Predictions for the 2020 season continue and Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus took one of the longer routes in creating this type of content when he took to the task of predicting the starting offense and defense for every team in the NFL, while highlighting one important position battle monitor and another player to watch.
Here’s what Linsey predicted for the offense:
- QB Tyrod Taylor
- RB Austin Ekeler
- WR Keenan Allen
- WR Mike Williams
- WR K.J. Hill
- TE Hunter Henry
- LT Trey Pipkins
- LG Dan Feeney
- C Mike Pouncey
- RG Trai Turner
- RT Bryan Bulaga
The biggest thing that stands out here is Linsey giving Hill the nod at WR3 over Joe Reed and other potential options. I fully agree with this move and think it’s also how things will work out once they get into training camp. He also gave Pipkins the win at left tackle and, again, I think this is what the team will go with as well. Tevi is not the pass protector the Chargers need on the blindside and Pipkins still has the room to improve. Tevi is the better run blocker right now but not enough so that he would get the job because of it.
We all know Tyrod is going to get the start out of the gate. Anthony Lynn has mentioned before he will be the guy in Week 1. But don’t go thinking he has a long leash. A bad start to the season and the Herbert cheers will crank up from 0-10 real quick.
Now for the defense.
- DT Linval Joseph
- DT Jerry Tillery
- EDGE Joey Bosa
- EDGE Melvin Ingram
- LB Kenneth Murray
- LB Drue Tranquill
- CB Casey Hayward Jr.
- CB Chris Harris Jr.
- CB Michael Davis
- S Derwin James
- S Nasir Adderley
Like the other side of the ball, the immediate things my eyes go to are the decisions made at positions where there will be plenty of competition. At the three-technique, it will be a battle between 2018 third-round pick Justin Jones and the team’s 2019 first-round pick, Jerry Tillery. Jones took a step forward last season and played reasonably well so I would think he has the inside track on Tillery. Gus Bradley mentioned a few weeks ago that Tillery struggled with double-teams as a rookie and needed to spend more time in the weight room putting on mass and increasing his functional strength. TIllery was a darling of PFF’s prior to the 2019 draft and they fully expect him to bounce back after he had the highest pass-rush win-rate among all defensive interior players as a senior at Notre Dame.
Jerry Tillery doing Jerry Tillery things.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) August 18, 2019
This positional conflict is also the one to watch according to Linsey.
“Tillery was not what the Chargers expected in his rookie season. Not only did he play below expectations, but his 35.5 overall grade ranked dead last among all qualifying interior defenders during the 2019 season. The guy who put up a FBS-high 19.6% pass-rush win rate in 2018 at Notre Dame didn’t just disappear, though. If Tillery can get back towards that player in Year 2, he has a decent chance of winning the starting job over Jones (overall grades of 51.9 and 59.2 in 2018 and 2019).”
At free safety, Linsey thinks Adderley will come from behind and win the job over the incumbent Jenkins. After spending the entire season on the sidelines with a lingering hamstring injury - later diagnosed as a hamstring “split” - Adderley is understandably behind and Lynn hasn’t been mum on that front. He is considering 2019 a redshirt season for the former FCS All-American and has stated Nasir will have to earn his way onto the field.
However, Bradley mentioned that they might try Jenkins more at strong safety and linebacker in sub packages so that might be the key to seeing Adderley get on the field in 2020.
Instead of just one, Linsey gave two names to watch for the Bolts: Desmond King and Justin Herbert.
Understandably, both players are going to have magnifying glasses over their head for the 2020 season. While the reasons for it will be quite different, it’s nonetheless just as intriguing.
After a season where King was named a First-Team All-Pro as a slot corner, he fell down to Earth in startling fashion. Last year, he was constantly in Lynn’s dog house and that house only got bigger when he struggled on special teams and couldn’t hold up in coverage like in previous seasons. With the Chargers bringing in Harris, King is the odd man out in the secondary. Will he still see plenty of snaps in the slot? Will he play some safety? These are the big questions surrounding him in 2020.
Herbert’s spotlight obviously stems from being the heir-apparent to Philip Rivers. He was just selected sixth-overall and must live up to those expectations that come with his resume and pedigree. While Herbert is still an unknown as a rookie, how much he ends up playing, or doesn’t play, may mean more for the team’s success in 2020 than King’s potential snaps will.