The Chargers — remember them? — are teed up and ready to start another season on Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts. What it will bring should be interesting as they begin Year 3 of replacing San Diego with Los Angeles in front of their name.
Writing about the one-time locals always brings elicits a mixed reaction and we get it.
Some readers still track the NFL squad they grew up on, especially with quarterback Philip Rivers still living amongst us.
If rising early enough, one can catch Rivers commuting from Rancho Santa Fe and through North County en route to the team’s facility in Orange County or to a game in Carson.
While the accessible and agreeable Rivers is always easy to root for, some readers could give a flip about the Chargers. Once they fled north past the county line, that was a line in the sand some fans couldn’t cross.
Although some of those former patrons still follow the Bolts, if only to root against them.
So, with that here’s the preview of the one-time Los Angeles, then-San Diego, back-to-Los Angeles Chargers of Carson and isn’t that a mouthful.
In any language and in any locale, the Chargers are loaded on both sides of the ball. But then again, the cup is also to the brim with question marks in the aftermath of a 12-4 season, one in which they notched their most wins since 2009 and scored a road playoff victory.
Rivers’ right arm continues to produce as he stiff-arms Father Time. In 10 of the past 11 seasons he has eclipsed 4,000 yards passing. His accuracy was keen as ever last year in heaving 32 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions.
With targets such as Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen, who’s coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and the rangy Mike Williams, who had 10 touchdown catches in 2018, there’s plenty of places for Rivers to aim his offerings.
Plus, tight end Hunter Henry is back, although future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates isn’t, to complement those stretching the field.
Ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the 1-2 punch on defense, attacking rival quarterbacks with A vengeance. Bosa missed nine games last season with a foot injury, but he’s fit this year. That bodes well for Ingram, who’s nearly as good and reaps the benefits of opposing blocking schemes focusing on Bosa.
Fortunately, both sides of the ball have impact players. Unfortunately, both sides of the ball have holes that have some questioning how good the Chargers can be.
Running back Melvin Gordon skipped the preseason and training camp in a contract dispute. He wants his deal extended to compensate him at around $12 million to $13 million a year. The Bolts countered with about $10 million, an offer they yanked off the table on Sunday.
If Gordon wants to go, he’ll earn $5.6 million — take it or leave it. The thinking here is he takes it at some point.
Maybe a bigger issue is the health of Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung. He was stuck with a pulmonary embolism in June, which caused blood clots that has since had him sidelined. Okung, who protects Rivers’ blind side, will miss at least six weeks and possibly the season.
For Rivers those are two big obstacles for him to overcome. He’ll turn 38 in December and he has never been fleet of foot. Without a proven running attack and a sturdy left tackle to compensate for his age and lack of mobility, well, that’s not good.
On defense All-Pro safety Derwin James is on the shelf. He was the first rookie in franchise history to record 100 tackles last season, the versatile first-round pick lining up in various spots in coordinator Gus Bradley’s defense.
But a broken foot will keep him out until late November. That’s a huge blow and one the Chargers will be hard-pressed to cover-up.
Up, down or in the middle of the AFC West is where the Chargers will eventually settle. The next four months, if anyone is interested, will tell the tale of the team that high-tailed it out of San Diego.
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Follow him at jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports