Which players stand the best chance of “making the leap” this season, going from poor or average to above-average at their position? Let’s just take a look...
QB Philip Rivers
This one is fairly obvious in its reasoning. Rivers was elite once, might be elite again, and was average last year behind a terrible offensive line that has been almost entirely rebuilt. Plenty of reason to believe he will have a better year in 2017 than 2016.
WR Tyrell Williams
I made the point over the weekend that Williams stands a good chance of regressing because defenses will key in on him this year. What I left out is that the best WR on the team, Keenan Allen, will be returning and hopefully staying healthy. Williams was born to play the X receiver spot opposite Allen and behind Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Tyrell could see himself running free down the sidelines quite a bit this year.
RB Branden Oliver
As the primary backup to Melvin Gordon and likely first candidate to replace Danny Woodhead, Oliver will have a lot of chances to make his name well-known if he comes back healthy from a torn Achilles tendon.
LB Joshua Perry
If anyone on the Chargers looked ill-suited to John Pagano’s 3-4 defense last season, it was rookie Joshua Perry out of Ohio State. My guess is he’ll be asked to play WLB (although probably not as a starter at first) and will get a lot of work behind Brandon Mebane in the running game. The switch in defensive schemes could really help him regain some of the potential he seemed to lose by being less athletic than the other LBs on the roster last year.
DE Joey Bosa
DE Melvin Ingram
One of the strengths of Bosa and Ingram coming out of college was their versatility. Both guys were moved around at university, playing all along the line to take advantage of matchups. Their quick hands and speed, to go with their strength, was able to overcome their lack of size on the interior.
If Gus Bradley wants to have some fun, and I hope he does, he could move these two all over the line. Occasionally, I’d like to see Bosa and Ingram go strong on one side of the line, with Mebane and someone else (Darius Philon?) on the other side, to create an unbalanced look that would be difficult for any offensive line to slow down.