Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn talks to kicker Nick Rose in the first half of the game against the Oakland Raiders on December 31, 2017 at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Photo by Lori Shepler/UPI | License Photo
INDIANAPOLIS -- Anthony Lynn stepped to the podium at the NFL Combine with something under his belt: a year of being an NFL head coach.
Lynn sets sail on his second season as the Los Angeles Chargers try to build on a fast finish that couldn't quite eclipse a dreadful start -- losing their first four games.
With their sights set on free agency and the draft, the Chargers are clear they want to use how they ended 2017 -- nine wins in 12 games -- as a springboard to returning to the playoffs. Los Angeles, despite having an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers, has skipped the postseason in seven of the last eight years.
What the Chargers can't do is misfire on a productive offseason. While the team likes to point to how it reached the finish line, truth is there are plenty of areas where Lynn's bunch must improve.
Does that mean bringing back tight end Antonio Gates? How about securing an eventual replacement for Rivers? Safety Tre Boston? He was a glue guy in the secondary, but will he secure a long-term deal as an unrestricted free agent?
Then there are the players returning from injuries -- cornerback Jason Verrett and guard Forest Lamp. Are they going to mend quickly enough to be in the mix next season?
Of course, there is the shaky situation at the kicker's spot, and when that question came up in Indianapolis, Lynn looked like he needed a pit stop.
"Do you have to?" Lynn said when the subject was brought up.
Sorry, coach, but that story will have legs until you find an accurate one.
"I'd like to get a young guy that can grow with the team," Lynn said.
It's doubtful the Chargers will use their first pick, at No. 17 overall, on a kicker. Then again, if drafting to a need, there is no bigger one on a team that might have been the best NFL team not to make the playoffs last season.
Lynn, and Tom Telesco, the team's general manager, weren't revealing too many of their cards at the Combine. They did offer a peek at their thinking on various issues, including what to do with Gates.
The future Pro Football Hall of Famer still wants to play. And when he filled in for an injured Hunter Henry last year in the final two games, he showed he still has the goods.
But was it good enough to bring him back in a complementary role?
"He showed at the end of the year what he can still do," Telesco said. "Those last two games that he played, when we needed him the most, he stepped up for us."
Will the Chargers step up and present an offer to Boston to make him stay? Boston had five interceptions last season and there could have been more.
"He could have had seven or eight," Telesco said. "He played 99 percent of the snaps for us and I don't think he missed a day of practice. He was a great influence for us, on and off the [field] and played really good football for us."
The Chargers played good football down the stretch. And it's not a stretch, with all the changes with their AFC West rivals, that Los Angeles will be favored to take the division. But first comes a busy offseason, although at least it's one that doesn't include a move from San Diego.
"Going into this year we are not worried about where's training camp and all the gymnastics that go into a move," Lynn said. "I feel much more comfortable this year, I feel much better."
Now Lynn has to make sure the 2018 Chargers are improved as well.
Is this the year the Chargers secure a replacement for veteran Philip Rivers? Or is the future already on the roster with Cardale Jones?
"I wouldn't take any options off the table," Telesco said.
"Everybody's in play for us," Lynn added. "We're trying to get better."
On Jones, Lynn said, "He just needs some reps in games. Every day in practice he makes a throw that makes you shake your head and say, 'There is no way he made that throw.' He could be our future quarterback."
Running back Melvin Gordon was a workhorse for the Chargers and if his knee is willing, Lynn doesn't see that changing. Gordon was solid down the stretch as he had 330 yards and three touchdowns in his final four games -- and he added 17 receptions for 174 yards.
"I think we were 20th in the league in rush attempts," said Lynn, a former NFL running back. "We need to talk about giving Melvin the ball more."