The only thing higher than rent in LA were the expectations for the Los Angeles Chargers. Coming into the season, they were ranked ninth in the NFL power rankings. With a stellar roster and a new offensive guru, there were high hopes for a Super Bowl-caliber team. After last year’s Wild Card meltdown, Brandon Staley’s seat was scorching hot, but they gave him another opportunity to prove himself. With three games left to play, the season has been a complete disappointment, and Staley has coached his final game as they were destroyed on TNF by the Raiders.
There’s a lot that went wrong for the Chargers this season. Justin Herbert is out for the season with a broken finger and they’re sitting at 5-o and last in the division. Unless there’s a Christmas miracle waiting to happen, they’ll miss the postseason as well. After the season is over, they’ll need a complete revamp to make this team a contender.
Are lights Too Bright or expectations Too High in LA?
Offensive Woes: Is There Hope or the Beginning of the End?
Kellen Moore was hired as offensive coordinator to bring electricity to the offense and there haven’t been any fireworks that fans were expecting. During his time in Dallas, his offenses were known for their ability to put up big numbers. In three of the four seasons as the offensive coordinator, the Cowboys’ offense finished sixth, first and fourth in scoring. Some believed he had more offensive talent in LA and would be lightning up scoreboards, but they’ve been disappointing. Last season, the Chargers offense finished third in passing and ninth in total offense. Running back Austin Ekeler was one of the most productive touchdown scorers, while quarterback Justin Herbert was the second-leading passer.
Now, this season, the offense ranks 16th momentarily, but they’ve continued to sputter. They’ve been held to 10 points or less each of the last three weeks prior to Week 14 and have shown no type of efficiency whatsoever. The truth is Moore’s offense is predictable and is heavily reliant on a successful run game. When the run game is struggling, the offense will struggle tremendously and it’s shown each week.
They’ve had less than 100 rushing yards in nine of the 13 games and have a record of 3-6 in those nine games. If they want to get the offense flowing, it’s going to start with Ekeler and the ground game. He’s averaging his lowest yards per carry of his career and has struggled both on the ground and as a receiver with multiple drops. With wide receiver Keenan Allen being out Thursday and quarterback Easton Stick getting his first career start, it’s time their star running back showed up big and found some rhythm.
Where Does The Defense Go Wrong?
It’s hard to believe that a team with Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, and Derwin James Jr. would be ranked 29th in total yards and passing defense. Considering they’re second in sacks as a team and Mack is the NFL sack leader (15), this should be a top-15 unit with the potential of being top-10. However, they can’t find consistency from the secondary and struggle to create turnovers. They’ve only recorded seven interceptions on the year and have only forced 17 turnovers.
In the last few weeks, the defense has performed a lot better, and Thursday is an opportunity for the defense to gain some confidence. The Las Vegas Raiders have scored the third least amount of touchdowns on the season and are tied for second to last in PPG. If they want any chance of winning Thursday night, the defense has to step up. With their quarterback getting his first NFL start, the recipe to help him build confidence and manage the game is to force turnovers, gift him with a great field position, and not fall too far behind.
Different Ends of The Spectrum
You can’t pinpoint one group or person for the struggles throughout the team. Year-round, this team hasn’t been able to find the needed balance to be a winning group. For example, in week one against the Miami Dolphins, the offense looked scary good, but the defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed. The Detroit Lions game was very similar; they scored 38 points, but they allowed 41 points and 533 yards of offense.
Then there are games when the defense plays outstandingly like they did against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, but the offense struggles to find any type of momentum and efficiency. They can’t seem to get on the same page and that’s been the tale for the last few years. This team is way too talented to be out of the playoff hunt with four games left to play.
Look Ahead To The Draft
It’s never too early to look ahead and that’s exactly what the Chargers should do. If they lose out and are sitting at 5-12, they’ll end up with a top-10 pick. First and foremost, address the secondary issues. Once again, with a bunch of inconsistency from the cornerbacks and a draft class loaded with talent, it’s best they grab a few game-changers. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Kalen King, or Nate Wiggins are a few that could have an immediate impact on a struggling secondary.
With Ekeler on the last year of his deal, it’s uncertain if they’ll re-sign him or not, especially with the lack of production this season. If he does re-sign, it still wouldn’t hurt to grab another running back in rounds two or three. The Chargers need a big physical back who will run through gaps and punish defenders but also can hurt you as a receiver. Florida State’s Trey Benson wouldn’t be a bad move.
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