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[Off-season] Los Angeles Chargers: surround Justin Herbert and defend

The 2022 season has just ended, and as of March 13, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agents to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today are the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers returned to the playoffs in 2022-23. It’s a first step. But when you have a franchise quarterback like Justin Herbert, you have to aim higher. Despite high aerial stats, the 2022 financial year showed that the gem lacked options.

Despite qualifying, Brandon Staley has lost his luster and already seems weakened. He probably plays his last card. Especially since the arrival of the talented Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator adds additional pressure.

The owners

1. Justin Herbert (QB)
2. Austin Ekeler (RB)
3. Derwin James (S)

Only three seasons with the pros, and Justin Herbert has already passed the 14,000 passing yard mark, becoming the first player in history to cross 4,000 yards in each of his first 3 seasons. If it sometimes seems to level off, it is also because it rose very quickly very high. Playing injured in the ribs almost all season, he still managed to take his team to the playoffs, despite an avalanche of injuries on both sides of the ball. We expect even more from him but he is already in the elite of his position.

38 is the staggering number of touchdowns scored by Austin Ekeler in the last two seasons, making him the league’s leading scorer by far. If he has never exceeded 1000 yards in the race since his professional debut, it is because he is much more than a running back. By catching as many balls as a number one receiver (107 in 2022!), Ekeler is an absolute threat in the attack of the Chargers. At 27, he is at the top of his game.

After 2 years rotten by injuries, Derwin James is back. No major injuries in the past two seasons, an extension that made him the highest paid safety in the NFL, and a level of play that allowed him to regain All Pro status in 2022, James is indeed one of the pillars of the franchise. Field and locker room leader, the player is omnipresent in all aspects of the game as his statistics show.

Undesirables

Khalil Mack (OLB)
–Austin Johnson (NT)
Dustin Hopkins (K)

A season and then goes? This scenario must surely be under study in the head of Tom Telesco about Khalil Mack. At 32, the former defender of the 2016 season is slowly starting to decline. Author of 8 sacks, including 5 in the last 16 matches, the production of the former Raider no longer justifies such a salary.
A potential saving of more than 18 million dollars in the event of an early break (or even 23 million with a cut after June 1): Mack’s future should be far from the Chargers.

With only 27% of snaps played, Austin Johnson brought as much as his other teammates in the same position who arrived at the same time as him. Not sure that anticipating his departure really weakens the line. In any case, it would save a few dollars.

Despite honorable performances since his arrival during last season, Dustin Hopkins will certainly no longer wear the blue jersey. An injury during the season gave rookie Cameron Dicker an opportunity. And the latter shone. Enough to win the titular job. The franchise will be able to save more than 2 million by releasing the kicker from his contract after June 1.

The summer man

Kellen Moore (Offensive Coordinator)

Announced as a credible candidate for a position of head coach, Kellen Moore has finally re-enlisted for a post of coordinator. But he left Dallas for Los Angeles. A very nice catch made by the Chargers to lead the attack and help Justin Herbert to reach a new level.

Only 30th attack on the ground in the number of yards, despite the presence of Ekeler, Moore must bring more balance and more variety. Taking the pressure off the big, consistent plays is the best way to maximize Herbert’s talent and see him continue to grow. The technician must also make the Chargers a more efficient team, knowing how to kill matches by controlling the ball and the clock. This has been sorely missed by the team in recent seasons, such as the playoff loss to the Jaguars, where they squandered a 24-point advantage at halftime.

The main free agents

1. Drue Tranquill (LB)
2. Bryce Callahan (BC)
3. Morgan Fox (DT)
4. Nasir Adderley (S)
5. Kyle Van Noy (LB)

The others: DeAndre Carter (WR), Christian Covington (DT), JK Scott (P), Chase Daniel (QB), Troy Reeder (LB), Trey Pipkins (OT), Easton Stick (QB), Richard Rodgers (TE)

Renewal of staff in view of the defensive side where nearly half of the regular holders are free agents this offseason. The situations are substantially the same for each of them. They’re valuable in the game, but the franchise’s limited salary cap wiggle room shouldn’t bring everyone back.

Having become essential on the second curtain, Drue Tranquill has asserted himself as a complete linebacker. Tackle machine, quarterback hunter, or pass defense, he passed a milestone in 2022. To the point of being offered an extension? Not easy given the requirements that the player can claim.
Veterans Callahan and Van Noy could be tempted to come back cheaply if they don’t get offers on the market soon. Morgan Fox is coming off the best season of his career. At 28, he could be offered a nice contract on which the Chargers will not be able to match. The selection of JT Woods in the 2022 draft had probably already sounded the death knell for Adderley’s future. It would therefore be surprising to see it extended.

Top 5 Needs

1. Receiver
2. Pass rusher
3. Linebacker
4. Tight end
5. Defensive tackle

Despite a complementary and productive receiver duo, the Chargers lack alternatives. As the 2022 season has proven, in the event of injuries or poor form, Herbert’s options are slim.
If Josh Palmer has progressed and been more involved, additions are needed. With their quarterback’s passing abilities, leaders must surround him as much as possible and offer him as many options as possible. In the same logic, it would not be useless to strengthen the position of tight end. If Gerald Everett lived up to expectations, an additional, effective red-zone safety valve would be a valuable addition for a team looking to be more realistic.

On the defense side, it is above all necessary to compensate for potential departures. If Tranquill doesn’t come back, there will be a big hole in the middle of the field. Kenneth Murray has not (for the moment) met the expectations of his 1st round status, reinforcements will be needed. And rather an effective reinforcement against the race when we know that the team is still in the lower depths of the league in the field (28th). From this perspective, the position of defensive tackle remains a sea serpent in LA The players at the heart of the defensive line pile up and follow one another, without convincing results.

Target

Jaylon Smith (LB)

In a tense wage bill situation, the general manager will have to play tight to strengthen himself through free agents. If cuts and restructuring can help, the spring of 2023 cannot be as expensive and flashy as the previous one.

After a big slump in 2021 marked by his departure from Dallas and his express failure in Green Bay, Jaylon Smith has revived well in New York, especially in the second half of the season. A formidable tackler, the addition of Smith would bring, in addition to experience, a reliable presence against the run and a threat to blitz.

The new blood

Jordan Addison (WR)

Keenan Allen will be 31 in 2023 and his salary is getting heavier and heavier. Preparing for his succession would seem to be a good idea. When we know that no receiver has passed the 1000-yard mark in 2022, we logically say that Herbert’s arm is not exploited to its full potential.

Best course runner in the promotion, Jordan Addison would be a valuable additional weapon for the Californian attack. Named the nation’s top receiver in 2021, he successfully made the transition to USC despite a drop in production. Able to evolve on the outside or in the slot, his combination of speed, movement, vision and acceleration make him a potential gadget player who can do damage in depth or on yards after reception. An ideal profile to complete the squad.

Other choices: Michael Mayer, Lukas Van Ness, Nolan Smith, Jalin Hayatt

SEE ALSO:  [Si j’étais un espoir] Jordan Addison (WR): the wisp
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