LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-11)
OPEN CAMP: July 30, Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa, California.
LAST YEAR: Bolts bade farewell to San Diego in tremendously frustrating season ending with coach Mike McCoy’s firing after nine total wins in last two seasons. Chargers were last in AFC West for second straight year, missed playoffs for third straight season. Lost last five games to fade from playoff contention despite solid defense and talented offense led by Pro Bowlers Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon. Midseason OT win at eventual NFC champion Atlanta was highlight. Rivers threw career-high 21 interceptions under constant pressure because offensive line struggled. Rookie DL Joey Bosa was immediate hit as pass rusher and physical presence, winning top defensive rookie honors. CB Casey Hayward emerged as star with seven INTs, and edge rusher Melvin Ingram was solid again. Uncertainty of franchise future undoubtedly played some role in Chargers’ inconsistency, but new coach Anthony Lynn must fix rest of problems.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Lynn, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, LT Russell Okung, rookie WR Mike Williams, RB Kenjon Barner, rookie OG Forrest Lamp.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: OT King Dunlap, LB Manti Te’o, CB Brandon Flowers, G D.J. Fluker, WR Stevie Johnson.
CAMP NEEDS: Change-of-address cards. Los Angeles Bolts move 83 miles north from Chargers Park to begin new lives in Orange County, where they’ll be based for training camp and regular season. Along with move, new coaching staff means plenty of work to do in camp. Lynn is longtime running backs coach who loves smash-mouth running game. That means Gordon has chance to improve on standout sophomore season and become top-shelf NFL ball carrier. Rivers has extraordinary selection of targets if everybody stays healthy. Chargers used three draft picks on offensive linemen to bolster struggling unit. Bradley is moving Bolts to 4-3 lineup, putting Bosa and Ingram as bookend pass rushers. MLB Denzel Perryman expected to be key to scheme. During preseason, Chargers must get comfortable in tiny new home stadium in Carson, which could provide unique home-field advantage if it’s rocking.
EXPECTATIONS: Despite franchise upheaval, Chargers seem likely candidate for improvement. LA is loaded with talent on both sides of ball, but underachieved amid massive injury problems last two seasons. Finished 2016 with 21 players on injured reserve and led NFL in man-games lost to injury. If Rivers gets more time to throw behind Okung and young offensive line, he’ll have plenty of talented receivers, including first-round pick Williams. If Chargers could get into playoffs in first LA season, they would get huge leg up on new crosstown rival Rams, who seem years away from contention.
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