Chargers explained: Is Los Angeles getting a quality NFL team?
Jilted fans from San Diego and St. Louis have taken to social media in recent days to congratulate Los Angeles on its accumulation of yet another losing NFL team.
Sour grapes, truth, or both?
The Chargers were 5-11 this season and 4-12 last, so there is more than a hint of truth. But the depiction might not stick for long.
Owner Dean Spanos’ team has a solid roster — some people say it’s playoff-caliber — and has for several seasons. It’s a group that just hasn’t enjoyed a break, except for the injury kind.
Just this season, the Chargers lost top receiver Stevie Johnson to a knee injury before the first game. Then, in the opener, Keenan Allen, a promising receiver, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ending his season. The next week, pass-catching running back Danny Woodhead suffered a similar, season-ending injury.
Weeks 3 and 4 claimed two more starters: inside linebacker Manti Te’o sustained a tear in his Achilles’ tendon; the next week, yet another ACL injury claimed Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett.
Later, defensive captain Brandon Mebane, a veteran nose tackle, suffered a season-ending injury to his bicep.
Through it all, the Chargers were mostly competitive, suffering seven loses of seven points or fewer — something they’ve experienced 18 times in the last three seasons. They were also the only team to lose to the Cleveland Browns.
The season’s final victim was Coach Mike McCoy, who on Friday was replaced by former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
Here’s what we know about Lynn, the Chargers’ personnel, and the team’s plans:
Lynn, 48, has two Super Bowl rings from his time as a backup running back with the Denver Broncos. He has never been a head coach at any level but took several long strides up the ranks over the last few months.
He started the season as the Bills’ running backs coach, became the offensive coordinator in Week 3, and guided the team as interim head coach in its final game after Rex Ryan was fired.
Lynn is the Chargers’ first African American head coach, and is the NFL’s seventh in place for the 2017 season. He is expected to keep Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator and move to hire former Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator.
Philip Rivers is not going to retire just because he’s sad the Chargers moved.
At 35, the five-time Pro Bowl selection is still a top-flight NFL quarterback who this season was fifth in the league with 4,386 yards passing — his fourth consecutive season surpassing 4,000 yards.
Rivers passed for 40 touchdowns but was also intercepted 21 times, a career high. He was sacked 36 times.
The rest of the offense
The Chargers seem to have found a reliable running back in Melvin Gordon, whom they chose in the first round of the 2015 draft, five spots after the Rams took Todd Gurley.
Gordon outgained Gurley this season, rushing for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. And he lost only two fumbles.
Johnson and Allen rejoining the receiving corps should help the passing game, but the Chargers need help on the offensive line — especially at tackle.
The Chargers were 26th (of 32 teams) in the league in rushing yardage, and Rivers can’t continue to take the kind of beating he sustained this season with all those sacks.
The Chargers ranked in the middle of the NFL in yards allowed, but only the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints gave up more points.
Cornerback Casey Hayward led the league with seven interceptions, and the Chargers as a team had 18, tied for the NFL lead with Kansas City and Baltimore.
The Chargers’ touchdowns allowed-to-interceptions ratio of 21-18 was third best, behind the New York Giants (15-17) and Denver (13-14) and the secondary should get only better if Verrett can come back in top form.
When he finally joined the team after a contract dispute, rookie defensive end Joey Bosa showed why he was so highly regarded out of Ohio State. Even sitting out four games, the defensive end made 10.5 sacks, which was best in the league among rookies, fifth among linemen and tied for 13th overall.
Rookie Jatavis Brown, a fifth-round pick out of Akron, led the Chargers with 79 tackles.
Notable free agents
Woodhead, running back; Dontrelle Inman, receiver (58 catches, 810 yards, four touchdowns); Jahleel Addae, safety; linebackers Te’o, Korey Toomer (75 tackles) and Melvin Ingram; defensive ends Damion Square and Tenny Palepoi.
The Chargers hold the seventh overall pick, with their primary needs on the offensive line (Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin? Cam Robinson, Alabama?), a quarterback of the future, and at safety and receiver.
The 2017 schedule
Home games vs. the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.
Road games vs. the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Home offices, stadium
The Chargers have signed a lease for offices in Costa Mesa.
The team will play its home games at the StubHub Center, where the Chargers will be the second tenant behind the Galaxy of Major League Soccer. The stadium, which has a current capacity of 27,000, will be expanded to 30,000 for football.
In 2019, the Chargers expect to join the Rams in a new, $2.6-billion stadium in Inglewood that is being built by Rams owner Stan Kroenke. They will pay $1 in annual rent.
Ticket prices and availability have not been announced.
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