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Chargers Offense: Tom Telesco’s First Year vs. Now

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Thomas Herd looks at how Tom Telesco has developed his roster in his four years with the Chargers, starting with the offense.

We’re entering the fourth year of Tom Telesco’s tenure as General Manager of the now, Los Angeles Chargers. When Telesco joined the Chargers, he appointed his first Head Coach, Mike McCoy, and although McCoy’s career with the Bolts didn’t end well, it did start with a playoff appearance and the first win since 2008. The team’s 9-7 suggests a very up and down season and it was truly that. They had dramatic wins in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Denver, however, were on the end of some tough losses including the season opener against the Texans.

The organization has had its fair share of change within the last four years but for this, I’m concentrating on how the players on the field have changed since Telesco put his first roster together. First off is the offense, and then we’ll get to defense and special teams at a later date.

Quarterbacks

2013: Philip Rivers, Charlie Whitehurst

2017: Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens

Starting with probably the easiest one, here. Philip Rivers is one of 7 players to be a Charger for the whole Telesco era and hopefully a few more years to come. Not much has changed as one experienced veteran replaces another although ‘Clipboard Jesus’ was significantly more popular as the backup compared to Clemens is now. Hoping that a player doesn’t get on the field barring preseason is harsh, but true.

Running Backs

2013: Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Ronnie Brown, Le’Ron McClain

2017: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, Kenjon Barner, Derek Watt

I have to favor the 2013 crop here; Mathews carried the Bolts to the playoffs with *almost* four consecutive 100-yard games to finish the season but broke down during the playoff loss in Denver. Woodhead backed Mathews up with over 1000 total yards and who can forget Ronnie Brown’s playoff win-clinching touchdown in Cincinnati? The current group lacks depth behind star back Melvin Gordon, which is a major issue considering Chargers’ medical history. The No.2 spot behind Gordon should be one of the biggest competitions in camp.

Wide Receivers

2013: Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal

2017: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin

We all know the story here. Rookie Keenan Allen was buried on the depth at the start of ’13 and almost quit the team. Both Floyd and Alexander went down within the first few weeks and Allen came on and powered the Chargers to the playoffs with over 1,000 yards and 8 TDs. Unfortunately, due to injuries, Keenan hasn’t quite recaptured this form over a full season. With those injury problems, it’s a good thing the team finally has some other options for Rivers at receiver, led by emerging prospect Tyrell Williams and first-round pick Mike Williams.

Tight Ends

2013: Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green, John Phillips

2017: Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Jeff Cumberland

The main difference here is former 2nd round pick, Hunter Henry. Henry is almost the full package tight end: his size, blocking ability and very good hands take the ’17 group to the next level. Gates is most likely entering his final year, aiming to get that record-breaking touchdown. Green showed lots of promise in ’13, especially in games vs Dallas and in Kansas City but injuries hit him hard.

Offensive Line

2013: DJ Fluker, Jeromey Clary, Nick Hardwick, Johnnie Troutman, King Dunlap, Rich Ohrnberger, Chad Rinehart

2017: Joe Barksdale, Forest Lamp, Spencer Pulley, Dan Feeney, Russell Okung, Matt Slauson

The ’13 line managed to catapult Philip Rivers to the Pro Bowl for the 5th time after missing out the previous year. This was mainly down to the new additions Telesco has acquired through the draft, in DJ Fluker, but mainly free agency; Dunlap, Ohrnberger, and Rinehart. Unfortunately, most of these signings were only for the short term. Dunlap retired, and Fluker, released, were the last to leave during this offseason which prompted an overhaul of the current line. There is so much excitement over the potential of this new line, especially on the interior. The Chargers were happy to take both Lamp and Feeney a round earlier than they were taken so their value was incredible. These two, plus Pulley, could potentially be the core of the offensive line for many years.

As you’ll see in the next piece comparing the defense, it really was the offense who drove the Chargers to the playoffs in 2013. I don’t think it’ll need to be that one-sided if they make it in 2017, but it’s clear to see (on paper) that Telesco has done a nice job upgrading multiple positions.