San Diego Chargers 2015 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Chargers considered making a franchise altering move this off-season. Philip Rivers has been with the team since they drafted him 4th overall in 2004 and has started all 144 games for them over the past 9 seasons, since becoming the starter in 2006. However, with Rivers going into an age 34 contract year, refusing to sign a contract extension as long as the team was considering moving to Los Angeles, the Chargers at least considered the possibility of moving Philip Rivers to Tennessee in part of a package for Marcus Mariota.

Keeping Rivers long-term was always their best case scenario if possible, but, feeling like it might not be possible, the Chargers brought in Mariota for a workout and at least appeared to strongly consider going that direction. Rivers could have raised his family (which is expecting their 8th child) in Tennessee, close to his home in Alabama, rather than Los Angeles, and been reunited with Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans’ head coach and Rivers’ offensive coordinator during a 2013 season in which he tied a career high for quarterback rating. The Titans could have gotten a veteran starting quarterback and another pick. And the Chargers could have gotten a potential franchise quarterback for the future.

Ultimately, Rivers softened his stance and the Chargers dropped out of the race. The Titans, who ended up drafting Mariota, might not have taken a San Diego offer anyway, turning down a lucrative package of picks and players from Philadelphia for Mariota. Rivers will be back with the Chargers for at least his 10th straight season as the starter (even if only for lack of a better option) and the Chargers would appear to have at least a decent chance of re-signing for the remainder of his career. If an extension can’t be worked out before next year’s free agency, the Chargers will have the ability to franchise tag Rivers next off-season.

As for the immediate future, Rivers should be able to put up another strong season. He’s going into his age 34 season, but plenty of good quarterbacks have had success into the mid-30s. Rivers career looked like it was on the decline in 2012, when he completed 64.1% of his passes for a career worst average of 6.84 YPA, 26 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Rivers graded out 27th among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus that season, after grading out in the top-6 in every season from 2008-2011.

However, Rivers has turned it around over the past 2 seasons, grading out 3rd in 2013 and 7th in 2014, as new Head Coach Mike McCoy has worked wonders with Rivers, following the dismissal of long-time head coach Norv Turner. He’s graded out below average on Pro Football Focus once in their 8-year history and he’s completed 64.7% of his passes for an average of 7.84 YPA, 252 touchdowns, and 122 interceptions in his career. He’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and keeping him was definitely the right short-term move.

Grade: A-

Running Backs

The Chargers didn’t add a quarterback in the first round, or at all in the draft for that matter, but they did add a running back, sending a 4th round pick and a 2016 5th round pick to San Francisco to move up 2 spots from 17 to 15 to ensure that they could draft Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin. Whether or not they needed to leap Houston to do that is debatable, but Gordon will definitely help their running game, which was a big need this off-season.

The Chargers fell from 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential in 2013 to 13th in 2014, a big part of why they missed the playoffs. Part of that was decreased production from the quarterback position, as Rivers went from a career best season where he completed 69.5% of his passes for an average of 8.23 YPA, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, to a career average season where he completed 66.5% of his passes for an average of 7.52 YPA, 31 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. However, a much bigger part of it was the running game, which ranked 31st in the NFL, averaging 3.43 yards per carry.

In 2013, Ryan Mathews finally stayed healthy and showed his first round talent for the first time in his career. He played all 16 games and rushed for 1255 yards and 6 touchdowns on 285 carries, an average of 4.40 yards per carry. In 2014, it was more of the same frustration that the Chargers were used to from the one-time 12th overall pick as Mathews missed 10 games with injury and was limited to 74 carries. The Chargers were also without passing down back Danny Woodhead for 13 games with a broken leg. He had 1034 yards and 8 touchdowns on 182 touches in 2013 in the old Darren Sproles role and graded out 7th among running backs on Pro Football Focus.

In their absence, the Chargers’ running game was left to Branden Oliver and Donald Brown. Oliver was an undrafted rookie. Brown was brought in as veteran insurance last off-season through free agency, but he couldn’t even see playing time ahead of Oliver, as he averaged a pathetic 2.62 yards per carry on 85 carries. Oliver, meanwhile, flashed at times, but predictably struggled overall, rushing for 582 yards and 3 touchdowns on 160 carries, an average of just 3.64 YPC.

Gordon, who doesn’t have an injury history, will slot in as the primary running back on running downs, with Woodhead returning from injury to serve in his old passing down role. Gordon is just a rookie and Woodhead is 30 years old coming off of a broken leg so it’s important to temper expectations, but the Chargers seem in a lot better shape at the running back position now than they were last season. Branden Oliver would need an injury to see serious playing time, while Brown and his non-guaranteed 3 million dollar salary could be handed his walking papers.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

Lack of running back talent was part of the reason why the Chargers struggled to run the ball last season, but it was also the fault of the offensive line largely. The Chargers’ offensive line has been a problem for years and last season they graded out 31st in run blocking grade, in addition to 24th in pass blocking grade. King Dunlap was the only offensive lineman to play a snap and grade out above average all season. The Chargers did well to re-sign Dunlap to a 4-year, 28 million dollar deal this off-season and also poach guard Orlando Franklin from the division rival Broncos with a 5-year, 36.5 million dollar deal, a solid value. On top of that, they signed Joseph Barksdale, a decent starter in St. Louis over the past 2 seasons, to a cheap one-year deal.

King Dunlap, a 2008 7th round pick and a late bloomer, started 6 games in his first 4 seasons combined, but he’s started 39 games (38 at left tackle and 1 at right tackle) over the past 3 seasons, 2012 with the Eagles and 2013 and 2014 with the Chargers. He graded out 37th in 2012, 6th in 2013, and 23rd in 2014. The big 6-9 310 pounder took a while to put it all together, but he’s developed into an above average offensive tackle and he’s only going into his age 30 season so he has at least a couple years left at that level most likely.

Franklin, meanwhile, has started 63 games since the Broncos drafted him in the 2nd round in 2011, 47 at right tackle from 2011-2013 and 16 at left guard last season. He’s graded out above average in each of the last 3 seasons, 12th among offensive tackles in 2012, 17th among offensive tackles in 2013, and 13th among guards in 2014. He’s an obvious upgrade over Chad Rinehart, who made all 16 starts at left guard last season, graded out 73rd out of 78 eligible, and was promptly released this off-season.

Barksdale isn’t as good as Dunlap or Franklin, but signing him might have upgraded three spots at once for the Chargers on the offensive line. Barksdale will slot in at right tackle, where he made 29 starts over the past 2 seasons in St. Louis. A 3rd round pick of the Raiders in 2011, Barksdale barely played in his first 2 seasons in the league, playing 282 snaps in 2011-2012 combined. He became a starter in 2013 with the Rams, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 25th ranked offensive tackle in 13 starts. He couldn’t quite match that in 2014, grading out slightly below average in 16 starts, but he’s still a starting caliber player. He’ll be an upgrade over DJ Fluker, who is moving inside to right guard.

The Chargers used the 11th overall pick on Fluker in 2013, but he’s graded out below average in both seasons he’s been in the league, playing primarily right tackle, especially struggling in pass protection. With Barksdale coming in, Fluker will be moving to right guard in an attempt to turn his career around. His deficiencies in pass protection will be masked better inside, but it’s still a position he doesn’t have much familiarity with. He should still be an upgrade over Chris Watt and Fluker moving to right guard will allow Watt to move inside to center.

Chris Watt is another recent draft pick, a 2014 3rd round pick who graded out slightly below average on 496 snaps split between right guard and center as a rookie. He’ll start at center, where the Chargers had 4 different starters last season, including Watt. Prior to this move, Trevor Robinson was expected to be the starting center. Watt is an upgrade on him. Robinson, a 2012 undrafted free agent, has played 707 snaps in 3 seasons in the league thus far and has graded out below average in all of them. An offensive line of Dunlap, Franklin, Watt, Fluker, and Barksdale is better at 3 spots than an offensive line of Dunlap, Franklin, Robinson, Watt, Fluker and the offensive line in general is significantly better now than it was at the start of the off-season, with Franklin and Barksdale coming in.

Grade: B

Receiving Corps

The Chargers added both Melvin Gordon and Orlando Franklin this off-season, as I already mentioned. The only player they lost from the offense that played a key role for them last season was slot receiver Eddie Royal. Royal caught 47 passes for 631 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2013 and 62 catches for 778 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2014, grading out above average in both seasons. However, the Chargers did adequately replace him, adding Steve Johnson, formerly of the Bills and 49ers.

Johnson had three straight thousand yard seasons from 2010-2012, despite questionable quarterback play in Buffalo. However, in the past 2 seasons he’s barely combined for 1000 yards, catching a combined 77 passes for 1032 yards and 6 touchdowns. That might lead you to think that he’s struggled in back-to-back seasons. That’s not entirely true. While he did struggle in 2013, he was simply underutilized last season in San Francisco.

Johnson was incredibly efficient in limited action last season for the 49ers. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked wide receiver on just 305 snaps, with no one playing fewer snaps and grading out higher. He caught 35 passes for 435 yards on 49 attempts (71.4%) and 204 routes run (2.13 yards per route run). He’s also graded out above average in 4 straight seasons on Pro Football Focus. Johnson should be better utilized in San Diego and has a chance to put up some solid overall numbers again.

He’ll replace Eddie Royal in the slot role and should be able to at least come close to matching his production.  On top of that, while he has plenty of experience in the slot, he’s not a pure slot receiver like Royal was so he can play outside if needed. That probably won’t be needed unless injury strikes as Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd are locked into the outside spots for the time being, but Floyd is going into his age 34 season having missed 38 games over the past 8 seasons combined so injury might strike.

Floyd borderline miraculously played all 16 games last season, for the 2nd time in his career dating back to 2004. This was despite the fact that in 2013 his injury plagued career seemed over last season, when he missed 14 games with a serious neck injury. He also led the team in receiving yards with 856, to go with 6 touchdowns on 52 catches, tying a career high in yardage. He was Pro Football Focus’ 21st ranked wide receiver as a result. It’s tough to predict him to stay healthy and repeat a career year going into his age 34 season though. It’s good that they have Johnson for insurance. If Floyd misses time, Dontrelle Inman would get a chance as the #3 guy. Inman is a promising former CFL player that the Chargers like. He flashed on 123 snaps in his first NFL action last season, grading out slightly above average, and he has upside, but, until I see otherwise, he’s best off as the Chargers’ 4th receiver.

Keenan Allen is once again locked in as the #1 guy. While he didn’t lead the team in receiving yards last season, he led them in catches and targets, despite missing a couple games with injury. Allen fell to the 3rd round in 2013 as a result of a bad ankle and a slow 40 time, but he shocked everyone as a rookie, catching 71 passes for 1046 yards and 8 touchdowns, despite struggling to get playing time early in the season. He finished his rookie year 10th among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus and finished 2nd for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award behind Eddie Lacy.

Allen was just one of 11 wide receivers to have 1000+ yards as a rookie over the past 20 seasons and just one of 3 who weren’t first round picks. Allen wasn’t quite as good in 2014, catching 77 passes for 783 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he still graded out above average and is a solid bet to bounce back in 2015. However, I don’t think he has the upside of some of the other guys who had 1000+ yard seasons as a rookie (including the likes of Odell Beckham, Randy Moss, AJ Green, and Joey Galloway). There’s still a reason he fell to the 3rd round, as he lacks top end speed and athleticism. When I think of a career trajectory for him, I think he’ll have a career more in line with Anquan Boldin or Marques Colston, the other two non-first round picks to have 1000+ yards as a rookie. He’s a big asset in the passing game, but he’s quite not one of the top receivers in the NFL.

Malcom Floyd isn’t the only aging pass catcher the Chargers have, as Antonio Gates is going into his age 35 season. Gates and Rivers have connected for 74 touchdowns in 9 seasons together, 5th most by a quarterback/receiver duo in NFL history, and within striking distance of Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne in 4th with 76. However, between Gates, Rivers, and Floyd, the Chargers do have 3 important offensive skill position players who are into their mid-30s, which is moderately concerning. Gates is going into a contract year, like Rivers, and there’s been talking about reducing Gates’ role this season, so it’s unclear how many more touchdowns Rivers and Gates will connect for, but Gates should continue being an asset for this team this season.

Gates, like most of this offense, looked done in 2012 in the final year of Norv Turner, catching just 49 passes for 538 yards and 7 touchdowns, but he too has bounced back over the past 2 seasons, catching 69 passes for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 and 77 passes for 872 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2014. He’s graded out 14th and 7th respectively over the past 2 seasons in pure pass catching grade among tight ends on Pro Football Focus. His run blocking abilities have deteriorated as he’s grown older, but he’s graded out above average as a pass catcher in all 8 seasons of Pro Football Focus’ history. He probably won’t see the 996 snaps he saw in 2013 or even the 787 snaps he saw last season, but he’ll still be a weapon for them in the passing game in a reduced role, unless his abilities fall off a cliff or he gets hurt, very possible, considering his age.

Any reduction in snaps played by Gates this season, either because by injury or coach’s decision, would be the benefit of #2 tight end Ladarius Green. Green, a 2012 4th round pick, has played well as the #2 tight end over the past 2 seasons, grading out above average in both seasons, but he’s stuck behind Gates on the depth chart once again. He may set a new career high in snaps played, but his current career high is only 370 so I’m not expecting a huge role for him this season. An annual popular breakout player behind an aging Gates, Green is already heading into the contract year of his rookie deal so, if he ever turns into a solid starter in his career, there’s a good chance it’s not in San Diego. For now, he’ll provide valuable depth, both as a pass catcher and a run blocker. He’s part of a deep and talented receiving corps.

Grade: B+

Defensive Line

I mentioned earlier that the Chargers’ offense was significantly better in 2013 than it was in 2014. Despite that, they still almost made the playoffs thanks to a defense that improved from 28th in rate of moving the chains differential allowed to 17th in 2014. The Chargers have done a good job of re-making their defense over the past 2 seasons, particularly in the secondary. However, the Chargers do still have problems on the defensive line.

The biggest problem is Kendall Reyes, a 2012 2nd round pick who has been horrible over the past 2 seasons. After grading out slightly below average on 541 snaps as a rookie, Reyes has graded out 44th out of 45 eligible in 2013 and 46th out of 47 eligible in 2014. The Chargers didn’t add any competition for him this off-season, so he’ll be the starter once again in his contract year in 2015, but the Chargers shouldn’t spend much effort bringing him back long-term and should find an upgrade next off-season.

Things are better on the other side with Corey Liuget, but only by default, as the 2011 1st round pick has been up and down throughout his career thus far. Liuget graded out above average in 2014, as he did in 2012, but he also graded out 37th out of 45 eligible 3-4 defensive ends in 2013 and 29th out of 32 eligible in 2011. The Chargers picked up his 5th year option for 2015 last off-season so he’ll play this season on it, but he’s entering a make or break 5th season in the league that will impact what kind of long-term deal he gets in the next year.

Behind Reyes and Liuget, all the Chargers really have is Ricardo Matthews, a 2010 7th round pick and mediocre career journeyman who graded out above average on 303 snaps last season. Between them, at nose tackle, they have Sean Lissemore, who graded out slightly below average on 338 snaps last season. Lissemore is a pure two-down player and a borderline starting caliber nose tackle at 6-3 298. He’s graded out above average in 3 of 5 seasons in the league since going in the 7th round in 2010, but the 338 snaps he played last season were a career high.

Grade: C

Linebackers

The first pick the Chargers used on defense this year was in the 2nd round, when they drafted Denzel Perryman out of Miami. It was seen as a weird pick because, while the Chargers had big needs defensively at outside linebacker and defensive end, middle linebacker was seen as being a pretty secure spot, with 2013 2nd round pick Manti Te’o starting inside next to Donald Butler, whose contract is structured such that he couldn’t be cut this off-season without a massive cap hit.

Butler is overpaid and overrated (more on that later), but the Chargers are kind of stuck with him right now so the Perryman pick is likely more of an indictment on Te’o than anything. It’s weird for a team to give up on a 2nd round pick this early, especially one that hasn’t been that bad thus far in his career, but he hasn’t been great either and could be upgraded. Te’o has missed 9 games with injury thus far in his career and has never played more than 538 snaps in a season. He graded out below average as a rookie and then slightly above average in 2014. He and Perryman will compete for the starting job and, at the very least, Perryman will be improved depth in case Te’o gets hurt again.

Butler seems locked into a starting job, unfortunately. Butler, a 2010 3rd round pick, graded out 16th among middle linebackers in 2011 and 17th in 2012, but saw that slip to 45th out of 55 eligible in 2013. He also missed 23 games combined in those 4 seasons. However, the Chargers gave him a 7-year, 51 million dollar contract last off-season anyway and it went about as bad as it could have in 2014. Butler missed another 2 games with injury and graded out 58th out of 60 eligible middle linebackers. The Chargers couldn’t cut him this off-season without incurring a massive cap hit so they’re essentially stuck hoping he bounces back after two straight bad seasons.

On the outside in the Chargers’ 3-4, they surprisingly didn’t add in the draft until Kyle Emmanuel in the 5th round and he won’t be much of a factor as a rookie. The Chargers lost veterans Dwight Freeney and Jarret Johnson both this off-season, going into their age 35 and 34 seasons respectively, leaving youngsters Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attachou to large roles in 2015. Even if they’re comfortable with those 2 starting, their lack of depth behind them should still be concerning.

Attachou, a 2014 2nd round pick, graded out slightly below average on 182 snaps as a rookie and is a complete projection to an every down role. Melvin Ingram, meanwhile, is a 2012 1st round pick who has yet to live up to expectations. The Chargers picked up his 5th year option for 2015, but that option is guaranteed for injury only so he’s no guarantee to be on this roster beyond this season if he doesn’t improve. Ingram’s biggest issue has been injuries. Not only have they caused him to miss 19 games over the past 2 seasons combined, but they’ve limited him on the field as well, as he’s graded out slightly below average in each of the last 2 seasons after grading out slightly above average as a rookie. First it was a torn ACL in 2013 and then it was a bad hip problem in 2014. Ingram figures to break his career high of 511 snaps this season and then some if he stays healthy this season, but he’s hard to trust.

Between Ingram’s unreliability and Attachou’s inexperience, I was expecting the Chargers to add some depth at the position this off-season. They could still bring back Dwight Freeney, who is going into his age 35 season, but did grade out above average last season, something the future Hall of Famer has done in all 8 seasons of Pro Football Focus’ history. As it currently stands, their top reserves at the position are Tourek Williams, a 2013 6th round pick who has struggled on 353 career snaps in his career, and Cordarro Law, a 2012 undrafted free agent who flashed on 76 snaps last season in the first action of his career. As it currently stands, both Attachou and Ingram will be counted on for 700+ snaps each.

Grade: C

Secondary

The Chargers have a lot of problems in their front 7 that they really didn’t address this off-season, but their secondary is definitely a redeeming part of this defense. The Chargers have done a fantastic job rebuilding their secondary over the past couple of years. In 2013, the Chargers had 4 cornerbacks all rank 95th or worse among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus, a big part of the reason why their defense in general struggled so much. As a result, they went out and added veteran Brandon Flowers through free agency and Jason Verrett in the first round of the draft last year.

Shareece Wright still saw 14 starts in the secondary because Verrett missed 10 games with injury and he once again struggled, grading out 105th out of 108 eligible, after grading out 103rd out of 110 eligible in 2013. However, Wright is now gone as a free agent, addition by subtraction, and Verrett is expected to be healthy after dealing with a shoulder problem for most of his rookie year, dating back to the pre-draft process. Wright was playing very well despite the injury before going down.

Despite playing just 230 snaps, Verrett would have finished 16th among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus had he been eligible, with no one playing fewer snaps and grading out better. Through week 6, the rookie was Pro Football Focus’ #2 ranked cornerback, allowing 44.0% completion, which gives me a lot of hope for the youngster’s future. His injury is a big part of the reason why the Chargers allowed opponents to move the chains at a 69.12% rate in their first 5 games, as opposed to 73.81% in their final 11 games. Verrett’s return will be big for this secondary.

Brandon Flowers’ return will also be big for this secondary as the Chargers kept him on a 4-year, 36 million dollar deal, which, like the deals they gave to King Dunlap and Orlando Franklin, was a very appropriate value. The Chargers signed him to a one-year, prove it deal last off-season, after Flowers was cut by the Chiefs, following a 2013 season where he was Pro Football Focus’ 85th ranked cornerback out of 110 eligible. That risk paid off big time, as Flowers finished the season 15th among cornerbacks, giving them a much needed #1 cornerback, even after Verrett went down.

Aside from 2013, Flowers has been one of the best cornerbacks in football over the last 6 years. From 2009-2012, Flowers graded out in the top-9 among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus in all 4 seasons, the only cornerback in the NFL who could say that. The 5-10 189 pounder doesn’t fit every scheme and he was a horrible fit for Bob Sutton’s man press scheme in Kansas City in 2013, but San Diego clearly knows how to use him and he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL when used properly. He’s only going into his age 29 season, so he should remain a big asset for the Chargers in the secondary this season.

With Shareece Wright gone, the Chargers signed Patrick Robinson to be the 3rd cornerback behind Flowers and Verrett and also used a 3rd round pick on Craig Mager for the future. Patrick Robinson has essentially been a bust as a 2010 1st round pick, but it hasn’t been for lack of talent. He’s just missed 22 games in 5 seasons and has had serious trouble consistently staying healthy and on the field. His best season came in 2011, when he played 15 games (7 starts) and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 19th ranked cornerback, but that’s not the norm for him. In 2014, he played 624 snaps in 14 games, starting 6 of them, and grading out about average. That’s more par for the course. He’s a solid fit as the 3rd cornerback for the Chargers.

In addition to a solid group of cornerbacks, the Chargers also have arguably the best safety in the game in Eric Weddle, a holdover from the previous regime and someone who has been there since the Chargers drafted him in the 2nd round in 2007. Weedle has graded out in the top-6 among safeties in every season from 2010-2014 on Pro Football Focus, the only safety in the NFL that can say that. Earl Thomas and Devin McCourty might be better deep safeties, but I don’t know if there is a better all-around safety than Weedle. He grades out well both against the run and against the pass and has played about half of his snaps within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage and half outside of 8 yards in the last 2 seasons.

The issue is that Weddle is not happy with his lack of an extension as he enters a contract year. Weddle definitely has a legitimate gripe as he’s been one of the top safeties in the NFL and has plenty of evidence for why he should get both a pay increase and some additional long-term security. Weddle will make 7.5 million in an age 30 contract year in 2015. He’s likely looking at megadeals signed by Earl Thomas (4 years, 40 million), Devin McCourty (5 years, 47.5 million), and Jairus Byrd (6 years, 54 million) over the last year or so and looking to get one last big deal into his career.

However, the Chargers do have to be careful that they’re not paying for past performance as Weddle enters his 30s. A deal that gives him more money in 2015 and guaranteed money in 2016, but that stops short of guaranteeing money in 2017, would be fine. A 4-year, 34 million dollar deal that guarantees him 18 million in the first 2 seasons would make sense. A 5-year deal worth 10+ million annually with guaranteed money into 2017 could be more damaging long-term. As for the short-term, barring a significant holdout that gets him out of shape for the season, Weddle is a fixture in this talented secondary and one of the best defensive backs in football.

The Chargers lost their other starting safety, Marcus Gilchrist this off-season, but he was overpaid on a 4-year, 22 million dollar deal from the Jets. Gilchrist has made all 32 starts over the past 2 seasons and played well in 2013, but struggled in 2014. The Chargers will try to replace him with Jahleel Addae and/or Jimmy Wilson. The former played 437 nondescript snaps last season and 374 nondescript snaps as an undrafted rookie in 2013, coming in during sub packages as a 3rd safety, with Gilchrist moving to the slot. With Patrick Robinson and Eric Mager in town, the Chargers will likely very rarely have to use three safeties this season, but Addae and Wilson could both see snaps this season.

The latter is a free agent acquisition from Miami, a similar player to Gilchrist who got a lot less in free agency (2 years, 4.25 million), another strong move from the Chargers’ front office. He played both cornerback and safety in Miami, but I like him more as a 3rd cornerback or safety. He should be more of a 500-600 snap player than a 1000+ snap player like Gilchrist has been the last 2 seasons. He played a career high 791 snaps in 2014, as he was the Dolphins’ primary nickel cornerback and made several starts at safety as well, with Louis Delmas getting hurt to end the season and Reshad Jones getting suspended for the start of the season. He graded out below average in 2014 though, making it twice in three seasons that the 2011 7th round pick had done that. Overall, it’s a strong secondary, especially if everyone is healthy, which lifts up the rest of this defense.

Grade: A-

Conclusion

The Chargers’ went from 2nd in rate of moving the chains in 2013 to 13th in 2014. This season, they should be somewhere in between. The Chargers had the most offensive injuries in the NFL last season in terms of adjusted games lost. One key player returning from injury is Danny Woodhead, who will pair with new starting running back Melvin Gordon, running behind an improved offensive line thanks to the additions of Joseph Barksdale and Orlando Franklin. That should help their offense, after they had one of the worst running games in the NFL last season. They still have major issues on defense, aside from the secondary, so that will hold them back, but they should be in the hunt for a playoff spot again, as they have been in the last 2 seasons.  As with all teams, I’ll have official win/loss records for the Chargers after I’ve done all team’s previews.

Prediction: 10-6 2nd in AFC West

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