The 2021 season is over. Kaput. Some probably don’t want to talk about the offseason yet. Maybe not this week or next, maybe not even until close to free agency. For me its cathartic to get some thoughts out now while everything is fresh.
I’m not going to talk about the Raiders game, or Staley or Lombardi or the Spanos family. None of them are going anywhere. What interests me more is to look back at the bigger picture, and the overall THEMES that really defined the season. What really cost them and where do they need to see the most improvement to take a step up, or maybe even a leap to become a true contender? And how can they address it?
It is easy to identify roster holes and the most positions of need. It’s easy to shout "this guy sucks" and demand an upgrade. It’s important to understand what were the clear underlying issues though, so that you can fix the actual issues, not just say we need new players with a better PFF grade. Once you have zeroed in on the issue, then you can actually identify players who are most likely to help fix the problem.
Ultimately, I believe the Drops was the season-long theme that became the single biggest issue on offense.
Sure, the right side of the line was a problem all year once Brian Bulaga and then Oday Aboushi went down. No argument from me there and I expect that to be addressed in the offseason. There were also complaints about Lombardi’s style, but despite (or because) of the playcalling, this was still one of the league’s top offenses hallmarked by multiple records set by Herbert. This offense also needs some more "quick-twitch" speed and YAC (Yards after catch) potential which has been an issue for years now. However, I do think that drops were the single biggest offensive problem and the stats back it up.
The Chargers led the league in drops and had roughly 50% more drops than the league median.
Meanwhile, despite the somewhat poor play of the right side of the O-line, the Chargers still registered bottom-10 in the league in Pressure Rate (Times pressured per dropback per PFR, so lower is better). In fact, the Chargers ended as the 7th best team in the league in terms of yielding pressure per this metric.
I know, I know. Everyone gets frustrated watching Norton get turnstiled, but on the whole of the season, it was just not as big of an issue as drops.
How many times did we see drives stall out due to a drop? Drops are inherently problematic, not only because of that particular play, but because they very often kill the entire drives and disrupt any offensive flow. If a drop leads to a quick three and out, not only is that drive stalled, but then your defense is right back on the field. It also ruins playcalling flow if the offense is looking to just set up a manageable down and distance, but instead you’re facing 3rd and 10.
So, how do they rectify this? Maybe they improve on this simply from just some regression to the mean and some more rapport between the current receivers and Herbert. For example, I don’t expect Keenan Allen to be near the top of the league in drops again.
Otherwise - Bring in guys with sure hands. Keenan Allen is likely not going anywhere, and I feel like Mike Williams will likely be back whether with a long term deal or on the tag. Jalen Guyton and Josh Palmer will obviously remain in the fold. That leaves TE and another receiver they can bring in, and ideally guys with sure hands who like catching frickin lasers and also can offer some YAC potential.
One player that intrigues me is Maxx Williams. The former second round pick has had an injury plagued career which I obviously realize is not ideal. Most recently his 2021 season was ended up an ACL injury, but he’s expected to be ready to play in 2022 and he’ll still be just 28 years old.
Assuming he’s healthy, he could be a very strong complimentary piece for the Chargers’ offense. Not only is he a good blocker, but he catches pretty much everything thrown his way and only has 1 drop in the last 4 years. I just don’t think he’s ever been in an offense that has properly utilized him. He also offers quite a bit of YAC potential for a TE, and has a knack for fighting to the sticks when given the opportunity.
Due to his history, he should be available on a fairly cheap "prove-it" deal, and I think the Chargers have enough internal depth that they could weather a loss if the injury bug pops up again. I know he’s not some marquee name, but this would allow them to concentrate their cap dollars on other positions that are of more importance, while bringing in a good blocker who arguably has the best hands of any available TE and has also shown some of the best YAC stats in his opportunities. Maybe he just needs some more targets.
Lastly, as for that fifth receiver? One player I have my eye in the draft is Skyy Moore out of Western Michigan. Moore is a shorter slot receiver listed at 5’10 but pretty strong build at 195lbs and he's tough. Reminds me a bit of Ekeler in that way. He is quick-twitch explosive player that has reportedly run a 4.3 forty and maybe comps to someone like Tyler Lockett. Good hands, breaks a lot of tackles and very quick. He might take some time to warm up to NFL competition, but is the exact type of dynamic weapon that the Chargers offense could use. Fans are going to overlook this guy because he’s from a small school and barely even showing up on mock draft simulators, but my hunch is he will end up going between the 3 – 5 rounds when all is said and done. If we could grab him in the 4th at 120 I would be happy. Though Telesco would probably take him in the third just to piss everyone off
Back next week with my thoughts on Defense.