The Los Angeles Chargers offense is expected to look much different in 2017. Head coach Anthony Lynn will be introducing his new schemes and style that should lead to a dominant offense.
In recent seasons, the offense has been carried by the arm of Philip Rivers. With Lynn at the helm, that may all change as he has been able to create some of the best rushing attacks in recent years.
Lynn played a major role in the recent success of the Buffalo Bills rushing attack. Headlined by star halfback LeSean McCoy, the Bills led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns in back-to-back years. He also had a top-six rushing attack in four of his six seasons with the Jets from 2009-2013.
The Chargers offense should be poised for similar success running the football with a re-vamped offensive line and an up-and-coming running back in Melvin Gordon.
After signing Russell Okung to a 4-year, $53 million deal and drafting guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, the Los Angeles Chargers offensive line should see drastic improvements from last season.
The Chargers offensive line ranked 31st in the league according to Pro Football Focus last year. Rivers was pressured a pathetic 238 times last season. The run blocking was just as atrocious as the line was only able to generate 1.5 yards before contact on average. Making it nearly impossible for Gordon to break off big runs.
Just a year removed from that mess, it’s a miracle that the Chargers have enough depth along the offensive front. There are even debates about what the starting offensive line will look like once the season begins (Even all of us from the BFTB crew had to throw in our two cents).
The Chargers still have Max Tuerk, a 2016 third-round pick, Matt Slauson, who played well at center last year, and Spencer Pulley a undrafted free agent in 2016 who was solid when he got his chance to play last season.
It looks like the tackle positions are secured by Okung and Joe Barksdale, but the interior line spots are up for grabs.
When it comes to the schemes that Lynn will employ in the run game, it will probably mirror what he did in Buffalo.
The breakdown of run plays by concept in the 2016 NFL season: pic.twitter.com/TzWI7E9sTl— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) March 14, 2017
Lynn loved running inside and outside zone concepts and with good reason. According to Jeff Ratcliffe of PFF, the Bills led the league in yards before contact in the inside zone scheme (3.39) and were second in outside zone scheme (2.10).
As the offensive coordinator, Lynn proved that he could not only coach running backs, but he could create a successful game plan based on their strengths.
Now, the concern with the rushing attack revolves around the injury bug. The Chargers have the depth to survive along the offensive line to a point, but at running back it’s Gordon or bust.
The Chargers depth chart at running back is paper thin. Gordon is expected to repeat a Pro Bowl season where he ran for 997 yards and 12 total touchdowns. Behind him is Branden Oliver who hasn’t seen the field in two seasons.
In 2014, Oliver exploded onto the scene and had a fantastic year. Since then, major injuries have kept him on the sidelines. Kenjon Barner, Andre Williams, and Kenneth Farrow round out the group.
If the Chargers offense is going to be successful next season, Gordon needs to stay healthy. He can carry the Chargers on the ground. Allowing them to chew the clock and wear down defenses.
If Gordon goes for an extended period of time, Lynn will have to get creative. It is hard to see Oliver or Barner carry a team for more than a week or two.
So far, the main focus has been on running the football. While the passing game has taken a back seat. Expect the same type of look for the Chargers offense in 2017.
Don’t worry, Rivers will still have plenty of chances to throw the ball, but not to the extent that he did last season.
Yes, the team drafted Mike Williams with the seventh pick in the draft this year and boast a plethora of threats on the outside, but the running game is going to be the bread and butter for this team. It’s been the style of Lynn’s teams since 2009 when he was the running backs coach under Rex Ryan.
Even with the focus on the ground, the Chargers should see a boost in the efficiency of the passing game. Expect a quality over quantity style of approach.
The receiving corps is deep and if Keenan Allen can manage to stay healthy, the offense has another top-tier weapon to play with.
For the tight end group, Hunter Henry can emerge as the main target as Gates can take a backseat as his career winds down.
The only concern comes down to Rivers’ turnovers. He threw 21 interceptions last year and threw the team out of a handful of games. The improved offensive line should solve that problem, but staying within himself will be an adjustment for the 35-year-old.
It’s safe to say, there isn’t much to worry about the passing attack. The weapons are there and the improved protection should keep Rivers from turning the ball over.
The expectations for this offense are going to be high. The offensive line should finally be able to protect Rivers and the running back should find holes up front. Throw in five or six talented targets on the outside, the Chargers should have no problem putting up points.