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Are the Chargers Overrated?

Are the Chargers Overrated?

The Chargers exploded onto the scene in 2018 with a 12-4 record, their best season since 2009. This only earned them a wild card spot because they lost the divisional tiebreaker to the Chiefs, but they managed to get past Baltimore in round one. Their season came to a screeching halt in the Divisional Round, though, falling behind the Patriots 35-7 and never recovering.

However, they were on track for another good year in 2019, with a similar star-studded roster. Things started to get a little hairy before the start of the season, though. Melvin Gordon, star running back, held out in hopes of landing a more significant contract, and young safety Derwin James missed the first 12 weeks. Despite this, the Chargers’ roster looked good enough to make another playoff run. Shockingly, they came in last in the AFC West at 5-11, falling behind even the Raiders and Broncos.

This led to the franchise deciding to move on from longtime quarterback, Philip Rivers, who signed with Indianapolis, putting the Chargers’ 2020 success in jeopardy. Will they be able to recover?

Incredible Skill Positions, QB a Question Mark

Offense
Are the Chargers Overrated?
Keenan Allen evades a tackle from Duke Dawson Jr. and turns upfield. Image courtesy of Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images.

Despite Melvin Gordon leaving the team after not getting the money he felt he deserved, the Chargers still have a fantastic group of skill players. With Austin Ekeler at running back, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams at wide receiver and Hunter Henry at tight end, their passing game is near impossible to defend. Double-teams are not an option for the defense when each player has to be respected. Ekeler was second in receiving yards per game among running backs in 2019 at 62.1, just 0.7 yards behind McCaffrey. Allen made the Pro Bowl with his 1,199 yards and six touchdowns. Don’t forget Williams checking in at 26th in yards per game, with Henry in seventh among tight ends. They have a high flying aerial arsenal that is solid on every level. Unfortunately, LA didn’t pursue a quarterback in free agency during the offseason. Thus, they failed to fill the void left by Rivers’ departure. While they did draft quarterback Justin Herbert at number six overall, it is unlikely that he will start much this season, if at all.

So, Tyrod Taylor will be the Chargers’ starter this season. Taylor did have an accomplished Pro Bowl season back in 2015 in Buffalo. He was fifth in the league with 8.0 yards per attempt, and 10th in QBR at 65.3. Unfortunately, that year seems to have been an anomaly. Taylor has not reached 7.0 Y/A in any other years. Though the Chargers do have many potent pieces for a high-flying offense, they are missing the critical component – a good quarterback.

Defense

Los Angeles’ defense is full of talent as well. Their defensive line ranked 11th in pass rush win rate last year, carried by Joey Bosa’s impressive ability to get to the quarterback. He ranked sixth among all defensive ends in pass rush win rate at 25 percent. Melvin Ingram III is another strong force on the opposite side of a defensive line that gives opposing quarterbacks nightmares. Although their linebacker group is far from impressive, the Chargers’ defensive backs are highly touted. Though injured for much of last year, Derwin James made the Pro Bowl and was a First-Team All-Pro in his rookie year. He racked up 105 tackles and 13 passes defended. Chris Harris Jr. and Casey Heyward Jr. are also solid cornerbacks, with both making two of the last four Pro Bowls. The Chargers defense isn’t perfect, but they’ve got a lot of individual talent.

Overrated?

Are the Chargers Overrated?
Taylor will have to earn his job in training camp, but it is likely LA chooses him over Herbert. Image courtesy of Harry Aaron, Getty Images.

Though the Chargers have many big names on the roster, the absence of a dominant quarterback is more than concerning. The many weapons LA houses won’t perform as well as they did in the past few years now that an inferior quarterback is at the helm. Mike Williams was nearly last in average yards of separation, with Allen and Henry also in the bottom half. Will a quarterback like Taylor be able to thread the needle like Rivers? Probably not. The Vegas over/under for the Chargers next season is 7.5 wins. After finishing with five wins a season ago, and downgrading severely at quarterback, it is unlikely the Chargers will live up to their expectations this season, even though the bar has been lowered.

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