EDITOR’S NOTE: BoltBlitz.com staff writer Charlie LaFurno is expecting some big things for your San Diego Chargers in 2016. In an effort to explain how the team will be able to achieve the expectations that LaFurno has for them this year, he highlights three keys which will enable the Bolts to be very successful during the ’16 campaign.
First, let’s start things off with giving both the Chargers and Joey Bosa several rounds of applause until our hands hurt. They FINALLY reached a contract agreement of $25.8 Million over four years this Monday. The contract comes with a $17 million signing bonus and makes him the highest paid upfront rookie in Chargers history.
As it stands after the Bosa signing, I certainly believe the Chargers can be a 10-plus win team and, depending on how they play their division games, they could very well end up at 11-5 or 12-4. Now, in order for this to actually happen, and for Chargers fans to stop dreaming and this finally become a reality, a couple of things need to play out in the Bolts’ favor.
Melvin Gordon having a breakout season is a KEY part to the Chargers’ success this season. He showed flashes of the Wisconsin version of Melvin Gordon this preseason, albeit a small sample size. He had three carries for 12 yards against the Titans in Week 1, adding a 44-yard touchdown catch — something he failed to do all last season was getting into the endzone. Hopefully that shook the jitters off for the youngster. But, he continued to stay hungry even though the starting position is his. He didn’t have a huge second game, rushing six times for 18 yards, but he came back the next week against the Vikings and had a BIG performance even though the Bolts fell short. Gordon rushed four times for 51 yards, including a 39-yard TD. Granted the play was audibled by Rivers and Gordon got a little lucky with the Vikings linebacker completely misplaying it, but No. 28 finished the play, showing elite speed and burst. THAT play got me extremely optimistic and enthusiastic. Gordon did not play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the 49ers. Keep him fresh for Week 1 in Arrowhead. The team is really going to NEED him.
The offensive line staying healthy and getting continuous reps and playing time together will come a long way in developing the chemistry that they have failed to sustain for a while now. Barksdale is the only lineman that played in every game last year. Last season, the Chargers used 26 different O-Line combinations.. TWENTY SIX. To say that is putrid would even be an extreme understatement. The Bolts averaged a measly 3.46 yards on the ground last season — 32nd in the league — and it needs to improve going forward if they want to have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
This offseason, San Diego signed Matt Slauson and drafted former Trojan Max Tuerk in the 3rd round. I loved the pick because I watched some film and saw that he has good athleticism and outstanding movement. He doesn’t overcommit on plays which is huge and could be a clutch player for years to come. The starting offensive linemen should consist of Dunlap, Franklin, Slauson, Fluker and Barksdale. That is a very capable group of talented individuals to create space for MG28 to eat, eat, eat and eat some more. We already know what Philly Riv can do when given the proper amount of time to throw the football to his bevy of weapons.
Last, but not least, the defensive line. I feel like the last time I saw a good Chargers’ rush unit was when I was on the couch at nights before bed playing Pokémon. And no, I’m not talking about Pokémon Go, I’m talking about the actual Gameboy games. In the midst of the contract stalemate Bosa and the Chargers had, he was still working out at different facilities in Florida up to three times a day. His work ethic and leadership are lights out. He reminds me of somebody. As it stands now, the starting defensive line will feature Liuget, Mebane, Philon with Bosa coming in on 3rd downs or in sub-packages until he gets fully ready to man that right spot. The Chargers also have Ingram, Emanuel and Attaochu as the outside linebackers. Both Ingram and Attaochu are speedy, freakish athletes but they have to remain healthy and produce consistently. Emanuel is solid on early downs, setting the edge and helping to slow down opposing ball carriers.
This is a year where the Bolts might know what it feels like to get to QBs that still have the ball in their hand and what does that lead to?? Turnovers. Everybody loves turnovers. It’s just us Chargers fans who aren’t really used to them. To make the Joey Bosa addition even better, the Chargers went and got Jatavis Brown. where they ranked 1st and 5th, respectively, in TFL in FBS over the last two seasons.
There’s going to be some plays where the defensive line doesn’t look good, but John Pagano’s defensive unit features Denzel Perryman and Manti Te’o to clean it up, along with the Electric Avenue secondary!
All in all, if all three of those things can happen at a consistent rate, the Chargers will be in very good shape to make a run this year. I predict Melvin to produce 1,200 yards, 8-9 TDs and 30-40 catches with 2 TDs. His improvement in the running game will open up play-action passes and defenses are not going to be ready for Keenan, Gates and Benjamin on the field; there are just too many weapons to account for, especially when you have one of the greatest QBs in Philip Rivers.
I predict the Chargers will have a top-5 offense and a top-10 defense. My honest prediction is 11-5 — if healthy — with a 4-2 division record.
Get hype Chargers fans!!! This franchise is ALIIIIIIVEEEEE!