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How I Spent My Offseason - San Diego Chargers Edition

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After reviewing what the other teams in the AFC West have done, and projecting what they will do in 2015, it’s now time to recap what the important team in the division did in the offseason. This should get everyone caught up on offseason events that have to do with, you know, playing football.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching Changes

There is very little here to report.  As recounted elsewhere, the team did hire Mike Nolan as LB coach.  While this may be a savvy move by the chess masters in the front office to have options in the event of....

  1. Canning a DC mid-season,

  2. Have a head coach ready if McCoy (f)lames out during 2015, or

  3. Somebody that can interim HC if McCoy pulls a Kubiak and strokes out during the season.

I personally see it as something different. Sort of a marriage of convenience brought on by:

  1. Nolan not having a better offer from a California based team,

  2. Telesco wanting somebody to light a fire under Donald Butler's butt, and

  3. McCoy wanting another guy on the sideline to give Pagano input from a different perspective.

Nolan has a reputation as a good football mind that teaches and develops players well.  When you look at the Bolts LB corps, a few adjectives come to mind:

Young.

Unproven.

Potential.

Inexperienced.

Butler is the "old man" of the unit now, at age 26, with a grand total of 53 NFL starts.  The developing LB corps needed a steady, father figure type of coach, and Telesco went out and got him.

It is also worth noting that this will be the first time since 2012 that the Bolts will not be operating under a new Offensive Coordinator and learning a new system.  Whether that is a plus or minus is still open for debate.  For a spread offense, I thought the Bolts looked way too vanilla last year.  Many justified that by citing the injury situation limiting what could be done.  To me, that is counter-intuitive.

A coach sees the top of his depth chart getting gutted.  He has to start a lot of guys thought to be bench warmers at the start of the year.  The team still needs to put up points and move the ball.  What that tells me is that a coach needs to reach into their bag of tricks and get creative.  Maybe even funky, off-the-wall, "what the ____ was that?" creative.  That did not happen.  As much as KC's offense was mocked last year, they finished (16th) ahead of the Bolts (17th) in scoring in 2014.

In this town, not having a high powered and fun to watch offense is a nearly an unforgivable sin.  With the issues being traced to injuries on the line and key skill positions, plus under-performing starters, the front office was active in Free Agency to try and get better where the team needed improvement.

Free Agency

The coupon god struck again, shoring up the O-line and adding depth, especially to both the receiving and defensive secondary units.  While some important contributors were lost, free agency was mostly positive for the Bolts:

Position:

Lost:

Added:

Verdict:

OT

Joseph Barksdale

Chris Hairston

WR

Seyi Ajirotutu

Jacoby Jones

?

Eddie Royal

Stevie Johnson

?

ILB

Reggie Walker

Andrew Gachkar

CB

Shareece Wright

Patrick Robinson

Neutral

DE/DT

Mitch Unrein

S

Marcus Gilchrist

Jimmy Wilson

Neutral

G

Chad Rinehart

Orlando Franklin

+ +

RB

Ryan Mathews

Seeing Tutu join Mathews in Philly was not fun for the many admirers of his special teams play.  The Bolts did add a capable returner in Jones and with Stevie Johnson, a receiver that SHOULD be able to match or exceed Eddie Royal's production.  The losses and additions to the secondary may actually prove to be positives, but even conservatively speaking, it should be a break even proposition.

The coups of free agency were adding Barksdale and Franklin.  Especially for Franklin, as that signing was flavored with the sweet nectar of revenge on the Broncos for signing Vasquez.  The downside of free agency was the loss of depth at the ILB position, but that was partially addressed in the draft.

The Draft

Round

Player

Position

1

Melvin Gordon

RB

2

Denzel Perryman

ILB

3

Craig Mager

CB

5

Kyle Emanuel

OLB

6

Darius Philon

DT

As a refresher, the Bolts traded away their 4th rounder to jump up and get Gordon.  Gordon will probably start over Oliver and Brown.  Perryman was widely seen as a first round talent and should see significant playing time in 2015.  The pick of Mager in the 3rd was questioned, as was the selection of Emanuel in the 5th.

No one doubts the athleticism in each of these picks, but with the level of competition they faced in their FCS schools, both are perceived as projects.  The same can be said for Philon and there were also questions of scheme fit with him.

Bottom line on the 2015 draft will be how Gordon and Perryman work out.  If Gordon replaces or even comes close to replacing Mathews production in his rookie year and Perryman makes some plays this season, the draft will be seen as a success in the short term.  Opinion was varied (and yes, I will admit to not being happy with the 1st round pick), but the broad consensus was that the Bolts got two starter ability players at the top end of the draft and at the bottom end will perhaps develop players worth having.

Conclusion

From the perspective of a rank amateur, I believe that that Bolts roster improved during the offseason.  Losing Royal and Tutu cost the receiving corps and the special teams, but adding Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson may turn out to be a net win.  At least Jones could bring some sizzle to the return game, which has been lacking since the departure of Sproles.  Johnson exceeding or at least replacing Royal's production (or not) will tell the tale here.

Coach D will have his work cut out for him to integrate an O-line that looks as though Dunlap will be the only starter returning in 2015 to the position he started at in 2014.  The talent and ability are there; the interior of the line this season has to improve over last year's unit of Ohrnberger, Spinal Tap Drummer, and Troutman.  It certainly could not get worse.

An improved O-line should yield an improved running game.  In 2014 the Bolts finished 30th in the NFL in rushing yards.  That, plus a horrible interior line, contributed to Rivers getting pounded over the last 10 games of the season.  It was especially bitter to watch the deterioration of the offense in the context of Rivers' first 6 games, which had historic production levels from El Capitan.  A credible running game, with even improvement to the low 20's or high teens in rushing yards in 2015 would make the whole offense better.

1st round pick Gordon was not selected to make the rushing game credible though.  He was picked to be a game changer in his own right.  How well he can absorb the playbook, adjust to the speed of the NFL, and learn the nuances of an NFL passing offense will determine how much he plays and how productive he can be when he does.  It will not do the offense any good at all if they tip plays to a defense based upon whether it is Gordon or Woodhead lining up the backfield.

It would have been good to have kept either Walker or Gachkar, but if Perryman can make a few plays, and Conner can step up a little, the ILB group may be solid.  With Butler admitting that he played badly last year and vowing to improve in 2015, you have to think he'll get better, right?  As with the interior O-line, it probably could not be worse...

OLB is scary thin after Attaochu and Ingram.  Both of these players have an injury history that has to be a concern, given that there is not much behind them (Tourek Williams and Law, plus Emmanuel).  The secondary on the other hand is loaded with talent and depth and should be one of the best units on the team this season.

The defensive line was perceived as a weakness last season, but I believe will be looked upon as a bright spot in 2015.  For that to happen, players like Carrethers, Palepoi, Ricardo Mathews, Reyes and Square will have to continue getting better.  Plus, Lissemore and Liuget will need to continue with their high level of play.  I think that will happen; for most of these guys, having last year to get things figured out will probably help them be much better this year.

All in all, this is one of the more intriguing rosters the Bolts have had at the start of a season in a while.  How well that roster can do when the games count will be looked at in my next article.