The game of football is a brutal sport. The act of playing the game can easily result in nagging injuries that linger throughout the whole grueling 16 plus game season. Pestering injuries are one thing, but the 2015 San Diego Chargers were absolutely annihilated by hurt players seemingly everywhere on the team.
Despite being crippled by injuries the Chargers were surprisingly in most of the games they lost. The team continually failed when crunch time arose, but the fact the team played well despite being short-handed bodes well for the future of this team. If the team can play decently with a debilitated staff, imagine what they could do with a healthy squad of players. This year the team has a chance to be special and like every football team, injuries are a huge part. Hopefully the teams strength and conditioning team has improved and the Bolts will not suffer from constant issues.
This list of Chargers that were hurt last season is really extensive. Even more than typical team suffers during the football season. That is what prompted this article. Lets start with the offense where the first setback of the season was not even injury related. Antonio Gates was suspended four games to start the season after testing positive for a PED. Gates claims he unknowingly consumed something that resulted in the tainted test. His loss was a shock to the team, but the team still managed to go 2-2 while he was out of the lineup. Ironically the team only won two more games the rest of the season with Gates in the lineup. He is another year older, but should still be in store for a decent year with Philip Rivers behind center.
Gates understudy Ladarius Green, who left town in the offseason to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, also suffered injury issues last season which was his forte as a Charger. Green battled an ankle injury the whole year and was really not at full speed while playing only 13 games on the year. He has been replaced by a combination of Hunter Henry and Jeff Cumberland. The rookie Henry represents the future. He will have growing pains but learning from Gates and Cumberland will help the rookie develop. This trio represents a great combo for Rivers in the 2016 season.
The wide receivers were hit hard by injuries last year. Keenan Allen was on way to a career year before injuring his kidney on a touchdown pass in Baltimore in week eight. He went up for the catch and came hard down on the ball in the end zone. He left the game immediately and was diagnosed with a lacerated kidney. His 2015 season was over. Malcom Floyd announced his retirement before the season and was unfortunately the victim of a head and shoulder injury. He played sporadically at the end of the year for the Chargers, but was obviously banged up. Steven Johnson and Dontrelle Inman also missed time with injuries as the Bolts were forced to call on ex-Charger Vincent Brown to provide depth at the position.
Next up was the running back position where the Bolts were not spared. Melvin Gordon was supposed to have a great rookie season, but he failed to even record a touch down in his first year in the NFL. Offensive line issues were a major factor, but the running back also injured a knee late in the year and only played in 14 games on the season. Earlier in the year Branden Oliver was lost after only eight games with a turf toe injury. The small in size Oliver provides an excellent change of pace to the larger Melvin Gordon. Are you seeing a common theme here?
No other unit was as decimated by injuries than the offensive line. All but one starter, Joe Barksdale missed game action as the line was in shambles pretty much the whole year. King Dunlap, D.J. Fluker, Orlando Franklin and Chris Watt all missed time. Watt was lost for the season after five games and the team struggled to find a replacement at center. Trevor Robinson came in and was not spectacular at the position. Not having a viable center can really make communication with the entire line impossible. The team and its play was difficult to watch at times last season.
The defense was also hurt by injuries in 2015. The secondary unit was hit hard as Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers, Jahleel Addae and Eric Weddle all missed time with injuries. On top of those four starters at defensive back, rookie DB Craig Mager missed six games on the season too. The unit was banged up and health will definitely be a key for the 2016 season. The addition of Casey Hayward will be huge as he as a solid reputation as a great cover guy in the slot position. With Flowers and Verrett healthy and covering the outside, the coverage should be excellent all year-long. Provided the team stays healthy.
The front seven on the defense was also banged up for the Bolts last season. Manti Te’o missed four games, Corey Liuget missed six games, Jeremiah Attaochu missed four games and Sean Lissemore missed five games. The whole Chargers team was truly banged up as even punter Mike Scifres was banged up during the year. There is no doubt that injuries were a key reason why the Chargers only won four games last season. As mentioned they were in many games but lack of depth from injuries really effected them in crunch time.
The 2016 season is just around the corner and surely the team will have better luck this season. They cannot continue to be decimated by injuries and expect to succeed. Melvin Gordon and his knee injury are a concern at the moment. He claims he will be ready and at full-speed when pre-season starts. That remains to be seen. The team will definitely not rush him back from knee surgery. He will be brought in when he proves he can cut and take a pounding on his surgically repaired knee. Keenan Allen and Jason Verrett must play all 16 games and be productive. These two are the Chargers future on both sides of the ball.
The game of football is certainly a sport of gladiators and with that injuries are part of the game. The team was killed last season by constant nagging injuries that really took their toll on the team. Both physically and psychologically the team was effected. Seeing your teammates go down to injury week after week can be an absolute problem. The 2016 season is almost here and the San Diego Chargers should have a quality year as long as the majority of the team can stay on the field. That will be the first key to success, beyond that the players must execute and play as a team. Something they have lacked from time to time under coach McCoy. This is an important year for the coach. Injuries or not, the team must play better. Go Chargers!