Currently sitting at 4th place (3-5) in arguably the strongest division in football, the Chargers have a lot of work to do. As I predicted earlier in the year, there will be three teams from the AFC West in the playoffs this year, and the Chargers are going to need to kick some ass to catch the Chiefs, Raiders, or Broncos, who each have 3 fewer losses than the Chargers, and with the Raiders and Broncos sitting at 6 wins apiece.
We all know how the Chargers have looked this year. It’s been increasingly common to see Chargers fans with red puffy eyes walking around, also with clumps of hair missing due to the frustrating way the Chargers have found to lose five games; from the blown 17 point lead in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, to giving up a 63-yard TD play to end the game against the Colts with a minute left in the game, to giving up two TD passes to Drew Brees in the final 4 minutes 50 seconds (and a blown 13 point lead), to the fumbled snap against the Raiders (going for the FG tie), to the Rivers meltdown (missing all but one of his final 8 passes) in Denver. For the record, the Chargers’ record would be 5-2-1 if NFL games were half the length this season.
Without further ado, here are the grades for the first half of the season.
Philip Rivers - B
After starting the season hot, with 3 straight games without an interception, Rivers was sitting at 12 Touchdowns to only 3 INT through 6 games. The last two games have been a statistical nightmare, as he’s thrown more INTs than TDs (4 to 3). From the eye test, last game, 2 of those interceptions were on Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin, so we can give him a bit of a break, but not really when you notice his sterling 42.6% completion percentage last week. In his first 5 games, he never dipped below 65% completion percentage, while the last three weeks has not exceeded 62%. His passer rating shows the same story. Generally, Rivers has been great in the first half of the season and much worse over the 2nd half, but he has done that already this season. The Chargers need him to be on his game because the offense is nothing without him.
Melvin Gordon - B+
He’s been solid. He is running with conviction, has scored the 2nd most rushing TDs in the league with 8, and has added two more as a receiver. Yes, the vast majority of those scores are due to increased opportunity, as Danny Woodhead is out for the season, but he has been much more consistent than Philip Rivers this year. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but he sure as hell has not been the cause of the losses this year. It’s hard to argue that Mike McCoy and Whiz were right in not giving him the ball once from the 2-yard line because he probably would have punched it in, as he’s been great at this season.
Tyrell Williams - B-
I’m going to get a lot of hate for this one, but I don’t think Tyrell Williams is that good. He’s got straight end speed, but isn’t a very refined route runner, and still needs to develop. Yes, he’s a lot better than he was last season, but he still has a long way to go. Next season, he won’t need to be the guy and will get to learn more under Keenan Allen’s wing. Yes, he’s on pace for 1000 yards, but he’s incredibly inconsistent (having 3 games where he’s caught for 40 yards or less, with 2 games over 100 yards).
Travis Benjamin - C(-)
He should be lower based on his special teams gaffes. He’s not a #1 receiver, he has a hard time holding onto the ball through hits, and he’s completely forgotten how to catch and return punts. He’s also incredibly inconsistent, with his last 3 games never eclipsing 4 catches, 54 yards. He’s only scored in 2 games and has only 2 games over 100 yards. Once again, he won't need to be the guy when Keenan Allen returns, but he’ll be a hell of a lot more useful when Keenan Allen does return because he will demand attention which will leave Allen even more open.
Hunter Henry - (A-)
He’s been as advertised. Not counting his one fumble (which effectively lost the Chargers the game), he had a 4-week stretch where he looked like a top 3 TE in the league. With Antonio Gates returning from injury, he’s been slowed in recent weeks, but he is easily the best TE on the roster at this point and time and will be a monster for many years to come. He is Philip River’s most reliable target on this team.
Antonio Gates - D- (Coaches - F)
There’s no question about it. He’s been a huge disappointment this year and has only aided in keeping the more effective Hunter Henry off the field. He has not eclipsed 38 yards in a game, despite having no less than 5 targets in a game since week 1. Through the last two weeks, he has had a whopping 19 targets for a less than stellar 9 receptions, 71 yards, and a TD. In Henry’s last 19 targets, he has 12 receptions for 187 yards and 2 TDs. Who deserves to be on the field, coaches?
Offensive Line - D
Philip Rivers has been sacked 5th most in the league, Melvin Gordon still gets hit often at or near the line of scrimmage, and Joe Barksdale has been a liability. These guys need to play as a unit, so they get a unit grade, and it’s poor. Yes, they have been better than last year, but they’ve also been healthier. I feel for Joe Barksdale because I think he’s a class act, but something needs to change with this line if the Chargers are going to make a serious run at the playoffs.
Josh Lambo - A
He has only missed two field goals (from extreme range), and has been incredibly accurate and has come through when the team has needed him. Great find by Tom Telesco last offseason. And no, it doesn’t matter that he was having a good time with Sebastian Janikowski after the game. Don’t be foolish.
Overall grade - B-
They’ve given the ball away 18 times, good for most in the league. They have also scored the 2nd most points in the league. If they can cut down on turnovers, this offense is lethal.