him back, Chargers fans were happy to see him go.  Is he a boost for the Broncos offense or will he be a detriment to them?

Chargers Defense: The biggest change for the Chargers here is that the unit is fairly healthy.  The loss of Denzel Perryman is a major concern, but having Jason Verrett back is a huge boost for the secondary. The big unknown here is the effect that Gus Bradley will have on this unit. He has been a big name in defensive circles but really has not done that much since he left Seattle.  The second unknown is what kind of play the Chargers will get from the safety position. For me, the Chargers defense could go either way.  Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram could lead the league in sacks while Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett lead the league in interceptions or a few injuries expose the lack of depth on defense and the Chargers have a mediocre defense again.  The testing all starts Monday night.

Broncos Defense: The Broncos defense was stellar last year. But it’s 2017 and there have been some changes. Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, is gone. DeMarcus Ware has retired, Shane Ray is out with an injury and TJ Ward was released. And for tonight the injury report does not look good for the Broncos. Zach Kerr and Jared Crick are out for the game and nose tackle Kyle Peko is questionable.  Will this be a top 5 defense again or are we looking at the Broncos defense perhaps taking a bit of a slide this year?

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Chargers Special Teams: It is no secret that the Chargers have struggled in this area for what seems like a decade or more.  On the road against a tough divisional opponent, they cannot afford to struggle here.  Hopefully the coaching changes will show a great improvement in this area.

Turnovers:  The Chargers also cannot afford to allow the Broncos defense to score. The Broncos have been the best at this for several years. The Chargers need to limit turnovers and keep Denver’s defense out of the end zone.

Anthony Lynn: The Chargers picked up a new head coach this year. While it appears that Anthony Lynn has been good for the Chargers, the verdict on whether that actually results in wins is still out.  How will Lynn perform as a head coach?  I think we will get a good view of that tonight as he is thrown into the fire on the road on Monday night against a divisional rival.