Over the years, the fine NFL analysts over at ESPN have always done a variety of preseason rankings prior to the start of the new season. These rankings usually focus on specific position groups and coaching staffs, but some of their bigger exercises include variations of offensive and defensive units, i.e. skill positions, secondaries, front sevens, etc.
On Monday morning, Bill Barnwell released the first edition of his “offensive weapons” rankings, which takes into account the skill players that teams are able to surround their quarterbacks with. The Chargers placement on the list tells us tells that they aren’t considered below average, but it also doesn’t tell us they’re above average, either. That’s because the Bolts are ranked 16th, which is as much in the middle as you can get.
Last year, the Chargers were ranked 11th. The year before that, they were 10th. This year, the team is missing both Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers, but the latter obviously doesn’t count towards this ranking. The fan base would probably argue that Gordon’s absence shouldn’t drop this team five spots, but the guy did score a lot of touchdowns, regardless if he was fairly inefficient over the years.
Austin Ekeler’s same lack of efficiency as a runner in 2019 dimmed his shine a bit in Barnwell’s opinion when he examined this group, but thinks he the slack can be picked up by either Justin Jackson or rookie Joshua Kelley.
“Melvin Gordon’s disastrous holdout and subsequent campaign opened up the door for Austin Ekeler, who averaged 122.5 yards from scrimmage over the first month of the season and earned an extension afterward. Ekeler was below average as a runner as his workload increased and will need help from either Joshua Kelley or Justin Jackson between the tackles, but he was third in the NFL in yards per route run and fourth in targets per route run. He’s a valuable weapon.”
When it comes to the receivers, this is where the strength of the group lies. Keenan Allen is as consistent as they come and Mike Williams has shown the propensity for scoring (11 TDs in 2018) and the big catch (20.4 YPC in 2019), but he’ll need to find a way to combine those two into one complete season if he wants to take the next big step as a player.
If there’s one X factor in this group that Barnwell believes could push it even higher, it’s Hunter Henry. However, the injuries over the last two seasons are a rightful cause for concern.
“Henry was on the field for the final 11 games of the season and popped up with a 100-yard performance, but even over that time frame, he ranked eighth among tight ends in yards per game. Rob Gronkowski showed you can be really valuable despite injury woes if you’re great when healthy. I’m not sure pretty good and occasionally healthy is as compelling. Henry has a lot to play for on the franchise tag this upcoming season.”
It truly always comes down to injuries for the Chargers. They haven’t had the depth to mitigate the losses they tend to accumulate over the course of a season but we saw in 2018 what they can do when things somewhat go according to plan. If anything, let’s hope some of the players read ESPN’s article and use it as motivation for the upcoming season.
Gavino Borquez highlights how Mike Pouncey was rated as a top interior player in 2020 (Chargers Wire)
Jason Reed lists the greatest Chargers to ever wear #63 (Bolt Beat)
Luis Tirado Jr. discusses the latest on Hunter Henry and his possible extension (Bolt Beat)
Ryan Dyrud talks the Patrick Mahomes contract and how it affects the future of the QBs in L.A. (LA Football Network)
Bill Barnwell ranks every NFL team’s “offensive weapons” heading into the 2020 season (ESPN)
Jeremy Fowler ranks the top-10 edge rushers in the NFL with help from players, coaches, and execs (ESPN)
Washington is officially retiring their team name and logo (Bleacher Report)
Brent Sobleski pens a early 2021 mock draft (Bleacher Report)
NFLPA rep Nate Solder warns the public of the potential for “no football” if NFL does not keep players safety in mind (Pro Football Talk)
Ben Standig wonders if the uncertainty around the college football season will force players to bail early (The Athletic)