First things first, yes, I know the title says “San Diego” Chargers. I’ll be going over some of the things that went right for the team in 2016 when they were still San Diego’s team, so that’s the name I used. Just let me have this. Anyhow, the 2016 season was riddled with disappointment and heartbreak, as per the usual for the Chargers and their fans. However, in every bad situation, there is a great song waiting to be written. Here are few of the golden lyrics from the Chargers 2016 season.
The Rookie Class
When talking about the bright spots on the 2016 Chargers, the first name to pop into most people heads is Joey Bosa, and for good reason. The Chargers top selection in the 2016 draft was phenomenal from the first second he stepped foot on the field. Even missing all of training camp and the first four weeks of the season, Bosa was able to terrorize opposing offensive linemen and finished with a team-high 10.5 sacks (1st among rookies), 17 tackles for loss (tied for league high), 1 forced fumble, and 21 QB pressures. Bosa at times was the best player on the field, not just for the Chargers, but on either side. It would be a total shock if he does not win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Another defensive rookie who put together an impressive season is 5th round linebacker, Jatavis Brown. Missing four games due to injury, Brown was still able to finish with a team-high 79 tackles and also adding 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles for good measure. Throughout the season, Brown showed good coverage skills and an ability to shift through opposing players to locate the ball and make a play. With excellent speed, range, and instincts, combined with his tendency to always be around the ball, Jatavis Brown looks to be a staple of the Chargers defense for years to come.
While overshadowed at times by the bolts defensive duo of Bosa and Brown, 2nd round TE Hunter Henry had himself a nice season. In a limited role and at times hampered by injury, Henry still managed to put up 478 yards on 36 receptions to go along with a team-high 8 receiving touchdowns. Henry is a matchup problem for opposing defenses, and if the Chargers are smart they will make him a bigger part of the offense going forward. Aside from being a weapon in the passing game, Hunter also provided as a run blocker. He wasn’t stellar in this area of his game, occasionally missing a block or getting pushed back, he was good and made more plays than he missed. It’s safe to assume Henry will only improve this portion of his game, making him that much more valuable going forward.
Free Agent Signings
Telesco made a few good signings this past offseason, but none was better than the acquisition of former Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward. I don’t care what your friend, your cousin, your co-worker, your dog, or any member of the media tells you, Casey Hayward was a top 5 corner this season. I know most people saw this as a decent signing, with Hayward having had a good but injury-riddled career in Green Bay. I don’t know that anyone thought the Chargers would get what they did out of him though. Hayward was signed to be the team’s third CB behind starters Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers mostly delegated to slot work. Injuries forced Casey into a starting spot on the outside and he never looked back. All Hayward did was routinely follow the opposing team's best receiver, always providing tight coverage and leading the league in interceptions with 7, one of which he returned for a score. I know this word gets thrown around a lot these days, but Casey Hayward became a true shutdown corner this season. Pairing with Verrett next season, the Chargers should have one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL.
Brandon Mebane had his season cut short, only playing in 10 games before going on IR, but his impact was felt while on the field. It was refreshing to see a Chargers NT provide pressure up the middle, something scarcely seen over the past few seasons. Mebane routinely took on double teams, clogging the middle of the line while freeing up his teammates make plays. Mebane was able to provide 21 tackles, a sack, and an interception himself in his time on the field. He was an important part of the Chargers improved run defense and hopefully, he will be back healthy and ready to go for next season.
Matt Slauson was easily the best part of the Chargers horrid offensive line. He is a smart player and showed some good chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers. He wasn’t stellar but wasn’t really a liability. At least he didn’t get Rivers crushed every time he dropped back. Basically, he was good enough, and a definite upgrade over what they had a year prior to his arrival. It’s my guess that Slauson will likely be the starting center again next season, and that should be okay, but the rest of that offensive line needs some major renovations.
Inside linebacker Korey Toomer was pulled off of the Oakland Raiders practice squad a couple weeks into the season and turned out to be one of the best things to happen to the Chargers defense. Appearing in 13 games and starting 8, Toomer racked up 75 tackles, a sack, forced 3 fumbles, and defended 2 passes. As the Chargers most consistent linebacker, Toomer earned himself a role on this team going forward. The defense is just better with him on the field. His coverage skills are decent, he doesn’t miss many tackles, and he knows how to create turnovers. If the Chargers end up shifting to a 4-3 defense, Toomer along with Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman as the team’s starting linebackers would make for a scary group to face.
What a difference one year made for running back Melvin Gordon. After a subpar rookie year, Gordon entered this season a new man. MG3 missed the last 3 games of the season after he was hurt diving for a Philip Rivers fumble, and came up just 3 yards short of a 1000-yard season. He finished with 997 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the ground, also adding 419 receiving yards and another 2 touchdowns. He also cut down his fumbles from 6 to 2, though he did lose both. Gordon improved in many areas, showing a bit more patience and the ability to make a play when one on one with a defender. There was still a few times when he missed an opportunity for a big play, but for the most part, he made the most out of what he was given.
It was obvious that Melvin Gordon has become the catalyst for the Chargers offense, he is what makes it work. The bolts played their best ball when they could give it Gordon and let him run. There might not be a better example of that than the game against the Tennessee Titans. During that week 9 performance, Gordon churned out big play after play amassing 261 total yards. His best play of the game came on a 3rd and 7 from the Chargers own 28-yard line with his team up 43-35 and just over two and a half minutes remaining. Gordon took the handoff and ran through multiple tackles within the first few yards breaking free for 48, not only getting the first down but taking the ball deep into Titans territory. That play essentially sealed the game for the Chargers. The Chargers need to officially give the offense to Melvin Gordon, everyone else will benefit from it. It’s going to be fun watching Melvin Gordon continue to grow.
Despite the poor season the Chargers had, there is hope to be found in the positives. It’s up to them to make the right moves during this coming offseason, and if they do maybe, just maybe, the 2017 Chargers can be an exciting team.
What way your favorite thing about the 2016 Chargers? Let us know in the comments section below.