Anyone who had spent significant time around Anthony Lynn knew one thing more than any other would be true about the Chargers new head coach — he was going to be resolute.
It took him years to convince the league he was more than just an ex-running back destined to only coach players at the position he played. And now that he’s gotten here, he’s going to do things his way.
In three consecutive media appearances since the Chargers’ season-opening loss to Denver, Lynn has proven that he won’t waiver.
After the game Monday, in his news conference Tuesday and before Wednesday’s practice, Lynn said the Chargers’ problems in the opener came from not running the ball enough.
To an outsider, it’s a curious opinion. The Chargers, despite never leading, called 22 rushing plays compared to 34 passing ones. As a team, they ran for 64 yards, a total inflated by a Melvin Gordon 21-yard gain on the team’s first play from scrimmage.
Fifteen of the teams’ carries went for two yards or fewer, but Lynn, a true believer in the power of the running game, again said he thought the team should’ve stuck with it.
“We came out [after halftime] and were down 14-7,” he said. “We could’ve stayed in the rhythm of our offense and we started throwing it as little bit too soon. I’ve got to be a little more patient in that situation and stick with the running game a little bit longer and just play with more balance.”
The quest for balance is a challenge for any team but, in the Chargers’ case, it’s a particularly fine line.
They have one running back they want to feature, and at least five pass catchers and a possible Hall-of-Fame quarterback to keep involved.
“We all know that when we’ve run the ball here, it’s helped us,” offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s opened a lot of things for us. That’s what we’d like to do. But you can’t ignore the fact that we have guys like Travis [Benjamin] and Tyrell [Williams] and Keenan [Allen] and our two tight ends, even our backs who do good job out of the backfield. You just have to mix those things in.”
A season ago, the Chargers passed nearly three times for every two rushing attempts, very close to the ratio displayed Monday. Lynn’s Buffalo Bills attempted more rushes than pass attempts a season ago.
Heading into Sunday’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins, Lynn is certainly talking as if he’d like to be more committed to the ground game, especially considering the Bills rushed for 272 yards against the Dolphins the last time Lynn faced Miami (one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL at the time.).
Whisenhunt and his players said they felt they were close on a lot of rushing plays — a block here or a missed tackle there away from injecting much-needed yardage into the Chargers’ ground game.
“We’ll get those at some point. We have to execute some things a little better,” Whisenhunt said. “And give those guys credit — they’re a very good defensive football team. There were a lot of encouraging things. We did start out in a tough environment and ran it OK. I just wish we could have sustained it a little better.”
The inability to rush effectively outside of a handful of plays put the Chargers in third and long so frequently that Whisenhunt went through the entire list of plays the team had scripted for that situation.
“Those big ones will come. He’s just got to stay patient. We’ve got to be happy with those four-, five-yard runs. Those are efficient runs,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “…We need to get more rush attempts, get more pass attempts. We need to get more of everything. We would’ve been sitting right there at 50-50 if we hadn’t been in that two-minute mode at the end. We’re best when we’re balanced.”
If there’s reason to believe in Lynn, it’s because he’s been able to engineer successful ground attacks in his most recent stops with the Bills and New York Jets. And by wanting to make it work, Lynn thinks he’ll give his team the best chance to actually make it work.
“I thought the run game started out just fine,” Lynn said. “We didn’t stick with it. … We couldn’t in the fourth quarter because we were behind so many points. I think the running game is on pace and I believe it’ll be fine.”
Henry ready for his turn
Tight end Hunter Henry entered the season ready to be a big part of the team’s opener in Denver. He waited. And waited. And waited ... never seeing a pass thrown his way.
It wasn’t a slight in the second-year player’s direction. The Chargers went to the line of scrimmage multiple times with him in mind.
“We had a handful of plays that we called specifically to get the ball to Hunter, and we didn’t get the right looks,” Whisenhunt said. “So it wasn’t for lack of trying.”
Henry admitted Monday wasn’t an easy night, but he knows things will be better.
“It was tough. Obviously, you get frustrated but it’s kind of just how the game went. It’s a team game and sometimes we scheme things up and they give us a look where we can’t do what we want. We have to change it so we can get into a play that works,” Henry said. “… I feel like I’ve built trust with Phil and with the coaches. I know my name will be called and I just have to be ready when it is.”
The ankle sprain suffered by starting offensive guard Kenny Wiggins isn’t serious and he hopes to be on the field Sunday. Lynn said Wiggins and wide receiver Dontrelle Inman (groin) are day to day. …The team waived seventh-round pick Isaac Rochell with lineman Tenny Palepoi returning from a one-game suspension pending from last season. Rochell could be a candidate to be re-signed to the Chargers’ practice squad if he clears waivers.