Chargers Preview Capsule
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7)
New faces: C Mike Pouncey, TE Virgil Green, S Derwin James, LB Uchenna Nwosu, QB Geno Smith, PK Caleb Sturgis, PK Roberto Aguayo.
Key losses: S Tre Boston, TE Antonio Gates, DL Jeremiah Attaochu, TE Hunter Henry (injury), CB Jason Verrett (injury).
Strengths: Ample talent in place to build on last season’s finish of nine wins in 12 games. Philip Rivers back for 13th consecutive season as starter along with formidable receiver corps led by Pro Bowler Keenan Allen. Pouncey already giving boost to run game with Melvin Gordon. Defense largely unchanged, but restocked with draft picks including James, Nwosu. Edge rusher Melvin Ingram has been monster in preseason. Have one of NFL’s easier schedules and have five-game winning streak at tiny StubHub Center, clearly unaffected by presence of opponents’ fans.
Weaknesses: Already lost starting TE Henry, former Pro Bowl CB Verrett to season-ending injury. Defense could be uneven, possibly lacking depth with questionable quality at linebacker and interior line. Run defense still not impressive after struggling last season. Still waiting to identify new kicker after four guys took turns failing at position last year, likely costing playoff berth with early-season woes.
Fantasy Players To Watch: WR Mike Williams. Last season’s seventh overall pick made no impact after starting slowly due to injury. That could change in huge way this season. Tall, speedy receiver has been outstanding in practices and preseason games, presenting big target for Rivers. Williams could be huge bargain in many leagues.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 15-1. Over/under wins 9.5.
Expectations: Bolts believe they’ve got Super Bowl contender after encouraging finish to last season. Season opener against Chiefs should establish early favorite in AFC West. Rivers poised for another strong season with no signs of slowing down. Continuity on roster and coaching staff should boost chances. Must survive six-week midseason stretch with only one home game and trip to London. If Chargers can avoid injury problems that popped up repeatedly for previous teams, future looks bright.
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