What will it take to bring a championship to the San Diego Chargers in 2016?
As long as I have been a fan of football, I have wanted the San Diego Chargers to win a Super Bowl. Through the years, I have been disappointed in countless ways, but for me the one that hurts the most has to be the divisional round of the playoffs against the Patriots during the 2006 postseason. The Bolts (14-2), had a star-studded team with 9 pro bowlers including Shawne Merriman, Nick Hardwick, and LaDainian Tomlinson. They had an 11 point lead late in the fourth quarter Then it all came crumbling down the way it has gone too many times. I will always have Marlon McCree and Eric Parker fumbling the game away burned into my memory. But that was a long time ago and this is arguably the best time to be a Charger fan, because it’s the start of training camps and all of our hopes for a great season still seem possible. So, while there is still hope these are 5, unlikely, but possible things the Chargers can do to end the second worst draught in California.
1. Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaouchu combine for 20+ sacks
Last year the dynamic duo finally got on the same page. Ingram almost doubled his career numbers with ten and a half sacks, while Attouchu was second on the team with a career high six sacks in his sophomore campaign. These are pretty good numbers, but the two have been underwhelming thus far and consistency is sorely lacking.
The Chargers ranked 24th in the league in sacks last season with 32, the year before they were 29th. If you look at the totals, nine of the ten teams with the highest sack totals made the playoffs, and not a single team outside the top 20 made it past the regular season.
San Diego will now have 3 first round picks, including highly touted rookie Joey Bosa, and a high second round draft pick in Attouchu rushing the passer. The AFC West has some of the best pass rushers in the game with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, and All-Pro players such as Justin Houston and Khalil Mack, so the Chargers need their own high draft picks to step up and take their game to the next level.
2. Balance the attack
The Chargers have been a one-dimensional offense for some time, and last season they only averaged 84.9 rushing yards per game. Ladanian Tomlinson averaged more than that by himself in 6 different seasons as a bolt. The one thing that should help the most is getting Ken Whisenhunt back. Say what you will about him as a head coach, he knows how to run an offense, and in 2013 as our coordinator the Chargers averaged a whopping 122.8 yards per game. That season they only averaged 4.0 yards per carry but they stayed committed to it, and they ended up beating the Bengals, and losing a very close game to the Broncos in the playoffs.
3. Win the turnover battle
The last time the Chargers ended a season with a plus turnover margin was 2012. To be able to right the ship for the upcoming season, it is going to take contributions from both sides of the ball.
On offense, the bolts desperately need health and continuity on the line. No one knows who the starting 5 will be when the season opens, but once that is determined, they need to hold that group together to gain the chemistry needed to keep Philip Rivers clean in the pocket. Also Melvin Gordon will have to prove that he can hold on to the ball considering he had the second most fumbles (5) amongst all running backs.
On defense the Chargers ranked 24th in the league in takeaways (20), and this season they will hope that new additions Casey Hayward and Dwight Lowery can solidify the secondary, and bring impact plays to the back-end. The Loss of Eric Weddle obviously hurts, but Jason Verrett is coming off of his first Pro-Bowl season and if the front seven can get pressure, it will lead to more forced fumbles and bad throws by opposing quarterbacks.
4. Own the line of scrimmagee
This was one of the most glaring problems for San Diego last year as they had the worst yards per carry (3.5), while also allowing the second most on defense (4.8). The Chargers didn’t address all of their needs this off-season, but defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (6’1”, 311lbs) is arguably their best acquisition, after anchoring Seattle’s top ranked defenses over the past few seasons. He should be able eat up double teams and free up a young, talented group linebackers behind him.
The Chargers have been criticized for not adding more help to the offensive line, but they did snag gritty veteran Matt Slauson (G/C) late in free agency. With him, Orlando Franklin, and D.J. Fluker on the interior they have the size and strength to get push, and run the ball effectively. They need to gel as a unit and communicate to get to the second level, and stop negative rushes. If they stay healthy, they could be and above average line.
5. Win the one possession games
To me, the most staggering stat of the 2015 season is that the Chargers lost 9 out of 12 one possession games. Philip Rivers has 21 fourth quarter comebacks, and 25 game winning drives in his career, so they can turn it around, but it has to be both sides of the ball to make it happen. It’s hard to quantify clutch, but getting sacks and running the ball will be key here. When they are up, the Chargers have to show they can run the ball when the defense knows they’re coming, and get creative on third downs, because late in games they have been way too predictable. The defense was middle of the pack last year (14th) in getting off the field on third downs, but eight out of the top ten teams ranking highest in the league made the playoffs. If the Chargers can make the leap into top ten, and show that their defense can be elite, I think that their one possession wins this year will improve dramatically.
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