Last Thursday, the San Diego Chargers played the Chicago Bears in week two of the preseason. The Chargers lost this game 33-28 to a Bears team that went 9-7 last year. While a 33-28 loss doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially for the preseason, major questions were raised during the game.
The first area of concern for the Bolts comes with special teams. On five kickoffs, the Bears had an average return of about 45 yards. Meanwhile, the Chargers returned six kicks for an average of about 19 yards. The 19-yard average isn’t something to be proud of, but it isn’t completely miserable. Allowing 45 yards per return is. If San Diego allows teams to start each drive at almost midfield, then opposing teams will be able to settle for a field goal if they can manage merely two first downs.
Aside from defending the return, the Chargers had other problems on the special teams side. With Eddie Royal injured, the Chargers need another option to return punts. On Thursday they gave Keenan Allen a shot and he muffed his first attempt. Luke Tasker also had two attempts to return punts and only averaged 6 yards per return. Finding someone to return punts will not make or break a season, but that extra field position can make a big difference in close games.
Last but not least, the Chargers had a punt blocked by Chicago late in the game. This has not been an area of major concern for the special teams unit so far, but it does show how there is nothing positive coming out of special teams. Right now, the Chargers special teams unit does more harm than good when it is on the field. The Chargers desperately need to get it together, and it will take more than one player stepping up to fix the whole unit.
The next problem is the offensive line. The line has actually done a great job run blocking as Ryan Mathews has finally had room to work with and Edwin Baker averaged 7.2 yards per carry against the Bears. That being said, the pass protection has looked as bad as it did last year. In both preseason games, the Bolts have allowed four sacks. In this second game, three of those sacks were on Philip Rivers, who was only in the game for four offensive drives. Of those four drives there were only 12 passing plays. This means that Rivers was sacked on one fourth of the times he dropped back.
The good news is that this problem may not be a major concern once the season starts. The offensive line hasn’t been great, but it also hasn’t been fully established yet. Once the five starters are named the group will be able to gel and players will start to work better together. The last questionable spot on the line is the left tackle position and King Dunlap looks like he has rightfully earned the spot. He hasn’t allowed a sack, and his competitor, Max Starks, has struggled the entire preseason.
While it seems as if the Chargers have some serious concerns this year, the team still really does have a chance to fix everything by week one. The offensive line will not be great, but they will continue to give Mathews room to run and may even protect Rivers fairly well at some point. Special teams are definitely more of a red flag, but special teams players can be found pretty easily. If the Chargers are still not able to defend kickoffs, they can always bring in new players once roster cuts are made. Finding good returners is a little trickier, but the Chargers can keep experimenting until they find the right fit. Overall, San Diego is far from playoff ready, but they aren’t as bad a team as they looked last Thursday. If they can fix there problems in the next two games, they will be able to give the Texans a run for their money in week one.