Building a strong roster that won’t get tripped up by injuries halfway through the season is all about planning for the worst-case scenario and building based off that.
Obviously, the Chargers have faltered in recent years with major injuries to Keenan Allen and Jason Verrett, but they’ve also suffered through a couple of seasons that were derailed by regression. Brandon Flowers, King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale are just three examples of players that were counted on by the team and didn’t come through.
With the idea of trying to identify potential weaknesses and filling them to avoid issues in the future, here’s a short list of some guys I think could regress this season for the Los Angeles Chargers.
WR Tyrell Williams
Him being on this list has absolutely nothing to do with Tyrell’s skillset, which I adore. Williams isn’t a lot of things, and Ken Whisenhunt knows this, but he is a deep threat and a YAC machine. The only reason I think Williams might regress this season is that defenses know him and they’ll start game-planning for him instead of being surprised by his big-time plays.
RB Melvin Gordon
After a disastrous rookie season, Melvin Gordon bounced back with a strong sophomore performance. However, his knee is still worrisome and fumbling issues (about half the reason the rookie season was such trouble) can always return. There’s plenty of reason to conclude that Gordon will be a top 10 RB this season, but there’s also some evidence to make you concerned.
SS Jahleel Addae
Addae has had some bad years in the past, but he was actually good in 2016 (in a contract year) despite playing in only 8 games. Don’t expect him to get any less injury-prone, and don’t be shocked if he is a worse fit in Gus Bradley’s defense than he was in John Pagano’s.
LB Korey Toomer
LB Jatavis Brown
Like Addae, Toomer and Brown were delightful fits in Pagano’s 3-4 defense and might not be in Bradley’s 4-3 defense. Unfortunately, when you’re switching from one scheme to another, some of the guys you’re paying to be on your team are going to get worse.
Even if Pagano were still here, it’d be worth remembering that Brown was a 5th round rookie and Toomer was picked up off the scrap heap and both ended up greatly exceeding expectations last season. They’d be regressing either way, but this way it might be a bit more dramatic.
DE Joey Bosa
DE Melvin Ingram
Instead of writing this again....
ToomerBosa and BrownIngram were delightful fits in Pagano’s 3-4 defense and might not be in Bradley’s 4-3 defense. Unfortunately, when you’re switching from one scheme to another, some of the guys you’re paying to be on your team are going to get worse.
Now add in the fact that most rookies, especially the ones that win Rookie of the Year accolades, regress at least a little bit in their sophomore year and that Melvin Ingram is no longer angling towards his first big NFL contract and it’s easy to see how there might be regression here.
(Author’s Note: Before you go nuts, I plan on doing the opposite version of this post sometime soon and the Bosa / Ingram tandem will be on that too. I’m aware of the possible benefits of the 4-3 system for both guys.)
Each of the guys listed above could end up having seasons that equal or exceed what they did last season, but somebody on the Chargers is going to end up regressing in some form. It’s up to the front office to try and predict each one of those potential regressions and build a strong backup plan.