We’re officially at the halfway point of the season for the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers, and it’s been a rather bizarre and often frustrating season. After parting ways with long-time quarterback Philip Rivers, they drafted Justin Herbert in the first round – and after an absurd medical snafu with stopgap quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Herbert got thrown into the mix and has arguably had one of the best rookie quarterback seasons in history. The problem? The Chargers are still 2-6, and all of their losses have come by seven points or less. Let’s take a look at how they got to this point, and what lies ahead for them the rest of the season.
2020 Los Angeles Chargers Midseason Report
Injuries, Injuries Everywhere (Again)
This is a familiar theme for the Chargers. For the second straight year, the secondary is decimated by injuries. Derwin James is missing the whole season with another injury. Chris Harris is currently on injured reserve as well. Then Desmond King got traded, leaving them without a reliable slot corner until Harris returns. Until then, the only other available corners after the starters Casey Hayward and Michael Davis… are Brandon Facyson (also currently on the COVID reserve list) and Tevaughn Campbell. Ouch. It’s also not good when you have to bring back Jahleel Addae for depth among the safeties.
But the offense has also been hit by some injuries – particularly on the offensive line. Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga were brought in this off-season to shore up the right side of the line, but they’ve both seen the field very little – especially Turner. They’ve also had some running back troubles, as Austin Ekeler is on injured reserve as well (though not for the season). And due to other short-term injuries, it got to the point where Kalen Ballage was actually out there running for the Chargers on their most recent game. And what’s even more bizarre is that it actually worked, because Ballage somehow scored a touchdown.
Heartbreak After Heartbreak
Some of the ways in which the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers have been losing have got to be reminding fans of the 2016 season, where they went 5-11 and all but two games ended in one-score games. Four losses involved blowing double-digit leads. Michael Badgley did a Cody Parkey impersonation on what would’ve been a game-winning field goal in one game. Another game ended with an attempted hook-and-ladder that should’ve ended with a walk-in touchdown – but Ekeler couldn’t corral the ball. Their only two victories came against the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Coaching Shakeup on the Way?
At some point, when you’re losing this many games despite having extremely good quarterback play, you’ve got to start looking at your coaching staff. Head coach Anthony Lynn and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s seats are both starting to get hot. It’s hard to say who’s more responsible for the team’s struggles. Lynn’s had some questionable play-calling at times, but Bradley’s been calling a rather conservative defense in second halves of games (though the increasingly injured personnel can’t be helping either).
Regardless, at some point – whether it’s during or after the season – something’s gotta change at this point. A team with Justin Herbert as its quarterback with the way he’s playing simply should not be 2-6. It’s much like when the Chargers went a combined 9-23 from 2015 to 2016 while Rivers was still in his prime – that just can’t happen. Something has to change.
Future Is Bright With Herbert
If there’s one thing to feel good about as the season goes on, it’s the play of Justin Herbert. He has been playing at a level well beyond what anybody expected. In just seven games (since Tyrod Taylor started the first game), Herbert has 2,146 yards, 17 touchdowns, and only five interceptions (plus two rushing touchdowns). He’s largely lacked the rookie mistakes that one would expect. Not that they haven’t been there, but they’ve been fairly minimal for a rookie. And it’s not even like the offense is that conservative – he throws the ball deep a lot and doesn’t miss that often.
It’s hard to believe the Chargers lucked their way into another great quarterback immediately after Rivers, but Herbert looks very much like he’s going to be a top-ten quarterback in the future. Some might even say he’s already there, though it might be too soon for that. And when he’s got the likes of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry plus some of the promising new faces to throw to, he’s pretty well set with weapons. Despite the problems the Chargers have right now, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Promising New Weapons
Speaking of the promising new faces earlier… there’s been a few brand-new players or unknown ones making plays early in the season. Jalen Guyton has been an unexpected breakout player with two 70+ yard touchdowns, essentially taking the role Tyrell Williams used to have. But Tyron Johnson has also made a big play or two. Then there’s the former XFL tight end Donald Parham, who’s made a couple of big touchdown catches as well thanks in part to his ridiculous height (6’8”). Even the rookie fullback Gabe Nabers has had a couple of touchdowns as well. Rookie running back Joshua Kelley has been quite inconsistent, but we might still see him improve over time.
And that still leaves this year’s rookie wide receivers Joe Reed and K.J. Hill, who were expected to be a bigger part of the lineup. They haven’t, mainly because they haven’t really fit Anthony Lynn’s ideal scheme. But if there ends up being a new head coach this year or next, we may still yet see them out there more often in the future.
This has been a rough season for the Chargers – a very snake-bitten type of year. While it’s hard to be optimistic about the rest of this year despite the play of Herbert, there is still reason to look forward to the future of the franchise with this new quarterback at the helm. Unfortunately, if the heartbreaking losses continue, it may indeed feel like a long road to that point.
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