As we edge closer to the end of the 2016 NFL season, we see which teams require a rebuild, and which teams can be legitimate contenders. There are always teams in the middle, but they are not focused on as much as the ones on the ends of the spectrum. Here we can focus on any team that isn’t a top-tier Super Bowl favorite this year. After writing about the Browns, the Bills, the Bears, the Jets, and the 49ers, the San Diego (for now) Chargers are in the spotlight today. The team has imploded recently, as they are in the middle of a 3-game losing streak. While the team showcases decent talent to maybe perform better than they have, many of their losses can be attributed to loss of talent and 4th quarter slip ups. As the team looks towards a possible relocation, they should also look to fix their team and get into playoff contention for the first time since 2014. Changes can be made, and here are some that they should really consider when looking towards the 2017 season and beyond.
Coaching and Front Office: New coach to a new city
The front office has done a great job in drafts recently, especially since 2013. The 2016 draft looks to be one of general manager Tom Telesco’s best, with defensive end Joey Bosa showing superstar flashes, along with plenty of strong depth and starting options for the team in the future. He also scored on some great free agent signings this past offseason, with cornerback Casey Hayward being praised as one of the best offseason signings, as well as getting good play out of wide receiver Travis Benjamin (formerly of Cleveland) and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (Seattle). While the front office has done its job, the Chargers should look to move on from head coach Mike McCoy after the 2016 season. McCoy has led one of the more promising Chargers teams to a 5-9 record this season, and has a total record of 27-35, or a 43.5% winning percentage, since being hired before the 2013 season. Some possible head coaching candidates for the team should be Lions’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Panthers’ defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, and Bills’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
Offense: Depth additions a must
After receiver Keenan Allen set the franchise record for receptions in a season by a rookie, he has suffered season-ending injuries in the past three seasons. Much of the team’s problems on offense came from having a lack of options after Allen, with a weak running game and the only strong target being tight end Antonio Gates. There has also been a problem at the running back position recently, with Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead going to injured reserve this year, leaving only Melvin Gordon and the rookie Kenneth Farrow. The durability of the offensive line was also an issue in 2015, with Joe Barksdale playing the most snaps out of any lineman last year. The team did well to address the line’s depth issues in the past draft with the additions of Donavon Clark and Max Tuerk, but depth at other positions must be addressed in the offseason. Some free agents the team should look into signing are wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Brandon LaFell, tackle Riley Reiff, and running backs Benny Cunningham and Lance Dunbar.
Defense: Back end help would elevate team
If many of their season-altering injuries did not occur on both sides of the ball, this Chargers team might be completely different. Alas, every team has to prepare for the worst case scenario, and the team hasn’t been able to do so. This defense is poised to be a top-tier one, and the front office should look to add a few final pieces to make it a truly fearsome group. While Joey Bosa has been a revelation, as well as tackle Brandon Mebane, the team should try to add some more pieces on the defensive line. The main worry should be both safety positions, with Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae only getting older. There could be some enticing free agent options to replace them such as Duron Harmon, Tony Jefferson, and possibly Eric Berry if the Chiefs do not lock him up. Some other free agents the Chargers should look into are defensive linemen Jabaal Sheard, Stephen Paea, and Sylvester Williams.
2017 Free Agents of Note: RB Danny Woodhead, LB Melvin Ingram, LB Manti Te’o, S Jahleel Addae
Positions of Need: WR, FS, SS, DL, RB, OT, QB. OG
2017 NFL Mock Draft*:
Round 1, Pick 8: DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Round 2, Pick 8: FS Justin Evans, Texas A&M
Round 3, Pick 8: WR Travis Rudolph, Florida State
Round 4, Pick 8: QB Davis Webb, California
Round 5, Pick 8: RB Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
Round 6, Pick 8: SS Tony Conner, Ole Miss
Round 7, Pick 8: OT Storm Norton, Toledo
*Compensatory picks not included at this time