This recent game against the Dolphins is the first game all season where the Chargers’ injury losses were the main cause, if not the only cause, of the loss.
Here is the list of players Philip Rivers threw to in Sunday’s game (in parentheses I list the players’ draft level and number of targets):
- Tyrell Williams (Undrafted Free Agent – 11)
- Antonio Gates (UDFA – 9)
- Melvin Gordon (1st round pick – 8)
- Dontrelle Inman (UDFA – 8)
- Sean McGrath (UDFA – 1)
- Hunter Henry (2nd round – 2)
- Griff Whalen (UDFA – 1)
- Isaiah Burse (UDFA – 1)
And here are the receivers (WRs, TEs, and RBs) who were inactive and/or on Reserved-Injured (again, in parentheses is the players’ draft level):
- Travis Benjamin (4th round)
- Keenan Allen (3rd round)
- Steven Johnson (7th round)
- Jeff Cumberland (UDFA)
- Javontee Herndon (UDFA)
- Branden Oliver (UDFA)
- Danny Woodhead (UDFA)
Now granted, Gates is a future Hall of Fame inductee, and Williams was a nice find. But the Chargers have to invest more (i.e. higher draft picks) on premiere players who will catch and carry the ball. But we’ll talk more about that in a bit.
Philip Rivers threw four interceptions. Part of why is shown above, and Rivers now has 146 interceptions in 174 career games. He’s not going to have many games like this. The irony is that it came against the Dolphins. The Dolphins are not as injury depleted as the Chargers are but they were missing key cornerbacks. The Chargers should have been able to take advantage.
The Chargers thought they were going to be able to run the ball more effectively. Heck, both teams did. The Chargers ran the ball 24 times for 70 yards. The Dolphins ran it 25 times for 106 yards.
The Dolphins only gained 337 yards in the game. But the Dolphins won the turnover battle 4-1. It’s hard to win a game when you lose that particular battle in such a lop-sided fashion.
One last thing I want to point out from Sunday’s game, the Dolphins were penalized almost three times as often as the Chargers (11 to 4) but there were several plays were I saw clear pass interference and/or defensive holding on Miami DBs that went uncalled. It doesn’t make an already hard situation any easier when they’re allowed to get away with illegal level of physicality…to be fair, I saw the Chargers get away with that on at least two occasions as well.
With the 6th loss on the season, the Chargers are probably eliminated from the playoffs. Even if the Chargers win all of their final six games, it’s hard to see the Broncos losing three or more of their last six games and/or the Chiefs or Raiders losing four of their final seven. The season is not mathematically over, but the Chargers are in a deep hole.
Additionally, while this was the first loss where I wasn’t cursing Mike McCoy’s name, I still think he is part of the problem, not part of the solution. In part because of my opinion of McCoy, I keep thinking about next season. And as I look at the Chargers roster and what the team’s biggest need is for the 2017 season, and despite the glaring need to upgrade the “skill” positions, I go back and forth between safety and offensive tackle.
The Chargers have been surprisingly resilient on defense but safety is clearly not a team strength. Likewise, while Barksdale was above average last season, he has been one of the worst offensive tackles in all of the NFL this season. I cannot help but wonder if he’s dealing with a nagging injury. This team clearly needs to upgrade the O-line.
As I start my early look at the 2017 NFL draft, I see 3 players who fit the Chargers needs and who should be available when the Chargers pick in the 10-18 range. As it stands now, I would draft LSU’s safety, Jamal Adams (assuming Michigan’s LB/S, Jabril Peppers is already off the board) in the first, and Virginia Tech’s WR/TE, Bucky Hodges in the second, and
UCLA’s OT Conor McDermott USC’s Zach Banner in the third.
If the Chargers had better health, they would have won this game. If they have improved health next season, they’re a playoff team. If they can upgrade at a few key positions and get a better head coach, they’re Super Bowl contenders.
Thanks for reading.