How to Fix Chargers: Race Defense is Brandon Staley’s Biggest Problem, Not Game Management

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The Los Angeles Chargers have a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, who is off to the best start for a quarterback in NFL history. Herbert has the most passing yards (9,150) and passing touchdowns (69) in a player’s first two seasons, but has yet to make the playoff debut despite his record numbers.

It’s not the fault of Herbert, who is only 15-17 years old in his two starting seasons for the Chargers. Los Angeles has a lot of issues that kept Herbert from making that coveted start to the playoffs, even though the Chargers are on course to become an AFC contender. These issues were evident in the Week 18 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, and coach Brandon Staley will need to correct them before Year Two.

This offseason will be important for Staley, who has been criticized all season for his excessive aggression and analytical decisions. GM Tom Telesco will also be under the microscope as he looks to reshape that roster into a playoff contender in the talented AFC West (the Chargers finished third in the division).

The Chargers don’t have much to fix, but there are some glaring issues on this list that need to be addressed.

Improve running defense

The Chargers’ run defense has been the team’s biggest problem throughout the season, allowing more than 100 rushing yards in 12 of 17 games. Los Angeles was 30th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 138.8 rushing yards per game – including 174 in the Week 18 loss to the Raiders that took them out of the playoffs.

Think about this: Brandon Staley called the time out with the Raiders trying to run the time limit to get the right staff on the pitch – and the Chargers still left a big run for Josh Jacobs who established the game-winning goal for the Raiders. Los Angeles allowed 4.6 yards per carry over the year (28th in the NFL) and 22 touchdowns (29th in the NFL), demonstrating that the running defense needs to improve in order to advance to the playoffs. playoffs in 2022.

Development from Kenneth Murray (who hasn’t had a good 2021 season) would help, but Los Angeles need to improve defensively. With $ 57 million of available space. Staley – hired for his defensive expertise – has to be aggressive to get the players he wants to correct this glaring hole in his roster.

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Add a right tackle

Watching Storm Norton try to block Maxx Crosby in Week 18 was brutal, as the Chargers’ right tackle allowed 11 pushes and two sacks in the regular season finale. Norton brutally replaced an injured Bryan Bulaga this year, allowing 60 pushes and nine sacks, including four games he allowed more than five pushes.

The Chargers hit a home run with first-round pick Rashawn Slater (who allowed just 26 presses and four sacks in his rookie season), but good tackling position was an albatross. Bulaga has only played one game (the first game of the season) due to an ankle injury, a year after suffering multiple injuries throughout the 2020 season. Los Angeles may leave Bulaga, but the Chargers cannot return to Norton to protect Herbert in 2021.

There’s plenty of room to find a good veteran to play the right tackle, but the Chargers pulled off Slater’s selection. There’s no reason they can’t find another good tackle in the early rounds of the draft.

Brandon Staley Shouldn’t Change

Whether or not Brandon Staley’s late time-out cost the Chargers or not, has his excessive aggression really played a huge role in the Chargers’ demise throughout the season? The Chargers went there in fourth place 34 times in 2021 and converted them 64.71% of the time – fourth in the NFL.

Staley going for the fourth down isn’t the problem in Los Angeles, especially when he’s got Justin Herbert in the quarterback. The Chargers were 5-9 for fourth in their own territory, including 3-of-4 in the Week 18 loss to the Raiders. Staley might be a little too aggressive, but Herbert is 3 for 5 for 64 yards (104.2) for fourth in his own turf.

If Staley looks at the scans, Herbert was 15 of 22 for 197 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (126.5 rating) this season. That should justify Staley’s decision to move into fourth, as he did, especially with a conversion rate close to 65%.

Staley shouldn’t change his aggressive approach, especially with an elite quarterback like Herbert. The numbers indicate that his decisions are not the bad ones, at least in fourth place.

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