Since Phillip Rivers was introduced into the Chargers franchise in 2004, the organization hasn’t been the best at drafting talent in the first round. Although the selections of Ryan Matthews in 2010, Melvin Ingram in 2012, Melvin Gordon in 2015, and the third-round selection of Keenan Allen in 2013 stand out when other talents throughout the past decade have boosted the Chargers into the playoffs, they have only reached the AFC title game once. With Justin Herbert, it is a fresh start to do what was wasted with Philip Rivers.
Justin Herbert put together a record-breaking rookie season by crushing every rookie record except Andrew Luck’s most passing yards in a season(4,374)in 2012. Herbert has given Charger fans hope for the future and being surrounded by offensive talent as well as some defensive talent is a good start. The Chargers are on the upcoming and they can do that by doing only a few things for the remainder of Herbert’s career in LA.
First off, they need to hit their marks during draft day, whether it is a depth piece in the third round or a future star in the first, Los Angeles needs to add at least one player that is starting material each year. The draft history leans more towards late-round picks working out long-term for LA, but they have also had their share of hits in the first round. The loss of tight end Hunter Henry was massive, he played 78% of the offensive snaps through 14 games. The Chargers need upgrades at few positions, a cornerback like Jaycee Horn or Caleb Farley would be a great use of the 13th overall pick they hold in this years’ draft. A third receiver for Justin Herbert would not be a bad pickup either, a slot receiver like Tutu Atwell on day two can provide speed and another weapon in the growing Chargers offense. A third receiver forces the opposing defenses’ hand and makes them cover two of three threats, Jared Cook will be that option for now as he is the new tight end in Los Angeles.
Some may argue that a strong defense is more important than an offense, to a quarterback it’s all the same. Some of Los Angeles’s defensive stars are aging quickly, Linval Joeseph and Chris Harris are 31+ years old and the Los Angeles has not resigned defensive end Melvin Ingram or cornerback Casey Hayward. To secure a playoff berth regularly, the defense must have attention brought to it. Derwin James, Joey Bosa, and Kenneth Murray are still fairly young and Murray hasn’t hit his prime yet. A linebacker or defensive back would go a long way for the team as they are thin at those positions, talent-wise.
Los Angeles hired a new head coach in Brandon Staley, probably the best move that will be throughout the long offseason for them. New coordinators have been signed and are now a part of the staff. For right now, this benefits the Chargers for a few reasons. A new system for Justin Herbert is not a bad thing, he isn’t a multi-year veteran who has known one system for his entire career, he is entering his second year and still impressionable. Staley is a defensive-minded coach, which seems to do better in the NFL than offensive-minded head coaches. With this hire and the changes, no team or fan knows what to exactly expect from this Chargers team in 2021, a smokescreen has risen and no one knows what lurks behind it.
Try and keep things as familiar for Herbert this year early on will also help Herbert, ease him into whatever changes are happening. In 2020, the Chargers were not a bad team, yes, they lacked the ability to come back from a deficit but their production was still amazing, players shinned and most were not overlooked. The ball was distributed to many players and the offense picked up when Austin Ekler made his return in week 12, which then helped the defense. Resigning free agents, even some who aren’t starters, with be key during the Justin Hebert and Brandon Staley era early on.
Lastly, and what may be the most important decision to make, include your quarterback on everything, play calls, draft picks, player signings, going for it on fourth down, and changes along with his offense. The Houston Texans made that mistake and now their franchise player wants out. The quarterback is often referred to as the ‘field general’, he calls the plays and reads the defenses. If you do not inform your general on major changes then he will be caught off-guard and unprepared.
With the free-agent signings of Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler, the Chargers are already off to a good start and have strengthened one of their weakest positions and hold a draft pick to where they can further upgrade at that position. As a rising NFL team once again, the Chargers look to improve upon their 7-9 2020 record and make a push for the playoffs, so much talent is rostered in L.A. and it would be a shame if nothing was done with it.