The Chargers will be entering the regular season a bit short-handed after getting hit by some big injuries in training camp. CB Jason Verrett and TE Hunter Henry are expected to miss the season with a torn achilles and a torn ACL, respectively. The Henry injury is particularly damaging, as the third-year player was expected to get the bulk of playing time at the position following the retirement of veteran TE Antonio Gates. After Henry suffered the season-ending injury, there was speculation that Gates may return to the team for 2018, but that has not yet happened.That leaves TE Virgil Green as the No. 1 guy on the depth chart in his first year with the team
The Chargers ranked fourth in the NFL with 6,026 yards, but they were 20th with 355 points. QB Philip Rivers threw for 4,515 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. WR Keenan Allen had 102 receptions for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns, with WR Tyrell Williams adding 43 catches for 728 yards and four touchdowns. WR Travis Benjamin caught 34 passes for 567 yards and four scores. Green had just 14 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown with the Broncos last season. RB Melvin Gordon was the team’s leading rusher, with 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns on 284 carries; he also had 58 receptions — the second most on the team — for 476 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie RB Austin Ekeler showed some promising signs in limited playing time, totaling 47 rushes for 260 yards and two touchdowns, with 27 receptions for another 279 yards and three touchdowns. The defense ranked 15th in yards allowed but gave up the third-fewest points in the league.
The Chargers begin their season at home against the Chiefs, then head to Buffalo to take on the Bills in Week 2. They return to Los Angeles in Week 3, but they’re the designated road team when they take on the Rams. The battle of L.A. is followed by home games against the 49ers and Raiders. The Chargers visit the Browns in Week 6, host the Titans in Week 7 and have their bye in Week 8. Coming out of the bye, they have road games against the Seahawks and Raiders in Weeks 9 and 10, respectively. They host the Broncos and Cardinals the following two weeks, then visit the Steelers in Week 13. The Chargers return home in Week 14 to take on the Bengals, then visit the Chiefs in Week 15. Their final home game comes in Week 16 against the Ravens, and they finish off their schedule at the Broncos in Week 17.
The Chargers’ 9-7 record last year was a four-game improvement over 2016 and they still have a good offense, but it’s not as good as it would be if Henry didn’t suffer his season-ending injury. Rivers has a good receiving core to throw to and Gordon is one of the best running backs in the league. I would expect Ekeler to be thrown into the mix more in the running game to save Gordon some reps. The tight end position is worrisome, though, with Green as the starter. He has never had more than 22 receptions in a season in his seven seasons with the Broncos. Overall, I think the Chargers still have a good enough team to finish around .500, possibly repeat their 9-7 record from a year ago. If things turn their way, the Chargers could compete for one of the wild cards in the AFC as they look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.