Could the Chargers boast the best defence in the league?
The Chargers have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL with difference makers throughout. General manager Tom Telesco has done a good job of building up the talent level of this team over the past few years with some stellar draft classes. Meanwhile head coach Anthony Lynn showed he can lead the team to the postseason last year where they were knocked out by the Patriots after putting together a 12-4 regular season record.
The defence has playmakers at every level, starting with pass rushing threats Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa should be back to full health this season after missing nine games last year. His return will mean opponents will have to choose who to double team on passing downs. That will be vital if Los Angeles is going to take the AFC West from Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
In free agency, Telesco added veteran Thomas Davis who will add experience and talent to a young linebacking corps. His experienced leadership will be a vital addition in helping the defence ascend to an elite level.
In the draft the franchise selected defensive tackle Jerry Tillery to provide a presence up the middle of the D line and safety Nasir Adderley whose ball skills will combine with last year’s interception leaders: safety Derwin James and cornerback Desmond King (3 takeaways apiece).
Led by coordinator Gus Bradley this unit should be stronger than last year with the retention of so many top level talents and the inevitable maturation of younger depth players like Isaac Rochell.
More of the same on offence
On offence, the Chargers aren’t likely to miss a beat this season either with the loss of receiver Tyrell Williams to Oakland demonstrating the talent level of the starters available at the position for the franchise. Keenan Allen, red zone threat Mike Williams (if he can stay consistently healthy) and deep threat Travis Benjamin are an upper echelon starting receiver set.
They will be complemented by the return of tight end Hunter Henry from injury. A healthy Henry and Williams will help take some of the onus off Allen who was LAs leading receiver by some margin last year (there was over 500 receiving yards difference between Allen and Williams in 2018-19).
Melvin Gordon‘s holdout
The team’s main concern is the threat of running back Melvin Gordon to hold out until he gets a new deal. Backups Austin Akeler and Justin Jackson can hold the fort in his stead but don’t have the versatility or power of the former Wisconsin Badger. Making sure Gordon turns up for training camp and is ready to hit the ground running at the start of the year will be Telesco’s big priority this summer.
The Chargers have just under $11 million in cap space left and I would imagine Telesco would like to leave that buffer should the team be hit by the injury bug again. That would leave the GM with flexibility to trade or sign existing free agents, if the need arises. Gordon currently counts $5.6m against the cap for this season though and is likely to want a contract that puts his earnings amongst the top five running backs in the league, at least.
However, the Chargers lead back has only managed a full regular season slate of games once in his four-year NFL career. That might give Telesco pause for thought and reduce the contractual commitment the franchise is willing to make to Gordon. I don’t see the Chargers giving in too easily in this situation. I think Gordon eventually accepts a multiyear deal but not at the price he was hoping for.
Of course the other big win step forward this franchise took this offseason was designating their powder blue jerseys as their primary uniform for this coming season…That is one of the best looks in the league
Likelihood of making the playoffs: highly probable
On paper the Chargers should win the AFC West. They have a better all round roster than Chiefs who still have question marks on defence; the Raiders are still a couple of years away from being able to challenge amid questions about Jon Gruden’s ability to build an elite roster; and the Broncos don’t seem likely to compete for the division title this year with a roster in increasing need of a makeover.
I think Anthony Lynn’s team will take another step forward this year, and will be amongst one of the dominant franchises within the AFC. The lack of significant roster turnover, with a few key additions, will help propel them deep into the playoffs.