SAN DIEGO — If there’s a 2020 NFL season, expect better from Philip Rivers.
The Colts will block for him, they’ll run the football and cut down on his contested passes. He’ll strain less. Remember how Frank Reich cocooned Andrew Luck when Luck returned from shoulder surgery? He’ll do the same for Rivers, 38. You’ll see six, seven, eight blockers on many pass plays. You’ll see two good running backs, Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor, run for a lot of yards. Rivers will throw fewer than his 20 interceptions last year. In his own division, he’ll do better than 0-6 and a 71.1 passer rating.
And the Chargers, what should we expect from them without the quarterback who reached eight Pro Bowls and made every start the past 14 years?
There’s the surprise.
Team Spanos can’t be as bad as last year, just because they did the 2019 Padres thing last year, muffing a season so badly that the next one can’t be worse.
Dropping 11 games, the ’19 Chargers lost as often as the Dolphins.
Difference was, Miami’s front office was in the tank for draft picks, while the Chargers were trying to build off a 12-4 season and sell tickets to the Kroenke Dome.
The Jets lost their top quarterback to mono for three games and finished 31st in points, yet went 7-9.
Contrasting events can be true: The Chargers will miss Rivers, yet will win more than five games.
Chargers tight end Hunter Henry is close to Rivers. They were locker-room neighbors, starting in San Diego, and offseason-workout partners in Florida.
Henry was asked Wednesday if the change at quarterback could spur growth — if he and teammates will raise their games to support Tyrod Taylor.
“Philip, I’m not going to downplay Philip at all,” Henry said in a video chat with reporters. “He was unreal and a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’s one of my good friends. I appreciate he everything he did for me, just as a young player coming in.”
But, yes, Henry said he’ll improve as a leader. And he said Taylor’s mobility will open up parts of the offense. He ticked off examples. Escapes within the pocket. Moving the pocket. Extending plays with scrambles. Bootlegs. Read-option plays.
“There are so many different things you can do with a mobile quarterback that can open your offense a little bit more,” Henry said. “I’m kind of looking forward to see that aspect of our offense really grow.”
One odd turn deserves another.
Minus Rivers, pencil the Chargers for improvement from 5-11; likewise, expect improved fan atmosphere at the team’s home games, if only because that, too, probably couldn’t get worse.
If the global pandemic causes the NFL to stage games in empty venues, Team Spanos is one team that stands to benefit. The sound of silence beats thousands of screams for the opponent.
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