San Diego Chargers: 2015 Outlook

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San Diego Chargers

By Shawn Childs, Saturday, August 22, 2015

San Diego has been a quality team in the NFL over the last 11 years (111-67), but they have only been four games over .500 in their last five years with one playoff appearance. Twice in the last three years, the Chargers have allowed the identical amount of points as they have scored. Last year, they fell to 17th in points scored (348) and 18th in total yards (341.6 per game). Their struggles on offense were due to a poor rushing attack (85.4 yards per game – 3.4 yards per rush). San Diego showed improvement on defense as far as total yards allowed (338.3 – ninth in the league) while allowing 348 points (13th). Mike McCoy returns for his third season as the head coach. He is 18-14 in his career with one playoff appearance. Frank Reich will run the offense for the second straight year. He has seven years of coaching experience. John Pagano will return for his fourth season as the defensive coordinator. Pagano has worked on the defensive side of the ball for San Diego in some fashion over the last 13 years.

Free Agency

The Chargers made multiple moves on their offensive line in the offseason. G Orlando Franklin was the Broncos' best linemen in 2014. He had plus value in run and pass blocking. Franklin is a nice upgrade to the offense. He'll replace G Chad Rinehart who was a huge liability in run blocking while allowing four sacks, six QB hits, and 31 QB hurries. Joe Barksdale was brought in to start at right tackle. Joe had value as a run blocker, but Barksdale was disaster in pass protection (seven sacks, four QB hits, and 40 QB hurries). C Rich Ohrnberger left to be an unrestricted free agent.

S Marcus Gilchrist left to play with the Jets. Marcus has struggled in pass coverage with only league average value against the run. They replaced him with CB Jimmy Wilson. Wilson has been only a league average player over the last two years. San Diego also brought in CB Patrick Robinson for depth in the secondary. Robinson was drafted in the first round in 2014, but he hasn't played at an elite level. In 2012, he allowed 1,071 yards and nine TDs. A leg injury cost him most of the 2013 season and Patrick was relegated to a part time player in 2014. LB Andrew Gachkar will earn his next check in Dallas. Andrew has never been an asset to the defense.

San Diego brought in WR Steve Johnson for WR depth. Johnson wasn't a great fit in the 49ers offense in 2014, which led to a short season. He'll replace WR Eddie Royal in the starting lineup. Royal had his best season (62/778/7) since his rookie year in 2008. RB Ryan Mathews left to play for the Eagles. He never developed into the franchise back the Chargers thought he was.


The Chargers only had five picks in this year's draft. They're hoping they found an impact back in the first round in RB Melvin Gordon. Melvin has solid speed and elite quickness while running with power. His vision is a step below the best backs in the league. Gordon needs the field to open up before attacking the hole. His hands get mixed reviews. Overall, Melvin is a huge upgrade with some risk on third downs.

Their remaining four picks were dedicated to the defense – LB Denzel Perryman, CB Craig Mager, LB Kyle Emanuel, and DT Darius Philon. Perryman will have the most value attacking the line of scrimmage against the run. He has no value in pass coverage, which will lead to him being a part time player. Mager has a nice combination of toughness and speed, but he tends to play it safe on coverage. He will add value as the third CB. Emanuel has some excitement in his game, but his first step could be a liability at the next level. Strength is his biggest asset. Philon looks like a nice value pick in the sixth round. He has disrupting quickness with value against the run when he adds more bulk.

San Diego Chargers RB Melvin Gordon

Offensive Line

San Diego finished with the 30th-ranked rushing attack in 2014 (1,367 yards) with ball carriers averaging only 3.4 yards per rush while scoring six rushing TDs.

LT King Dunlap was an elite run blocker in 2013, but his value dropped to only slightly above league average last year. His limited sacks (three in 2014), but he allowed too much pressure (five QB hits and 35 QB hurries).

LG Orlando Franklin will help the Chargers run game with upside as a pass blocker. He only allowed three sacks over the last two years with minimal pressure allowed in 2014 (two QB hits and eight QB hurries).

C Chris Watt started five games last year after being drafted in the third round in 2014. He allowed three sacks in his 496 snaps with neutral value as a run blocker.

RG D.J. Fluker was selected the first round in 2013. In his two years in the league, Fluker was a league average blocker while allowing 14 sacks, 14 QB Hits, and 75 QB hurries.

RT Joe Barksdale played well as run blocker in 2014 over the first six games of the year, but he fade late in the year. He allowed seven sacks, four QB hits, and 40 QB hurries.

The Chargers allowed 37 sacks last year. They ranked 10th in the league in passing yards (4,098 yards) with 31 TDs and 18 INTs.

The left side of this line has some upside while showing weakness at center and right tackle. The development of Fluker would be a nice bonus to QB Philip Rivers. More speed at the RB position will cover up some of the liabilities shown in 2014. Overall, this unit is no better than league average.

Schedule: Offense

The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).

This information is based on 2014, which will work as our starting point for 2015. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2014 Average: The league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2014.

2014 Results: This is the results for each team in the NFL.

2015 Adjustment: Based on the 2014 league average and the 2014 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.

San Diego has three tough matchups against the run in 2015 – BAL and DEN (X 2). They have only one plus game (CLE) and four games with above average value – JAX, MIN, and KC (X 2). Eight of their games are against teams with above average pass defenses. The Chargers have only game that looks favorable in the passing game (Chicago).


The Chargers ran the ball only 41 percent of the time last year. They completed 21.8 percent of their passes to RB and 23.2 percent to the TE position. WR caught 207 passes for 2,610 yards with 15 TDs.


Update (11/25): Rivers has been a tremendous option this season. He slipped a bit after a terrible Week 11, but is still a high-end QB1 option this season. So far he's already completed 288-of-420 pass attempts for 3,211 yards and 19 TDs. Rivers was a tough guy to gauge at the beginning of the season, but has paid serious dividends to Fantasy owners that invested in him. However, with a decimated group of pass-catchers, it's going to be tough to keep up this pace, even for a QB as talented and experienced as Rivers.

Rivers has a 88-56 record in his career. He is a very good NFL QB who makes the talent around him better. Last year he attempted the second-most passes (570) in his career. His lack of pass protection over the last five years has led to an average of 36.6 sacks per year. The increased pressure and no running game led to too many errors in the passing game (18 INTs). Philip has thrown 30 TDs or more in four of his last seven years. In 2014, he had four 300-yard passing games and seven games with three TDs or more. The Chargers would much rather run a ball-control offense to keep their defense off the field. With growth in the running game, Phillip will be an upside game manager which makeS him a tough start from week-to-week in the Fantasy market. If game score dictates, Rivers is more than capable of delivering impact games. His receiving corps isn't elite with Gates another step closer to the end of his career. Philip will be a borderline top-12 QB with 4,000 or more yards and 28 or more TDs.

San Diego Chargers QB Phillip Rivers & Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning


Update (11/25): Gordon was widely predicted as the top rookie running back in Fantasy Football. We once again fell into the trap of situation over ability. Gordon has clear deficiencies in his game, but was assumed to be the clear-cut feature back in San Diego. How easily Fantasy owners forget about little Danny Woodhead. Gordon is poor in pass protection and an inexperienced pass-catcher, plus fumbling has been an issue at times this season too. Through 11 games, the rookie is yet to score an NFL TD or rush for even 90 yards in a game. His season totals are 450 rushing yards on 3.5 yards per carry.

Gordon showed very good short-area quickness at this year's NFL combine while posting a solid 4.52 in the 40-yard dash. After limited touches in his first two years at Wisconsin (82/719 and four TDs), Melvin flashed his upside in 2013 when he ran for 1,609 yards and 12 TDs on 206 carries. Heading into 2014, Gordon appeared to be a one-dimensional speed runner with limited value between the tackles. He worked hard in the offseason to get stronger, which led to a monster senior year (343/2,587/29). In his college career, Melvin averaged 7.8 yards per rush behind a great offensive line. After only catching three balls in his first three years at college, Gordon pushed that number to 19 in 2014 with three receiving TDs. Last year the Chargers only averaged 3.4 yards per rush with eight rushing TDs. Rivers like to dump the ball to RBs (83/624/1), but Gordon needs to prove he can handle pass protection before earning any playing time on third downs plus his scouting report suggests he isn't a great receiver at this point of his career. For the Badgers, he saw 23-plus feet of open field on average per play, while the Chargers were barely creating a 10 foot crack. Melvin looks explosive, but he has a short resume of success for one of the best run-blocking teams in college football. San Diego will feed him the ball early and often as long as he doesn't fumble (he showed risk in this area in 2014). He's almost a lock to get 250 carries with minimal value on third down and in the passing game unless RB Branden Oliver or RB Danny Woodhead has an injury. His talent points to upside, but he may only finished with 1,200 combined yards with less than 10 TDs. Melvin looks to have a mid-tier RB2 opportunity with the key to his upside coming in the passing game. In the early draft season, he has an ADP of 45.5 as the 15th running back drafted in PPR league.


Update (11/25): As usual, almost everybody slept on Woodhead this summer and he's once again been an excellent source of PPR value. On top of a modest 64 carries for 237 yards and two TDs, he has an impressive 46 receptions for 530 yards and three TDs through the air. With all the injuries to the Chargers' pass-catchers, particularly the tight ends, Woodhead could end the season very strong. He's definitely the running back to own in San Diego. First-round pick Melvin Gordon is clearly a subpar option this year.

A broken leg ended Woodhead's season after Week 3 in 2014. Danny had 20 touches last year for 72 yards in what amounted to about two games. The previous season Woodhead delivered a top-12 RB season as a result of 76 catches and 1,034 combined yards with eight TDs. He had his success in an offense when RB Ryan Mathews had 311 touches. This year San Diego could use the same game model for the RB position, but Danny May have a third wheel in the equation (RB Branden Oliver). Woodhead is a solid pass-catching back with no explosiveness as a ball carrier. He'll see most of action on passing downs with a step back in opportunity. At best, 100 touches for about 650 yards with a couple TDs.


I don't think there is any doubt Johnson will emerge as the WR2 for the Chargers in 2015. After three straight seasons with 1,000-plus yards and 75-plus catches, Steve struggled through an injury plagued season with Bills in 2013 where he only caught 52 of his 101 targets for 597 yards with three TDs. His value never emerged in 2014 for the 49ers due to him being the third WR in San Fran and QB Colin Kaepernick struggling to make plays in the passing game. He flashed upside in Week 3 when Johnson caught all nine of his targets for 103 yards, but he finished year with the fourth-most WR snaps behind WR Anquan Boldin, WR Michael Crabtree, and WR Brandon Lloyd. This year he'll fill the void created by the loss of WR Eddie Royal (62/778/7 on 91 targets). Johnson will see more value of looks deeper downfield, which give him a baseline of 70-plus catches for 1,000-plus yards and a half dozen TDs. He'll play well in the Fantasy market as a WR3 with some upside. In the early draft season, Johnson has an ADP of 214, which makes him a WR6 as the 68th WR selected. At this price point, there is no risk with high upside.


Unfortunately, the possible dream of Floyd becoming a viable piece to a winning Fantasy team has drifted off into the sunset. Last year, he caught 52 passes for 856 yards with six TDs on 92 targets. His success led to him finishing as the 40th-ranked WR in PPR leagues with only one game with more than 15 fantasy points (5/103 with a TD on seven targets). Last year, Malcom didn't have one game with more than five catches. Floyd is a borderline flex player with value as a short-term injury cover or bye week fill-in. He'll add value to the deep passing game for Rivers, but Malcom will turn 34 in early September. When his name comes into play at the draft table, are you looking for a 50/750/5 player or someone with more upside?


Jones has never developed into a starting Fantasy WR in the NFL. He had best season in 2010 at age 25 when Jacoby caught 51 passes for 562 yards with three TDs on 78 targets. Over the last four seasons in the NFL, he's been nothing more than a WR4 for the Texans and Ravens with his best value coming in the return game. His stamp in football history will be his 70-yard game-tying TD in the closing minute of the 2012 AFC Divisional playoffs, which ultimately was the key play that paved the way for the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. Jones will backup WR Malcom Floyd with occasional value in four WR sets while upgrade the return game.


Update (11/25): Gates returned from his four-game PEDs suspension and it was like he never missed a beat. He immediately stepped back in as Philip Rivers' favorite target and even at 35 years old is one of the best tight ends in the league. In his first two games back he caught 18 passes for 187 yards and two TDs. However, he's since suffered a sprained MCL he's been playing through and is now dealing with a hip injury. In five games he has 29 receptions for 318 yards and two TDs. If he can stay healthy, there should be plenty of opportunities for the future Hall of Famer.

After a couple of down seasons, Gates has regained his top form over the last two years with a step-back in chances. Antonio finished seventh in the league in receiving yards (821) for the TE position while catching 70.4 percent of his 98 targets. His best value came at the goal-line (12 TDs). As good as he looks; Gates will start the year at age 35. He had the seventh most TE targets in the league as the No. 2 option in San Diego's passing game. Antonio has a great career resume with plus chemistry with Rivers. His upside in 2014 was created by the high volume of TDs, which isn't repeatable. Gates won't be a difference maker at the TE position. He will play at a high level when he is on the field and a Fantasy player won't need to overpay for his talent as most will fear the end is near. The Chargers' offense should be better this year with an upside RB on the roster. Gates should be in position for 60-plus catches for 700 or more yards with around five TDs.

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates


Fantasy owners were buying the Green juice in 2014 draft season as many expected Gates to fade off into the sunset. Ladarius barely had a pulse last year (29/226 with no TDs on 25 targets). He battled a hamstring injury early in the year and Green struggled with an ankle injury over the second half of the year. A concussion in early December led to minimal playing time late in the year. Ladarius brings big play ability to the TE position, but he has no fantasy value or opportunity with Gates healthy.


San Diego's defense has a favorable schedule against the run and the pass. Their best four games vs. the run are DET, CHI, and OAK (X 2) with the Bengals being their only tough matchup. The Chargers has eight games against teams with below par passing attacks. They will face four teams with strong passing games – GB, PIT, and DEN (X 2).

The Chargers allowed the 26th most rushing yards (1986) in 2014 with rushers gaining 4.5 yards per play while scoring 11 rushing TDs.

DE Kendall Reyes has struggled as a run defender in his three years in the league after getting drafted in the second round in 2012. Kendall only recorded one sack last year with minimal pressure on the QB. DE Corey Liuget has also played poorly in his career in the run game. He did show some growth in this area last year, but Liuget is still a below league average run defender with neutral value as a pass rusher (five sacks, nine QB hits, and 24 QB hurries). Corey is a former first round draft pick (2011). NT Sean Lissemore has never been a full time starter in the league and he had no value in the pass rush. Sean is expected to compete with NT Ryan Carrethers and NT Mitch Unrein. Carrethers may work his way into the starting lineup as a rotational run defender. Unrein has no value in the pass rush with a slim chance of earning starting snaps.

LB Donald Butler was one of the worst defenders at the linebacker position in 2014. He couldn't stop the run or the pass plus he was a liability in pass coverage. I expect him to lose the starting job to rookie LB Denzel Perryman who will be an upgrade in run support. LB Manti Te'o improve against the run last year, but he is still a below league average player. LB Tourek Williams isn't an asset with minimal starting experience. His best competition for playing time is rookie LB Kyle Emanuel who was selected in the fifth round of this year's draft. Kyle may add value to the pass rush with his best asset being his strength. LB Melvin Ingram has yet to make an impact after being selected in the first round in the 2012 NFL Draft. Last year he missed most of the season with a hip and hamstring injury. In his nine games in 2014, Ingram did flash upside as a pass rusher (four sacks, 12 QB hits, and 16 QB hurries).

S Eric Weddle is the Chargers best defender. Eric tends to play well supporting the run with excellent value in pass coverage. S Jahleel Addae is a weak option for the other safety spot in the starting lineup. Addae has never been a full-time starter in the league, but San Diego really doesn't have any other player of value as this position on the roster. CB Brandon Flowers is decent cover corner with neutral value in run support. Last year he allowed 42 catches for 618 yards with four TDs and three INTs on 75 targets. CB Patrick Robinson should get the start early in the year after 2014 first round draft pick CB Jason Verrett recovers from a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Verrett played well in his eight games last year in pass coverage (14/28 for 158 yards and two TDs). Robinson tends to be overmatched as starter while holding his own when used as the 3rd CB.

San Diego Chargers S Eric Weddle

San Diego only managed 26 sacks in 2014 and this year, their defense won't be much better in this area. The Chargers ended 2014 4th in the league in passing yards allowed (3427) with 24 TDs allowed and only seven INTs.

This defense has upside in three of the four position groups in the starting secondary with a third cornerback who will help in pass coverage. The linebackers only have one upside option with a possibly a second if rookie LB Denzel Perryman can handle a starting job. The defensive line has more weaknesses than upside. The Chargers' defense will only have occasional value as a matchup play in 2015.