After the firing of Anthony Lynn, it was widely expected that the Los Angeles Chargers would hire a young offensive coordinator as their next head coach to further the development of their young quarterback Justin Herbert. After being selected 6th in the 2020 NFL draft, Herbert threw for over 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also rushed for 5 more touchdowns on his way to being named Rookie of the Year. But, instead, the Chargers hired Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach. And the relationship between Staley and Herbert will be the single most important factor in Los Angeles taking the next step and being a playoff team.
Herbert will have to learn a new offense under new coordinator Joe Lombardi. An offense that will put pressure on Herbert at the line of scrimmage to get into the right play according to what the defense is showing. The rushing attack is led by Austin Eckler, who missed six games due to injury. Eckler had 933 total yards. Since drafted in 2017, Eckler is 4th in receptions by a running back (212). Trailing only Kamara, McCaffrey, and James White. Justin Jackson had 43 receptions and averaged 5.93 per carry in 2020. By selecting Rashawn Slater in the first round, largely regarded as the top offensive lineman, the signing of Corey Lindsey, and a healthy Bryan Bulaga, the offensive line should improve on the 32 times Herbert was sacked.
Defensively Staley takes over a unit that ranked in the top ten in yards given up per game (343) and passing yards allowed per game(223.6). But ranked 25th in sacks(27). All pro defensive end Joey Bosa led the team with 7.5 sacks. Replacing Melvin Engram will be difficult; he averaged 6 sacks over the last four years. It will remain to be seen if Staley can turn an average Charger defense into an elite one as he did with the Rams.
The Chargers face five playoff teams from 2020, including the Chiefs, who they play twice. The extra game on the schedule is home against Minnesota on November 14th. After their week seven bye, they play three of their next four at home. (New England, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh). And they finish with two of their last three on the road. Houston and Las Vegas. And the only Monday night game on the schedule is October 4th at home against the Raiders. The Chargers finished 7-9 in 2020, winning their last four games. Incredibly, they lost five games by five points or less. They hope to build on the final four weeks of 2020, and maybe a few lucky bounces and a couple of those close losses could be avoided. Another system for quarterback Justin Herbert to learn and first-time head coach Brandon Staley having no experience, the Chargers could stumble out of the gate, playing four 2020 playoff teams in the first six weeks. Another bet right around the number, but ten wins to cash seems like too many for a first-time coach who shares a division with Kansas City.
Los Angeles Chargers under 9.