by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert

A Look at the Los Angeles Chargers

The 0 – 1 Los Angeles Chargers come to town Sunday to face the 0 -1 Buffalo Bills to open the home portion of the Bills 2018 NFL schedule. The Chargers may have lost to Kansas City last week but they still have a lot going for them. A look at their roster.

Quarterback

Phillip Rivers is arguabley one of the five best quarterbacks in the entire National Football League. He may be 36 years old, but he still can move around very well and sling it. Last week at home versus Kansas City he threw for 424 yards and a 66.7% completion rate. Trust me, he’s dangerous.

Wide Receiver, Tight End

The Chargers have a strong complement of receivers on their roster led by Keenan Allen. Allen isn’t a speedster but he is a great route runner who can get open short and deep. The other wideout is 2017 first round pick Mike Williams, who has both size and speed and is just beginning to come into his own. The Chargers play a lot of three wide out formations and when they are in that offense, Travis Benjamin is the third guy.

The tight end is ageless Antonio Gates, who splits time with Virgil Green. Both are excellent receivers.

Running Backs

The Chargers will use two running backs with Melvin Gordon being the lead guy. Gordon has great speed and is beginning to become an excellent receiver as well as a top runner. Second year pro Austin Eckler complements Gordon very well and is also reliable as a runner and a receiver.

Offensive Line

The Chargers will be without right tackle Joe Barksdale this week.  He is injured. He will most likely be replaced by Sam Tevi. Forrest Lamp, who was a high pick a year ago and missed the season with an ACL, will see action at guard though he may not start. While the Chargers don’t have a lot of big names on the O-Line, they perform very well as a unit. Last week they gave up only one sack in over 50 passing attempts.

Defensive Line

All Pro Joey Bosa won’t play, but the Chargers still have a feared pass rusher in Melvin Ingram. Inside Darius Philon and Brendon Mebane do an excellent job stopping the run and applying pressure in the pass game. Chargers Head Coach Mike Lynn says that rookie Justin Jones will get a lot of play time. Jones missed much of the preseason with an injury.

Linebackers

Except for Kyle Emanuel, the Chargers don’t have a lot of size at the linebacker position but they can all run. Mike ‘backer Denzel Perryman has great instincts and range. This is a tough group to go against as they can play the run and drop into coverage equally well.

Defensive Backs

If there is a weakness in the San Diego defense its with the secondary as they lost corner Jason Verrett for the season. Casey Hayward Jr. is very capable and so the guy the Bills need to attack is Trevor Williams. First round pick Derwin James leads the safeties and many feel he will become a similar type player as the late Sean Taylor. James has excellent size and speed and can play man coverage like a corner. The other safety is Jahleel Addae who is undersized for a safety at 5’10 – 195 but he’s tough. He had five tackles last week in the loss to Kansas City.

Can the Bills Win?

With their performance last week in the 47-3 loss to the Ravens, many in the national media have the Bills rated as the worst team in the NFL. I strongly believe that while the Bills have a lot of weaknesses on their roster, they are far from the worst team. I look for the Bills to bounce back from last week’s game. With first round quarterback Josh Allen getting the start, the Bills will have a conservative game plan. If they want to win, they have to run the ball and control the clock. That means the defense has to play like they did a year ago and create turnovers. On offense, both Allen and the offense in general has to be mistake free. This game is winnable, but the Bills need to play the perfect game.

Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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