Let’s get this out of the way, losing stinks. It doesn’t matter if it’s against an in-division opponent or the worst team in the league, if you lose, it’s a terrible time to be apart of the fan base.
Take the Houston Texans for example. Hyped up to become the NFL’s next top-level offense under second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson, fans are prepared for Armageddon to begin with Watson looking less like a capable starter and more like a chicken running with his head cut off.
Let’s look at the San Francisco 49ers. Expected to compete for a playoff position, their hopes are long gone with the loss of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tearing his ACL last Sunday. Sure, they have decent weapons in the form of wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, but if C.J. Beathard is your starting quarterback, you’re pretty much getting another Nathan Peterman situation.
The Los Angeles Chargers might have fallen to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday in the first “Battle of Los Angeles” series, but it could have been worse. Falling on the sour end of a 35-23 defeat, the Chargers offense still managed to post 356 yards of total offense and find the end zone on three separate occasions, one on the ground and twice through the air.
While the defense did allow 521 total yards, there still were some bright spots moving forward. Once again 2018 first round selection Derwin James is proving to the NFL that he should have been off the board in the top 10 thanks to his nine tackles and one interception performance.
Yes, losing to the Rams, a cross-town rival is going to get fans riled up about the current status of the team. The Chargers are sitting at 1-2 after many predicted them to be this season’s breakout team. Last season, they were projected to be the breakout team as well. They started the year 0-4 before their team started to improve.
Is it hard to be a Chargers fan? Perhaps. It doesn’t help to hear every offseason “this is our year” or “ this is where we turn things around.” While the 9-7 2017 roster did rapidly improve under second-year head coach Anthony Lynn, it’s pretty much playoff or bust to prove that the winds of losing seasons are blowing in the right direction.
The team’s two losses came to two high quality teams, making the sting a little better. The first loss coming to AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs certainly won’t help Los Angeles in the hunt for the playoffs, but consider who they played. So far this season, second-year gunslinger Patrick Mahomes has been the face of the NFL. In just three starts, the former Red Raider has completed 66.7% of his passes for 896 yards with 13 touchdowns and a QB rating of 137.4. Add in one of the most talented arsenals in football with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins, and it’s easy to see why Mahomes is the favorite to take home this year’s Most Valuable Player award according to oddsshark.com.
Then you have the other team in Hollywood who genuinely have been nothing short of a perfect picture. Spending multiple draft picks to bolster their roster with established talent, the Rams might be football’s version of the Golden State Warriors with how complete they are. While there is a possibility they could be without both starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters for several games, their offense is dynamic and intricate enough to keep them in contention every week.
So the Chargers are 1-2, but through it all at least there’s promise moving forward. With younger players beginning to show their growth on the field, credit has to be given to Chargers GM Tom Telesco on a job well done throughout the draft process. In four of his last five draft classes, the sixth-year GM has made considerable investments to building the Chargers from the laughing stock of the NFL, to legitimate playoff contenders.
Yes, they are still playoff contenders. It’s week 3, not week 12. Everyone take a chill pill before writing your opinions in the comments below.
Looking back at Telesco’s last five first-round picks, his first overall selection has been his only bust. Former Alabama offensive tackle turn guard D.J. Fluker was a nightmare in pass protection looked horrendous getting off the line of scrimmage. That being said, looking back at most offensive linemen from Alabama, that seems to be the trend. Jacksonville Jaguars Cam Robinson might be the exception if he can adequately heal from his torn ACL suffered in week 2, but the likes of Andre Smith, Cyrus Kouandjio, Chance Warmack and Arie Kouandjio are nothing short of depth chart fillers. Plain and simple; Nick Saban runs his linemen into the ground, pretty much ruining their careers before they have a chance to begin.
Since then, Telesco’s first round picks have all been hits on the positive column. Cornerback Jason Verrett would be one of the league’s most productive cornerbacks if not for his consistent trips to the injured reserve each season. It’s hard to call him a bust for his on the field play. When able to suit up, the former first rounder has collected 72 total tackles, 19 pass deflections, five interceptions and a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He would likely go down as a player that never was rather than a bust.
2014 first round selection Melvin Gordon has become one the league’s most productive backs. Last week, the former Wisconsin star collected 84 yards of total offense and scoring on an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
This season, Gordon ranks 14th among all active running backs on the ground with 172 yards and two touchdowns. As a receiving weapon, he ranks 4th among all runners with 144 receiving yards and another pair of touchdowns, giving him 316 yards of total offense, 8th among all backs.
2016 first rounder Joey Bosa is still waiting to make his return following his three-game absence with a foot injury. The back to back double-digit sack artist has been one of the league’s best pass rushers since his holdout during the 2016 offseason. Bosa might not be at full gear once he plays, but there’s a reason the Chargers pass rush has been widely inconsistent, their best players in on the bench.
Then you 2017 first-rounder Mike Williams, easily the biggest breakout star from the 2017 class. Missing a majority of his rookie campaign due to injury, Sunday’s outing was one to remember for the Clemson product. Williams would lead the team in receptions with four catches for 81 yards and a pair of scores. Both times Williams was able to find the end zone, the six-foot-three-inches receiver showed off his quality speed as well as his ability to win in tight coverage to take one to the house.
Williams now has 11 receptions on 15 targets for 189 yards and three touchdowns to start the 2018 season. The second-year receiver will need one catch next week against the 49ers to break his rookie numbers for receptions.
James is already a star in the NFL, and some consider to be the next great safety. They wouldn’t be wrong as his consistency in coverage along with great form tackling and pass rushing ability has been all full-force since week one against Kansas City. James ranks second among all Chargers defensive players with 19 tackles leads the team in sacks (2), pass deflections (4) and interceptions (1).
But it’s more than just the first round slam dunks Telesco has made for the team, it’s also his contributors on days two and three. The hopeful plan moving forward is to start both 2017 day two selections of Forrest Lamp and Dan Fenny up the middle as both guards. Lamp is still recovering from his torn ACL but could be the boost the Chargers offensive line needs once healthy.
First-year linebacker Kyzir White is also making a name for himself as the team’s starting WILL. White graded out as Pro Football Focus’s fourth highest graded linebacker for his week two performance against the Buffalo Bills. Last Sunday in Los Angeles, White finished third on defense among tackles with seven total stops and one pass breakup.
Tight end Hunter Henry was a sound second-round selection and would be a crucial part of the Chargers offense if not for a torn ACL.
There’s certainly room for improvement though, mostly in the secondary. Both cornerbacks Trevor Williams and Desmond King had rough outings against the Rams in coverage and will need to recuperate fast. Still, both players (an undrafted free agent and 5th round selection) have shown promise in their skills during the 2017 season.
Perhaps the biggest breakout star comes in the form running back Austin Ekeler. Calling him a running back, however, might be a bit too, however. The second-year running back out of Western State has collected 163 rushing yards and 132 receiving yards, making him one of the league’s most versatile weapons out of the backfield.
Everyone on both sides of the ball will need to step up to pull out a victory and head into week five as a .500 ball club. The offensive line is still struggling, but that’s more related to injury instead poor play. The unit has only allowed five sacks this offseason, the seventh least among all active ball clubs.
The Chargers lost to two quality teams and only fell short by a combined 22 points to two of the three undefeated squads left in the NFL. Let’s look at the glass half-full instead of “Jesus here we are again mode.” Both games were going to be tough wins without a complete unit. It’s not like they are the Texans who should be sitting at 2-1 but now are looking to salvage their season with a must-win showdown on Sunday.
Telesco has done a fantastic job drafting players who can contribute to this team day 1. Without the likes of Gordon, Williams, James, Ekeler, and White just to name a few, who knows what the Chargers status would be heading into week 4.
It’s okay to be upset with a slow start, but hold on Chargers nation, so long as Telesco is calling the shots, it should pan out in the long-run.