The Los Angeles Chargers are in “win-now” mode. That’s the only way to describe this season. With quarterback Philip Rivers playing up to MVP caliber status, the soon to be 37-year-old gunslinger is primed and ready to make a run at the postseason for the first time since 2013.
He’ll have to do it with the roster placed in front of him. Like many other teams, the Chargers waited patiently at Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline for the phone to ring. With several players struggling on both sides of the ball, Chargers general manager had an opportunity to make the Bolts better for a run at the postseason.
Instead, he waited for the 4 p.m. deadline to pass, leaving Los Angeles sitting in the same spot they were before their much-needed bye week.
The Chargers faithful could look at the glass half empty or half full and neither would be completely incorrect. After Sunday’s game inside the home of the 12th man against the Seattle Seahawks, it’s safe to say one party will be on the wrong side of that statement.
“It’s loud.,” Rivers said. “I mean, it’s hard to argue where is the loudest place, you go different places, and the ones you’ve been to most recently seem the loudest — but this one is arguably, 1A, 1B in the group there up there.
”They are on a roll right now, as we are, and so it will be a heck of a challenge playing against the opponent on the field, and then, certainly, we have to be able to handle the noise as well.”
The Chargers currently sit as the third-ranked team in the AFC with a 5-2 record. Following them, the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans are pulling up the top five rear with 5-3 division leads. While the Bengals stayed put with their roster, Houston and general manager, Brian Gaine decided to make the race to third place tighter than expected.
Making a deal with the Denver Broncos, the Texans added five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to their exciting offense for the price of a fourth-round draft pick. With the loss of speedy No.2 Will Fuller, Thomas will play the red zone target and allow rookie receiver Keke Coutee to take control of the vertical game.
Sure, the loss of Thomas in the AFC West might be blessing for the Bolts defense long-term. Against the Chargers for his career, Thomas has caught 67 passes for 845 yards and eight total touchdowns. Still, while his progression might have diminished in recent seasons, Thomas has been playing with a slew of quarterbacks better used for holding the clipboard rather than calling the plays.
In Houston, he can rejuvenate his career with second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson and make the Texans a viable threat come postseason time. If the Texans and Bolts meet up in a winner take all matchup, Houston might come out on top and end all the chances for Los Angeles to make an impact in the postseason.
The Chargers had plenty of areas where they could have improved. With tight end being a significant area of need, Telesco could have made a phone call to Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn and see who was available. If Golden Tate would go for a third-round pick, perhaps Michael Roberts could have gone for a seventh-round selection.
The Chargers have relied heavily on Antonio Gates and Virgil Green to be effective pass protectors and red zone options with the loss of Hunter Henry. The pair has been below average in run blocking and combined for 21 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
Roberts meanwhile has been better in run blocking and a threat in the red zone, scoring three total touchdowns. It won’t fix every problem but will help the Chargers improve in an area moving forward.
Free safety Jaheel Addae has struggled in single high coverage while potential Defensive Rookie of the Year Derwin James is much better at the line of scrimmage. With the Green Bay Packers making Pro-Bowl safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix available, Telesco should have jumped at the opportunity to make him available. A solid season for the rest of the year would have undoubtedly lead to a contract extension and worth the fourth-round pick he went for.
But Thomas will stay with the Lions, and Clinton-Dix will go to our Nation’s Capitol, leaving holes in areas of needs that the Chargers should have addressed.
Lynn and Telesco have both declined on making statements on the deadline according to Chargers.com.
So the Chargers are still the same. No shiny new weapon for Rivers to keep on the right path moving forward. No defensive gem to help against the vertical threat. No protection for a dynamic pair of running backs.
What you see is what you’ll get.
That could be fine for Bolts, however. The Chargers rushing game has been adequate behind Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. They currently rank 15th among all active teams. The passing offense has been much better with the emergence of both Mike and Tyrell Williams. Rivers has thrown for 2008 yards and 17 touchdowns to give the Chargers an 18th ranked passing unit.
But Gordon is now dealing with hamstring problems but won’t miss today’s game in Seattle. While Ekeler has collected 305 rushing yards, he still looking to his first rushing touchdown on the season.
Tyrell Williams has been on point the past two games as he’s collected seven receptions for 236 yards and four touchdowns, he starts the season very inconsistent as the team’s deep threat.
Starting linebacker Denzel Perryman has been dealing with injuries all season and has yet to be fully healthy this season. While expected to play, being healthy against a mobile quarterback will be essential for the Chargers defense.
“It’s a big difference,” Lynn said. “He’s a starting Mike linebacker for a reason. He’s a downhill, hard-hitting linebacker and when he’s not in there, we definitely miss him.”
Perhaps the biggest news of all, however, is the status of Joey Bosa. Expected to be a potential MVP candidate heading into the season, the third-year defensive end has been sidelined with a foot injury since week 1. Lynn still is up in the air on if the double-digit sack artist will make his long-awaited return this week.
“Joey is going to do some things on the side, but he won’t be a part of any team activities today, no,” Lynn said Wednesday at the team’s presser.
Another opportunity for Telesco to make a move to build for the present. Instead, he’ll hope Bosa can return to add pressure to the Seahawks front line.
Many didn’t believe this Seattle unit would be much this season. As it stands now, they’ll be in the playoffs with a 4-3 record. Pass protection has gotten better, the defense is still playing near “Legion of Boom” style, and quarterback Russell Wilson is having time not to dance and make plays with his feet in the open field.
“If I had those four running backs, I wouldn’t run my quarterbacks much, either — but when you least expect it, Russell will take off, and he knows exactly how to get down and protect himself,” Lynn said. “It’s tough to defend him. I think he’s one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the game.”
So the Chargers will be in a game come this afternoon. With injuries beginning to pile up and other teams improving their roster, winning against Seattle becomes more important than many would have thought.
A win proves that the roster they have in place can compete with any unit moving forward. A loss shows that Telesco needed to make a move at the deadline.
Either way, Los Angeles schedule looks winnable on paper moving forward. With two matchups against struggling Denver, a visit to Oakland one more time and a date with Arizona, the Bolts could likely finish with no less than an above .500 record.
Games against Kansas City and perhaps the Bengals might be a coin flip but either way, Los Angeles is ready to make a run at the postseason. They’ll need to be healthy when January comes, but the unit Lynn has placed before us this season has shown their ability to be one of the league’s best teams.
A win is a win, but today is different. It’s a statement to the rest of the league that this unit is different from year’s past.
For Chargers fans sake, let’s hope Telesco was smart enough to hold his draft picks. A simple roster change could make all the difference when it’s win or go home.
Come January, it’s win or go home.