It’s a new era for Chargers football!

Finally, they’ve left Qualcomm Stadium, a decrepit 1960s bowl with video boards so outdated replacement parts were no longer available, tauntingly sponsored by a company that makes the processors that power many smartphones and tablets.

Now they get to play in StubHub Center, a soccer-specific stadium with a capacity that wouldn’t even rank in the top 100 college venues and wouldn’t be the largest stadium in the fourth tier of English association football, tauntingly sponsored by a company that resells tickets for far more than face value where demand exceeds supply.

Oh, and the team’s lost a starting offensive lineman to a torn ACL in training camp. The more things change…


2016 Summary

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Sport

There were injuries. Here’s Danny Woodhead being attended to after his torn ACL in the second game of the regular season. Don’t worry, he won’t be lonely on the treatment table; Keenan Allen had the same injury the week before, and Manti Te’o will tear his Achilles the following week to go alongside the Achilles tear that Branden Oliver had in a preseason game that looked so grisly the video went viral. Don’t feel too sorry for him, at least people have heard of him and the Chargers now.

The team led at the two-minute warning in each of their first four games. Thanks to a remarkable self-destruction ability finely honed during their 2015 crash to a top-three draft pick, they managed to lose three of them. The other one was against the Jaguars, a team who now exist to hurt the Chargers’ draft position.

That top-three draft pick, by the way, missed the first three of those games. To injury, of course.

Still, at least Joey Bosa was actually worth the wait, as he beat the snot out of Derek Carr on limited snaps before coming back on Thursday night to beat the snot out of Trevor Siemian and spark a victory over the defending champion Denver Broncos!

What, that win saved the job of a head coach who literally couldn’t watch a Trevor Siemian Hail Mary down eight on the final play of the game?

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Sport Yes, yes it did. Still, at least Chargers fans could boast that they had amazing Color Rush uniforms. It’s something.
There were a handful more inexplicable wins (one of them in Atlanta!) and standout rookies (Hunter Henry performing well enough to make 2017 fantasy drafters forget that rookie TEs usually do three-tenths of naff all, Jatavis Brown actually being an upgrade on Te’o when injury forced him into action) before an ignominious finish that reached its nadir with a loss to the Cleveland Browns. By then, San Diego residents had correctly voted against being taxed through the nose to pay a billionaire to build a new factory of sadness in their home city, and the Bolts bolted up Interstate 5 to squat with Stan Kroenke when his stadium is finished in 2020, delayed a year by unusually high rainfall presumed to be from the tears of Junior Seau. He didn’t destroy his brain for this

Personnel changes

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Mike McCoy is gone! And he’s now with a divisional rival, coordinating an offense that has no viable quarterback! Miracles can happen!

Wait, you’re going to replace him with Anthony Lynn, who entered 2016 as a running back coach before being promoted from within by the Bills out of desperation? Fantastic, well done.

Oh, you’re going to commit to running the ball? Maybe that means you’ll try and upgrade the blocking so that Melvin Gordon might actually average 4 YPC for a season? Excellent! Two guards on the second day of the draft, one of whom should have been a first-round pick, plus a top free agent left tackle who happens to be strongest in run-blocking!

Wait, that guard who should have been a first-round pick tore his ACL in training camp after an injury-free college career? Yup. And that left tackle had an injury-strewn career before he was a Charger? Naturally.

Still, there’s always the pass game! How about using a top-10 pick on a big-bodied receiver who can be a true #1 when Keenan Allen goes on IR again in October? Great move!

Wait, he might need back surgery that would cost him his rookie year?

Meet the new Chargers, same as the old Chargers…


Team strengths

There is some serious talent on this roster on paper. Philip Rivers, a deeply religious quarterback who must be thinking he’s going to get one heck of an afterlife after all the suffering he’s taken behind backup blockers in this one, is still an above-average starter and maybe more; Bosa and Melvin Ingram has the potential to be the best edge rusher duo in the NFL, if they aren’t already; Brown and Denzel Perryman are underappreciated young linebackers who could easily emerge as an elite duo this year; and the wide receiver unit might be the deepest in the league if everyone’s healthy.


Team weaknesses

Peter Aiken/Getty Images Sport
If everyone’s healhy? Hahahahahahaha bonk. The Chargers’ reputation for how durable they aren’t is an NFL joke:

 

The offensive line is slightly dubious even when fully healthy, and they almost never are; Gordon has two consecutive seasons averaging under four yards per carry but is now somehow supposed to be the foundation of this offense; Casey Hayward looked elite in 2016 but never before, and fellow potential shutdown corner Jason Verrett isn’t even durable by Chargers standards.
Everywhere you look, this roster looks deceptively promising until you realise that it’s going to fall apart sooner or later.

Best case

Anthony Lynn works wonders with the ground game, and injury luck finally reverts to the mean! All the pre-preseason hot takes that said the Chargers had one of the most talented rosters in the league prove justified in their best regular season since the heyday of LaDainian Tomlinson, someone Gordon does a heck of a job of impersonating. With the Rams falling to pieces, the Chargers become the real team to follow in LA, tickets for their home playoff game being resold for four-figure sums and the intimate atmosphere at StubHub giving them their first real home advantage in years. Fans demand the Rams and Chargers swap stadia for 2018 and 2019. 11-5, first in AFC West, lose in divisional round


Worst case

The Chargers keep getting injured, this time finally including the hitherto-indestructible Rivers, and Lynn is quickly exposed as grossly out of his depth as an NFL head coach.

Fans openly cheer for the team to lose in a Week 13 home game with the Cleveland Browns, one of the other teams in the mix for the #1 pick set to be used on USC superstar Sam Darnold. They do just that, then promptly throw it all away by coming back from behind against the New York T-A-N-K Tanks in Week 16 after Christian Hackenberg throws two pick-sixes to a corner picked up off the street after Hayward and Verrett ACL tears earlier in the year.

At least LA have the Dodgers. 3-13, fourth in AFC West


Prediction

The Chargers will probably look like at least the 9-7 team they were in 2013 and 2014, and get talked of as playoff sleepers after a couple of eye-catching wins in a brutal early-season schedule (five of their first eight games are against 2016 playoff teams with the other opponents being the Broncos, Eagles, and Broncos again)… but injuries will yet again be their downfall.

At least they’ll be the best NFL team in LA, but that really won’t be saying much. 6-10, fourth in AFC West

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