Hey, it’s Louis. Louis Gorini. That’s right. Don’t adjust your... whatever device you’re reading this on. Get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of the 2017 Los Angeles Chargers. More specifically, how the Chargers can win the west. And if you’re reading this article, then you too also believe in L.A. But fear not Chargers fans, this isn’t like all of those other years where media analysts pick the southern Cali team as a trendy sleeper contender. This year it is real; I promise.
- ANTHONY LYNN: I will be the first to say I was skeptical of the Anthony Lynn hiring. I mean to go from a running backs coach to a head coach is a huge transition/leap. I was sure Lynn was in over his head (and still could very well be). But from my first impressions of the new Chargers head coach, I am liking what he is bringing to the team. He knows what he wants to accomplish, how to do it, and most importantly, how to communicate his beliefs. Evidence of this can be seen during the 2017 NFL Draft where Lynn drafted players to help remake the Chargers roster in his own image. The back to back picks on interior offensive lineman (Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney) had the former running backs coach fingerprints all over it. Lynn’s main focus this offseason was to transform the offensive line, sure to help protect Philip Rivers, but more importantly, to implement his power rushing attack style.
Unlike his predecessor, Lynn is a nonsense type of guy. He is hell-bent on holding players accountable. During rookie minicamp, when asked about his rookie guards having 4 years of starting experience in college, Lynn just said, “What they did in college don’t matter, this is the NFL.” From the sounds of it, it doesn’t matter who it is(a highly touted rookie, or veteran), no one is exempt from playing the Anthony Lynn way.
Lastly, the rookie head coach did a tremendous job surrounding himself with a successful coaching staff.
2. KEN WHISENHUNT AND CONTINUITY OF THE OFFENSE: One of the first moves Anthony Lynn did when he became the new head coach of the Chargers was to retain offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Whiz will bring some much needed continuity with his passing schemes to the offense. In 2016, the Ken Whisenhunt led offense averaged 262.4 passing yards (8th in the league) and 25.6 points per game (9th in the league). Lynn will focus on improving Los Angeles’ 26th ranked rushing attack as Whiz will continue his successful aerial assault. Also, being a former head coach himself; Whisenhunt will bring experience and advice to the new rookie coach.
3. GUS BRADLEY AND THE RIGHT FIT FOR THE DEFENSE: Like Whisenhunt, Los Angeles’ new defensive coordinator is also a former head coach that can bring some valuable expertise to Lynn. However, the real significance of the hiring of Gus Bradley as the Chargers defensive coordinator is the transformation of L.A.’s defense from a 3-4, to a 4-3. Numerous players are going to benefit from this transition. Players like Joey Bosa (who will return to his natural position that made him a star in college), Melvin Ingram (who will be the full time Leo rusher and no longer have to worry about dropping in coverage) and Corey Liuget (who never thrived as a 5 technique end, will go back to a 3 technique defensive tackle, a position he is more suited for) will all benefit from this move. Look for the new Chargers defense to play faster and more confident.
4. THE ADDITION OF A DYNAMIC PLAYMAKER: In 2016, the Chargers offense was very inconsistent. They would easily move the ball down the field but whenever they got into the opponents red zone they would sputter and settle for field goals. That could be why the Chargers lost so many games last year. How did the Chargers address that issue? Draft an offensive weapon that specializes in red zone efficiency. Mike Williams, is a big body target that will put pressure on defenses and help make sure Rivers can turn those field goals into touchdowns.
5. THE CHARGERS IMPROVED THEIR BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Along with the selection of Mike Williams, Los Angeles doubled up on 2 guards in this year's NFL Draft. Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney join an already promising interior offensive line (Matt Slauson and Max Tuerk). Throw in the upgrade at left tackle (Russell Okung), it is easy to see that the Chargers solidified their offensive line. According to ProFootball Focus, the Chargers’ offensive line led the league with 732 pressures allowed over the last 3 years. The only way to address your weakness, is to attack it and it finally appears that L.A. had enough of their poor offensive line play.
6. CHARGERS DIDN’T LOSE ANY MAJOR CONTRIBUTORS: Fans are going to say what!?!?! L.A. lost Danny Woodhead! Be that as it may, Woodhead was not a major contributor. Sure when he is on the field he is a difference maker and his skills set made it easy for Rivers. However, he was never on the field the last two years, so his availability was unreliable at best. Besides Woodhead, the Chargers talented roster is pretty much still intact for the 2017 season.
7. THE AFC WEST REGRESSED: So the Chargers got better, but what about their counterparts within the division? The teams in the AFC West lost some major talent. The Denver Broncos lost DeMarcus Ware to retirement, while the Kansas City Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles, Dontari Poe, and Jaye Howard to free agency. In addition, the AFC West did absolutely nothing this offseason to address their biggest area of concern, their run defenses. Last year, Denver ranked 28th against the run, while Kansas City was 26th, and Oakland was 23rd. And the Chargers hired a head coach that specializes in the running game; Lynn will be licking his chops to run the ball down the throats of the AFC West.
8. A HEALTHY ROSTER?: Injuries have decimated the Chargers over the last couple of years. So this offseason, Los Angeles hired a new strength and conditioning coach in hopes to change their injury luck. So far, it looks like Keenan Allen, Jason Verrett, and Melvin Gordon should all be ready to go for training camp and the season opener.
9. QUALITY ROSTER DEPTH: Unlike years previous, the roster of Los Angeles seems to be more prepared if they are bitten by the injury bug again this year. Along the offensive line, the Chargers will have capable players such as Max Tuerk, Matt Slauson, and Donovan Clark all ready to come off the bench in time of need. L.A. is also well protected at all three levels of their defense with players like Damion Square, Caraun Reid, Korey Toomer, Dwight Lowery, and Rayshawn Jenkins. No longer will the Chargers be forced to start undrafted free agents that have no business of playing for extended periods of time.
10. THE DYNAMIC DUO IS BACK!: Joey Bosa is coming off a stellar rookie year and will look to continue to build off of it. The difference is, Bosa will have a full training camp under his belt this year to perfect his craft. The sophomore edge rusher will not have to do it alone; he will have a familiar face on the opposite side of the defensive line; Melvin Ingram. Tom Telesco was smart not to let Melvin Ingram walk in free agency. Both edge rushers are back with L.A. and will be terrorizing the backfields of the opposition once again.
‘11. FAVORABLE SCHEDULE: Los Angeles have a lot of favorable periods throughout their 2017 schedule. Three out of their first four games are at home. This will give them a chance to get off to a fast start. In addition, the Chargers have an ideal bye midway through the year (week 9) and avoid the dreaded early year bye. When analyzing their opponents I see some very winnable games (Eagles, Jets, Jaguars, Bills, Browns, and Dolphins). Yes, I said the Dolphins too. Over the last 4 home games against the Dolphins, the Chargers are 3-1 and should be 4-0 if it wasn’t for last year‘s implosion by Rivers.
12. THE CHARGERS STILL HAVE RIVERS: Rivers is still a very good quarterback and the Chargers are fortunate to still have the veteran signal caller. He gives L.A. a chance to win every game every time he lines up under center.
13. POETIC JUSTICE: It just makes too much sense for the Chargers to win the AFC West this year. The soap opera known as the Chargers always had a promising roster but constantly underperformed year in and year out during their stay in San Diego. The move to Los Angeles infuriated Chargers Nation. How apropos would it be for the Chargers to start winning in Los Angeles and really scorn the fans of San Diego, therefore ensuring the soap opera returns for many more years.
So there you have it Chargers fans, 13 reasons of optimism. Is this the year they live up to their potential or will it be the same ole Chokers in 2017? You decide!