The Los Angeles Chargers have felt like a team that plays below their talent level for years now.
They have had some talented players on both sides of the ball.
Next #Chargers coach will inherit…
QB Justin Herbert (on rookie deal)
RB Austin Ekeler
WR Keenan Allen
WR Mike Williams
DE Joey Bosa
DE Melvin Ingram
DT Linval Joseph
LB Drue Tranquill
LB Kenneth Murray
CB Casey Hayward
S Derwin James
The 13th pick in the draft
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) January 4, 2021
But injuries and poor coaching have held them back.
And recently-fired coach Anthony Lynn consistently mismanaged the clock late in games.
With that said, all is not bleak in LA.
Moving forward, the most important piece is in place: the franchise quarterback.
Another four touchdown game from Justin Herbert.
— NFL (@NFL) October 27, 2020
On the less-glamorous side of the ball, the Chargers have quality players at all 3 levels.
DE Bosa, LB Kenneth Murray, and S James are all great NFL players when healthy and should be returning from injury next season.
With nearly $30 million in projected cap space next season, they will be able to plug some holes in free agency.
However, their most pressing needs come at positions that are better to fill through the draft.
With a rookie QB established, the Chargers need to focus on keeping him upright by building their offensive line.
They also need to find a replacement for Melvin Ingram, who will probably be let go this offseason.
Replacement for Ingram
Melvin Ingram has been a talented pass rusher for the Chargers.
But he is on the wrong side of 30 and has dealt with injuries the past season.
With the 13th overall pick, they shouldn’t reach on an EDGE rusher as there is no stand-out prospect at that position this year.
Chargers place Melvin Ingram on IR, activate Chris Harris from IR https://t.co/ZPfZZ0EpC1
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 27, 2020
Instead, they should look to use their second or third-round pick.
Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver out of Pittsburgh are two guys worth a look on day 2.
They still have Bosa, and his return alone should bump them up from having the 8th fewest sacks in the league.
But playing in the same division as Patrick Mahomes means you can never have too many guys who can get to the QB.
The Chargers defensive line was only able to pressure the opposing QB on 22% of their dropbacks.
They were also middle of the pack in terms of QB hurries and QB knockdowns.
While some say cornerback is a more pressing need for LA, the return of Derwin James should help shore up a shaky secondary.
Having an elite pass rush can also help out the secondary by pressuring the QB into quick, risky throws.
Chargers Need Offensive Line Help
The Chargers offensive line needs work.
They were hit hard by injuries this season and didn’t perform when they were healthy.
Although Lamp & Feeney have started the whole season, technically speaking with Pouncey’s injury, the Chargers have backups at all 5 offensive line spots today. https://t.co/ONwMBnJbjo
— Drew (@achernandez17) January 3, 2021
With a rookie QB locked-in for the future, their main focus needs to be protecting him.
They surrendered 34 sacks while averaging 3.8 yards-per-rushing-attempt – 3rd worst in the league.
Thankfully for the Chargers, there are some quality offensive-line options in the draft.
Christian Darrisaw and Rashawn Slater are two highly-rated tackle prospects who could protect Herbert for years to come.
Highest-graded players in College Football
1) Kyle Pitts, Florida TE – 96.2
2) Brady Christensen, BYU OT – 96.0
3) Mac Jones, Bama QB – 95.7
4) Christian Darrisaw, VA Tech OT – 95.6
5) Zach Wilson, BYU QB – 95.4 pic.twitter.com/wB0KRQtZc0
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 8, 2021
Both are projected to be drafted around the 13th pick in the draft.
If LA needs day 2 options, Jalen Mayfield and Samuel Cosmi could be available.
Like REALLY Need Offensive Line Help
The offensive line was just flat-out bad this year.
As in ranked-last-by-Pro-Football-Focus bad.
We’ve already looked at offensive tackles as they are vital to protect the QBs blind side.
Here, we will check out some interior linemen.
Because the Chargers’ line needs help across the board.
Alex Leatherwood from Alabama has the size, strength, and experience to play both guard and tackle and should transition well to the NFL.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) January 8, 2021
The Bolts could also check out Wyatt Davis and Creed Humphrey to help bolster the interior of that line.
The Chargers need to use at least one and maybe even two of their first three picks on offensive linemen.
With the skill positions accounted for, it is on the line to make sure Herbert stays upright and lets the running back and receivers shine.