The Chargers continued to neglect talent and depth acquisition at two of the key personnel groups in the NFL, something that needs to change in 2019…
The Los Angeles Chargers have often gone with the “hammer” philosophy in the draft, which has netted them impact players like Derwin James. However, as much as GM Tom Telesco would like to find hard-hitting players in the draft or free agency, he needs to turn his attention to one thing: sustainability. Two places in particular: The offensive line and linebacker corps, of which the former even had the head coach admitting wasn’t playing their best at the end of the season.
In answering fan questions on Chargers.com, head coach Anthony Lynn had this to say when asked about the offensive line:
Lynn: I feel good about the o-line. At the end of the season, we weren’t playing our best ball and there are some reasons for that and those will be addressed…
Reason number one: Their right tackle was a sixth round pick without a full year of starting experience (and the backup coming out of training camp) who graded out as PFF’s 74th-rated tackle. The other reason is hinged on the team’s second and third round draft picks from 2017, RG Forrest Lamp and LG Dan Feeney. Fans believed that Lamp would open as the starting right guard after missing his rookie year and that Feeney would take the next step towards becoming a better guard. Instead, Lamp (curiously) never played with the starting unit, and his draft counterpart did not take the necessary steps forward.
The Chargers cannot enter the 2019 season with a bottom-ranked offensive line (albeit with a good LT and C) protecting one of the most immobile athletes in professional sports. Rivers, much to his credit, is incredibly durable; his backfield starter, running back Melvin Gordon, is not. No. 28 is a solid talent when on the field, but continues to miss time (58 out of 64 games played) due to lingering injuries. In his final four appearances in the 2018 season (including playoffs) Gordon had 48 carries for 138 yards, which is 2.88 yards per rush and 34.5 yards per game. This is the same back who for the entire season averaged 5.1 yards per rush behind the exact same offensive line. And sure, playing Baltimore twice, Denver once, and a New England defense that would prove to be suffocating doesn’t help. But it all points back to sustainability, something the Chargers will not have on offense if they continue to put low-talent players on the starting line.
Sustainability can also be achieved with depth; nowhere is this more apparent than in the defensive backfield, in which three starting corners or safeties were lost to injury early in the regular season. What became of them: Three First Team All-Pros in S/ST Adrian Phillips, CB Desmond King, and S James. That same injury-riddled group was the reason the Chargers even made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs to begin with.
However, the linebacker corps was anything but durable; after the loss of Denzel Perryman, the team really had no true starting middle linebacker. The Chargers decided to enter the season with Perryman at starter without legitimate help behind him (and you can’t convince me Jatavis Brown and Phillips were definitively the Chargers’ plan all along) despite the thumping linebacker ever finishing a full season. That’s neglect on the part of the front office, if not complete ignorance. Heading into the playoffs without a true starting middle linebacker looks like this: 235 total yards on 40 attempts or catches by Patriots’ backs Sony Michel and James White en route to a blowout road loss.
The Chargers need to find a way to maintain success on offense and defense, which (hopefully) can be done in these three ways:
- Bring in a legitimate starting middle linebacker to compete with or replace Perryman.
- Acquire better talent behind Perryman and/or that starter.
- Stop neglecting the importance of legitimate talent at every position along the offensive line.
If the Bolts want any business playing in the postseason with the big boys, they need to have more punch-you-in-the-mouth talent at some of the most physical positions in the NFL. Otherwise, they’ll remain the same team with tons of talent that can’t sustain winning because of glaring holes in the roster.