The 2016 NFL season begins now, with 32 teams scheming to knock off the reigning champion Denver Broncos. The NFL Draft is just around the corner, but the first step in any offseason plan is to assess a team’s needs. Here we look at what the San Diego Chargers team needs are.
These reports were compiled with the help of Inside The Pylon’s writers and editors, as well as the outstanding offseason primers at OverTheCap.com, which are invaluable for understanding the salary cap and contractual obligations of each team. In addition, the depth chart data is courtesy RosterResource.com – thanks for all your support!
The San Diego Chargers enter 2016 as an organization in transition. On the field, the Chargers endured their worst season since 2003, finishing 4-12. After starting the year 2-2, San Diego then found themselves on the wrong end of six straight games, and limped to a 2-12 finish with losses in the final two weeks.
Off the field, the front office retained head coach Mike McCoy, signing him to a one-year contract extension, but added former head coach Ken Whisenhunt as their offensive coordinator. All of these moves come as the ownership group debated leaving San Diego to head north to Los Angeles., The ownership group settled on an hybrid decision of playing at least one more season in San Diego, while also agreeing to share the Los Angeles site with the Rams. The ownership will ultimately decide the franchise’s fate by January 15, 2017.
Before the Chargers do anything they need to address their offensive line. San Diego used a league-high 30 offensive-line combinations last season, and Philip Rivers was sacked 40 times during 2015. The line has some good pieces, including D.J. Fluker at right guard and King Dunlap at left tackle, but they could use some upgrades at the other slots – including right tackle and center – especially if the organization does not believe that Chris Watt is the long-term solution in the middle.
San Diego needs to add the final piece to the front of their 3-4 defense. With Brandon Mebane on the inside and Corey Luiget locking down one end, finding the other bookend DE is paramount for this unit. The draft provides some potential replacements for Kendall Reyes, including Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche. But given Nkemdiche’s off-the-field risks, he could be too risky of a selection with the third-overall selection.
With the departure of Eric Weddle to Baltimore via free agency, the Chargers must address this position in the off season. Replacing Weddle with a ball-hawking, playmaker in the backend is a major need for this defense, and with Jalen Ramsey perhaps the best talent in the draft, San Diego will likely give serious consideration to the former Seminole if he is on the board at number three.
Philip Rivers enters the 2016 campaign after 12 seasons in the league and remains a solid to above-average NFL quarterback. But behind the dependable veteran are journeyman Kellen Clemens and the untested Brad Sorensen. This quarterback class contains a number of longer-term developmental options at the position, and the Chargers would be well-suited drafting a player like Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, or Dak Prescott and give them some time to learn behind Rivers.
The Chargers four starting linebackers are each coming off solid seasons, with outside linebackers Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu turning in very impressive seasons. Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman are solid options in the interior as well. But behind these players is a mixture of unproven talent and veteran options, so San Diego would be wise to add some depth at this position this off-season.
Long-time Charger Antonio Gates remains San Diego’s best tight end, but will be 35 at the start of the 2016 season. Finding his eventual replacement is not a critical need, but it would be smart for the Chargers to find a tight end through the draft to take some reps from Gates and allow the veteran to keep his legs fresh throughout the season.
Set, For Better Or Worse
San Diego drafted Melvin Gordon in the first round of the 2015 draft, and while the rookie has struggled to acclimate to the NFL game, he showed signs of his ability to transition last season. With a year of experience under his belt, he should be able to handle an increased workload. Behind Gordon is Danny Woodhead, who remains a versatile NFL back with the ability to churn out yards on the ground and is an extremely effective weapon in the passing game. The diminutive Branden Oliver remains a very solid third option for the Chargers’ ground game, and is a very effective change-of-pace RB.
While the Chargers lost Malcom Floyd to retirement, they return two solid NFL receivers in Steve Johnson and Keenan Allen. To replace Royal San Diego signed Travis Benjamin from Cleveland, giving Rivers three very solid options to target outside and down-the-field in the passing game.
Correction: This article mistakenly stated that Eddie Royal retired; however, as pointed out by reader, Evan, it was Malcom Floyd who retired. The article has been updated to reflect this and we apologize for the error.