Tue, Jan 19, 2016

Party is Over for Chargers ... Time to Clean Up

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GM Tom Telesco. Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports.

The first thing you do when the party is over? Clean up.

For the Chargers, that is a daunting challenge. Tom Telesco and his boys have pretty much wrecked the place, and it didn't help when the injury bug stopped by to do keg stands.

Believe it or not, this is not a full-fledged rebuild. The Chargers already have a franchise QB in Philip Rivers. They are in great shape at linebacker, where the starting four of Melvin Ingram, Denzel Perryman, Manti Te'o and Jeremiah Attaochu has a chance to be special. And there are other blue-chip players scattered across the roster, including Keenan Allen, Corey Liuget and Jason Verrett.

If the Chargers re-sign Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green, Patrick Robinson and Joe Barksdale, there will be even fewer questions.

Said Perryman: "As far as the offseason, [my goal] is just to get better. I'm going to watch a lot of film with [Te'o] and look back at the games to see what we can correct and get to work."

So, what needs to be rebuilt? First and foremost is the offensive line, which was a revolving door of terrible play for most of the season. King Dunlap and Chris Watt are injury prone; Orlando Franklin underwhelmed in his first season with the Chargers; and Barksdale and Chris Hairston are unrestricted free agents.

In an ideal world, the Chargers can select OT Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) with the No.3 overall pick and then add an interior lineman (such as Boise State's Rees Odhiambo) in the middle rounds.

As the roster stands now, the only two offensive linemen who should be guaranteed starting spots in 2016 are RG D.J. Fluker and C Trevor Robinson.

Things are almost as dire on the defensive line, where Liuget is the only difference-maker. Youngsters Ryan Carrethers and Darius Philon could prove to be valuable role players, but much more help is needed.

This is an area where Telesco should try to make a splash in free agency. Whether it's a high-end talent like Muhammad Wilkerson or a middle-grade player like Derek Wolfe, more muscle is necessary. Telesco may also use the draft to find a nose tackle who can platoon with Carrethers, with Louisiana Tech's Vernon Butler being one possibility.

Fixing the lines won't solve everything. The Chargers still need to replace Eric Weddle and Malcom Floyd. And there may be more holes to plug if Brandon Flowers and Stevie Johnson are released, as expected. In-house candidates like Adrian Phillips, Steve Williams and Tyrell Williams flashed some potential against the Broncos, but the Chargers cannot bank on potential any longer.

"We always bring our lunch pail to work. That's just how we do it," said Williams, who forced three turnovers against the Broncos. "It's just unfortunate the season ended this way."

This offseason cleanup project is primarily about fortifying the trenches. If that happens, the Chargers will be back in the playoffs next season. If not, they will continue to get pushed around like peas on a dinner plate.

What did you takeaway from Sunday's Chargers-Broncos game? Discuss inside our new message boards!

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has also been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Footballinsiders.com and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.

Adrian Phillips, Antonio Gates, Brandon Flowers, Chris Hairston, Chris Watt, Corey Liuget, D.J. Fluker, Darius Philon, Denzel Perryman, Eric Weddle, Jason Verrett, Jeremiah Attaochu, Joe Barksdale, Keenan Allen, King Dunlap, Ladarius Green, Malcom Floyd, Manti Te'o, Melvin Ingram, Orlando Franklin, Patrick Robinson, Philip Rivers, Ryan Carrethers, Steve Williams, Stevie Johnson, Tom Telesco, Trevor Robinson, Tyrell Williams
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