Last night, we started by looking at five reasons for optimism regarding the San Diego Chargers offense. This morning, we will attempt the somewhat more difficult task of coming up with five reasons for pessimism.
1. The offensive line has seen turnover at four out of five starting positions
The reason you turn over 80% of your line is because Chad Rinehart was a bad left guard, Johnnie Troutman was a terrible right guard, D.J. Fluker was a poor right tackle, and having a different guy start at center each week isn't a good idea. Replacing those problems with new, better players is a good thing. However, one of the most important parts of a successful offensive line is continuity, and this year's offensive line has exactly zero regular-season games together under their collective belts. That's bad. It's better than the alternative reality in which the same collection of failure was kept together, but it's still not a good thing.
2. Antonio Gates is suspended for the first four games of the season
For those of you unfamiliar with the last decade or so of American football, Antonio Gates is really, really, really good at playing tight end. The other guys on the roster are not as good. Ladarius Green has some upside, but he apparently has a concussion and will probably miss the first game of the season. The Chargers offense to a large degree runs through the tight end position, and for a chunk of the season they will not have a good one available. That's not good. Be afraid.
3. Melvin Gordon does not look ready to be a featured running back
Like most rookie running backs, Melvin Gordon is not much of a pass blocker. That's to be expected. Unfortunately, he's also struggling with hesitation behind the line of scrimmage on running plays. It's possible that will improve with game reps, but until it does the offense is going to be held back by his growing pains. That doesn't mean he'll be a bust or anything dramatic like that, but it's enough to make you worry about the first quarter or half of the season. Now, Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead are both solid-to-outstanding, but one has to worry that Gordon's status as a first round pick will weigh on the coaching staff. Here's hoping they're better than that.
4. There's no guarantee Frank Reich takes a step forward
Now, there's reason to believe Frank Reich can get better in his second year, but it's also necessary for the success of the offense for him to do so. If he doesn't, the offense will stagnate. It won't take advantage of the strengths of the talent available, and it will remain incredibly predictable. If 90% of Gordon snaps are runs and 90% of Woodhead snaps are passes, that won't be good for the team's chances in 2015. This is light pessimism, though, because it's hard to imagine he didn't learn from his first full season.
5. The offense lacks a true deep threat
Don't say Jacoby Jones. That doesn't count. No, you shut up. Malcom Floyd is a good receiver and he can occasionally get deep and make big plays. Floyd is not a guy that the defense has to be concerned about getting behind them. Floyd's game is to go up over top of a guy that has him covered and make the catch anyway. What the Chargers lack is a player that can "take the top off." They haven't had that for years, and it's a very real deficiency that affects every other aspect of the offense.
I have to say, I feel even more optimistic about the offense after writing this because it was a struggle to come up with five solid reasons for pessimism. I had to narrow down my options when writing the optimism post. I really think the offense is going to be good this year.