The Los Angeles Chargers could be without two of their best players when the team opens the regular-season. So what else is new with this team?
Ever since the arrival of head coach Anthony Lynn, the artist formerly known as the San Diego Chargers has shown a penchant for resiliency and the ability to overcome adversity. The well-traveled teacher has made the rounds this century with a number of NFL teams. He’s one of many reasons that the Chargers are a blistering 21-7 in their last 28 regular-season outing after beginning the Lynn Era with four straight losses in 2017.
General manager Tom Telesco has built quite the roster over the last few years and has done it mainly through the draft. The team was extremely quiet during free agency this offseason. The Chargers added well-traveled quarterback Tyrod Taylor to back up resourceful Philip Rivers. They also signed veteran outside linebacker Thomas Davis, who was not brought back by the Carolina Panthers. And recently, the club brought back wide receiver Dontrelle Inman, who began his career with the organization back in 2014.
Telesco’s feeling about his roster was exemplified by the draft in April. The Chargers went into the three-day process with seven selections and came out with seven players. There were no moves up and down the board. The club stood pat and watched the draft come to them.
Look at what the Chargers dealt with this past season in terms of key absences. Earlier that year, injuries kept tight end Hunter Henry and cornerback Jason Verrett out for the year (although the former returned for the divisional playoff clash with the Patriots). Then there was the case of Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa, sidelined for the team’s first nine games. He would return in Week 11 and not only racked up 5.5 sacks in the club’s final seven regular-season outings but corralled Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in the backfield in the Bolts’ Wild Card victory over the Ravens. Still, it should be noted that the Chargers managed to win seven of their first nine contests minus the standout defender.
What about running back Melvin Gordon? These days, he’s in the midst of a holdout due to the fact that he wants to renegotiate the final year of his original deal. There’s little questioning his impact on the Chargers’ offense. After a rookie season in which he failed to reach the end zone all year, the 15th overall pick in 2015 has rolled up a total 4,372 yards of scrimmage and 38 touchdowns in 41 regular season contests the past three seasons. Still, Gordon missed a total of four games of ’18 and reserves Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson and Detrez Newome combined to carry the load. And Lynn’s club came away with wins in each instance.
But could the Chargers’ mettle really be tested with the recent news that All-Pro safety Derwin James will miss the first half of 2019 due to a stress fracture in his foot? All the first-round pick did during his rookie campaign was lead the team in tackles (105) and passes defensed (13) and also managed three interceptions and 3.5 sacks. It’s going to be tough to replace that kind of production.
The former Florida State Seminole helped elevate a unit that finished ninth in the league in total yards allowed, run defense and passing yards permitted. One season early, the Chargers were 15th in the NFL in total defense surrendered the second-most rushing yards in the league. The team is expected to place James on injured reserve eventually and possibly bring him back when healthy. For now, it’s next-man-up time for the Bolts once again.
Every team in the NFL deals with injuries and adversity. Some are better equipped to deal with those issues than others. The Chargers proved a year ago they were part of the latter group. And who knows exactly when or if Gordon will return? In any case, this is a club that has shown it is equipped to deal with more than just a minor setback. That’s the beauty of building a deep football team and kudos to Telesco and the organization in that regard.