At the end of 2017 the Chargers were on fire winning 9 of their last 12 and 6 of their last 7. It was in Jacksonville that this team really made a turnaround. That was the game where Tre Boston celebrated an interception instead of advancing the ball, and the Jaguars eventually came back and made the Chargers pay for Boston’s blunder.
After this game the Chargers seemed more focused. We don’t know what happened behind closed doors. Maybe Lynn gave an inspiring speech telling everyone to look a little deeper inside. Maybe it was Lynn letting his coordinators have a little freer rein. But what happened is not as important as the result; the Chargers turned a corner. The offense came alive and the defense was sharper.
But it turned out to be a story of too little too late. The Chargers missed the playoff and the long offseason began.
I can imagine Tom Telesco sitting down after the season and making a checklist of things to do in the off season.
- Re-sign my Defensive Coordinator.
- Float a contract to my Offensive Coordinator so he doesn’t wander off
- Look over the free agency list… Put a good tender on: Adrian Phillips, Tyrell Williams and Chris McCain
- Do some preemptive work for 2019 Free agents. Get Hayward a contract and pick up Melvin Gordon’s 5th year option. Get Tyrell Williams a contract? Extend Denzel Perryman?
- Solidify some areas of weakness. Pick up some O-line help. Get some help at interior D-line. Improve the talent at linebacker. Upgrade my safeties.
- Avoid any major injuries.
If that was the list, he did a pretty good job. Retaining what the Chargers had at the end of last season was a huge first step and one that was handled well.
The second step was making upgrades and the Chargers got lucky picking up Mike Pouncey and having Derwin James fall into their laps at the draft. Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White seem to be great draft grabs and will go a long way to improving the linebacking corps.
The only huge blow to the Chargers was the loss of Hunter Henry. (You could add Jason Verrett in here, but he hardly ever played.)
Add on that the Charger get “extra” 1st and 2nd round draft picks from last year in the form of Forrest Lamp and Mike Williams joining the team and you can start to see a greatly improved team from the one that finished last season so strong.
Expectations are rightfully high.
When you look at the roster you see a lot of guys who are among the top 5 or 10 at their position. Something Tom Telesco likes to call ‘Impact Players’. The defense is anchored by Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward who are Pro Bowlers. Then add on top Derwin James, Denzel Perryman, Trevor Williams and Desmond King who all look like potential Pro Bowlers.
If you flip over to the other side of the ball you see the same thing. Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen are all playing at the top of the league at their positions. Then you sprinkle in playmakers like Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin and your eyes light up.
But don’t stop there. Look at the improvement to this offensive line. Last year the Chargers starting interior offensive line had two UDFAs and a 6th round pick and they played like it. This year the Chargers’ line has two 1st round picks, a 2nd round pick and two 3rd round picks. It’s a huge upgrade to the talent and a big change from just one year ago.
When you look at the offense you start to ask questions like, just how many points canthis team score this year? What is Rivers going to do with all that time in the pocket? Phil has been used to working in a phone both with a prepaid phone card that only had 1.7 seconds of time on it. This year you may see Rivers in the backfield with some salami and mustard as he probably figures to have enough extra time to make a mid-game sandwich.
The offense has the potential to be the best in the league and the defense appears to be much improved. The Chargers had the #3 pass defense last year and we should expect that to continue. Hopefully, the improved linebacking corps and the upgrade at safety will help to elevate the run defense.
All of this points to a super year for the Chargers and a deep playoff run.
Now if I am Anthony Lynn my season checklist looks like this.
- Beat the Chiefs
- Make the playoffs
- Win the AFC West
- Win the AFC Championship
- Hoist the Lombardi Trophy
Let’s see if the Chargers can get this rolling and cross off #1 on Sunday.