The Chargers are one of those teams that it’s difficult to hate on. They’ve been consistent underachievers for a generation with their only ever Superbowl appearance coming in 1994 where a Steve Young led 49ers team blew them away. Most of us have always held a soft spot for the franchise, me included. This year we looked at the talent on the roster, the off season moved coupled with a young core and thought that, despite the tough AFC West, the Chargers would be in with a chance.
The first week wobble against the Raiders had us all thinking ‘same old Chargers’ until they didn’t ‘Charger it up’. Maybe times had changed. A tough loss against the Chiefs was fine, you can deal with that. Then the cracks started, literally, with a cracked rib cartilage to star quarterback Justin Herbert.
Herbert was present again the following Sunday to face a Jaguars team on an upwards swing. And then it all fell apart, Herbert wasn’t Herbert despite his best efforts in the face of what must have been a lot of pain. Joey Bosa went out early. Left tackle Rashawn Slater soon followed suit as did wide receiver Jalen Guyton both now out for the season with a torn bicep and ACL injury respectively. Despite the damage already sustained on the scoreboard, head coach Brandon Staley allowed the damaged Herbert to stay in the game. Silly.
Bosa suffered a groin injury, he’s doubtful for week 4 and no doubt will be a game to game decision. Joining him on the injury table is JC Jackson the highly paid cornerback who’s yet to make an appearance due to injury. Centre Corey Lindsey and wide receiver Keenan Allen are also questionable. Every team suffers injuries, it’s just that it happens a lot to the Chargers and to go along with their usual fate, it must be tough to take for fans.
So what happens now? Hopefully some of those above will come back soon but for Herbert to missing his left tackle is ominous. The Chargers need to develop a better running game if Herbert isn’t going to have as much time to throw the deep pass anymore. Austin Ekeler is a fine pass catching back but he’s not going to get the hard yards on a power run – can Sony Michel? Maybe, if he stays fit.
The core of the defensive line, especially in the middle, needs to get better at applying pressure. With Joey Bosa out, more focus will swing back to Khalil Mack who will find it tough going without a running mate.
The decision making needs to improve. Many of us, rightly, lambasted Brandon Staley for keeping Herbert in the game when the Jaguars had already won. Staley needs to adjust his game plan to suit the team he can put out on the field. Increasingly, without all those star players and in a division that maybe hasn’t lived up to expectations but is still difficult, the Chargers will once again find it hard to forge a path to the playoffs.
Three seasons of Justin Herbert and no playoff appearances will be hard for management to take and will put Staley very much on the hot seat.