A couple of days ago we went over how Vegas predicted the Chargers to finish last in the AFC West. You can make a strong argument whether that's fair or not. A 3 win bump is good for any team. It just so happens the Chargers are coming off of their worst record since 2003. The division is also quite competitive, and the other three teams are arguably all more talented than the Chargers. Again, arguments can be made. As you can imagine, a team that won 4 games has many things to improve on. There are three areas the Chargers need to improve on to pass that seven win total next year. I'll go over 1 of those areas today.
Getting better up the middle
Not on offense, but on defense. Nope, not at nose tackle, but in pass coverage. I'm talking taking away other teams short passing game. San Diego was the 3rd worst team per DVOA at stopping teams under 15 yards. Where they were at their worst is in the middle of the field. With another year under his belt, hopefully, we see Denzel Perryman develop and become more aware in coverage. As great as he was against the run, he can certainly get better in pass coverage. Manti Te'o is fine in coverage but up until this point, that hasn't been good enough. The team has a couple of new options to play with, especially a certain 5th round pick that should be able to help right away.
Safety is another area of concern. Jahleel Addae just hasn't shown he's competent in coverage no matter what role he's been assigned. The team rolling the dice on him for the third year as a starter is interesting, to say the least. Dwight Lowery is a solid football player but the further he gets away from the line of scrimmage the less serviceable he gets. I still feel like at some point a safety is coming, especially considering how much defensive coordinator John Pagano loves to use three safeties on obvious passing downs. Former Eagles and Seahawks safety Walter Thurmond was 1 of the better cover safeties I saw during the free agency period and would be the best safety on the roster.
Executing on Offense
Sticking with the theme of getting better up the middle but switching sides, what the Chargers need to do is execute. Maybe a better word is "maximize." The team needs to do a better job of maximizing their opportunities. Per DVOA, San Diego created the 2nd least yards overall and 2nd yards in between the tackles. That's on the offensive line. The team was also dead last in 2nd level yards; that's on the running back. For whatever reason fans think it has to be 1 or the other. The fact of the matter is both the line and the running back were bad. The running back didn't create for himself; the line didn't create for the running back. In year 2, Orlando Franklin should be better. He was great for Denver but was disastrous last year. He was the 2nd worst lineman on the team. Also, the Chargers have massively upgraded at the center position.
Getting back to executing, the previous offensive coordinator did no favors for the team, either. The lack of creativeness in the run game was an issue, and the Chargers were far too predictable. I have the utmost confidence in new/old coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. I imagine he'll look to get Melvin Gordon to the edge more and out in space, where he's more comfortable. At the same time, I don't expect him to have Franklin/Slauson/Fluker on the move anywhere near as much as Reich did a year ago. Going from Whisenhunt to Frank Reich, and back to Whisenhunt, is like purchasing thew new iPhone, breaking it and having to go back down to a flip phone for a year, then upgrading back to your iPhone. Whisenhunt is a big deal and should get the offense back on track.