Teams usually go into the bye week looking back at their accomplishments. Brandon Staley, though, is trying to look ahead.
After four games, Staley’s Los Angeles Chargers squad is on its earliest in-season break since 2009. Instead of the usual intensive self-scouting done during bye weeks, Staley said his staff will focus on the remaining three-quarters of the season.
“Maybe a little bit more think-tank of what we want our team to look like here in the weeks after the bye, and then projecting to the end of the season, instead of saying, ‘Hey, I have all of this assessment for like half the season, where I have eight or nine games of inventory to look at,'” Staley said. “We have a much shorter inventory to go by.”
The Chargers continued to be plagued by some of the same issues exhibited throughout Staley’s first two seasons. They have held double-digit leads in three games, only to see them go down to the final minute. After losing in overtime at Tennessee in Week 2, Los Angeles held on to defeat Minnesota and Las Vegas in the last two games to even its record at 2-2.
“It’s quite frustrating, honestly. I know we can blow every team out on every play. But we like to put on a show,” wide receiver Josh Palmer said.
If the Chargers are going to do a better job of putting teams away, it must improve in the third quarter. Since Staley became coach in 2021, they are being outscored by 83 points in the quarter, the third-worst scoring differential in the league.
Even though the offense is ranked seventh in the league, it consistently fails to convert in critical situations. It went three-and-out in overtime at Tennessee and failed to convert on fourth-and-1 situations during the fourth quarter against the Vikings and Raiders.
Justin Herbert acknowledged there are plenty of issues to clean up, but he did point to the team bouncing back with two straight wins as something to build upon.
“To be honest, I never felt like we were off track. If two games are going to affect our next 15 or so, you’re not going to be very good,” Herbert said. “I thought our team did a great job of looking at the film, being rational and understanding that we have a lot of football left. Everything is still out in front of us.”
The Chargers also have plenty of cleanup on defense, where it has the league’s second-worst-ranked unit. However, those improvements will not include cornerback J.C. Jackson, who was traded Wednesday to the New England Patriots, where he played from 2018 through 2021.
Jackson signed a five-year, $82.5-million contract last year with the Chargers but proved to be a bust. Jackson and Staley never appeared to be on the same page about expectations. The situation worsened over the past two weeks when Jackson was a healthy inactive at Minnesota and didn’t play a single snap last week against the Raiders.
Asante Samuel, Michael Davis, and Ja’Sir Taylor appear to be the starting cornerbacks for the rest of the season. Samuel came up with a crucial interception late in the fourth quarter against the Raiders, but Davis has allowed four touchdowns, second-most in the league. Among cornerbacks with at least 130 coverage snaps, Davis and Samuel are two of the six lowest-rated in the league in percentage of making a play on the ball via pass defensed or interception.
An area where the defense has made gains is pressuring the quarterback. They are tied for the league lead with 16 sacks, which includes Khalil Mack setting a franchise single-game record with six against the Raiders.
Los Angeles hopes to get back some key pieces when it begins practices next week for its Oct. 16 game against Dallas. Herbert has a broken middle finger on his left hand, which is his non-throwing one, but isn’t expected to miss any time.
Running back Austin Ekeler has missed the last three games due to a high ankle sprain. On defense, linebacker Joey Bosa (hamstring/toe), safety Derwin James (hamstring) and safety Alohi Gilman (heel) were sidelined against the Raiders.
Center Corey Linsley is out for at least the next three games due to a non-emergent heart issue.
The Chargers can not afford to get off to a slow start after the bye. After hosting Dallas, they travel to Kansas City. Four of Los Angeles’ next seven games are slated for prime time.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl