The 2018 Los Angeles Chargers finished with a 12-4 record and even had a playoff win. The Chargers were able to beat the tough Lamar Jackson using creative defense. This Chargers team got this far with stars like Austin Ekeler, Joey Bosa, Derwin James, and Melvin Gordon. Even though the season ended as the Chargers fell victims to the New England Patriots there was much to be optimistic about. Fast forward to Christmas Day 2019 and things look a lot different. Going in Week 17, the 2019 Los Angeles Chargers are officially eliminated from the playoffs with a record of 5-10. So where did it all go wrong?
The 2019 Los Angeles Chargers Season in Retrospect
The Chargers had seven selections–Jerry Tillery (DT), Nasir Adderley (S), Trey Pipkins (OT), Drue Tranquill (LB), Easton Stick (QB), Emeke Egbule (LB), and Cortez Broughton. And unlike the prior year there were no immediate contributors. After seasons with James and Bosa as great draft picks, there was not a clear star of the group. These players may develop, but they did not make the impact of the previous classes.
The Gordon Holdout
Despite missing four games with an injury in 2018, Gordon was able to almost get 1000 yards on the ground (885) and almost 500 passing yards (490). Both of these statistics confirmed that confirmed that Gordon can be a 3 down back in the NFL. In July 2019, Gordon claimed he would hold out until he got a contract with the likes of the elite running backs at his position. In Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott was holding out as well. There was a lot of speculating on if and when Gordon would be back, but nobody really knew for sure. Elliott’s contract situation was resolved right before the start of the 2019 season. Many people thoughts that Gordon’s holdout would end shortly thereafter. This was not the case.
Gordon did not join the team until Week 4 and did not play until Week 5. During his absence, the Chargers were 2-2 and the season was not lost. Each of the two losses were close and the Chargers were not getting outclassed. Obviously, we will never know Gordon could have been the edge during this early game they could have propelled the Chargers to a win or two more. Gordon is a borderline top-five talent at his position and it was a mistake for the Chargers to not give him a contract before the season. Many people think that Austin Ekeler is the answer, however, that is not the case. He is a great change of pass back and excellent in the passing game, but he does not have the workhorse appeal that Gordon does. The Chargers will most likely let Gordon walk this off-season, but that will be a huge mistake.
The 2019 Los Angeles Chargers were victims of injuries of a lot of key players. Travis Benjamin, Derwin James, Hunter Henry, and Mike Pouncey all missed significant time. The Chargers might have been able to recover from one or two injuries but the loss of this many Pro Bowl caliber players was a crushing burden to the Chargers. The offensive line was of the weakest units for the chargers this year and the loss of Pouncey certainly did not help. Henry had a wonderful 2018 and was looking to build upon it in 2019, but back injuries shorten his season. There was an extreme lack of depth at the tight end position after Henry and it showed. The injury bug was a key aspect of the under-performance of a team that went 12-4 the previous year.
The Decline of Rivers
During his entire career, Philip Rivers has had a gunslinger mentality. This has led to moments of joy and moments of heartbreak. Turnovers have been a huge issue for Rivers over the last few years. Going into week 17 he currently has 18 interceptions. The yard total is similar to other years, but his passing rating is one of the lowest of his career. There were multiple games that Chargers could have won had it not come down to the play of Rivers. Rivers has an institution in Southern California during his 16-year career, but his time should be over in Los Angeles.
The Chargers currently hold the 7th pick in the draft. Depending, on who is available when the Chargers pick the solution might be to draft the next QB. There are not a lot of good free-agent quarterbacks on the market. Tyrod Taylor is the perfect bridge quarterback to pair with a high-profile draft pick. Taylor allows the young quarterback to develop and would not put pressure on him to perform right away. The serviceability level of Taylor is important as allows the Chargers to dedicate assets elsewhere.
Los Angeles should not allow Gordon to walk. He is a stud at the position and has shown talent in the passing game. The Chargers might be able to obtain Gordon’s services for a similar price tag as Le’Veon Bell. Ekeler is not the guy at running back.
Lastly, the Chargers should sure up the offensive line. They should target one high-level free agent and then try to build depth in the draft. The wide receiving corp is solid and Henry can anchor the tight end group, but there needs to be help on the line to protect a young quarterback.
The Los Angeles Chargers are a few key pieces away from becoming Super Bowl contenders in the next few seasons. Therefore, the upcoming off-season is crucial as it will determine whether the Chargers will be contenders or pretenders. There is a lot to be optimistic about going forward, but there are 50 years of historical baggage to be concerned about as well.
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