Los Angeles Chargers: 5 role players to watch in 2017
The Los Angeles Chargers had a record of 5-11 in 2016. They lost six of their last seven games and their defense gave up an average of 26.4 points per game. As the Bolts look to get back on the winning track, who should we keep an eye on throughout the 2017 campaign?
Hunter Henry- Tight End
The second-year pro had 8 touchdown catches last season and averaged a little over 13 yards per reception. He is needed to not only to help take some focus off of Antonio Gates but to provide an extra weapon for Philip Rivers.
Some of Henry’s better games came against division rivals. He grabbed three passes for 74 yards and a score vs Oakland in week 5 and he snagged six passes for 83 yards and a TD vs Denver in week 6.
Even though Keenan Allen is back from injury, it would be wise to spread the ball around to a mixture of pass catchers, such as Henry.
Spencer Pulley- Center
The Bolts O-line allowed 36 sacks in 2016 and they’ve gone through some changes over the off-season. Tackle Joe Barksdale is playing in the final year of his current contract and LA did agree to a 4-year, $53 million deal with tackle Russell Okung.
Matt Slauson and Kenny Wiggins are penciled in at the guard spots.
But, with questions surrounding the o-line and the importance of keeping Rivers upright, Spencer Pulley has to cease the moment. Pulley needs to become a force to reckon with as the Los Angeles Chargers are searching for a playoff spot.
The second-year pro also needs to develop strong communication with Rivers throughout the season, or else more problems will continue to arise.
It’s also important for Pulley to make sure pressure isn’t coming up the middle.
Korey Toomer- Inside Linebacker
The Idaho product recorded 75 tackles last year(2nd the team) and forced three fumbles. With Denzel Perryman on injured reserve, expect Toomer to pick up some extra tackles as the Bolts await Perryman’s return.
Toomer also had 6 tackles for a loss in 2016.
The linebacker is going to have to take his game to the next level and continue to help his team make sure backs and receivers aren’t getting more yards than they’re supposed to.
The Bolts were 16th in total yards as they allowed 347 yards per contest.
Jatavis Brown- Outside Linebacker
The former Akron Zip is in his second year in the NFL and needs to continue to assist Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa when putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Brown posted 3.5 sacks a year ago in 12 games played. He did have 79 tackles (64 solos) in the 2016 season.
Branden Oliver- Running Back
Oliver tore his Achilles during a preseason game last year and missed the entire 2016 campaign. With Danny Woodhead no longer in a Chargers uniform, that leaves the door open for Oliver to assert himself as a quality back to Melvin Gordon.
Oliver has 690 career rushing yards in 22 games played (8 starts). He also has 3.6 yards per carry. He also has shown his versatility by catching 49 passes out of the backfield (7.8 yards per catch).
LA needs to make sure teams are on their feet, so having packages where Oliver and Gordon are on the field at the same time will add more fuel to firepower that the Bolts possess, especially in big situations.
If these five players step up in a big way, the Los Angeles Chargers might find themselves in the playoffs and could potentially win the AFC West.
Fiuza is the host of the show Makin’ It Big on WBLZ. The show can be reached on Twitter @MakinItBig1.