Coach: Anthony Lynn. A former Broncos player (1997-99) and assistant coach (2000-02), the 56-year old Lynn worked on the staffs of six teams before the Chargers hired him in 2017. In three years, he is 26-22 with Los Angeles (1-1 playoffs).
Last year’s record: 5-11 (fourth in AFC West). A 12-win team in 2018, the Chargers tumbled to the bottom of the division thanks to three losing streaks of three games and an inability to win close games (2-9 in one-possession contests).
Offensive play-caller: Shane Steichen. He was promoted from quarterbacks coach to interim coordinator last October to replace Ken Whisenhunt and received the full-time job after the season. The Chargers went 2-6 after the switch. The 35-year-old Steichen has spent nine of his 10 NFL seasons as a coach with the Chargers.
Quarterback situation: Equal parts certain and uncertain. The Philip Rivers Era ended when the Chargers decided to let him sign with Indianapolis. Tyrod Taylor is certain to start in Week 1 but uncertain is when first-round pick Justin Herbert will debut.
Taylor, 31, backed up Joe Flacco in Baltimore, and went 23-21 (0-1 playoffs) for Buffalo before the Bills drafted Josh Allen. He was 1-1-1 for Cleveland before it moved to Johnny Manziel as the starter and was the Chargers’ backup last year.
Taylor is smart with the football (54 touchdowns/20 interceptions) and will get all of his skill players involved.
Herbert, the sixth overall pick in April, was 29-14 as the starter at Oregon (95 touchdowns/22 interceptions). It’s only a matter of time before he takes over.
Helping the quarterback: Taylor and Herbert can lean on two solid receivers — Keenan Allen had 104 catches for 1,119 yards last year and Mike Williams averaged 20.1 yards on 49 catches (1,001 yards).
Tight end Hunter Henry returned from his 2018 knee injury to catch 55 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns. He is playing on the franchise tag.
The Chargers acquired Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner from the Carolina Panthers to help solidify the offensive line.
Three key questions
1. Is Austin Ekeler ready for a prime-time role?
Former starting running back Melvin Gordon is now with the Broncos, allowing Ekeler to be the lead rusher in addition to one of the league’s top pass-catching backs. Ekeler, a Colorado native, rushed 132 times for 557 yards (three touchdowns) and caught 92 passes for 933 yards (eight touchdowns) last season, after which he signed a four-year, $24.5 million contract.
2. How does cornerback Chris Harris fit in with the defense?
Harris cited “fit” as the main reason he signed with the Chargers. It will be bizarre to see Harris in a Los Angeles uniform against the Broncos. Harris made four Pro Bowls with the Broncos and started 121 games.
Harris joins a Chargers defense that will have him line up opposite Casey Hayward on base downs and then move inside to cover the slot receiver on sub-package downs. The Chargers had only 11 interceptions last year, tied for 22nd in the league.
3. Will the offensive line additions make a difference?
As long as everybody stays healthy, the line should be improved.
Last year, the Chargers started three left tackles, two right guards, three centers and two right tackles. Only right guard Michael Schofield started every game and he wasn’t re-signed (now with Carolina). Rebuilding the line began by trading left tackle Russell Okung to Carolina for Turner (right guard) and continued by signing Green Bay right tackle Bryan Bulaga and getting center Mike Pouncey back from neck surgery.
The Chargers will keep Dan Feeney at left guard and have second-year man Trey Pipkins start at left tackle.
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