Sometimes in life there are days or even months when nothing seems to go right. No matter what you do, no matter what you try, nothing helps to rectify the situation. The issues continue to pile up and you get overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. That sums up the 2016 San Diego Chargers season.
The team easily could have finished above .500 and within contention of a playoff berth, but instead they finished 4-12 and continually dropped games in new tragic manners week in and week out. Fans were already in bad shape mentally by the potential loss of the Chargers to the Los Angeles market. I don’t know if that uncertainty rattled the team, but they just did not play with much heart as a group.
Philip Rivers had a great year despite consistent injuries to his offensive line and to his receiving corp. The Chargers brought in Orlando Franklin prior to the 2015 season and he was to anchor a line that was to be one of the best in football. That just never took place for the Chargers as the line was constantly banged up. Chris Watt was injured early on and the team had to put him on the I.R. in late October. That seemed to have a trickle down effect as each member of the starting offensive line was hurt at one point during the season.
Franklin missed time with an injury as did D.J. Fluker and King Dunlap. The line was in shambles all season long and the production from the offense suffered greatly. Hopefully these three men can stay healthy and remain a unit for the whole season.
The Chargers are invested heavily in this trio on the line so when it came to free agency it really wasn’t a huge surprise the team didn’t go after a high-priced lineman. They instead chose to re-sign two lineman that were surprises for the Bolts in 2016. Joe Barksdale and Chris Hairston played in all 16 games and both were dependable for the Chargers in a season where everyone seemed to be injured. Lineman were dropping like flies, but these two were the only guys who continually played.
Barksdale was rewarded just before free agency opened with a four-year/$22.2 million dollar deal with $10.5 million of it guaranteed. The Chargers could not afford to lose the big lineman as he has started and played in 16 games for the last two seasons. In 2013 for the Buffalo Bills he played in all 16 games, while starting 13. He has proven to be very durable and that is what the Chargers truly need.
About five million dollars a season for Barksdale is on par to his worth. The team did rewarded him for his play though. That you can be sure of. Philip Rivers mentioned Barksdale a couple of times during the season and spoke about his importance to the team. He understood that the lineman was a pivotal part of keeping him healthy in a season where his lineman were often injured.
Before the 2015 season Barksdale was signed by the Chargers for around $1.5 million dollars. The team was looking for a valuable backup and instead they got a starter at right tackle for the next few years at least. Barksdale played in 1,043 offensive snaps and had a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.3 on the 2015 season. He could improve on his numbers with some stability around him. Having a healthy Fluker, Franklin and Dunlap could do wonders for Joe Barksdale.
Chris Hairston was signed on Wednesday morning to a two-year deal. The mammoth sized lineman proved to be valuable simply because of his versatility. He played every line position except for center in 2015 and started 11 games for the Chargers to boot. Not only did he start 11 games, but he was heavily used in all 16 games and racked up 820 snaps on offense for the season. That was his career high as Hairston played in roughly 2/3 of the Chargers offensive snaps.
Even though his Pro Football Reference grade was a 36.2 which put him 65th out of 77 lineman, he showed that versatility and also improved on the season. Right now Hairston will be the first reserve off the bench. The fact he has experience at all four positions makes him extremely useful for the team. He did improve his play as the season rolled on and hopefully that is a sign of his progression.
After a severe ankle injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week five, Hairston came back and played 92 snaps at Green Bay the following week and showed his toughness to the whole team. It is play like that which earned him a contract despite his poor performance from time to time. The big lineman should also improve with consistent play around him. Hopefully the 2016 Chargers can stay healthy. If they can, the Chargers team could have a dramatic turn around and become a viable force in the AFC West.