Heading into the 2018-2019 NFL season there is much hype surrounding the Chargers. More so than this team has had for years, and rightfully so. The recent history suggest that injuries seem to plague this team, and while that may be true they showed just what level of play they are capable of when healthy last season. Assuming that trend is no fluke and they manage to do the same this year they can make a serious run in the playoffs. Every team that falls short of the Super bowl has all players deserving then qualify for the Pro Bowl. So many names come to mind on both sides of the ball that could and probably will make the seasons end all-star game. One reason this team has a real chance to make a serious push this year is depth and the amount of top tier players they possess. Despite all the obvious selections and more popular underdog pro bowl caliber players on this roster, I feel there are two dark horse candidate’s that nobody is picking out of the bunch. Those two dark horse selections are Darius Philon and Dan Feeney.
Darius Philon who is heading into his fourth year in the league has an opportunity to seize the spotlight after Corey Liuget is heading for a four game suspension to start the season. Philon who was seen as developmental project with high upside when selected in the draft has shown signs of improvement every year. The potential he possesses only went up when Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley stepped into the position. Surrounded by uber talent on the defensive line, Philon will also get more playing time than ever to prove himself and probably see a lot of one man to beat situations. Unless something drastic happens during the preseason, Philon is likely to be a full time starter and have every opportunity to seize the spotlight. He has the ability to fill and contain an interior gap like an anchor which is so very important in Bradley’s scheme where three defensive ends are on the field often times, as it’s famously known as having the “Leo” position on the field. He will likely succeed as the 3tech down lineman in the 4-3 over and under set formations based on his skill set strengths. When performing stunts off the edge that person to anchor the middle is all the difference. Philon has good burst off the line right at the snap and will likely reach full potential in a defense that seems to suit him so well. If the McCoy regime would have gave him more playing time early on I feel like he would have developed even faster. It seems he is self-aware of the situation and opportunity. I say this because it visibly appears that he has trimmed up a bit and lost some excess weight, which only leads me to assume he has become more solid mass. Pushing himself to the point of throwing up in workouts…..exclusive owed to instagram. If the SEC product experiences success early in the season don’t be surprised if he holds onto the starting spot on the depth chart and Liuget becomes a rotational lineman. Even though Bradley rotates his lineman much more often compared to what is considered normal, keeping players fresh and more durable for the length of the season.
My next selection is second year guard from Indiana Dan Feeney. Feeney rarely gets knocked back off the line showing his all-around strength that can’t be simply measured by a bench press.(cough, cough , combine flaw’s) Not just that he has a great ability to get to the outside on pulls with quick feet and fluid hips. The ability and awareness to pick up blitzes and stunts ultimately won over his coaches. He has a decent mean streak at times and played very well at left guard next to Russell Okung who has a well-documented mean streak. Although Feeney spent most his time at right guard at Indiana he seemed to swing to the other side beautifully. Speaking of similar attitudes and personalities working well next to each other, bringing in pro bowl center Mike Pouncey only helps bring a nasty grittiness alongside a pair that already worked so well. I expect these three guys to not only feed off of each other but to help influence and instill that type of on field mentality permanently. I was really high on the selection last of Feeney last year and he really solidified my opinion during last year’s training camp. I would not be surprised at all if he ends up being viewed as one of the best offensive lineman in last year’s draft along with another 3rd round steal by Tom Telesco. The only real hick up he had last year was on special teams during week one, letting a rusher get through to block a kick. This shouldn’t really be held against him as it was the first week as rookie and before he was a starter so he had little to no on field experience and probably jitters.