Improved execution on opening drives a focal point for Chargers

Philip Rivers was named to the Pro Bowl after passing for 4,515 yards last season, but the Chargers scored just three points on their opening drives, worst in the NFL. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- A strength for their offense two years ago, the Los Angeles Chargers were one of the worst teams on opening drives in 2017.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers scored just three points on opening drives last season, worst in the NFL.

Those numbers are in stark contrast to how the Chargers performed on opening drives two seasons ago, scoring 65 points in 2016 -- second most in the league behind the Atlanta Falcons (69 points).

The Chargers went 3-and-out on just two of the team's opening drives last season, and committed turnovers on two opening drives.

Part of the issue for the Chargers last season was melding new head coach Anthony Lynn's ground-and-pound philosophy with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's emphasis on the passing game.

Quarterback Philip Rivers bore the brunt of that change in philosophy from a statistical standpoint.

In 2016, Rivers completed 80 percent of his passes on opening drives, averaging 11.7 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and zero interceptions for a Total QBR of 97.

However, in 2017 Rivers completed just 56 percent of his passes on opening drives, averaging 7 yards per attempt with no touchdowns and one interception for a Total QBR of 34.

Despite his struggles last season, Whisenhunt said that Rivers is committed to becoming more efficient executing the offense early in games.

"Philip to me is the ultimate team player," Whisenhunt said. "He wants to do it the way the coach wants it done, whoever the coach is, which in this case is Coach Lynn. He wants to do it the way Coach Lynn wants it done in a way that will give us success, and he's working hard at that.

"That's not always the case with veteran quarterbacks in this league. But I think that speaks to Philip's leadership and character."