Los Angeles Chargers NFL Offseason Preview – NFL Nation

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LOS ANGELES – It’s almost a year for the Los Angeles Chargers. As in, they won almost enough matches to get to the playoffs. It came down to the last game of the season – a match they almost won in overtime. But they did not. The Las Vegas Raiders beat the Chargers 35-32 with a field goal as time ran out in Week 18, grabbing the playoff spot the Chargers wanted.

Quarterback Justin Herbert strengthened his role as a superstar on offense by throwing in 383 yards and three touchdown passes in that game, leading the Chargers (9-8) back from 15 points down the fourth quarter to force overtime. He finished the season throwing for 5,014 yards (second in the NFL to Tom Brady) and 38 touchdown passes (third after Brady and Matthew Stafford). And the future looks bright.

The Chargers got an entire season out of safety Derwin James Jr., who missed most of the previous two seasons before making a Pro Bowl performance in 2021. Running back Austin Ekeler scored 20 touchdowns, while receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams ( which is a free agent) both had more than 1,100 receiving yards.

That’s the good news. The bad one? Chargers were put in the do-or-die situation vs. the Raiders thanks to an unexplained loss to the Texans (who finished 4-13) in week 16. Almost everyone (on Charger’s side at least) thought they would win that match and the team was mentally shattered by the result, which proved to be expensive as they missed the playoffs for a third season in a row.

They need to reset and regroup, draft well and use their significant cap space (second most in the league) to find defensive linemen and linebackers to help strengthen their fighting defense. Then they will be a team no one wants to meet.

They’re almost there.

Expected salary cap: $ 54.61 million

Top Free Agents: WR Mike Williams, LB Uchenna Nwosu, DE Justin Jones, DT Linval Joseph, CB Chris Harris Jr., TE Jared Cook, OG Oday Aboushi, LB Kyzir White

Potential cutback candidates: Right tackle Bryan Bulaga played only one game and injured his back in week 1 vs. Washington. He has played 11 games for the Chargers since signing as a free agent in 2020 and will be 33 next season. He has one year left on his contract. The Chargers need an upgrade as Storm Norton failed to step forward in his place as he struggled in many big moments, including in Week 18 against Raiders Pro Bowls defensive end Maxx Crosby.

The big question: What will second-year coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco do to strengthen the team’s urgent defense? Midway through the 2021 season, the Chargers were at the bottom of the NFL in defense of the race, letting conflicting offenses run more than 140 yards per carry. match. They improved a bit down the stretch, but they have to draft wisely and expect Jones to stay healthy up front (provided the Chargers can sign him again) as the race defense suffered in the six games he missed. The defense finished last in the third-down conversion percentage (49.5%), was tied for 29th place in allowed points (27.0) and 26th place in expected added points (minus-80.49). Those numbers need to be corrected if the Chargers are to make the playoffs, be a candidate for the AFC West title and have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl.

Best scenario: Staley is great at health and activation exercises, and they work to keep his players healthy. The defense is improving thanks to improved talent brought in through the draft and free agency, and players like linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr., the Chargers’ second pick in the first round in 2020, are taking a step forward. It would also help convince Williams to stay and build on his 2021 career year.

Worst case: That the Chargers’ bad off-season injury occurs again and takes out a big player like Herbert. Chargers are unable to use their cap space to convince Williams to return and are unable to find an upgrade to Cook on the tight end, leaving Herbert with fewer weapons. The defense is unable to find the right pieces in the corner or along the front, making it ready for another battle in 2022.

Early look at the NFL draft from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: Addressing the offensive and defensive lines and cornerbacks are three essentials for general manager Tom Telesco this offseason. It is extremely important to find protection for one of the best young signal callers in the league. The Chargers hit gold with left tackle Rashawn Slater last year and they could look to strengthen the bookends in their offensive line by drafting yet another tackle. Attacking a strong cornerback class is also another way they could go. Also the staff in the middle of the D-line needs to be improved; they had the league’s worst running defense in 2021.

Top needs: IDL, CB, OT

Top picks: No.17

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