Monthly Archives: May 2017

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SAN DIEGO — He has not played a full, 16-game season since entering the league as a first-round selection of the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2015 draft, but running back Melvin Gordon should serve as the engine of the team’s offense in 2017.

New head coach Anthony Lynn wants to lean on the running game, creating more balance on offense and taking some pressure off quarterback Philip Rivers to carry the load. That should mean more touches for Gordon, particularly closing out games in the fourth quarter.

It’s one of the reasons I’m bullish on Gordon for fantasy leagues this year. Gordon was ranked as the No. 8 running back in our ESPN Fantasy Football Summit, and I think that’s too low.

Gordon finished with 1,416 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns last season despite missing the final three games of the year. I think he can put up even better numbers in 2017. The key for Gordon will be staying healthy.

Lynn will do a better job of keeping Gordon fresh throughout the season by sprinkling in his stable of running backs throughout the game, including Branden Oliver, Andre Williams and Kenjon Barner. So, unlike last year, Gordon should not wear down by the end of the season.

Gordon was selected at the end of the second round by ESPN Insider Field Yates in our Fantasy Football Summit mock draft, the No. 8 running back picked. Again, Gordon should have been picked higher in my opinion.

Other Chargers that appear on the ESPN NFL fantasy rankings include Rivers at No. 15 among quarterbacks.

Keenan Allen is ranked 20th among receivers, while Mike Williams is No. 45 and Tyrell Williams is No. 47. I would flip-flop Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams. Rookie receivers usually have a rough transition in their first year.

Among the tight ends, Hunter Henry is No. 10 and Antonio Gates is No. 22. That seems about right, as there likely will be more of an emphasis to get Henry the ball now that the Arkansas product is in his second season.

Rivers should get more love in fantasy. He usually finishes among the top 15 in fantasy points scored among quarterbacks. Rivers hasn’t missed a start in more than a decade, and he throws a lot of touchdowns when the Chargers get into the red zone.

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers comes in at No. 73 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2017. He was No. 46 on the list last season.

Rivers is the second player from the Chargers on the list. Following his rookie season, Joey Bosa debuted at No. 100.

My take: Rivers once again made a lot of plays last season, throwing for 4,386 yards and 33 touchdowns, but he also had a league-high 21 interceptions in 2016. Taking care of the football is a point of emphasis for the Chargers this offseason.

In this ESPN insider piece, Mike Clay writes that the Chargers will be much better than their No. 25 position in ESPN’s post-draft NFL Power Rankings. Clay is one of the panelists polled for the rankings, and he had the Chargers at No. 6 on his list.

Clay writes, “The Chargers need to overcome a tough division, but they have the easiest schedule in the [AFC] West, which will help launch them to the playoffs in 2017.”

My take: Clay points out the Chargers will get two key pieces back from injury in cornerback Jason Verrett and receiver Keenan Allen. And with the addition of Russell Okung in free agency and Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the draft, the offensive line should improve. I agree.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com talks with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt about some of the tinkering Whisenhunt is doing to the offense this offseason.

My take: Whisenhunt said the addition of Mike Williams improves the depth at receiver but also increases the competition level in practice, and that will be something to watch during training camp.

Tom Krasovic of The San Diego Union-Tribune writes that Rivers is still mulling whether to commute from his home north of San Diego or move his family closer to the team’s new home of Costa Mesa in Orange County once the facility is complete in August.

My take: With wife Tiffany and eight children, moving a family is much more involved for Rivers, even if it’s just a few hours. So it will be interesting to see whether Rivers decides to commute or move.

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SAN DIEGO — The Los Angeles Chargers are scheduled to host a rookie minicamp from May 12-14 and start organized team activities on May 16.

The Chargers didn’t make any trades during this year’s draft, adding seven draft picks and 15 undrafted rookie free agents.

However, the new acquisitions put the Chargers at 92 players, so they have to make a couple moves to get down to 90.

Obviously, this roster will change throughout the offseason and up until training camp. For now, the list below provides a good snapshot of where the team stands at each position.

“We’re all happy right now,” Chargers GM Tom Telesco told ESPN’s NFL Live, when asked about the roster. “We’ll get them on the field for minicamps, and then training camp, and see who can earn a role and win a job.”

That said, I thought we should take a first look at the team’s 90-man roster.

CURRENT ROSTER (92 players)

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Quarterback (4): Starter — Philip Rivers. Reserves — Kellen Clemens, Mike Bercovici, Eli Jenkins.

The skinny: For a second straight year, the Chargers did extensive work but did not select a developmental quarterback in the draft. However, they did sign an undrafted rookie in Eli Jenkins out of Jacksonville State. And head coach Anthony Lynn said he likes what he has seen so far in Bercovici, who was with the team in training camp last year. “He moves the ball up and down the field,” Lynn said about Bercovici. “He understands the offense. He has a ways to go, don’t get me wrong, but I think he brings something to the table those other two don’t have because he’s a little more mobile. And he can get out of the pocket and do some things as well. I like some of his traits and intangibles.”

Running back (7): Starter — Melvin Gordon. Reserves — Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, Andre Williams, Kenjon Barner, Austin Ekeler. FB: Derek Watt.

The skinny: After a bounce-back second year I’m interested to see how Gordon continues to develop as more of a focal point of the Chargers’ offense in his third season. Williams should be given an opportunity to earn a role as Gordon’s backup on early downs. And I would expect Barner and Oliver to duke it out for the third-down role left vacant by the departure of Danny Woodhead. Overall, it’s a solid group.

Receivers (12): Starters — Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams. Reserves — Dontrelle Inman, Mike Williams, Isaiah Burse, Jamaal Jones, Da’Ron Brown, Geremy Davis, Andre Patton, Artavis Scott, Dontre Wilson.

The skinny: Because of the talent and production already on the roster, the Chargers have the luxury of taking their time to develop Mike Williams. However, I’m sure offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will find a role in the offense for the Clemson product like he did with Hunter Henry last season. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Davis is another player to watch at the back end of the roster.

Tight end (6): Starter — Antonio Gates. Reserves — Hunter Henry, Sean McGrath, Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, Sean Culkin.

The skinny: With Gates and Henry, tight end is one of the strongest positions on offense. McGrath did a nice job of carving out a role as a run-blocker last season. The addition of Cumberland, who is coming back from an Achilles tendon tear, adds more athleticism to the position group.
It’s just a matter of time before second-round pick Forrest Lamp cracks the starting lineup. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Offensive line (16): Starters — LT Russell Okung, LG Orlando Franklin, C Spencer Pulley, RG Matt Slauson, RT Joe Barksdale. Reserves — G Forrest Lamp, C Max Tuerk, T Chris Hairston, G-T Kenny Wiggins, T Tyreek Burwell, G Dan Feeney, G Donavon Clark, T Brett Boyko, T Sam Tevi, T Mason Zandi, C Dillon Deboer.

The skinny: First off, the projected starting five will change with the addition of Lamp and Feeney. But I would like to see everyone on the field first before slotting those two into the starting lineup. My guess is Lamp will start out at left guard, but we’ll see how the offense lines up in a few weeks. Overall, Telesco did a nice job of upgrading the talent level of this group after standing pat last year.

Defensive line (14): Starters — DE Joey Bosa, DT Corey Liuget, NT Brandon Mebane, LEO Melvin Ingram. Reserves — NT Ryan Carrethers, DT Tenny Palepoi, DE Darius Philon, NT Damion Square, DT Caraun Reid, DE Isaac Rochell, DT Zamir Carlis, DT Kaleb Eulls, LEO Jeremiah Attaochu, LEO Chris Landrum.

The skinny: The Chargers should have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL if everyone plays to their potential. Having Bosa for a full season should be big, and players like Square, Palepoi, Philon and Reid should be solid rotational players up front. Attaochu and Landrum provide good depth at edge rusher.

Linebackers (11): Starters — Kyle Emanuel (strongside), Denzel Perryman (middle), Jatavis Brown (weakside). Reserves — ILB Nick Dzubnar, ILB Joshua Perry, ILB Nigel Harris, ILB Mike Moore, ILB James Onwualu, LB Korey Toomer, LB Carlos Fields, LB Chris McCain .

The skinny: We’ll see how this group adjusts to a 4-3 alignment. Perryman will be the defensive playcaller and says he feels comfortable in that role. Toomer provides versatility, with his ability to play both inside and outside. Someone to watch for on the back end of the roster is Notre Dame product Onwualu, a former receiver who converted to linebacker in college.

Safeties (8): Starters — Jahleel Addae, Dwight Lowery. Reserves — Darrell Stuckey, Adrian Phillips, Dexter McCoil, Adrian McDonald, Rayshawn Jenkins, Desmond King.
The skinny: I’m somewhat surprised the Chargers did not select a safety early in the draft, but both Jenkins and King have a chance to contribute if they can pick up things quickly. Addae has to figure out a way to stay on the field for 16 games this season.

Cornerbacks (10) Starters — Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett. Reserves — Craig Mager, Michael Davis, Randall Evans, Mike Lee, Trovon Reed, Brandon Stewart, Brad Watson, Trevor Williams.

The skinny: The Chargers did not select a corner in this year’s draft, an indication they like young players on the roster like Mager, Reed and Williams. Like Addae, Verrett needs to stay healthy for the defense to perform at a high level.

Specialists (4): Starters — [K] Josh Lambo, [P] Drew Kaser, [LS] Mike Windt. Reserve – [K] Younghoe Koo.

The skinny: Lambo is talented but seemed to perform better when he had a competition two years ago with Nick Novak — hence, the addition of Koo. Barner and Burse should be in the mix in the competition at returner. Re-signing Windt in free agency adds stability to this young group.