by Mario Granata
It’s very uncommon for a team to have a quarterback who throws for 300 yards per game, and 29 touchdowns and the offensive coordinator gets sent packing. Thus was the case with Frank Reich and the 2015 San Diego Chargers. Much of that could have been the fact that the Chargers finished 31st in rushing, and their 1st round draft pick, Melvin Gordon failed to find the endzone. Nevertheless, the Chargers have hired Ken Whisenhunt to man the controls for veteran Phillip Rivers and San Diego. Will he suffer the same fate as Reich if the offense cannot be more balanced?
Head Coach: Mike McCoy
Career Record: 22-26
Offensive Coordinator (Rank): Frank Reich, (New OC) Ken Whisenhunt
9th YPG, 4th Pass, 31st Run
Defensive Coordinator (Rank): John Pagano
13th YPG, 18th Pass, 6th Run
An ongoing theme that will be mentioned in the On the Clock articles will be for teams to secure their division, and then they can start worrying about playoff seeds and so on. The Chargers will likely face a new quarterback in Denver, Derek Carr for the Raiders and Alex Smith in Kansas City. The Chargers have been able to put some talent together the past few seasons with the draft, but they need to secure that line who was nothing but horrendous in 2015. Rivers is nearing the end of his rope, and if the Chargers cannot put a solid line to protect him, he just might trot out his 12 kids to protect him if it gets any worse. Again, they were 4th in the league in passing, but that was in spite of the offensive line, not because of it.
General Manager Tom Telesco has done a fair job since taking the reigns in 2013, since there are no significant players who have to be restructured this season. The Chargers are currently about 27 million dollars under the cap, so if they want to restructure any contracts it will be an option and not a necessity. If they did want to restructure, they could look to LT King Dunlap. Dunlap is 30, and unless the Chargers think he will play into his mid-30s, they are fine keeping his contract right where it is. If they decide to draft a tackle with the 3rd overall pick, his days might be numbered with the Chargers or as we have seen with tackles in the NFL, he might be moved down to guard. His contract details are below:
This is the category that will separate Telesco from all the great GMs around the league. After the 2016 season, T DJ Fluker, WR Keenan Allen, ILB Manti Te’o and OLB Melvin Ingram are all free agents.
Fluker has missed 5 games in 3 seasons with the Chargers and the former Crimson Tide tackle has proven to be solid player on the right side of the line.
Allen was injured with a lacerated kidney ending his season and he is absolutely essential to the success of the Chargers passing attack. Before he left, Phillip Rivers was averaging 344 YPG completing 69.8% of his passes. When Allen went out of the lineup, Rivers’ numbers dropped to 255 YPG with a 61% completion percentage. The Chargers would be wise to lock up the California product before its too late.
Te’o should come at a cheap price if the Chargers were to resign him. I mean, how much can you expect to pay a guy who gets taken off the field on every 3rd down?
Ingram could be the most interesting of the bunch. 2015 marked his first season of significant playing time as he tallied 10.5 sacks and 14 TFL in 15 games. If Pagano wants to keep playing his 3-4 scheme, Ingram is a key piece to it being successful for the foreseeable future.
As mentioned earlier the offensive line was just putrid for the Chargers in 2015, but they could take two different avenues when draft time rolls around. They could take the approach of seeing who they have to face in the division, and determine that protecting Phillip Rivers and opening lanes for Melvin Gordon is paramount and either draft Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame or Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. Either of these monsters would make Rivers happy and upright with the slight edge going to Stanley.
The other option they could take would be the “if you can’t beat’em, join’em” approach. In the AFC West, teams like the Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos (as we found out in the Super Bowl) have probably the most dominant edge rushers in the league; Khalil Mack (Raiders), Von Miller/DeMarcus Ware (Broncos), and Tamba Hali/Justin Houston (Chiefs). If the Chargers want their own tormentor, they can look to Oregon prospect, DE Deforest Buckner. A 6’7” 281-pound animal, that can both rush the passer or set the edge in Pagano’s 3-4 look. And if he can’t get to the QB, he has the ability to knock down some passes.
It seems that it is all but a done deal that the Chargers are finished with S Eric Weddle. Weddle is 30 and will draw a lot of offers from his ability to play the pass and come up in run support.
Another Charger who will probably not be signed is TE Antonio Gates. If he is signed it will be a very team friendly deal for the 35-year old future Hall of Famer.
Free Agency for the Chargers will give league a true indication on where they are leaning when the NFL Draft rolls around. If they target Russell Okung, Cordy Glenn, or even Jake Long, they are looking to stock their defense through the draft. If they take the opposite approach and decide that replacing Weddle is paramount, they might try to snag Eric Berry from the Chiefs (which might be unlikely) or the recently released Michael Griffin (whom Whisenhunt coached in Tennessee).
Also look for them to sign Ladarius Green whom Rivers has started to develop chemistry with this past season.
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On the Clock: 2015 San Diego Chargers