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2020 NFL team previews: The Los Angeles Chargers are cursed with mediocrity

A team that always seems stuck in the middle will be stuck in the middle of the standings again this year.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers might be cursed. If you have been watching the NFL long enough, you certainly have seen at least one of their many heartbreaking losses. They are a team that enters every year with a good amount of talent on the field, but something always happens to ruin it for them. In 2018, they made it to the divisional round and looked like they had real Super Bowl hopes, then they ran into a New England Patriots team that beat them down en route to a Super Bowl. A year later, their longtime quarterback Philip Rivers became one of the worst quarterback in the league.

Rivers is gone now, meaning that we are entering a new era in Chargers football. Los Angeles will hope that Rivers took whatever curse this team had over them with him, and that they can start fresh with a new guy under center.

The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we continue the list with teams on the fringe of the playoff conversation.

24. New York Giants
23. Miami Dolphins
22. Atlanta Falcons
21. Indianapolis Colts
20. Los Angeles Rams

19. Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Los Angeles has an interesting quarterback situation entering this season. Tyrod Taylor is the projected Week 1 starter. The quarterback served as one of the league’s better backup quarterbacks behind Rivers and was a middling starter for the Buffalo Bills for a few years. He has never been a player that has elevated the pieces around him, though, and his very conservative play style has often been criticized. He is surely not the man of the future. That man is Justin Herbert.

Herbert was selected by the Chargers sixth overall in the 2020 NFL draft. The Oregon Ducks quarterback was heralded as a top quarterback prospect for the 2019 draft but decided to spend another year in college. The young quarterback may not be ready immediately, but it will be surprising if he does not eventually start this season.

Whether Herbert or Taylor under center, the weapons around the offense are solid. Running back Austin Ekeler took off last season with Melvin Gordon out of the lineup. He finished 7 yards short of reaching the 1,000 mark as a receiver, along with another 500-yard season as a rusher. Ekeler’s ability to catch short passes and take them for huge gains after the catch should work well with a guy like Taylor under center.

Keenan Allen is still chugging along as one of the league's most underrated receivers. He notched his third consecutive 1,000-yard, six-touchdown season in 2019—and the fourth of his seven NFL seasons. Allen also seems to have put his injury troubles that plagued him early in his career behind him, not having missed a game in three consecutive years now. Fellow receiver Mike Williams took off, as well, in 2019. He put together his first 1,000-yard season, and averaged an NFL-high 20 yard per reception.

This gives both quarterbacks some tools to work with when they are in the game. They may not have a group that rivals the Detroit Lions, but they certainly have one of the league’s best top-3 receiving options. Neither quarterback has the ability to maximize them—whether it is Taylor’s conservative play style or Herbert still being a raw prospect—so the offense may prove to be less than the sum of its parts this year.

Los Angeles’ defense will have a ton of hype surrounding them this season, which seems to be a trend in recent years. Even without star safety Derwin James, who will miss the 2020 season with a knee injury, the defense is still loaded with talent.

Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram form the league’s most dangerous pass rushing duo, as they combined for 18.5 sacks last year. Add in newly signed Linval Joseph from the Minnesota Vikings, and this defensive front is likely to give absolutely everyone on their schedule hell.

The front seven got another boost this offseason when the team drafted Kenneth Murray in the first round of the draft. Murray is a strong, athletic linebacker who can serve as a thumper on the second line. He can stuff gaps at the second level, be an elite run defender, and become the “quarterback of the defense” from the middle linebacker position.

On the back end, Los Angeles will hope that Chris Harris and Casey Hayward, who were both among the top cornerbacks in the league only a few years ago, have enough left in the tank to shore up the pass defense. Desmond King, a young corner who has been vastly underrated thus far in his career, is projected to start on the outside as well. Just like their receivers, the triple threat the Chargers have at corner looks great on paper.

Los Angeles has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but there are still many reasons to believe that what is good on paper may not translate onto the field. The offense will only go as far as their quarterbacks can take them, and it is hard to buy into either of the two quarterbacks in 2020. Their defense has already lost one of its best players and will be relying on older stars to find their youth for at least one additional year. The Chargers are too good to be bad this season, but do not expect them to really compete for the playoffs.