The Los Angeles Chargers ended the year on a high-note, dispatching their AFC West rivals the Oakland Raiders with ease. The 30-10 was incredibly important for the Chargers to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Unfortunately for the Bolts, their efforts did not earn them a Wild Card spot, joining the Baltimore Ravens as the two teams with records of (9-7) who did not make the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills (9-7) and the Tennessee Titans (9-7) earned the Wild Card spots, winning tiebreakers against the Chargers and Ravens.
Despite missing the playoffs, Chargers fans have to be excited about the future of their team. In order for the Chargers to win more games in 2018, they’ll need to improve in some key areas of the game. Looking ahead at their future, here’s a breakdown of the team.
2017 Los Angeles Chargers Review and 2018 Needs
This is one of the most talented and deep teams in the NFL. The offense boasts a top-five receiving core from top to bottom, led by pro-bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen and bolstered by deep threats Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. They also have one of the most talented young tight ends in the NFL in Hunter Henry. Future Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates proved he still had something left in the tank when he took over starting duties after Henry was placed on the injured reserve in Week 15.
The Chargers also have a talented running back in Melvin Gordon, one of only nine running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards this season. Gordon still needs to improve his consistency, but his hard-nosed running gives the Chargers a balanced attack on offense. With each game he plays in the NFL, Gordon succeeding has become more crucial for the Chargers to win ballgames.
The offensive line has been a huge weakness for this team in the past. That remains true in the running game. However, the revamped Chargers offensive line allowed the fewest sacks in the league with 17. Free agent addition Russell Okung made a huge difference at left tackle, as he consistently protected Philip Rivers’ blindside. Okung’s omittence from the Pro Bowl is perhaps the biggest snub this year, as he absolutely performed to that standard.
The line should only improve next year. Talented rookie Forrest Lamp did not play a down this season after suffering a torn-ACL in training camp. Lamp’s fellow rookie guard Dan Feeney player quite a bit, and consistently improved throughout the season. The offensive line finally looks to be a position of strength rather than a vulnerability.
The Chargers also possess a top-tier passing defense. Led by defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers ranked fifth in sacks. Corner Casey Hayward had probably the best season of any corner this year, and has the potential to be a top-five corner over the next few years. Along with Hayward, corner Trevor Williams and safeties Jahleel Addae and Tre Boston enjoyed great seasons. Boston, a free agent this year, recorded a team-high five interceptions, including one against the Raiders.
Any team that misses the playoffs are going to have holes on their roster, and the Chargers are no exception. Aging interior defensive linemen and a thin linebacker core contributed to one of the worst run defenses in the league. Middle Linebacker Denzel Perryman greatly improved the run defense when he was on the field, but the Chargers have to be looking at improving the depth behind Perryman.
Other than their terrible run defense, the Chargers kicking struggles are one of the more infamous stories in the NFL this season. The Chargers made just 20 of 30 field goals, worst in the league. They used four kickers during that time, none of whom impressed. The Chargers should look at bringing in a few undrafted free agents and a veteran free agent to compete for the role in training camp. There is no excuse for not finding a quality kicker in today’s league.
For the Chargers to win the AFC West and go on a deep playoff run in 2018, they absolutely must address both these areas before the season begins.
The two most important positions on any NFL team are without a doubt head coach and quarterback. This can be seen in the success of the New England Patriots, as head coach Bill Belichik and quarterback Tom Brady, both certainly among the top-five to ever do it in their respective roles, consistently lead the Patriots to successful seasons.
Chargers Philip Rivers has been an excellent quarterback his entire 13-year career. This season was one of his best: 4,515 yards, 28 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a passing rating of 96. He was also one of two players to win AFC player of the week twice. The other: Tom Brady. Rivers has toiled behind garbage offensive lines and passed to mediocre receivers for far too long. Finally, he is finally starting to get the supporting cast he needs to light it up.
Despite his enormous talent, Rivers does not have a single Superbowl visit to his name. Because of this, he is often left out of the conversation of elite quarterbacks, where he belongs. River’s problem has always been his head coach. He has not had a quality head coach in his entire time in the league, with the possible exception of Marty Schottenheimer. However, poor coaching can be a thing of the past.
Anthony Lynn represents a monumental change for the Chargers heading forward. After beginning the season 0-4, Lynn managed to coach the Bolts to a 9-7 record. While those on the outside-looking-in can speculate as to what exactly makes him a different coach than a Mike McCoy or a Norv Turner, one thing is perfectly clear: Neither McCoy nor Turner would have ended this season with as good a record as 9-7. McCoy, in particular, accumulated nine wins over his last two seasons coaching the Chargers, displaying weak leadership and an inability to keep his players healthy.
The Rivers-Lynn partnership has tremendous potential for the future. Despite his age, Rivers stellar performance this season has silenced talk of his ability diminishing. At 36 years old, Rivers certainly has time to lead the Chargers to the Superbowl. Lynn may finally be the coach to help him get there. The Chargers have a great opportunity to win it all in 2018.