“Counterparts to be counted on” is a 32-part series where we the “Front Office” of couchpotatogm.com analyze one offensive player and one defensive player on each team that MUST have a particularly strong individual season in 2015 for their respective teams to have a successful 2015 campaign. The ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl but a successful season doesn’t always result in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. No matter what “you” consider to be a success these counterparts are essential to achieving that goal.
San Diego Chargers “Counterparts to be counted on” 2015
Melvin Gordon – Priority #1 is to keep Phillip Rivers upright but regardless of his supporting cast Rivers has always been able to keep his team in games. However, in order for the Chargers to threaten the Denver Broncos atop the AFC West and/or make a playoff run they are going to need their 2015 first round selection, Melvin Gordon to “star.” The Ryan Mathews era is over and Branden Oliver, Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead are not featured ball-carriers. Gordon has the size, speed, vision and improving pass catching skills that will afford him the opportunity to be an every-down workhorse sooner rather than later. Wisconsin running backs have been accused of having inflated rushing totals because of the Badgers’ offensive line but Gordon is substantially more gifted than his predecessors (Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, James White, etc.).
It still amazes me that the Chargers had a backfield that consisted of LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles at one point. Make no mistake Gordon is the most talented back the Chargers have had since L.T. wore the “powdered blue” and his arrival couldn’t have come sooner. As I stated before Rivers does more with less than pretty much every quarterback not named Tom Brady. But while points come out of the passing game you cannot put teams away without a consistent running game. In 2014, the Chargers ranked 30th in rushing yards (1,367), 31st in yards per carry (3.4) and 29th in rushing touchdowns (6). A healthy Melvin Gordon will improve those totals substantially. Additionally, the Chargers’ defense struggles to stop the run and ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of passing touchdowns allowed. A strong rushing attack can shorten the game and mitigate some of your team’s defensive deficiencies. Melvin Gordon is the unquestioned offensive “counterpart to be counted on” for the San Diego Chargers.
Corey Liuget – Liuget is a good player but he’s being paid like a better player. In an era where 5-technique defensive ends such as J.J. Watt and Calais Campbell exist Liuget will have to be more than a guy that is stout against the run or commands a double team in order for San Diego to have success. In other words, his team leading 4.5 sacks in 2014 isn’t going to cut it. That isn’t to say that the likes of Melvin Ingram and Jeremy Attachou won’t have to step up but Liuget will have to lead from the front. If/when Liuget is dominant enough that the opposition must consistently game plan for him that’s when the other defenders will start to have more success and gain confidence in their own abilities.
The Chargers ranked 26th against the run, 29th in sacks (26) and 28th in interceptions (7). Considering that the Chargers played the Jaguars, Bills, Jets, Cardinals, Raiders and Chiefs a total of eight times that’s spectacularly unimpressive. Half of their games were played against teams who ranked 16th or worst in points per game. The Raiders and Jaguars ranked 31st and 32nd overall respectively. Is it fair to put the weight of the Chargers’ success on defense on the shoulders of Liuget? No. Is it equitable? I think so. Liuget is being paid like a Pro Bowler and as the Chargers’ defensive “counterpart to be counted on” he will have to have a “Herculean” performance this season to change the fortunes of San Diego’s maligned defense.