The 2016 season has been disappointing for the San Diego Chargers, but it has also been a competitive one.
The Chargers have a record of 4-6 with a three percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN. All six losses have been by eight points or less. We knew the offense would be good with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL under center, Philip Rivers. However, surprisingly, the defense has shown some great promise with young players ready to make an impact now, and into the future.
The Chargers started the 2016 season without their first round pick, defensive end Joey Bosa. The defensive player from Ohio State was the third pick overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. Bosa held out of training camp and missed the first four games of the season. The Chargers went 1-3 without Bosa and clearly needed some pass rush help up front.
Before week five, Bosa finally signed a deal, four years worth $26 million dollars. He has had his best games against the Raiders and Falcons this season, combining for four sacks and ten tackles. In his other games played, he combined for five tackles. When he is not making plays, he is often seen double and triple-teamed, causing other players to make plays on the ball. That clears the way for two players in particular, Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman.
Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman are not your prototypical inside linebackers. Both are listed at about 5’11 to 6″0, and height doesn’t phase these guys. Drafted in the fifth round of this year’s 2016 draft, Brown has three sacks and 54 tackles on his rookie campaign. His speed and toughness allows him to penetrate the line and make the tackle. His fellow teammate, Denzel Perryman, started making an impact last year and has continued that success this season. With 33 tackles, one sack, and one interception, he figures to tandem with Brown for years to come.
Making the Pro Bowl last year, Jason Verrett has been the star of the defense. Another guy who is undersized at 5’9, he can lock down on any receiver on the football field. He had 13 tackles and one interception this year before tearing his ACL against the Saints in week four.
With these four guys anchoring the Chargers defense, the team may look at the 2017 draft as a chance to fill some holes on the roster. One idea is going after more defensive linemen. With Bosa and Liuget leading the line, the Chargers could get an additional piece to help those two pass rushers. A second idea is possibly going after an offensive linemen. With the addition of Matt Slauson this off-season, the Chargers have their center for the immediate future.
However, the guard and tackle positions could easily be upgraded. Rivers is not getting any younger and could use some more help when it comes to protection. Lastly, the Chargers safety position is still a big question mark. By signing Dwight Lowery and using Adrian Phillips and Dexter McCoil at the position, the team still hasn’t worked out the back-end of the defense since the departure of Eric Weddle to Baltimore. The Chargers have allowed 30 or more points six times this season. It’s hard to imagine a team with Weddle in the defensive backfield getting burned that often.
Looking ahead, the Chargers defense looks to be a unit that will get better for years to come. Health will be a major factor, but this team has plenty of young playmakers on defense. The 2017 draft will be interesting, as perhaps the team adds to this young defensive unit.