This article is part of our Team Previews series.
Los Angeles Chargers
Seeking to maximize a window of opportunity with Justin Herbert still on his rookie deal, the Chargers went all-in to reload the team's inconsistent defense. In a division in which other teams also made aggressive offseason moves, that's a sound approach to help end a three-year playoff drought.
2022 Offseason Moves – Los Angeles Chargers
- Khalil Mack – LB (from Bears)
Injuries ruined his 2021 season, but he remains a quality pass rusher.
- Gerald Everett – TE (from Seahawks)
Should be a reliable and capable pass catcher for QB Justin Herbert.
- J.C. Jackson – CB (from Patriots)
Major ballhawk bolsters a secondary that had just 11 INTs last season.
- Zion Johnson – G (Rd. 1, No. 17 – Boston College)
A road grader who fills a massive need in an improving offensive line.
- Jared Cook – TE (FA)
Still a solid veteran target but remains a free agent at press time.
- Justin Jackson – RB (FA)
Explosive in limited opportunities but has had trouble staying healthy.
- Kyzir White – LB (to Eagles)
Didn't net a big extension from the team, despite a productive 2021.
- Uchenna Nwosu – DE (to Seahawks)
The acquisition of Mack made the 2018 second-rounder expendable.
Los Angeles Chargers 2022 Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Brandon Staley (Year 2)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Lombardi (Year 2) – West Coast offense
Defensive Coordinator: Renaldo Hill (Year 2) – 3-4 scheme
Stats to Know for the Los Angeles Chargers
2022 Vegas Projected Wins: 10.5 (T-3rd)
2021 Record: 9-8
2021 Points Scored: 474 (5th)
2021 Points Allowed: 459 (T-29th)
2021 Point Differential: +15 (16th)
2021 Run-Play Rate: 37.5 percent (28th)
2021 Offensive Snaps: 1,128 (T-7th)
2021 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 10
2022 Los Angeles Chargers Depth Chart
QB: Justin Herbert / Chase Daniel / Easton Stick
RB: Austin Ekeler / Isaiah Spiller / Joshua Kelley / Larry Rountree
FB: Gabe Nabers
WR1: Keenan Allen / Joshua Palmer / Jalen Guyton / DeAndre Carter
WR2: Mike Williams / Jason Moore
TE: Gerald Everett / Donald Parham / Tre' McKitty
O-Line: LT Rashawn Slater / LG Matt Feiler / C Corey Linsley / RG Zion Johnson / RT Storm Norton (RotoWire Rank: No. 10)
Kicker: Dustin Hopkins / James McCourt
2022 Los Angeles Chargers Schedule
|1||Sep 11||Las Vegas Raiders||4:25 PM|
|2||Sep 15||@ Kansas City Chiefs||8:15 PM|
|3||Sep 25||Jacksonville Jaguars||4:05 PM|
|4||Oct 2||@ Houston Texans||1:00 PM|
|5||Oct 9||@ Cleveland Browns||1:00 PM|
|6||Oct 17||Denver Broncos||8:15 PM|
|7||Oct 23||Seattle Seahawks||4:25 PM|
|9||Nov 6||@ Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM|
|10||Nov 13||@ San Francisco 49ers||8:20 PM|
|11||Nov 20||Kansas City Chiefs||4:25 PM|
|12||Nov 27||@ Arizona Cardinals||4:05 PM|
|13||Dec 4||@ Las Vegas Raiders||4:25 PM|
|14||Dec 11||Miami Dolphins||4:05 PM|
|15||Dec 18||Tennessee Titans||4:25 PM|
|16||Dec 26||@ Indianapolis Colts||8:15 PM|
|17||Jan 1||Las Angeles Rams||8:20 PM|
|18||TBD||@ Denver Broncos||TBD|
Los Angeles Chargers Storylines for 2022
Dominant Duo Paces Wideout Corps
Quarterback Justin Herbert has had a quick ascent to NFL stardom, but since he took over the Chargers' starting job, the team hasn't seen steady wide receiver production beyond PPR-maven Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the latter of whom earned a lucrative contract extension in March.
The duo, who both played 16 games in 2021, combined for 182 catches and 2,284 yards on a whopping 286 targets. Their immense workload was a direct contrast to that logged by No. 3 and 4 wide receivers Joshua Palmer and Jalen Guyton, who together averaged a paltry 5.9 targets per game. Part of that drop-off can be attributed to the usage of Austin Ekeler – who finished top 3 among running backs in targets per game for a third consecutive campaign – but it still underscores the team's inability to develop a notable wideout threat beyond Allen and Williams.
With an offseason emphasis on improving the team's defense, the Chargers did little to bolster the WR position, presumably banking on Palmer and/or Guyton improving in their second year in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system. Palmer did seem to click toward the end of last season, accumulating 18 catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns over his final five games, but his lack of top-end speed (4.51 40-yard dash) suggests he won't entirely displace the fleet Guyton.
Defense Sees Overhaul
Despite the efforts of rising signal-caller Justin Herbert, the Chargers have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Many have put the onus on the team's lackluster defense, which allowed an average of 27 points per game in 2021. To address that, this offseason was chock full of major additions to the unit.
The franchise dished out major cash in the early stages of free agency on defensive contracts, and that was on top of the trade for Pro Bowler Khalil Mack, who still has three seasons left on a six-year extension he signed in 2018. Moreover, with Bryce Callahan and Kyle Van Noy having been added in May, when the transaction dust settled, the Chargers had acquired six expected defensive starters and at minimum three critical depth pieces.
Much of the initial focus was placed on improving a porous run defense, which dropped from 18th overall in rushing yards allowed during coach Brandon Staley's first season to an abysmal 30th overall last year. That complements the high-profile splashes of Mack and star cornerback J.C. Jackson, both of whom were acquired with the idea of improving the squad's mundane turnover differential (t-17th in takeaways). With stalwarts Joey Bosa and Derwin James still in the mix, the 2022 version of the Chargers defense is almost guaranteed to see major improvement.
Better Balance at RB
Austin Ekeler put together a masterful performance in 2021, setting career highs in carries (206), rushing yards (911), rushing touchdowns (12) and offensive snaps (688), while still producing as a receiver to the tune of 70 catches for 647 yards and eight more scores. The 5-10, 200-pounder did all of that while playing in 16 of 17 games, missing time only due to a positive COVID-19 test.
That said, it was clear the increased usage took a toll on Ekeler. The fifth-year back was a game-time decision on three separate occasions due to injuries over the course of the season, and after tallying more than 100 yards from scrimmage five times through his first seven contests, he achieved the feat on just three occasions after Week 8. For those betting on sports this NFL season, Ekeler has been a very popular NFL player prop pick each and every week. You can bet on player props at any of the best sports betting sites, including using the Caesars Sportsbook promo code ROTO15, or the WynnBET promo code XROTO for a risk-free bet.
Both Ekeler and coach Brandon Staley essentially pleaded throughout the campaign for the likes of Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley or Larry Rountree to emerge as the 1B to Ekeler's 1A, but none of that trio was able to leave much of a mark in that regard.
With Jackson having not been re-signed, the Chargers attempted to boost their backfield by drafting Isaiah Spiller, who has the ability to find running lanes and can contribute as a pass catcher. The hope is that the rookie fourth-rounder can seize the No. 2 role and soak up enough touches to keep Ekeler fresh as the season progresses.
Fantasy Football Stock Watch
⬆️ Rising: TE Gerald Everett
Everett is slated to become the team's third starting tight end in as many seasons. The 6-3, 240-pounder is a plus athlete, and he'll have an opportunity to thrive while catching passes from a quality young signal-caller
⬇️ Falling: WR Jalen Guyton
The fourth-year speedster took a step back last season, registering 48 targets versus 55 the year prior. Joshua Palmer, a 2021 third-rounder, flashed promise as a rookie down the stretch and will compete for the No. 3 WR role.
😴 Sleeper: RB Isaiah Spiller
A 2022 fourth-round pick, Spiller was a consistent force at Texas A&M, where he registered three straight years with 1,000-plus total yards. Expect the rookie to immediately slot in as the top backup to Austin Ekeler.
🌟 Pivotal Player: Justin Herbert
Herbert built upon his sensational rookie debut this past season, posting the third-most and fourth-most passing yards and touchdowns, respectively, in NFL history among second-year quarterbacks. He's yet to see postseason action as a pro, however. A renovated Chargers defense should aid in correcting that blemish on Herbert's resume.
Los Angeles Chargers Injury Report
LB Khalil Mack
Mack's four-year tenure with the Bears ended on a sour note as the veteran pass rusher played just seven games in 2021 before undergoing season-ending foot surgery. Staring down the sights of an expected rebuild, new Bears GM Ryan Poles opted to trade Mack to the Chargers for second-round and sixth-round picks, thus forming arguably one of the league's most fearsome 1-2 pass-rush combos alongside Joey Bosa. Mack has participated in a handful of individual OTA drills to date, but the expectation is the multi-time Pro Bowler should be healthy to begin the coming campaign.
After missing the better part of two years due a foot injury in 2019 and a meniscus tear in 2020, James finally logged a mostly healthy season in 2021 and immediately re-established himself as the heart and soul of a young Chargers defense. The 2018 first-round pick did miss two games last year due to a nagging hamstring injury, but the star safety was otherwise thought to be healthy. Evidently that wasn't the case, as James underwent offseason shoulder surgery which kept him out of OTAs, but the 25-year-old is expected to be available around the beginning of training camp.
It's been a difficult 10-plus months for Murray, who ultimately underwent ankle surgery in April after initially picking up the injury in the beginning of October. The second-year linebacker tried to play through the injury, but he was ineffective and fell to third on the depth chart by the end of the 2021 campaign. The Chargers invested a lot of draft capital into Murray, trading up into the first round of the 2020 Draft to select the Oklahoma product, so it made sense the team opted not to re-sign Kyzir White, who quietly took over for the struggling linebacker last season. Per coach Brandon Staley, the hope is that Murray will be ready for training camp.
Training Camp Battle 2022 – Los Angeles Chargers
After a busy offseason which saw the Chargers dramatically improve their defense with additions such as J.C. Jackson, Khalil Mack and Sebastian Joseph-Day, as well as correct a glaring issue at right guard with the selection of Zion Johnson in the first round, the team's only real lingering weakness appears to be at right tackle.
The incumbent Storm Norton took over for the injured Bryan Bulaga (since released) and struggled mightily last season, allowing nine sacks while finishing with a bottom third grade (60.2) among all right tackles according to Pro Football Focus. The Chargers did little to remedy the issue, only drafting Jamaree Salyer in the sixth round to compete for the job.
There's some thought that 2019 third-round pick Trey Pipkins could slide over to right tackle if Norton continues to disappoint, but the more likely option might be to have the Chargers wait out training camp cuts and improve upon their limited depth closer to the start of the season. Norton might be the team's nominal starting right tackle by Week 1, but there's no guarantee the 6-8 undrafted behemoth will finish the year with that role.