On Sunday July 30, 2017 the Los Angeles Chargers opened training camp, thus raising the curtain on their 2017 season. Optimism is high and the collective eyes of Chargers fans will be glued to the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, CA. The Bolts look for improvement on both sides of the ball. Without further ado, here is a brief prospectus on the 2017 Chargers Offense.
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The Chargers had a challenging and injury-plagued year on the offensive side of the ball last season. However, 2017 will hopefully bring a greater outcome.
In the passing game, they were 3rd in yards per completion. However, they were 17th in sack percentage, 22nd in completion percentage and 30th in interception percentage. At times, it seemed like quarterback Philip Rivers was throwing interceptions on nearly every other possession. While that might be overstating it a bit, Rivers did throw a career-high 21 picks. The Chargers were particularly unlucky in single-score games last year, and Rivers’ NFL-leading turnover number should not be indicative of his prospects for 2017. One cannot ignore the impact that injuries to his most potent targets had on his performance. Rivers is not aphorism blame, but look for him to have a bounce-back year in 2017 with a healthy arsenal of offensive weapons.
In the ground game, Melvin Gordon improved on a poor rookie season in 2016. His improvement was enough for the Chargers to make him the primary runner in their backfield. In 2017, look for Gordon to remain their feature back. They did not make any major additions, and risk having a lack of depth at running back. However, the former first-round pick took 254 carries for 3.9 yards per carry and 41 receptions for 10.2 yards per reception, an amazing number for someone coming out of the backfield.
One can make the argument that the team leaned on the ground game a bit too much. However new coach Anthony Lynn was a former running backs coach, and is known for having an affinity for the ground game. With a revamped offensive line, Gordon could have his “breakout” season in terms of efficiency, not just volume numbers like in 2016.
The Chargers’ receiving game was thought to be in disarray last season, after receiver Keenan Allen tore his ACL in Week 1. It was up to the remaining receivers, two quality tight ends and a strong receiving back to pick up the pieces. And, they did just that. The Chargers finished third in yards per completion in 2016. They had six pass-catchers record at least 36 receptions. Here’s how they broke down:
WR Tyrell Williams 69 times (15.3 yards per reception)
WR Dontrell Inman 48 times (14.0 yards per reception)
TE Antonio Gates 53 times (10.3 yards per reception),
WR Travis Benjamin 47 times (14.4 yards per reception)
RB Melvin Gordon 41 times (10.2 yards per reception)
TE Hunter Henry 36 times (13.3 yards per reception)
In 2017, the above pass-catchers are all returning to the team, as will Allen from his injury. In addition, the Chargers drafted receiver Mike Williams in the first-round of the NFL Draft. Williams is a big-body receiver who, like Allen, lives off his possession ability. However, he does come with the risk of injury. Williams suffered a back injury, which was originally thought to require season-ending back surgery. This has since been disproven and Williams was placed on the PUP list to begin training camp, in hopes of rehabbing the injury. It was announced on July 29, that Williams will be held out of action throughout the duration of camp.
All in all, the Chargers will boast one of the deepest and most-talented corps of receivers in the NFL in 2017.
The offensive line was subject to the greatest amount of change this offseason. After finishing 17th in sack percentage and 29th in TFL percentage last season, it was hard to argue that the Chargers were not in need of a change. The team moved on from three of their five-most played offensive linemen from 2016 in D.J. Fluker, Orlando Franklin and King Dunlap, The team did return center Matt Slauson and tackles Joe Barksdale and Chris Hairston as linemen. They added left tackle Russell Okung as a significant free agent. However, they chose to use the draft as their foundation for a younger and more explosive offensive line. The team drafted Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky and Dan Feeney of Indiana in the second and third rounds of the draft. A line made up of Okung-Lamp-Slauson-Feeney-Barksdale/Hairston seems likely.
The Los Angeles Chargers employ one of the most prolific passers in the league, in Philip Rivers. The offensive line should provide him with a greater amount of protection than he had in 2016. Melvin Gordon looks to continue on his path of becoming one of he AFC’s most dangerous runners. And last, but certainly not least, Rivers will have a deep set of receiving targets. If healthy, the Chargers project to be one of the most potent offensive teams in the AFC.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers for cover32.