It is out with the old and in the with the new for the Chargers this season. Having moved out of San Diego and in to Los Angeles, they quickly got rid of head coach Mike McCoy after four years at the helm.
Former Buffalo Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn was the man chosen to led the Chargers in to this brave new world the Spanos family has decided to throw the team in to. Many believe Dean and his family must already be living in LaLa Land if they think this switch will work but could there be light at the end of the tunnel?
The move away from America’s finest city to tinsel town is a huge gamble to take given how the Chargers do not have the same established fan base in LA as the Rams or Raiders. They also do not have a winning football team to attract would-be supporters to the StubHub Center, the Bolts going 5-11 last season after a 4-12 campaign the year before.
The Chargers have therefore got it all to do if they are to crack Hollywood and establish a new fanbase, with the old one unlikely to lend a hand after the Spanos’ took away their team of 56 years. This has always been a badly run franchise though so the decision to up root and move to LA came as no surprise to many Bolts.
A winning team is the only way the Chargers can succeed in LA so the pressure in on Lynn, a man whose head coaching experience amounted to one game in Buffalo before the start of this season. Lynn took the decision to keep on Ken Whisenhunt as offensive co-ordinator and bring in Gus Bradley to take charge of the defence, both men who have head coaching experience in the hope they can guide him through his first year.
The former Denver running back has some talent on the roster to work with, most notable future hall of fame (fingers crossed) quarter-back Phil Rivers. The 35-year- old’s ability to single-handedly carry the Chargers to victory may have diminished but he no longer has to shoulder the burden alone following the emergence of running back Melvin Gordon.
After a rookie season to forget, Gordon ran for 997 yards and recorded 10 touchdowns last season, taking the strain off Rivers in several games. Given Lynn’s past, it is expected he will move away from the passing game and give Gordon as many touches as possible.
The running game looked strong in the season-opener at Denver but, by Lynn’s own omission, they lost patience with it after falling behind. Look for them to rely more heavily on the run in future games.
The passing game should still be strong, especially after the improvements made to the offensive line following the addition of Russell Okung, while third round draft choice Dan Feeney will be expected to make an impact down the line. The loss of second round Forrest Lamp to a serious ending injury was a major blow as plenty were excited to see him trying to keep the pocket clean for Rivers.
Lamp isn’t the only one of the Bolts’ picks to go down with injury, first round choice wide receiver Mike Williams having missed nearly the entire off-season with a back injury. He will be a big weapon when he is fit and keeping him off the PUP suggests he would get a few snaps soon.
While the Chargers have nearly always been known for their offensive, the tables are perhaps starting to turn given the addition of Joey Bosa last year.
The third overall pick in the 2016 draft might have missed the first four games of last season but still went on to be named offensive rookie of the year. He is a defensive talent who could go on to earn parity with the likes of Von Miller and JJ Watt if he stays on is current path.
Joining Bosa in trying to cause havoc at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield is Melvin Ingram, who was awarded a bumper $66million four-year contract during the off-season.
Bosa and Ingram are joined by an exciting supporting cast, including corner Casey Hayward, who lead the league in interceptions last season, linebacker Jatavis Brown and corner Jason Verrett.
The Chargers also added Desmond King to the mix in the fifth round of this year’s draft and he showed enough during the pre-season to get the fans excited. He was only on the field for two snaps against Denver but still managed to make a big play. Watch this space with him.
Given the talent on both sides of the ball, the big question is can the Chargers mount a serious play-off challenge this season? The short answer is probably not. The AFC West is arguably the toughest division in football right now and it could well be that three teams from that group make the play-off this year given the strength of Oakland, Kansas City and Denver. The Bolts have a tricky schedule too with trips to Dallas, New England and New York twice to look forward to, and yes I know the Jets suck!
If a wildcard spot is out of reach then the target must be to improve and for Lynn to show signs he is moulding a team capable of challenging in the future. After a solid draft and with the main pieces having stuck around, 8-8 or 7-9 would at least represent progress.
Charger fans are sick of seeing their team find new and painful ways to lose, therefore a winning mentality is a must for not only Lynn, but for the franchise as a whole. Everyone loves a winner, no more so than in LA, and triumphs are what it is going to take for the Bolts to build a new home and write their own Hollywood blockbuster.