The Chargers are coming off their worst season since 2003, a disappointing 4-12 record, and things didn’t go very well this offseason, either. They had a long, drawn-out contract negotiation with their first-round draft pick DE Joey Bosa, who just signed a four-year deal with the team earlier this week, becoming the last first-round pick to sign with his team. Although he signed before he season, he missed essentially all of training camp and the preseason, meaning he will be at a distinct disadvantage in his rookie season so he won’t be able to help the defense — which was in the bottom-third of the league last season — as much as the team would’ve liked, which was probably why they went with a defensive player with the third overall pick in the draft. He likely won’t be ready to take the field in Week 1.
Despite the team’s poor record last season, QB Philip Rivers put up decent numbers, throwing for 4,792 yards with 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His most frequent target was RB Danny Woodhead, who had 80 receptions for 755 yards and 6 touchdowns. WR Keenan Allen was the most productive player among wide receivers, despite playing in just eight games, as he caught 67 passes for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns. Veteran TE Antonio Gates, who was limited to four games, added 56 receptions for 630 yards and 5 touchdowns. On the ground, RB Melvin Gordon had 184 carries for 641 yards, but no touchdowns, in his rookie season. Woodhead added 336 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns to his receiving totals. The defense ranked 22nd in the league with 398 points allowed and was tied for 22nd with 11 interceptions.
Allen will look to bounce back from his disappointing, injury-plagued season in 2015. He’ll be joined in the receiving game by WR Travis Benjamin, who signed with the Chargers in the offseason. Gates, at 36, is in the twilight of his career and needs to step up after the departure of TE Ladarius Green in the offseason. With a year under his belt, Gordon should do better in his sophomore season than he did last year, and Woodhead provides a nice complement to him as the pass-catching running back.
The Chargers’ schedule begins on the road at the Chiefs before hosting the Jaguars in Week 2. The Chargers get back-to-back divisional games in Weeks 5 and 6, when they visit the Raiders and host the Broncos, respectively. The Chargers then head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week 7 before the return matchup with the Broncos on the road in Week 8. The Dolphins come to San Diego in Week 10, leading into the Chargers’ Week 11 bye, which is followed by a road game at the Texans. The Chargers visit the Panthers in Week 14, then host the Raiders in Week 15. The Chargers finish the 2016 campaign at home against the Chiefs in Week 17. I think the Chargers will be better than they were last season, and I’m projecting a 8-8 record, which would double their win total from 2015.