By Simon Carroll


Was there growth from the Los Angeles Chargers last year? On the balance of evidence unquestionably so. Three more wins, a mid-season streak of ten victories from eleven contests and postseason football including a win in the wildcard round at Baltimore. So why, following their meek exit from the playoffs to the New England Patriots, did the campaign feel a little underwhelming?

Maybe it’s a testament to the heights that this talented roster, coaching staff and front office are expected to achieve. With the Kansas City Chiefs an established AFC heavyweight in their division too, the Chargers will want to continue their progress in 2019.

Off Season

Crucially for The Chargers, they kept their coaching staff largely intact. Anthony Lynn hasn’t just brought long-needed leadership to this team. He’s helped establish a run game behind a zone-blocking scheme he so successfully implemented in Buffalo. Couple that with Ken Whisenhunt’s play-action heavy passing game that utilises some west coast & vertical concepts and it’s a marriage made in heaven. On defense Gus Bradley continues to mould this talented unit in his image, with the pieces Tom Telesco is slotting into his hybrid scheme perfectly.

The front office has added some experience to this roster. Thomas Davis comes over from Carolina for an Indian summer to bolster the linebacking corps, and Tyrod Taylor offers Lynn a familiar face should anything happen to Philip Rivers. In the draft they continued to stockpile that defense; Jerry Tillery adds some much needed run-stuffing up front whilst safety Nasir Adderly completes one of the best secondaries in league.

This offseason wasn’t without it’s losses. The front seven in particular is looking for new faces to step up as Corey Liuget, Darius Philon and Kyle Emanuel depart. The talented but oft-injured corner Jason Verrett moves on and wide receiver Tyrell Williams parleyed his quietly impressive play into a big contract with Oakland. And with Hunter Henry hopefully over his injury troubles another return from Antonio Gates seems unlikely.



Time is running out for Philip Rivers to get that ring he undoubtedly deserves. So it must be frustrating for him to see his star running back holding out and threatening to miss the season if he doesn’t get paid. Rivers had statistically one of his best seasons last year, but it’s no coincidence it came when the Chargers found consistency on the ground with Melvin Gordon. Austin Ekeler & Justin Jackson did well in relief for Gordon but nobody is convinced they can carry a 16 game workload between them.

With Tyrell Williams moving on, now is the time for Mike Williams to take the next step. We already saw evidence of growth from Williams towards the end of the last campaign. He became a red-zone threat for Rivers and showcased his talents in the epic week 15 walkoff win at Arrowhead Stadium. Between him, Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry this passing game is more than capable of causing damage in January.

The big concern, as always for the Chargers, is that offensive line. Injury prone, aging and inconsistent, they only really brought in third round pick Trey Pipkins to help bolster the unit. With Russell Okung already looking like missing game time with a pulmonary embolism these fears are going nowhere soon.


Gus Bradley’s defense is a top five unit heading into the season. The strength of this group is, as mentioned, the secondary, with Derwin James playing at a Pro Bowl level as a rookie. He’s rejoined by Adrian Phillips and Casey Hayward, who might be one of the best free agent acquisitions of the last decade. With Desmond King showing promise and Adderley highly regarded, they should be one of the league’s best back ends once again.

Up front shows the greatest opportunity for growth. Joey Bosa might actually play a full season for the first time in his career. With him anchoring one side of essentially a three-man front and Melvin Ingram adopting the Leo role (hybrid linebacker/defensive end) the pass rush will not be a problem. Nose tackle Brandon Mebane will be joined by rookie Tillery in the middle, and the Chargers will hope to be much more stout against the run.

Linebacker to the defense is what offensive line is to the offense. Injury has scuppered a position room of promise, with thumper Denzel Perryman and the speedy Jatavis Brown flashing ability when they can stay on the field. The return of Kyzir White and the additions of Drue Tranquill via the draft and Thomas in free agency should fire this defense into the top-five in the league.

the verdict

There is no doubt the Chargers have the talent to make a run at a Superbowl in 2019. But as with most teams still searching for their first Lombardi, they must first overcome the invisible cloak of doubt in themselves. With a susceptibility to critical injuries and a penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory there will always be scepticism until they come good on their promise. Add to that a huge challenge in displacing the Chiefs as AFC West champions and there’s enough excuses to pump the breaks on a dominant season. Having said all that, they have one of the AFC’s most talented rosters and anything other than playoff football will be considered a huge disappointment.

Record Prediction: 12-4

Simon Carroll