There are a lot of reasons to feel good about the 2016 San Diego Chargers. New additions, healthy players, and on paper a weaker division. Everything seems to indicate that last season was a fluke year for the Bolts.Sometimes the glass is half empty not half full. There were some indications that the Chargers are actually trending in the wrong direction. This is certainly the view the national media has for the Chargers.
This article will be a guide for the Chargers’ season if everything goes terribly wrong. With the combination of bad luck and lack of talent all around the Chargers will again be picking in the top three of the NFL draft. Last year’s season will just be the beginning of the franchise downward fall and a rebuild will be coming.
Just like last year, the Charger’s will not be effective running the football. This team’s offensive line will continue to not get any push upfield, opening run lanes, and cannot keep a clean pocket for Phillip Rivers. The starting offensive linemen will underperform and the lack of depth and talent will show. King Dunlap will prove that his lagging injuries have not vanished and as a result, his play will suffer. Orlando Franklin continues to give the Chargers no production as he does not return to form. Joe Barksdale shows that last season he just benefitted from a contract year and does not play at the same level. DJ Fluker does not take the next step and becomes a liability on the field. Lastly, free agent Matt Slauson is not the veteran fit we anticipated at the center position and looks out of place. This unit also faces tough injuries and the depth behind them are just flat out not good enough to start in the NFL. The whole state of the offensive line is in flux and the Chargers are looking at finding at least three potential starters replacements next offseason.
Melvin Gordon will not show improvements continuing to not play with good vision. He does not hit the proper holes or show any burst on his runs. The combination of poor pass blocking and multiple fumbles makes Gordon a liability resulting in his benching and an open competition at running back for incoming waiver wire pick-ups. Gordon not only proves that drafting a running back in round one was a mistake but that trading up for one that isn’t effective results in a huge step back for the organization. Danny Woodhead slows down in his age-31 season. He is unable to create separation in the passing game and suffers one too many crushing hits not lasting all 16 games. Derek Watt also is not the answer at fullback as he never makes the correct block.
The wide receiver group shows the most promise but continues to not play to their potentially. Keenan Allen cannot stay healthy a full season. Travis Benjamin never finds the right chemistry with Rivers and never gets going. Benjamin’s speed will not be enough to create separation and make a difference for this football team. The rest of the receiving core will suffer from a lack of experience and talent to give Rivers anything to work with.
Antonio Gates will finally show his age, limping into retirement. Hunter Henry will have a tough time adjusting to the speed of the NFL and will overall need a full year to get comfortable. Phillip Rivers will have his worst statistical year to date because he is with an underperforming unit. He will have to force some decisions trying to do too much to win. The question will pop up at the end of the season if the Chargers should just shut him down instead of waiting for an injury at the hands of the worst offensive line in the league.
On defense, things will not be much better. This young unit will prove to need a re-haul of talent before being a competitive unit again.
Brandon Mebane’s age will show as he will not last the whole season battling injuries. Corey Liguet will not play better with his new addition defensive line team. Liguet will be exposed on double teams and will out muscled up front. Joey Bosa will deal with a lagging hamstring tightness the entire year, only playing in a handful of games. He will show flashes but leave the organization wonder if he was worth the offseason distraction. The run defense will not improve as opponents will average over 115 yards rushing per game.
The linebacker group does not lack talent but will struggle in 2016. Melvin Ingram will try to be making the big play instead of doing 1 of 11. Ingram will not play consistently but flash enough to earn a contract elsewhere come the offseason. Manti Te’o does not stay healthy and when he does play continues to play slow and miss tackles. The other outside linebacker position suffers from constant change between Jerry Attaouchu and Kyle Emmanuel as neither plays well enough to fully grasp the position. And Denzel Perryman will go through growing pains that he missed last season adjusting to playing with a weak front. Perryman will also show he is a true downhill linebacker not being capable of playing in space covering cross routes in the middle.
The secondary will give up big plays as Jason Verrett can’t stay healthy and Brandon Flowers continues to regress. Casey Hayward does not fit Pagano’s defensive system. The safeties Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae cannot cover and cannot tackle. Being replaced early by Dexter McCoil and Adrain McDonald and they both show growing pains leaving little optimism for the future of the position. Fans will be wishing the Chargers did not boot Eric Weddle out the door.
Special teams will be one of the worst units in the league, giving up big plays and being shut down on returns. Rookie punter Drew Kaser struggles in year one and Josh Lambo never finds the rhythm as a place kicker finishing in the bottom five for kicking in the league.
All of this results in a worse season record than last season, and back to back seasons with no pro bowlers voted in. Coach Mike McCoy and his staff will finally be let go after back to back terrible seasons. The November 8th stadium vote overwhelmingly does not pass. The Chargers are again in limbo deciding either to share LA with the Rams or try one more year in San Diego.
The organization will be forced to move on from underachieving veterans Flowers, Franklin, Dunlap, and Mebane. Gates will hang them up not beating the all-time Tight End touchdown record. Rivers will be a question mark moving forward as the team clearly cannot compete in the near future and will be in position to draft the quarterback of the future.
Like a winning season, a lot of factors (and luck) needs to happen for this miserable season to become a reality. Hopefully none of the above becomes true but the reality of the season is some things will break the Chargers way, others won’t.