Coming into 2016, the San Diego Chargers were looking to improve after a disappointing 2015 season. Despite only winning four games last season, the Chargers’ offense was up and down under then-offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
Under Reich, the Chargers’ passing offense was ranked fourth in the NFL, averaging 286.9 passing yards, while the rushing offense was ranked 31st in the league, only averaging 84.9 yards per game. The reason why the rushing yards were so low was because then-rookie running back Melvin Gordon was struggling and also dealing with an injury. Finally, the scoring offense was ranked 26th in the league, only putting up 20 points per game.
However, fast forward to this season with new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and the Chargers’ offense has drastically improved, despite not having wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Danny Woodhead, who both suffered season-ending ACL injuries.
The Chargers rank sixth in the NFL in passing offense with 262.8 passing yards per game. The rushing offense, on the other hand has looked much better, averaging 98.0 yards per game, which is good for 23rd in the NFL. A reason why the ground game has improved is due in large part to Gordon having a breakout year.
Before his injury in Week 14, Gordon had rushed for 992 yards on 251 carries and 10 touchdowns and he’s been effective in the receiving game as well with 41 receptions for 419 yards and two touchdowns. His production as a receiver has softened the blow of losing Woodhead for the season.
Woodhead was injured in Week 2 against the Jaguars, while Allen suffered his ACL injury in Week 1 against the Chiefs. Losing both of these players was a big blow to San Diego’s offense as Allen was Philip Rivers’ top target and Woodhead was a multi-dimensional playmaker out of the backfield.
Without those two players, you would think that the scoring offense would take a step back and Rivers would struggle. However, that is not the case as the scoring offense unlike last year is averaging 26.9 points per game, which is good for fourth in the NFL.
In terms of Rivers, he is still playing like himself. There hasn’t been a major drop off from last season. This season, Rivers is completing 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,589 yards, 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
A reason why Rivers’ production hasn’t dropped off tremendously this season is because of the play of second-year wide receiver Tyrell Williams out of Division 2 West Oregon, who has assumed the role of the Chargers’ number one wide receiver.
Williams has 55 receptions (94 targets) for 905 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also has three games of 100 receiving yards or more and has a touchdown in four straight games.
With Williams garnering a lot of attention from opposing defenses, it has made life easier for wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman. Benjamin, who the Chargers signed in the offseason, has 42 receptions (68 targets) for 546 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Inman has similar numbers with 46 receptions for 647 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The Chargers have also received production at tight end as both veteran Antonio Gates has five touchdowns and rookie Hunter Henry has six.
With that type of production from all of those players, it makes up for the loss of Allen. And the same can be said for Gordon, who is on the verge of having his first 1,000-yard rushing season, after many people wrote him off last season.
If these young players can keep up this type of play next season with a healthy Allen and Woodhead returning, the Chargers will have a shot to compete in a very competitive AFC West in 2017.