Los Angeles Chargers 2020 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Chargers in 2019. They finished just 5-11, but most of their losses were close, with 9 of 11 coming by 8 points or fewer, giving the Chargers just a 2-9 record in such games. They actually finished with a winning record in games decided by more than 8 points (3-2) and their -8 point differential was much more in line with a 8-8 record. That’s despite the fact that the Chargers had a league worst turnover margin at -17. Turnover margins tend to be highly inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis and in terms of first down rate differential, which de-emphasizes the turnover margin, the Chargers actually finished 7th in the NFL last season at +3.84%, far better than their record suggests.

That’s despite the fact that the Chargers weren’t close to full strength all season due to injuries. They had the 3rd most adjusted games lost to injury in the league and those injuries disproportionately affected their top level players, so you could argue they were the most injury affected team in the league last season. Safety Derwin James (11 games), center Mike Pouncey (11 games), left tackle Russell Okung (10 games), safety Adrian Phillips (9 games), edge defender Melvin Ingram (3 games), and tight end Hunter Henry (4 games) all missed significant time with injury and all were big absences. 

Given their turnover margin, the amount of talent they were without for much of the season, and how many close games they lost, not to mention the fact that they play in front of road crowds every week in Los Angeles, it’s actually pretty impressive this team was even able to go 5-11 last season. Injuries, turnovers, and close games tend to vary highly from year-to-year and the Chargers might not have to play in front of fans at all this season, so the Chargers at first glance appear to have a lot of potential for a big jump forward in the win total. 

This is a very different Chargers team in some ways though. The Chargers ranked middle of the pack with the 16th fewest snaps lost this off-season, but the big change is at the quarterback position, where Philip Rivers wasn’t brought back as a free agent for his age 39 season, after starting 224 straight games for the Chargers over 14 seasons dating back to his 3rd season in the league in 2006. 

Rivers never led the Chargers to the Super Bowl, but that usually wasn’t his fault, as he finished in the top-10 among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus in 10 of those 14 seasons and completed 64.7% of his passes for an average of 7.81 YPA, 397 touchdowns, and 198 interceptions overall, likely putting him in Hall-of-Fame territory even without the Super Bowl appearance. However, he fell to 17th among quarterbacks on PFF last season, while completing 66.0% of his passes for 7.81 YPA, 23 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions, prompting the Chargers to move on, rather than try to match the 1-year, 25 million dollar deal Rivers received from the Colts this off-season.

To replace Rivers, the Chargers used the #6 overall pick on Oregon’s Justin Herbert and they still have incumbent backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who started 46 games from 2015-2018 with the Bills and Browns, and he could potentially open the season as the starter. At first glance, Taylor and Herbert may seem like very different quarterbacks, but Herbert is a better runner and athlete than you’d expect, while Taylor’s passing skills are underrated, so the Chargers can do some of the same things with both quarterbacks. Both fit what head coach Anthony Lynn looks for in a quarterback better than the statuesque Rivers, who carried just 12 times for 29 yards last season.

Taylor also already has experience with Lynn, not only last season as Rivers’ backup, but in 2015 and 2016 with the Bills, where Lynn was the assistant head coach and eventually offensive coordinator, prior to leaving to take the head job with the Chargers. Taylor had some success in Buffalo, completing 62.6% of his passes for an average of 7.17 YPA, 51 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions in 3 seasons as the starter from 2015 to 2017 (43 starts), while adding 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns on 283 carries (5.57 YPC). 

Taylor only averaged 28.2 pass attempts per start, leading a run heavy offense, and he didn’t make many big plays downfield, but he was a big part of that run heavy offense himself as a runner, he did a good job protecting the ball and not committing turnovers, and his receiving corps was a big part of why he didn’t have many big plays downfield. Overall, he finished 11th, 16th, and 9th among quarterbacks in 2015-2017 respectively on PFF and went 23-20 with an underwhelming roster around him.

Taylor’s time with the Browns stands out as a rough stretch, as he completed 42 of 85 (49.4% for 473 yards (5.56 YPA), 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, before being replaced by Baker Mayfield midway through the 3rd game of the season, which is likely why he was available as a backup for the Chargers the following off-season, but that stretch can be chalked up to him being a poor fit for Todd Haley’s scheme. In a more familiar scheme, he has a good chance to win the starting job over an inexperienced rookie and could start later into the season than most expect if he plays like he did with the Bills, as the rest of this roster is talented enough for Taylor to win with if he does that. Herbert could also win with this roster, but he’s a more questionable option as a rookie and the Chargers may hesitate to bench Taylor if he’s winning. Either way, this isn’t a bad quarterback situation.

Grade: B-

Receiving Corps

I mentioned Tyrod Taylor had problems with his receiving corps in Buffalo, but that won’t be the case with the Chargers. Wide receiver Keenan Allen and Mike Williams put up slash lines of 104/1199/6 and 49/1001/2 respectively, making them one of five wide receiver duos in the league to both surpass 1000 yards receiving last season, and, while they’ll have trouble doing that again on what figures to be a run heavier offense, they should remain a big part of the offense in 2020. 

Williams was the 7th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, flashed on 234 snaps as a rookie, posted a 43/664/10 slash line and averaged 1.74 yards per route run as the 3rd receiver in 2018, and then had a mini breakout last season, when he averaged 1.91 yards per route run and finished 33rd among wide receivers on Pro Football Focus. Still only in his age 26 season, Williams could keep getting better and should remain an above average starter regardless.

Allen, meanwhile, has been playing at a high level basically since he entered the league as a 3rd round pick in 2013, averaging a 97/1192/6 slash line per 16 games in his career. He’s had injury problems in the past, including 23 of 32 games missed from 2015-2016, but he’s shed the injury prone label by playing in 48 straight games over the past three seasons. Over those 3 seasons, he’s finished 5th, 4th, and 14th among wide receivers on PFF and, still in his prime in his age 28 season, he should continue playing at the same level in 2020.

Wide receiver depth was a big problem last season though, as the Chargers didn’t have another wide receiver with more than 9 catches. Andre Patton ranked 3rd among Chargers wide receivers with 507 snaps played, but he averaged just 0.18 yards per route run (worst among wide receivers with at least 15 targets) with a 6/56/0 slash line on 303 routes run and he finished dead last among qualifying wide receivers on PFF, in the first action of the 2017 undrafted free agent’s career. It would be hard for Patton to be worse in 2020, but he’s not necessarily a guarantee to be better and, despite that, all the Chargers did to address their wide receiver depth this off-season was use a 5th round pick on Joe Reed and a 7th round pick on KJ Hill, who will both have opportunities to earn roles, even as late round rookies.

To mask their lack of wide receiver depth, the Chargers threw frequently to tight end Hunter Henry and pass catching back Austin Ekeler. Henry put up a 55/652/5 slash line, despite missing 4 games with injury, and finished 14th among tight ends on PFF in overall grade, while Ekeler had a 92/993/8 slash line that ranked him 2nd among running backs in receiving yardage and he finished 1st among running backs in pass catching grade on PFF.

For Henry, staying healthy has always been the key, as he’s missed 23 of 64 games since the Chargers drafted in the 2nd round in 2016. He’s averaged a 53/667/7 slash line per 16 games, despite spending his first two seasons as a part-time player behind Antonio Gates on the depth chart, and he has averaged 1.87 yards per route run and 8.85 yards per target in his career, while also faring well as a run blocking and finishing in the top-14 among tight ends in all 3 seasons in which he’s played a snap. 

Despite missing time last season, he still finished 9th among tight ends in receiving yards and was on a 73/869/7 pace that would have put him among the best in the league at his position. He’s always an injury risk, but he’s still only going into his age 26 season and has all the tools to have a big year if he can put it all together, so the Chargers were wise to keep him on the 10.607 million dollar franchise tag, rather than letting him leave or signing him to a big long-term deal with significant guarantees. He could easily end up as one of the top overall tight ends in the league this season. With only blocking tight end Virgil Green (99 catches in 131 career games) behind Henry on the depth chart, the Chargers badly need Hunter to stay healthy this season.

Ekeler, meanwhile, could be taking on an even larger target share with tandem back Melvin Gordon leaving for the Broncos last season, after receiving 55 targets in 12 games and turning it into 42/296/1 last season. Justin Jackson will likely take over as the #2 back and he’s averaged just 5.23 yards per target on 30 career targets in two seasons in the league, so he’s not nearly the threat Gordon was out of the backfield. 

This offense figures to be run heavier with Herbert and especially Taylor under center, so Ekeler might not necessarily see more targets overall even if his target share goes up, but he’s averaged 2.49 yards per route run in 3 seasons in the league, while finishing in the top-9 among running backs in pass catching grade from PFF in all 3 seasons. With Allen and Williams leading the way at wide receiver and Henry and Ekeler involved as intermediate passing options, the Chargers lack of depth at wide receiver, however severe, isn’t a big deal, barring injuries.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

Taylor taking off and running on his own is a big part of why this offense figures to be run heavy, but the Chargers’ running backs figure to be heavily involved as well, even without Melvin Gordon. Gordon averaged just 3.78 YPC on 162 carries last season and, while that might have been partially due to Gordon being out of shape after an ill advised holdout, Ekeler was still the better runner, averaging 4.22 YPC on 132 carries. 

Ekeler hasn’t been as good as a runner as he’s been as a receiver, but he’s still averaged an impressive 4.81 YPC in his career. The concern is that he’s never topped 132 carries in a season, with just 285 carries total in 3 seasons in the league, and, while he should exceed that this season, it’s fair to wonder by how much, as Ekeler also figures to see a bunch of touches in the passing game and the Chargers are likely to be wary of how much they overload the 5-10 200 pounder. 

With that in mind, there should be opportunities for their backups to see carries, not just 2018 7th round pick Justin Jackson, who has flashed with a 5.14 YPC average on 79 carries as the #3 back over the past two seasons (3.28 YPC after contact), but also 4th round rookie Joshua Kelly, who could also see action, even if he opens the season as the #3 back. Both are unproven and it’s unclear if either can translate to being a capable #2 back, let alone the 1b to Ekeler’s 1a they may need if they want to avoid overloading Ekeler. This isn’t a bad backfield, especially when you factor in Ekeler’s pass catching, but they may want to add a veteran early down back to the mix if they want to run the ball consistently to protect either Taylor or the rookie Herbert.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

The Chargers’ biggest problem on offense last season was their offensive line, which ranked 2nd worst in pass blocking grade on Pro Football Focus and 6th worst in run blocking grade. Injuries were part of the problem, with left tackle Russell Okung and center Mike Pouncey being limited to just 257 snaps and 305 snaps respectively, and they didn’t get good play from anyone else, with right guard Michael Schofield being their only healthy starter to earn even an average grade from PFF.

Schofield is no longer with the team and the same is true of Okung, who was sent to the Panthers for Trai Turner, who will replace Schofield at right guard. It’s strange to see two offensive lineman get traded for each other, but the move made some sense for the Chargers, as Okung was owed 13.5 million in his age 32 contract year in 2020, with Turner is still only going into his age 27 season and has 20.5 million in non-guaranteed money left over the remaining 2 years of his contract. A 3rd round pick by the Panthers in 2014, Turner has made 80 starts in 6 seasons in the league and has earned an average or better grade from PFF in all 6 seasons, with his best years coming in 2015 (10th among guards) and 2017 (16th). Coming off of a 37th ranked finish and still in the prime of his career, he should remain an above average starter in 2020.

The Chargers also added right tackle Bryan Bulaga in free agency on a 3-year, 30 million dollar deal. The Chargers probably got a bit of a discount with Bulaga because he’s going into his age 31 season and has an extensive injury history (45 games missed in 10 seasons in the league), but he made all 16 starts last season for just the second time in his career and he’s shown no signs of slowing down yet, finishing in the top-26 among offensive tackles on PFF in each of his last 3 non-injury ruined seasons (2016, 2018, 2019), including a 13th ranked finish last season. Even if he does decline a little bit in 2020, he should remain an above average starter.

Turner and Bulaga should play well, but the rest of this line is a concern. They get center Mike Pouncey back from injury, but injuries have been a persistent problem for him in recent years. A first round pick in 2011, Pouncey’s career got off to a great start, as he made 46 of 48 starts in his first 3 seasons in the league and finished above average on PFF in all 3 seasons, including a pair of 9th ranked finishes in 2012 and 2013, but then he was limited to 12 games in a down season in 2014 season, en route to missing 28 games over the past 6 seasons. 

Those injuries seem to have taken their toll on him, as he’s finished below average on PFF in each of the past 4 seasons, including 28th out of 36 qualifying centers on PFF last season. Now going into his age 31 season, not only are his best days almost definitely behind him, but he could be on his last legs. 2018 5th round pick Scott Quessenberry wasn’t an upgrade in 9 starts in the first significant action of his career last season (27th among 36 qualifying centers), but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in the starting lineup by season’s end, whether by Pouncey getting hurt or getting benched.

Dan Feeney returns at left guard, but the 2017 3rd round pick has been middling at best in 41 career starts, including a 70th ranked finish out of 88 qualifying in 2019. He’s likely locked into the job because his only competition is Forrest Lamp, also a 2017 draft pick, who has played just 174 mediocre snaps in 3 seasons in the league due to a combination of injury and ineffectiveness. Regardless of which player starts, they are likely to struggle, even if there’s a small chance one of them takes a significant step forward, now in their 4th season in the league.

Left tackle is up for grabs, with at least three players in the mix to replace Okung, and regardless of who starts, this figures to be a position of weakness. Sam Tevi is the incumbent right tackle who is losing his job to Bulaga and could flip over to the left side. He’s made 29 starts at right tackle over the past two seasons, but the 2017 6th round pick has struggled in both seasons, finishing 78th among 85th qualifying offensive tackles in 2018 and 61st out of 89 qualifiers in 2019, and he’s unlikely to be better on the blindside.

Trent Scott made 9 starts as an injury fill in last season (7 at left tackle and 2 at right tackle), but the 2018 undrafted free agent struggled mightily in the first significant action of his career, finishing 83rd among 89 qualifying offensive tackles on PFF. 2019 3rd round pick Trey Pipkins is probably their best option as he held his own on 251 snaps as a rookie and could take a step forward in his second season in the league, but he’s hardly a reliable option either. This offensive line should be better than last season, but it could be largely by default.

Grade: C+

Edge Defenders

As I mentioned, turnover margin was a big problem for the Chargers last season, as they finished dead last at -17, which, given how many of their losses were close, could arguably be the sole reason why this team didn’t win nearly as many games as their 7th ranked first down rate differential would suggest. Turnover margins are highly inconsistent on a year-to-year basis though and it’s not hard to see how the Chargers could be significantly improved in that area. 

Philip Rivers’ interceptions were part of the problem and that is something that will almost definitely improve with the more careful Tyrod Taylor under center, even if their offense becomes less explosive as a result, but their defense was actually a bigger part of the problem with a league low 14 takeaways. They ranked 14th in first down rate allowed at 34.78%, and have much more talent than their takeaway total would suggest, so the takeaways should come eventually. Even getting to the 20 takeaways they had with similar personnel in 2018 would make a big difference and they certainly have the talent to do so.

Arguably the top player on this talented defense is edge defender Joey Bosa. Bosa arguably got overshadowed by his younger brother Nick, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the Super Bowl with the 49ers last season, but Joey is the more proven player. Since going #3 overall in 2016, Bosa has totalled 40 sacks, 44 hits, and a 14.8% pressure rate in 51 games, while also holding his own against the run. Aside from an injury ruined 2018 season (7 games), he’s finished in the top-8 among edge defenders on Pro Football Focus in every season in the league, including a 5th ranked finish in 2019, and he could easily keep getting better, only in his age 25 season.

Melvin Ingram remains as the starter opposite Bosa, coming off of a season in which he was limited to 13 games by injury, one of several key players to miss time on this defense. Ingram still played pretty well when on the field, especially as a pass rusher, with 7 sacks, 5 hits, and a 12.5% pressure rate. His age is becoming a concern in his age 31 season and he has fallen off a little bit over the past two seasons, but falling off for him means finishing 36th and 27th among edge defenders on PFF in 2018 and 2019 respectively, after finishing 10th and 12th in 2016 and 2017 respectively. He’s still not totally over the hill and the 3 games he missed last season were his first since 2014, so he could easily remain an above average starter and, even if he continues to decline, he still should be someone you can do a lot worse than.

The Chargers don’t have much need for reserves at this position, but they return their top-2 reserves from last season in Uchenna Nwosu (362 snaps) and Isaac Rochell (274 snaps). A 2nd round pick in 2018, Nwosu has shown a lot of promise in two seasons in the league and could arguably be a starter in his own right, but he’s been limited to 628 snaps total at a position where Bosa and Ingram dominate the snaps when both are healthy. Rochell, meanwhile, is more of a deep reserve, as the 2017 7th round pick has struggled throughout his career on a total of 862 snaps in 3 seasons in the league. With a talented starting duo and a high level reserve in Nwosu, the Chargers are in good shape at this position.

Grade: A-

Interior Defenders

By contrast, the Chargers were not nearly as good on the interior of their defensive line last season. Justin Jones (504 snaps), Brandon Mebane (408 snaps), Damion Square (402 snaps), and Jerry Tillery (354 snaps) all saw significant action and all finished with below average grades on Pro Football Focus. There are reasons to believe they can be significantly improved at this position in 2020 though. For one, they let Mebane go after he finished 121st out of 125 qualifying interior defenders on PFF last season and replaced him with free agent acquisition Linval Joseph, who figures to be a significant improvement.

Once one of the top interior defenders in the league in his prime, Joseph is clearly on the decline, now going into his age 32 season, but he’s still finished 43rd and 38th among interior defenders on PFF over the past two seasons respectively and, even if he continues declining, he should still be a significant upgrade unless his abilities totally fall off a cliff. The 2-year, 17 million dollar deal the Chargers signed him to doesn’t break the bank, so he was a very smart signing at a position of desperate need.

The Chargers should also get more from Jerry Tillery this year, even if only by default, as the 2019 28th overall draft pick shockingly finished as PFF’s worst ranked interior defender as a rookie. Tillery struggled as a pass rusher (2 sacks, 1 hit, and a 5.4% pressure rate) and, more importantly, he consistently offered little resistance against the run. Tillery has nowhere to go but up and he still has a high ceiling as a former first round pick, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he took a big step forward in 2020, but even a big step forward might not make him even a middling starting option.

Tillery could earn the starting role next to Joseph, but he’ll have to compete with Jones and Square, who still remain from last season. Jones has the most upside of the two, as he was a 3rd round pick just two years ago and is still only in his age 24 season, while Square is going into his age 31 season and has never been more than a capable reserve (414 snaps per season over the past four seasons), but Jones has struggled on 804 career snaps and is not a guarantee to improve. Regardless of who wins the starting job, all four players will likely play significant snaps at this position. Even with Joseph coming in and Tillery likely improving, this group still has problems, but they should still be noticeably improved from last year’s weak group.

Grade: C+

Linebackers

Off ball linebacker was also an underwhelming position for the Chargers in 2019. They weren’t as bad as they were at the interior defender spot, but they lacked a standout player and got middling play at best. Thomas Davis led the position with 805 snaps played and earned a middling grade, but he’s no longer with the team. Instead, the Chargers traded up to select Kenneth Murray 23rd overall in the first round and they added veteran Nick Vigil on a 1-year, 2.4 million dollar deal to compete with holdovers Denzel Perryman (359 snaps), Dre Tranquill (382 snaps), and Kyzir White (372 snaps) for playing time in this linebacking corps.

Even though he’s a rookie who has never played a snap, Murray is arguably their best off ball linebacker going into the season, as Vigil and the rest of the options are all underwhelming. As a result, Murray seems likely to play a three down role in the middle as a rookie, even as early as week 1. Vigil and Perryman are the veterans of the group, making 37 starts in 4 seasons in the league and 45 starts in 5 seasons in the league respectively, but Vigil was largely starting out of necessity with the Bengals, while Perryman is purely a base package player who has been injury prone throughout his career and has never topped 481 snaps in a season. He should at least earn a base package run stuffing role, but he likely wouldn’t play every down, even without a better option.

Tranquill and White, meanwhile, are less proven, but come with more upside, as they went in the 4th round in the 2019 and 2018 NFL Drafts respectively and have shown promise in limited action thus far, Tranquill on 382 snaps as a rookie last season and White on 514 snaps between two seasons in the league. Both players will have significant opportunity to earn playing time in this unsettled group, though both are obviously projections to larger roles. The Chargers also like to use 3 safeties together in sub packages, with one playing around the line of scrimmage as a coverage linebacker, and that’s something they figure to continue doing to mask their lack of coverage ability at linebacker. With an unproven rookie leading the way, this is a shaky group.

Grade: C+

Secondary

The Chargers’ expected week 1 starting safeties last season were Adrian Phillips and Derwin James, but injuries limited them to just 7 games and 5 games respectively, while 2nd round rookie Nasir Adderley, who could have started in their absence, was limited to 10 snaps by an injury of his own. Despite that, the Chargers’ secondary wasn’t bad last season and they should be a lot better this season. Phillips is no longer with the team, but both James and Adderley are expected to return from injury and the Chargers also added veteran cornerback Chris Harris on a 2-year, 17 million dollar deal.

Harris has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league over the past decade with the division rival Denver Broncos, finishing in the top-18 among cornerbacks in each of his first 8 seasons in the league, including five top-4 finishes and a pair of #1 finishes, but he fell to 38th last season and now is going into his age 31 season, so he was greeted by a relatively cold market. Harris was also a weird fit for the Chargers because he’s been best in his career on the slot, while the Chargers seemed to need an outside cornerback more than anything. Playing primarily outside was part of the reason why he wasn’t the same player last season in Denver and he would be more likely to continue declining if he has to play more outside in Los Angeles.

With the Chargers, it’s unclear where he’ll play primarily. Michael Davis has made 21 starts outside over the past two seasons, but he’s been middling at best and is coming off of a season in which he finished 92nd among 135 qualifying cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus on 659 snaps, while slot cornerback Desmond King has allowed an impressive 1.05 yards per route run on the slot in 3 seasons since the Chargers took him in the 5th round in 2017 and has finished in the top-31 among cornerbacks on PFF in all 3 seasons.

One possibility is the Chargers could play Davis outside, Harris on the slot, and move King to safety at least in passing situations, which would allow the Chargers to regularly use three safeties together in sub packages, to mask their lack of linebacker depth. It would be a risky move because King has played so well on the slot, but some pegged him as a safety coming out of college, so it could be a relatively natural fit for him and it would allow Harris to play his natural position on the slot. The other two safeties in three safety packages would be Derwin James and either Nasir Adderley, who is now healthy after missing his most of his rookie season, or Rayshawn Jenkins, 2017 4th round pick who was middling in 16 starts in the first significant action of his career last season.

Adderley and Jenkins are decent options with some upside, but Derwin James is obviously the best of the bunch. The 17th overall pick in 2018, James burst onto the scene with a 6th ranked finish among safeties as a 16-game starter as a rookie and his absence was the one that affected the Chargers the most last season, as he didn’t return from an off-season injury until week 13. Upon his return, he was still PFF’s 7th ranked safety from week 13 on and, only going into his age 24 season, James still has a massive ceiling if he can stay healthy long-term. He could easily be one of the top safeties in the league this season, so he’s a huge re-addition. He’s also incredibly versatile with his ability to play anywhere in the back seven and he would likely be the one who would work as a linebacker in sub packages when the Chargers use three safeties.

#1 cornerback Casey Hayward is also one of the best in the league at his position and he remains locked into his role as an every down outside cornerback. Hayward has finished in the top-17 among cornerbacks on PFF in each of his four seasons with the Chargers (62 starts) and, though he’s going into his age 31 season, he’s yet to show any decline, finishing 4th among cornerbacks on PFF last season. Even if he does start to decline this season, he should be more than capable of being a top cornerback.

Who plays where besides Hayward is still up in the air. The most likely scenario is Hayward and Harris play together outside in base packages with James and either King, Jenkins, or Adderley at safety and then in sub packages, Harris will move to the slot, Davis will enter as the 3rd cornerback and play outside, and the Chargers will frequently use three safeties at once to mask their lack of linebacker depth. They have some versatile options in a secondary that should be significantly better with Derwin James healthy and Chris Harris being added.

Grade: A-

Conclusion

The Chargers went 5-11 last season because of close losses, injuries, and a league worst turnover margin, three things that are highly inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. Case in point, with a very similar roster in 2018, the Chargers went 6-1 in games decided by 8 points or fewer, had a +1 turnover margin, and ranked 20th in adjusted games lost to injury, and, largely as a result, they won 12 games and made it to the 2nd round of the post-season. The Chargers don’t have Philip Rivers anymore, but I’m higher on Tyrod Taylor than most, now in a system that fits his skillset again, and the rest of this roster has a lot of talent. They’re obviously behind the Chiefs in the AFC West, but they should be in the mix for one of the three wild card spots in the AFC. I will have an official prediction closer to the start of the season.

Final Update: The Chargers’ playoff chances were dealt a big blow when they lost safety Derwin James for the season with injury. The Chargers get to play the Jaguars and Dolphins as part of their last place schedule, so they may win more games than the Raiders or Broncos, but they’re slightly behind those teams in talent level without James.

Projection: 8-8 (2nd in AFC West)

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