Los Angeles Chargers
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Chargers dug too deep to climb out
Few teams were hotter than the Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) when the season ended as they won nine of their final 12 games. But the hole they dug thanks to a 0-4 start was simply too much to overcome in their first year back in Los Angeles.
The Chargers, and first-year head coach Anthony Lynn, had trouble finding their offensive identity early in the year. Wanting to run the ball, Lynn got away from a more proven commodity in quarterback Philip Rivers. Once the Chargers went throw-first and pass-second, the results were positive.
Melvin Gordon did end up rushing for 1,105 yards and he put together a solid season. Still, another year of Rivers' career was squandered as L.A. missed the playoffs for the seventh time in its last eight seasons.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram were a dynamite tag-team, pass-rushing tandem that had few peers.
Kickers, and the Chargers went through four of them, didn't help the cause.
But Lynn established in his first year a sense of accountability that wasn't prevalent in the past. While it's a huge disappointment that the Chargers didn't make it into the playoffs, they seem headed in the right direction. Wide receiver Keenan Allen's bounce-back, Pro-Bowl caliber season is a huge plus going forward. Combine that with Bosa and Ingram being young and under contract and Lynn having absorbed his first year on the watch.
After a decent season after two stinkers, the Chargers could be a team to watch in the near future.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: There were questions about Rivers after he came off a season in which he led the NFL with 21 interceptions. But Rivers displayed all the skills that has allowed him to pass for over 50,000 career yards in a steady season. His 4,515 passing yards were second only to New England's Tom Brady. For the 10th consecutive year, Rivers passed for at least 25 touchdowns. Rivers had 28 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
WHAT WENT WRONG: It was a spirited battle in camp, that of being the Chargers' kicker. But it didn't make that many waves when incumbent Josh Lambo was beat out in favor of undrafted rookie Younghoe Koo. Few knew what a disaster the kicking game would be for the Chargers, as they converted just 20 of their 30 field-goal attempts. The Chargers would bring in three more kickers, after Koo, and they are still no closer to finding a permanent solution.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Clemson star Mike Williams was going to give Rivers another red-zone target and someone to catch the 50-50 balls downfield. But Williams suffered back and ankle injuries that limited him to 10 games. He had 11 receptions for 95 yards all season. The Chargers were hopeful that would be the first-round pick's production in games, not an entire season.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: With two Pro Bowlers in the secondary, not much was expected from Desmond King, a fifth-round pick out of Iowa. But after making his mark on special teams, he gradually found himself in more passing situations when Jason Verrett's injury cost him his season. King showed his talent with 71 tackles, which included a team-high nine in the final game. He had four sacks and an interception.
ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Gus Bradley came in and in his first year flipped the Chargers from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and sprinkled his strategy throughout the unit. Bradley coaches with enthusiasm and the team fed off it, along with him putting defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram into the right spots to have productive plays. Bradley, who came over after being let go as the Jaguars' head coach, could get another chance at a top spot again.