Los Angeles Chargers Offense Struggling With Inconsistency

Los Angeles Chargers Offense
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Ever since their 4-1 start, the Los Angeles Chargers and their offense have been in a weird spiral of inconsistency. They suffered losses to the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Minnesota Vikings – and were kind of flailing throughout. But they also beat the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers – and looked more or less like their September/early October selves, despite playing down to competition. Now they have suffered a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos, another inconsistent team – and at this point, it’s getting difficult to figure out who the Chargers are. To be fair, this is a common theme in the NFL lately; virtually every team is being inconsistent right now. But the occasional shakiness of the offense in particular has been perplexing. So what are the causes for all of this?

Los Angeles Chargers Offense Facing Inconsistency Issues

Injured Offensive Line

The Chargers did a great job creating a drastically improved offensive line this off-season. But they have faced injury problems. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was lost to injured reserve early on, and though he was never declared out for the season, he still has yet to return and we have not heard an update for some time. His replacement, Storm Norton, has frankly been atrocious. Justin Herbert has faced constant pressure from the right side of the line, and in some games, it has definitely affected him more than others. The only reason he is still out there is that the alternative is Trey Pipkins, and at that point putting out an actual turnstile would be indistinguishable.

They also lost right guard Oday Aboushi for the season, and while he was the least critical piece of the line and his replacement Michael Schofield hasn’t been bad, it still affects things a little. More critically, Matt Feiler was out for the Broncos loss, leaving only two of the starters available (fortunately, Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley are the best ones of the bunch). The effect of missing the majority of the offensive line starters cannot be overlooked.

Shaky Coaching

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has been a little suspect at times this year. Herbert has not been passing the ball deep nearly as much this year, even though that’s one of his biggest strengths; and while sometimes not having enough time to throw can be a factor, this lack of aggressiveness seems to be in part by design from Lombardi. In fact, at times the offense looks similar to the New Orleans Saints offense that had been run the last few years – which is not really as befitting to Herbert, who is not the same kind of quarterback as Drew Brees. In some of the games this has not mattered as Herbert and the offense have moved the ball effectively anyway, but there have been other times where the more aggressive style should have been used – and hasn’t.

While Brandon Staley is much less to blame here, it is also notable that in the recent set of games, we have seen him take chances on fourth down much less. During the 4-1 start, the chances he took on fourth down were often directly responsible for them winning the games they did. The success rate of them going for it on fourth down has also lessened recently, and that may be making Staley more cautious. However, going back to this aggressiveness (when reasonable) may be more key than one might think.

Defensive Failures

While this piece primarily focuses on the direct failures of the offense, the effects of the defensive struggles should not be overlooked either. The run defense in particular has been utterly abysmal, ranking last in the league. The result of this has been games like the Ravens and Patriots games where the Chargers lost the time of possession game by a lot. And usually, when you lose the time of possession game by a wide margin, you are going to lose the football game. Herbert can’t win the game if he’s only out there for 20 minutes of the game. This is something that sadly probably will not be fixed this year.

In Conclusion

Some of the issues of the Los Angeles Chargers offense cannot easily be fixed right now. The problem at right tackle will not be focused until Bulaga comes back (if he does at all). The run defense/time of possession probably will not be fixed until next year with better personnel or new defensive coaching. But more consistent and aggressive coaching/play-calling could. The Chargers are still a playoff contender, but between their inconsistency and the tight AFC West, it will likely be a bumpy ride the rest of the season.

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