Marc and Ben are back with their takes on the NFL on Nickelodeon debut and the first round of playoff football. Also, Marc gives his list of the top head coach candidates.
Schedule: @CIN, KC, CAR, @TB, @NO, NYJ, @MIA, JAX, LVR, BYE, @DEN, @BUF, NE, ATL, @LVR, DEN, @KC
Additions: OL Trai Turner (Trade), OL Bryan Bulaga (FA), DL Linval Joseph (FA), CB Chris Harris Jr. (FA), QB Justin Herbert (Draft), LB Kenneth Murray (Draft), RB Joshua Kelley (Draft)
Losses: OL Russell Okung (Trade), QB Philip Rivers (FA), RB Melvin Gordon (FA), FB Derek Watt (FA), S Adrian Phillips (FA), LB Thomas Davis (FA), DB Jaylen Watkins (FA), OL Michael Schofield (FA), S Derwin James (Injury), WR Mike Williams (Injury)
It really sucks seeing Derwin James injured again. After a surprising tumble in the draft, he was great as a rookie. Since then, though, he will have only played 5 out of 32 games, considering he’s expected to miss all of 2020. Injuries have quickly become a trend in his career.
While he will be missed, the defense remains excellent. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are as good as any edge duo in football. Linval Joseph should plug the one weakness from last year—stopping the run. Rookie Kenneth Murray will help on that front as well. He’ll be a difference-maker in the middle from day one while the Chargers have a bunch of unique linebackers to rotate around him. Between Justin Jones and 2019 first-round pick Jerry Tillery, L.A. is set at the other defensive tackle spot as well. Outside of underwhelming edge depth, the front seven is flawless.
The secondary will miss James, but his loss is far from crippling. Former division rival Chris Harris Jr. will join Casey Hayward and Desmond King to from a versatile and fearsome corner trio. Safety play will be an issue behind them, though. Rayshawn Jenkins returns at one spot while Nasir Adderley and his 10 career snaps will take the other. While Jenkins is solid and experienced, he isn’t good enough to compensate for his unproven positionmates. L.A. also uses three or four safeties as much as any team in football, so the underwhelming depth is even scarier. They have to be looking hard at outside options. Earl Thomas, anyone? Anthony Lynn can deny it all he wants, but they need help.
Even with the safety situation, the defense is good enough to keep the Chargers in games. They should give the offense a shot to win late pretty much every week. As you can see by my record prediction, I don’t have that side of the ball pulling through very often.
At the most important position in football, L.A. is arguably the worst in football. Just like Miami, they’ll start an uninspiring veteran with a first-round rookie expected to take over at some point. Tyrod Taylor is officially the starter, and he’ll neither win nor lose games for the team. It shouldn’t be long before the team grows tired of his conservative style and inserts Justin Herbert. I’ll call my shot and say Week 6 against the Jets, with that being the start of a 4-game stretch of nonthreatening defenses. It’s hard to expect much from him as a rookie, though he’ll make more plays—both good and bad—than Taylor. Expect a couple great opposing fantasy defense performances when he’s starting.
Opponents could feast against the Chargers all year. Despite some offseason moves, the offensive line remains a concern. Left tackle is a nightmare after trading Russell Okung. Sam Tevi is the favorite to start despite being a turnstyle at right tackle. In return for Okung, L.A. received Trai Turner. He’s a good player, but he’s missed three games in each of the last three seasons and is a perfect example of why offensive line Pro Bowl nods are meaningless. The other two interior spots are almost as scary as left tackle. The most promising spot is right tackle, where former Packer Bryan Bulaga will take over. Expect the sack number to skyrocket now that Philip Rivers and his legendary quick release are gone.
Outside of the two most important pieces, the offense is good. After dominating for years as a rotational player, Austin Ekeler will get his first starting opportunity. I don’t expect L.A. to fully unleash him, though. Expect a heavy dose of Justin Jackson and/or rookie Josh Kelley. Keenan Allen is the last proven receiver standing after Mike Williams injury. When he’s healthy, Hunter Henry is a difference maker at tight end. Don’t be surprised when the receiving numbers fall short of the Rivers years.
While the offensive outlook isn’t great, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this team makes the playoffs. They’re going to play through the defense and run game, and are equipped to do so as well as almost anyone. They also get possibly the easiest schedule in the league, featuring the Bengals, Jaguars, Dolphins, Panthers, and Jets (depending on how you feel about them). It’ll all come down to whether the offensive line can hold up and the quarterbacks can make enough plays.
What’s your record prediction for the Chargers? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.