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I’ll field questions about the draft or free agency, but I’m looking for a good, spicy question. Any hot takes? Any brain burners? Send ’em my way.
Looking over the future of the roster, I can’t believe we are about to get a handful of draft picks, former Pro-Bowl corner Jason Verrett, one of the highest-graded pass-blocking linemen in college football in Forrest Lamp, and the (hopefully) healthy return of dominant college wide receiver Mike Williams. The team is going to be loaded. However, there are still positions to fix and problems to address, and that’s the main focus of the first question of this mailbag. So, here it is…
The Bolts lost games last year for 3 reasons: couldn’t run, couldn’t stop the run when they needed to, and poor field goal kicking. How will they fix these problems? – Brian
Running the ball:
I’d like to start by pointing out that Melvin Gordon finished the season on a tear, running harder than we were used to seeing him. His final three games averaged 4.63 yards per carry, as well as 12 yards per catch. That’s elite production. He was turning into something special:
You have to understand that although the offensive line could be improved and despite Gordon showing indecisiveness on occasion, the coaching staff was what limited him through the first half or so of the season. Anthony Lynn wanted to come in and run the ball, and run it they did. To the tune of 168 yards across the first four games, averaging 2.8 yards per carry. The game plan did not suit the team, and it didn’t suit Melvin Gordon. Once they figured out how to use him better, the team started winning.
Gordon also had a vastly improved seven-game stretch to finish the season. Any guesses as to a reason why? I’ll give you a hint: It started after the Jacksonville game. Here’s another:
— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) November 12, 2017
The emergence of Austin Ekeler, I believe, contributed greatly to Gordon’s ascent. Ekeler spelled Gordon very well and kept the offense dynamic.
What I’m trying to get at is although the offense didn’t absolutely dominate running the ball, they got much better at it. That’s one part of fixing the run game. Part two? Add impact players:
Strong addition to an offensive line trending in the right direction. He brings a necessary tenacity to the group. His foot quickness and athleticism at the point will greatly benefit Melvin Gordon. https://t.co/130POaBMQG
— Nick Hardwick (@hardwina) March 19, 2018
Mike Pouncey could end up being one of the most influential signings in recent memory, if he pans out. The addition of a good center across the NFL (Raiders and Rodney Hudson, Falcons and Alex Mack) through free agency quickly turned average lines into elite ones. The Chargers have not had a true mainstay at center since Nick Hardwick left, and they finally get one. Here’s a really good write-up on the potential impact of Pouncey.
The eventual return of Lamp cannot be overlooked, either:
sportspoliticen: PFF: We think the Chargers got a good one in Forrest Lamp pic.twitter.com/HvAkIHPSi9
— Lynce (@lyncejr) July 28, 2017
This team has done enough to (at least on paper) create a potentially dominant offensive line. Gordon has improved every single year, and 2018 should be his most elite year in what could be a truly special season for Chargers fans.
Stopping the run:
This one I’m less optimistic about. Three additions (Lamp, Pouncey and Virgil Green) have been made to improve run blocking; not a single move has been made to bolster run stopping.
The draft is in two weeks, though, and that’s where the Chargers will make their moves. You’ve heard it a thousand times before: The team needs a linebacker and a defensive tackle. I guarantee one of those positions gets addressed with an early selection, if not both.
Rashaan Evans: He’s a monster. Another talked about option, Leighton Vander Esch, shouldn’t be considered if this guy is still on the board. Vander Esch has a harder time fighting through traffic and using his hands to shed blockers. Evans? Well…
How to take on a pulling OL, by Rashaan Evans pic.twitter.com/TfhDhAnaYe
— KP (@KP_Show) February 2, 2018
If you want to watch more regarding his aggressiveness and exceptional hand usage, watch here.
Some defensive tackles to watch through other rounds:
Round 2: Tim Settle. Can play all over the line, and is a big, big dude. My pick for the Chargers, reminding me of a Vince Wilfork-like guy. Love him.
Round 3: Derek Nnadi. There’s also a good chance he’s not here, but Nnadi would be a great pick in the third. He doesn’t rush the passer as well as I’d like, but he’s an excellent line-plugger and productive tackler. The Chargers need a guy to hold the middle, and this guy can do it.
Round 4-5: Justin Jones. Per NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein:
“He’s tough enough at the point of attack to give him a shot as a rotational defensive lineman if he’s able to add a little more size, but his shot may come late or undrafted as he lacks the athletic traits and overall production teams will be looking for.”
Here’s an article on defensive tackles to target outside the first round, which includes Settle and Nnadi.
Kicking the football:
I truly do not understand how multiple players paid more than 99 percent of fans reading this article can be so awful at their jobs. A 66.7 percentage for the 2017 season, the only team to fall into the 60s. And whatever this was:
Luckily, Caleb Sturgis is coming in with a 81 percent career average and has improved in every year since joining the NFL. He’s likely going to be the answer, but can any of us have any faith in the “right decision” actually panning out to be the correct one at the end of the season? I hope and pray that Sturgis does not go out and miss his first field goal of the season.
Thanks for your question!
Question 2: Any early win-loss predictions for the season?
- vs Chiefs: Loss
- vs Broncos: Win
- vs Raiders: Win
- vs Titans: Loss
- vs Bills: Win
- vs Bengals: Win
- vs Ravens: Win
- vs Steelers: Loss
- vs Browns: Win
- vs Seahawks: Win
- vs Cardinals: Win
- vs Rams: Loss
- vs 49ers: Win
- vs Chiefs: Loss
- vs Broncos: Win
- vs Raiders: Loss
That’s 10-6 on the season, including 3-3 in the division. Until I see otherwise, or the Chargers bolster the run defense, the Chiefs are going to kill us. Every loss I predict comes at the hands of a team that has a good rushing attack. The wins are almost obvious, as most of the teams on the schedule the team we’ll likely beat are either rebuilding or aren’t better than the Chargers. I would love for the Bolts to beat the Rams, but it’s going to be hard to stop Todd Gurley.
So,10-6, likely in the playoffs. It’s a little positive, with the potential to be a special season. It’s based off the current roster, which is one not built to stop the run. If they add a lethal combination of LB and DT in the draft, then this team is going to go far. Can’t wait for the draft!
That’s it for this mailbag! Want to contribute a question of your own (of course you do)? Submit one (or four, *cough* DrJWC) via any of the ways listed at the top of the article. Enjoy the rest of your week, watch some NBA playoffs/MLB games/NHL Playoffs, and this time next week you’ll be just a couple of days away from the 2018 NFL Draft.