I can no longer think about the Chargers without first thinking about Antonio Gates destroying the Seattle Seahawks four years ago. Just can’t do it. That’s the first and sometimes the only thought in my head:
7 catches, 93 yards, 3 touchdowns
Seahawks lose 30-21, their first loss about more than a touchdown in years.
And wouldn’t you know it, after a brief hiatus from relevance because of age and the emergence of Hunter Henry, LA’s awful news on Tuesday could turn into a reunion with Gates by Friday: Henry is expected to be out for the season after fears that he tore his ACL during a non-contact drill in practice.
Gates, 38 next month, had 316 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Henry had 45 catches for 579 yards and four touchdowns. But the real star for quarterback Philip Rivers was Keenan Allen, who returned from his own lost season to catch 102 passes for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns; FootballOutsiders ranked Allen third in DYAR, behind only Antonio Brown and Marvin Jones.
(The Seahawks face Jones in Week 8.)
That’ll be one significant test among many for Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin, reportedly now working on the left side of Pete Carroll’s defense. But Allen, Rivers, and perhaps Gates are not the only reasons that I think the Chargers could be the favorites to win the AFC this year. The talent is deep on both sides of the ball, but Henry’s injury is a reminder that for whatever reason, whether it’s in San Diego or Los Angeles, this team just struggles and catches zero breaks between January and October.
The Seahawks host the Chargers on November 4.
The offensive line is expected to feature former Seattle tackle Russell Okung on the left side, Dan Feeney at left guard, and Joe Barksdale at right tackle, plus two important additions: they signed three-time Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey to a two-year deal, plus are looking to get back Forrest Lamp, who missed all of his rookie season.
Lamp was the 38th overall pick and as some Seahawks fans who desperately wanted him in Seattle know, was a very good prospect at guard.
Joining Allen at receiver will be Tyrell Williams, who has somewhat quietly put up nearly 1,800 yards over the last two seasons, plus Mike Williams, the seventh overall pick last year. Williams struggled (95 yards in 10 games) but had injuries and the curve for receivers tends to be especially long. With Travis Benjamin as the number four, the Chargers could certainly wind up with the best receiving unit in the NFL.
So the offensive line is good, the receivers are good, and Rivers is potentially the best quarterback in the AFC right now. The cherry on top could be running back Melvin Gordon, though he’s been disappointing for a first rounder, finishing 29th in DYAR last season.
Under the eye of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, LA could lead the conference in scoring in 2018. And I don’t think Gus Bradley expects the defense to lag behind.
Joey Bosa is potentially a half-year away from claiming his first Defensive Player of the Year award. That’s how good he is. He’s been J.J. Watt, Aaron Donald, Richard Sherman-level good. He’s dominated in nearly every NFL game he’s played in and he started playing in the NFL just two months after he could legally drink. Playing alongside Bosa, Melvin Ingram has had 18.5 sacks in the last two years, plus six forced fumbles and six passes defensed.
Manning the middle of an NFL defense for the 12th time will be Brandon Mebane, who didn’t show signs of slowing down in 2017.
In the secondary, Casey Heyward has played like a top-5 corner for much of his run with the Chargers, while Jason Verrett — a Pro Bowler in 2015 who, yeah, missed basically all of 2017 — returns to the other side. Supporting them at safety now will be first round pick Derwin James out of Florida State, a guy once pegged as a top-five prospect.
There are good, fine, and fair players on defense around those six guys I just mentioned, but even with those six, it should be one of the better units in the AFC.
The question for the Chargers this year isn’t even if they’re good enough to win the Super Bowl, it’s if they’re lucky enough. The Henry news is a bad omen and it’s not even June. However, this franchise wasn’t built for June, it was apparently built for the second half of the season, and that’s roughly where Seattle comes in.
Can the Seahawks upend the Chargers at home or will Gates ruin these emerald dreams one more time before he calls it quits? (if he signs there, of course.)
Do you expect the Seahawks to beat the Chargers?
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Do you think the Chargers will go to the Super Bowl?
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Week 7: Bye