Chargers’ offense ranks among the best in the NFL
By Matt Pagels
How good is the Chargers’ offense? NFL.com has them ranked in the top five.
We knew the Chargers had a very good offense.
And according to NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling, the Chargers have the fifth-best offense in the NFL. The New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons are the only teams that rank ahead of the Chargers. Wesseling added position grades to his rankings, giving the Chargers a B+ in the quarterback department, a B for the backfield, an A- for the receiving corps and a B for the offensive line.
The Chargers’ offense struggled to begin the 2017 season. But when they started to gel (a.k.a. put the ball in Philip Rivers’ hands more often instead of forcing the run), they looked great. After an 0-4 start in which they averaged just 18 points per game in the span, the Chargers scored more than 20 points in six games (all wins), including a 54-point performance against the Buffalo Bills. The combination of a high-powered offense and suffocating defense led to the Chargers winning nine of their last 12 games.
Consistency is the only thing truly holding them back, but I do think they are a top-five offense heading into 2018.
Despite being 36 years old, Rivers is still playing at a high level. He finished second in passing yards (4,515) and threw for 28 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He may only have two or three seasons left, but he’s still one of the top QBs in the entire NFL. His backups (Geno Smith and Cardale Jones), however, are nothing to write home about. Keep an eye out for 2018 undrafted free agent Nic Shimonek.
Running back Melvin Gordon played a full, 16-game season for the first time in his career and finished with 1,000 rushing yards (another first) and 12 total touchdowns (eight rushing, four receiving). He’s seen the end zone a total of 24 times and only fumbled three times over his last two seasons after scoring zero touchdowns and fumbling five times his rookie year. 2017 undrafted free agent Austin Ekeler was a nice surprise and is a good third-down option. 2018 seventh-round RB Justin Jackson comes with a ton of production (5,440 rushing yards, 41 rushing touchdowns, 122 receptions, 858 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown at Northwestern) and could be a late-round gem as the primary backup behind Gordon, something the Chargers really needed. More potential than proven playmakers behind Gordon, but that’s fine.
The receivers are gold. Keenan Allen is a stud. He won NFL Comeback Player of the Year after finishing third in receiving yards (1,393), fourth in receptions (102) and fourth in yards per game (87.1). His six receiving touchdowns were the most since his rookie year.
And there is so much young talent and depth behind the team’s No. 1 wideout. Mike Williams should rebound in Year 2; I mean, the former Clemson product was a first-round pick for a reason. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin have different skill sets but bring top-end speed to this team. 2018 sixth-round receiver Dylan Cantrell (or Thad Castle’s twin brother) is an athletic freak who blocks extremely well and has strong hands. He could develop into a key player on this team sooner than later. Plus, he has the build to be a tight end or receiver and should be a matchup nightmare. And don’t forget about one of the best young tight ends in the league in Hunter Henry.
Veteran left tackle Russell Okung’s addition helped turn things around. The offense line allowed the fewest sacks (18) in the NFL last season, but run blocking was an issue. Getting 2017 second-round guard Forrest Lamp (torn ACL) back and signing veteran center Mike Pouncey to a two-year deal should help fix that problem. The only weak spot on the line is at right tackle, where Joe Barksdale has underperformed these past two years. It’s fair to say that Barksdale is average (teetering on below average) but not the terrible tackle he’s made out to be. The depth might be the best we’ve seen in years, though, with Michael Schofield, Sam Tevi, Scott Quessenberry, Spencer Pulley and Donavon Clark on the roster. It should be noted that this is a very versatile group of backups. Tackle should be a priority next season.
So what do you guys think? Does this Chargers’ offense belong in the top five?