Chargers Face Broncos Sunday
Lost to Broncos 20-13 Earlier in Season
November 28, 2019
The Los Angeles Chargers enter the final five weeks of the season with a lot of questions. Coming off a bye, the team has had a week to reflect on what has been a disappointing season to this point. The Chargers have a record of 4-7 and are a long shot to make the playoffs. For a team that was favored by most NFL experts to make the playoffs and by some to go to the Super Bowl, this has been a frustrating season for the Chargers.
More than any other issue, injuries have decimated the Chargers. On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers lost All-Pro safety Derwin James with a foot injury before the season started. James was the best defensive player on the Chargers last season and one of the best young defensive players in the NFL. The Chargers also lost defensive back Adrian Phillips, an All-Pro selection on special teams.
On offense, the Chargers lost star center Mike Pouncey to a neck injury for the season. Pouncey was a Pro Bowl selection at center in 2018. Russell Okung, the Chargers pro bowl left tackle, has missed eight games this season. Okung suffered a Pulmonary Embolism caused by blood clots and missed the first seven games of the season. He missed the game against the Chiefs and most of the game against the Raiders with a groin pull.
Pouncey and Okung are the Chargers two best offensive lineman. They were difficult to replace. The Chargers also suffered injuries to starting right tackle Sam Tevi, who underwent surgery to have his meniscus scoped on November 8th and is out for a few weeks. They lost starting left guard Forrest Lamp for the season with a broken fibula in the Titan's game.
The injuries have affected the running game, which went four straight games without rushing for 40 yards, something that had not happened in the NFL in over four decades. Without a running game, quarterback Philip Rivers has not looked comfortable in the pocket. He has forced passes downfield, resulting in interceptions. The Chargers have not had the deep speed they have had in the past, with the loss of Tyrell Williams to free agency and Travis Benjamin to a season ending injury.
So, the final five games will help Charger management to decide what their most pressing needs are. Running back Melvin Gordon is a free agent and is thought to be gone. His holdout over a contract extension did not help him or the Chargers. Tight end Hunter Henry is a free agent and a priority free agent signing.
The Chargers need to sign him and add depth at this position. The Chargers need speed on the outside and a lot of help on the offensive line. The depth has just not proven to be very good.
Rivers is coming off a 2018 season where he completed 68.3% of his passes, with 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions in 16 games.
He threw for a total of 4,308 yards and led his team to a 12-4 regular season record and a playoff victory over the Ravens in Baltimore. This season he has thrown for 15 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Seven of these interceptions have come in the past two games. The yardage and completion percentage are still good, but the mistakes are killing the Chargers.
Rivers is a free agent after this season, and he could simply leave. Rivers is being paid $16 million this season and will probably want an increase and extension to stay. The Chargers can use the franchise tag to hold on to Rivers fir the 2020 season, but that is expensive. The franchise tag for quarterbacks in 2019 was set at $24.8 million. The question for Rivers is, does he want to come back? The question for the Chargers, do they want him back? Rivers will be 38 in December.
This week, it is Bronco week, as the Chargers travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. Game time is set for 1:25 PT on Sunday, December 1s. The Broncos are division rivals with a record of 3-8 this season. The record is deceiving, as the Broncos still have a top ten defense. The Bronco offense is ranked 27th in the NFL but their defense keeps games close. The Chargers are aware of this, since they lost earlier this season at home to the Broncos, 20-13.