It’s that time of the year again.
OTA work has begun and training camp is around the corner. This means over the next few months we’ll see teams adding and releasing players in an effort of finding the best players fit for their 53-man roster. We’ll also get to see players make their return from injury, a down season or both.
The Chargers were disappointing as a whole last season, but here we’ll just take a quick look at five players who desperately need a bounce-back season in 2017.
Only God could've saved Marcus Peters this day..pic.twitter.com/PzMrQAtBVt— Derrick (@YouATrip) May 9, 2017
It doesn't take much to see that Keenan Allen is among the elite receivers in the NFL when healthy. He’s one of the best route-runners in the league, has great hands, and is one of the hardest receivers to guard one-on-one. It also doesn’t take much to see that Keenan Allen’s biggest issue is staying healthy. Three of Allen’s first four NFL seasons have ended early due to injury.
When Allen went down in Week 1 last year, Chargers WR Tyrell Williams emerged with the best season in his young career. Last month, the team also used the seventh pick in the draft on former Clemson receiver Mike Williams.
The Williams pick definitely could be seen as a move to give quarterback Philip Rivers more weapons on offense, but I think it’s more of a testament to the team’s lack of trust in Allen to stay healthy. The saying goes, “A player’s best ability is their availability.” However, despite how talented Allen is, he just hasn’t been there enough.
With that being said, Allen isn’t going anywhere before this season and probably not before next season either. But, should he have another injury-riddled year, it may force the Chargers to start thinking about beginning the process of moving on.
There weren’t many players on this team who had a worse year than Corey Liuget. According to Pro Football Focus, Liuget rushed the passer 495 times. How many sacks did he come up with out of FOUR HUNDRED NINETY-FIVE attempts?
As you probably guessed, no player has rushed the passer that many times in a season without getting a single sack.
So, no sacks in 2016 and just three in the year before is not exactly what you want from your $51 million dollar investment. In fact, a few months ago, I wrote about how Corey Liuget got away with robbery.
The Chargers have a history of giving out contracts to guys who don't live up to expectations. They paid Robert Meachem, Derek Cox, and Jared Gaither. We all remember how those guys ended up. If Liuget doesn't come with a strong year in 2017, he could possibly be on the same disappointing list as those guys.
Liuget could also be unemployed at the end of the upcoming season if he disappoints again. The Chargers could save about $6.5 million in cap space should they decide to part ways with him.
The Chargers signed Travis Benjamin prior to the 2016 season in hopes of reviving their struggling special teams unit, while also giving Philip Rivers a much-needed vertical threat.
Unfortunately, neither of those things happened. Benjamin never established himself as the deep threat the team had hoped they got, and the special teams unit remained terrible. A lot of times, he’d just let the ball bounce and let the other team down it when he should've caught it. Other times, he just couldn't decide if he wanted to field it or let it roll like you see above. In result to his mental mistakes, it didn’t take long for him to get snatched from punt return duties altogether.
Assuming everyone is healthy, Benjamin is likely WR4 heading into the season. He’s expected to be in a battle for playing time over the next few months with receiver Dontrelle Inman, who put together a solid season himself last year.
Like Liuget, Benjamin is working against the clock. If he struggles again this season, the Chargers could release him and save about $4.5M in cap space.
Between Joe Barksdale, Orlando Franklin, King Dunlap and the infamous D.J Fluker, you’d have a hard time trying to figure out who exactly was the worst lineman on the roster in 2016. A case could easily be made for each of them.
Let’s talk Barksdale.
In 2015, he was the best lineman on the Chargers roster. He would go on to sign a four-year, $22 million dollar extension in the 2016 off-season after a solid year. Then, as they often do when the Chargers hand out extensions, things went south.
The 2016 season was arguably Barksdale’s worst of his career. There were entirely too many plays similar to the one above. He was beaten off the line constantly, ranking among league leaders in most sacks and pressures allowed. PFF had him graded at a 48.2 for the season, which is good for 58th best at his position.
The Chargers replaced struggling guards Orlando Franklin and D.J Fluker a few weeks ago with Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in Rounds 2 and 3 of the draft. If Barksdale can’t turn it around in 2017, he could very well be next on the chopping block.
Cornerback Jason Verrett and Keenan Allen both have something in common. They're undoubtedly among the best at their position. The only thing is, they just can't stay healthy.
Last year’s season-ending ACL injury in Week 3 now makes three straight seasons that Verrett hasn't played a full season, and two out of three where he’s played six games or less.
The team recently exercised his 2018 option so he’s safe. He’s not going anywhere. Nonetheless, the Chargers still need Verrett to get back to his 2015 Pro Bowl form and most importantly, STAY HEALTHY. Also, there isn’t any real depth behind Verrett and fellow Pro Bowl corner Casey Hayward. If this defense is going to take the next step, they’ll obviously need him to bounce back and stay on the field as much as possible.