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Expectations For The Chargers 2017 Season

Chargers 2017 season James Fishman via Flickr

NFL

Expectations For The Chargers 2017 Season

We find ourselves at the beginning of the Chargers 2017 season. Who are they? What can be expected of them?

Their record in the last several seasons would indicate that they are one of the worst teams in football. They’ve compiled a total of 27 wins over the last 4 seasons, only 9 of which came in the last two. Decimated by injuries to key players, they went 1-5 in their own division last year.

But is this really who they are?

The fact is, we simply don’t know. There are some things we do know. We know that they are no longer the San Diego Chargers. They are the Los Angeles Chargers, though that name doesn’t mean anything until they win the hearts of their new city. The later the Chargers 2017 season ends, the better chance they have of establishing a fan base.

The Offense

We know who Philip Rivers is. He’s a warrior with a heart of gold and a penchant for lettin’ loose the occasional “Golly!”. He will play through any injury he sustains, even when he probably shouldn’t. Sure, he will make some mistakes (Rivers led the league in interceptions last season with 21), but the mistakes he makes are largely due to being forced to carry the team. We know that he’s the leader of this team and he will be for the Chargers 2017 season.

We hope we know who Melvin Gordon is. Gordon is a top-tier rusher who learned hard lessons in his rookie year. As a result, he became a tougher, more aggressive rusher who scored 12 total touchdowns and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. We know that he’s good, but we hope that his average of 3.9 will continue to improve after upgrades to the offensive line. Only time will tell.

We think we know who Keenan Allen is. He’s a top-10 wide receiver when healthy, which has not been often in the last two seasons. Before missing almost the entire 2016 season, Allen manhandled Chiefs’ cornerback Marcus Peters in the one-half of football Allen played to the tune of 6 catches for 63 yards. In 2015, he played 8 games, caught 67 passes, racked up 725 yards and scored 4 touchdowns. If he can play a full season at that pace, those are elite numbers. But can he stay healthy?

We know who most of the rest of the offense is. Antonio Gates is past his prime, but still a great red zone threat and he will go down as one of the greatest tight ends to play the game. Hunter Henry is his heir apparent, and a worthy heir he is. His 8 touchdowns as a rookie indicate that he has it in him to be a pro-bowl tight end.

Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams can be great players at times but still lack in consistency and the ability to dominate games. Mike Williams flashed incredible talent in college, but it looks as though he will miss at least some of the 2017 season.

The fact is, while all these players contribute something, none of them can take over games and lead the Chargers to victories like Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen have in the past. Hunter Henry could be that guy, but he wasn’t in 2016.

We don’t know who the offensive line is. Russell Okung has been a pro-bowl lineman before, but more recently he’s been released twice. Slauson will be Slauson. Spencer Pulley is a fan favorite and a hard worker but hasn’t started for a full season before. Wiggins is serviceable at best. A 2015 Joe Barksdale would be a blessing, however, a 2016 Joe Barksdale would be a curse. Backups Max Tuerk and Dan Feeney have potential but are unproven. It’s likely this crew will be better than the 2016 line, but that isn’t saying much. For Gordon and Rivers to handle business, this line will have to be greater than the sum of its parts.

The Defense

We know who the defense is, kind of. Boasting incredible talent throughout, the Chargers don’t have many obvious holes on defense. The line could be better, but Corey Liuget has been good before and can be again. The biggest apparent hole is at safety. Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery, in addition to newcomers Tre Boston, Desmond King, and Rayshawn Jenkins should do an okay job. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are probably the strongest feature of this defense. When healthy, Verrett will join Hayward to form possibly the best cornerback duo in the NFL. Young linebackers like Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown flashed incredible play-making ability in the 2016 season. In fact, the Chargers would have lost to the Falcons if not for Perryman. But this defense still lacks a leader. Someone will have to step up and lead for this defense to play to its ability.

The Coaching Staff

Finally, we don’t know the coaching staff.

We know offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt. He will make mostly good play calls but will be absurdly conservative at times when he shouldn’t be.

Hopefully, head coach Anthony Lynn can fix that problem, but we don’t know Lynn. Unless you count his time filling in for the Bills after Rex Ryan got fired, he’s a first-time head coach. He obviously knows the run game. However, Lynn has not yet shown whether he can be an effective motivator or tactician. Even so, his knowledge of the run game could elevate Gordon’s game to new heights, as he did for LeSean McCoy in Buffalo.

We know Gus Bradley can form a top-5 defense and is responsible for Seattle’s fantastic defense. We don’t know that Gus can accomplish the same results with a team he had no part in drafting.

Predicting The Chargers 2017 Season

Overall, this team appears as though it should be much, much better than last year. Injuries hurt them last year and have already hurt this year in the form of first and second round picks Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp. This team has the talent to win the AFC West. However, this team has not lived up to their potential since 2013. Optimistically, I’d say this team has a ceiling of 12-4 or maybe even 13-3, but a few injuries to the right players (Bosa, Ingram, Verrett, Allen, RIvers, Gordon) and 5-11 could be the Chargers 2017 season record for the second year in a row.