The Chargers made history on Saturday night, and it wasn’t in the way you’d want.
After building a 27-0 lead with under five minutes to play in the first half, they proceeded to be outscored 31-3 the rest of the way en route to losing their first wild card matchup since the 2004 season.
Everyone in the fan base will be trying to wrap their heads around this result for days, if not weeks, but we’re now in the offseason and for those that can’t stand to dwell on the loss any further, here’s some content for you.
Below I touch on four early positional needs the Chargers should look to bolster in this year’s draft which is now roughly four and a half months away. These will change throughout that time, but here’s where I’m starting now that the season is officially over.
By the end of the season, no other position seemed more affected by the injury big than the receiver group.
Before week one came to a close, the Chargers lost Keenan Allen to a hamstring injury that would keep him out of seven total games. In week three, they lost Jalen Guyton for the season.
Later in the year, Mike Williams missed the majority of five games before being sidelined with a back fracture just 24 hours ahead of their wild card matchup in Jacksonville.
In Saturday night’s game against the Jaguars, DeAndre Carter wound up injured in the first half and would never return.
So for a little over half the game, they were playing with Allen, Josh Palmer, and Michael Bandy who, in a normal situation, shouldn’t come close to the field in a playoff contest.
Without their deep threat in Guyton — and I mean deep threat via speed, not Williams’ jump ball skills — the offense became very monotonous and opposing defenses were able to capitalize on that.
There absolutely cannot be a repeat performance in 2023 and while a change in offensive coordinator could lead to ideal results, the team would be smart to add a legitimate threat to take the top off early in this year’s draft.
Now let me preface this with how much I LOVE the duo of Gerald Everett and Donald Parham. When those two make plays for the offense, I can’t help but feel the fan base get just that much more excited about it compared to other players. But alas, inconsistent play and injuries have stopped them from being enough to keep this position out of the eyes of draft analysts when it comes to the Chargers.
When given the chance to make plays, Parham looks like a legitimate threat at the NFL level. Unfortunately, his severe spinal injury at the end of the 2021 season combined with his nagging hamstring injury this season have swiftly shut the door on any confidence that he can stay healthy for a full season.
Everett recorded a career high 555 yards receiving this season and came through with a big 109-yard performance against the Jaguars. I really love his style of play and believe he’s a good piece for Herbert as an underneath YAC threat, but this team needs a complete tight end who can do it all.
That is, of course, someone can become such a receiving threat — a la Antonio Gates — that it doesn’t matter how well he can seal the edge on outside zone.
Either way, more production and less drawbacks should be the goal heading into 2023.
The move to add Khalil Mack certainly paid off. After giving up essentially a second-round pick for him this past offseason he went on to record nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 18 games played. As a whole, that doesn’t sound too bad for a “second-round pick” but when you look at how he got those numbers, it loses some of its luster.
After breaking out in week one for three sacks against Derek Carr and the Raiders, Mack recorded just five sacks the rest of the regular season. After recording six takedowns before their week eight bye, he only registered two more over the remaining 10 weeks. That’s certainly not the expectation from a former All-Pro, even with his advanced age and loss of Joey Bosa taken into account. Thankfully, guys like Morgan Fox and Kyle Van Noy played very well down the stretch to help, albeit that it took Van Noy essentially 11 weeks to record his first sack of the year before popping off for five in as many weeks.
Here’s where I might lose some people, but it’s worth noting, nonetheless.
Joey Bosa played his first full game on Saturday night since the week two matchup with the Chiefs. His return against the Rams coincided with a bout with food poisoning and he left week 18 early after getting bang up a bit. Against the Jaguars, Bosa recorded one single tackle, no sacks, and no tackles for loss on top of a pair of impactful penalties that certainly impacted the outcome of this game.
The biggest call came on a third-and-seven from the Chargers’ own 19-yard line with the Chargers still up 27-7 with 7:55 remaining in the third quarter. Cornerback Bryce Callahan got home on a blitz that pushed the Jaguars back 16 yards and would have forced a potential 52-yard field goal or a punt. Instead, Bosa was called for lining up in the neutral zone and the play was negated.
In the most important game of the year, with your top guys healthy for just the third game all season, it was strangely quiet for most of the night outside of Mack’s sack. Yes, Bosa was held and there was likely a miss call at some point, but there were plenty of other opportunities throughout that game for plays to be made.
The pair has a built-in excuse as to why this season wasn’t what many expected from both of them, but those only go so far. Chris Rumph will enter year three and I don’t think he’s close to being a dependable NFL edge defender. Van Noy’s role is perfect for him but he’s going to be 32 by next season. The Chargers need to add a body here on day two or early day three at the latest.
The Chargers actually had good luck here for the entire 2022 season. Both Drue Tranquill and Kenneth Murray managed to stay healthy the entire season outside of some missed snaps against the Broncos for Murray in week 18. But in those few snaps off the field, it was readily apparent that backup Troy Reeder was not going to be enough as the team’s LB3. His lack of range and athletic ability was in stark contrast to what we saw from the starters in the previous 17 weeks. He seemed out of his element and much more like a vintage linebacker plodding around the field as opposed to the rangy and speedy linebackers of today’s game.
The defense does have an athletic developmental player in former sixth-round pick Nick Niemann, but he’s still far from seeing actual snaps outside of special teams. Same thing goes for Amen Ogbongbemiga, but with less athletic upside. They’re both fine for coverage teams, but you don’t want to have to trust either of them in an actual contest.
This positional need is definitely further down the list than the aforementioned three, but it’s nonetheless a group teetering on the edge of disaster with one serious injury.