Even when the Los Angeles Chargers win, they lose. Is that how the saying goes? It seems that way since even the most die hard fans of the Bolts find something to complain about every week.
This week, they actually might have a reasoning to complain however. While Los Angeles offense is clicking with the likes of quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and the dynamic duo of Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon, their defense still is need of work. Granted, while rookie safety Derwin James is a star on the rise and cornerback Casey Hayward is still a playmaker in coverage, the rest of the defensive unit could come into question.
That’s a subject for another column we’ll dive into later this week. Yes, the Chargers defense made San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Bethard look somewhat presentable in the team’s 29-27 victory last Sunday, that still isn’t the news that should have Chargers fans looking to come with torches and pitchforks for general manager Tom Telesco’s neck.
While the offense is finding great success and the defense somehow is able to be reliable with what little growth we’ve seen, it’s their special teams unit that has been abysmal.
Ranking 25th in kick returns, 14th in field goals and 26th in extra points, the Chargers kicking game has been far from even below satisfactory this season. Remember when Chargers kicker Caleb Sturgis clearly beat out former second-rounder and perhaps biggest bust of all-time Roberto Aguayo for the job back during the preseason? Heading into week 5, Strugis is 7 of 9 in field goal attempts with a long of 48 yards and 6 of 9 with extra points.
7 of 9.
6 of 9.
Long of 48.
Still has a kicking job heading into Tuesday morning.
Naturally, with plenty of kickers out in the open market hoping just for a tryout by any team, Telesco would have announced the release of Sturgis on Tuesday and announce the team’s new kicker. Yes, he did make a special team’s move, but one few were expecting.
As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chargers elected to release third-year punter Drew Kaser and replaced him for 38-year-old Donnie Jones. Jones recently punted for the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, but announced his retirement from the NFL back on February 27th.
Kaser might not have been the league’s best punter, but his numbers were solid. Averaging 48.4 yards per punt, Kaser ranked 4th among all active punters in the league. Keep in mind, this coming off just a year prior when the 25-year-old former Texas A&M standout ranked 3rd among all active punters with an average of 48.1 yards in 2017.
While the Chargers ranked 15th among all active punt units with an average of 46.6 yards in coverage this season, partially that can be blamed on Kaser. Mostly however, poor coverage from the punt team and terrible protection has led for the Chargers to stagger.
So what could be the problem? An injury? Locker room trouble? Perhaps an incoming suspension? Nope, all those would be reasons to actually let go of an above average punter.
According to reports, it’s due to his holding style for...you guessed it, Sturgis. Consistency has been the name of the game and according to Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, Kaser’s consistency has been as reliable as starting the Minnesota Vikings defense in your fantasy league.
It’s fair to ask the questions of what could have been the reasoning behind this move. While Kaser will likely find a new home within a matter of days, if not hours, this move by Telesco is one of the stranger ones of the season. Sure, Kaser did have a blocked punt against the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago, but that alone doesn’t just allow a play to be sent out the door.
It’s safe to say that Sturgis’s leash was much longer than Kaser’s heading into the 2017 season. The team is banking on the Jones to figure out his problems heading into a week 5 matchup with AFC West rival Oakland Raiders. With the help of Jones, perhaps Sturgis finds out his problem and it truly was the holder’s fault the entire time. Need proof? Jones was Sturgis’ place holder back in Philadelphia from 2015 to 2017. During that time, Strugis had a success field goal rate of 83.6% and a success PAT rate of 95.7%.
Finding a kicker in today’s NFL is easy. Finding a solid one is not. Even some of the best in the league such as Pittsburgh Steelers long-time kicker Chris Boswell has seen his hardships in 2018. Finding a reliable punter? Even harder.
The bottom line is the Chargers had a quality punter in the form of Kaser and released him for a guy who outside of a few comments of making comebacks here and there was enjoying watching NFL Sunday’s like a normal fan. Now, the long-time veteran will likely be coming into Chargers games not for his punting skills, but for the way he holds a ball.
Philip Rivers entered the game to hold for Sturgis who would make the kick on that hold. While it’s not ideal for your starting quarterback to be holding snaps, at least a reliable hand like Rivers would leave a roster spot open for the Chargers to release any other struggling player and keep Kaser to the long-haul. Instead, Kaser is now on the market while Jones is nothing short of a rental player who could be gone as soon as the Chargers find a replacement for their kicking woes perhaps week 6.
Although writers like to state the facts, the move Telesco made on Tuesday afternoon is one few, if any can get behind. If Sturgis turns it around, bravo Tom, you outsmarted the Chargers nation another week.
Sturgis however has an 80% career average in field goals and a long of just 55 yards. Don’t be holding your breath Chargers nation when Kaser is finding success on a new team and the team is right back to looking for now two special teams stars in week 6.