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2023 Los Angeles Chargers Offseason Preview

Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Falling in line with most of the AFC West, the Chargers spent the 2022 offseason loading up for a war against the Chiefs. Their big moves were trading for Khalil Mack and adding J.C. Jackson in free agency. With an improved defense and strong quarterback play, the Chargers cruised to a 1-7 record and a playoff berth. In true Chargers fashion, they amassed a 27-0 lead over the Jaguars, only to watch it slip through their fingers in the second half. Jacksonville ultimately toppled LA by out-scoring them 31-3 in the final 31 minutes of the game.

Key Offensive Stats

  • Points per game: 23 (13th)
  • EPA per play: 0.01 (16th)
  • Dropback EPA per play: 0.04 (15th)
  • Passing yards per game: 269.6 (3rd)
  • Rush EPA per play: -0.06 (14th)
  • Rush yards per game: 89.6 (30th)

The Chargers’ offense was barely above average in points and EPA per play, but they managed to post some impressive counting stats through a top-five pace and the second-highest pass rate in the league. The team had no ground game to speak of. Austin Ekeler graded well in rushing yards over expected, but that expectation was set low by Pro Football Focus’s No. 32 ranked offensive line in run-blocking. LA’s passing attack was hampered by multiple wide receiver injuries and a lack of aggression. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams combined to miss 11 games while field-stretcher Jalen Guyton went down with a torn ACL in Week 3. Herbert ultimately recorded the second-lowest aDOT of any quarterback with 300 dropbacks. He finished the year ranked 18th in EPA per play.

Key Defensive Stats

  • Points per game: 22.6 (21st)
  • EPA per play: 0.01 (18th)
  • Dropback EPA per play: -0.01 (10th)
  • Passing yards per game: 200.4 (7th)
  • Rush EPA per play: 0.04 (29th)
  • Rush yards per game: 145.8 (28th)

Bolstered by a slew of offseason acquisitions, LA’s pass defense went from 21st in EPA per dropback in 2021 to 10th in 2022. Not every move worked out. J.C. Jackson was benched in Week 6 before suffering a torn patellar tendon the following week. Khalil Mack, on the other hand, pitched in for eight sacks and 56 pressures. Mack’s contribution helped mask the loss of Joey Bosa, who only appeared in five games because of a groin injury. Typically getting the worst of LA’s bad injury luck, Derwin James was surprisingly healthy. He notched two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and four sacks across 14 games.

2023 Offseason

Notes

Cap Space

-$20.4 million

Draft Picks (Top-150)

21st, 54th, 85th, and 125th

Notable Free Agents

LB Drue Tranquill, S Nasir Adderley, RT Trey Pipkins, EDGE Kyle Van Noy, WR DeAndre Carter, CB Bryce Callahan, DT Morgan Fox, and P JK Scott

Cut Candidates

EDGE Khalil Mack ($18.4 million in savings), CB Michael Davis ($7.4 million), OG Matt Feiler ($6.5 million, and TE Gerald Everett ($4.3 million)

Chargers GM Tom Telesco said at the combine that Keenan Allen isn’t going anywhere, so he was removed from the list of potential cuts. They don’t have great options for contract restructures, so some cuts will have to be made.

Team Needs

Defensive Tackle

Defending the pass is more important than stopping the run in the modern NFL, but the Chargers have been unsustainably bad at bottling up running backs in recent years. LA could be looking at defensive linemen as early as the first round of the draft.

Wide Receiver

Allen will be 31 years old this season and is coming off an injury-plagued year. Mike Williams also failed to step up as a true No. 1 in his absence, putting the Chargers in need of new blood at the position.

Tight End

The Chargers could wait a year to address this position if they hold onto Everrett, but the 29-year-old tight end could be on the chopping block because of LA’s cap situation. If they move on from him, tight end will become a priority.

Coaching Changes

After an uninspired season on offense, the Chargers parted ways with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. He was replaced with Kellen Moore, who had just been fired from the same position in Dallas. It was unclear how much of the Cowboys’ shortcomings on offense were Moore’s doing. Many of them resembled the struggles of head coach Mike McCarthy‘s offenses during his final years in Green Bay. The hope will be that Moore can spur more deep shots from Herbert and improve the ground game.

Outlook

The Chargers aren’t flush with resources this offseason, but having one of the league’s premier quarterbacks on a rookie contract gives them flexibility. Their biggest need is for Herbert to return to his 2021 form when he was far more aggressive and ranked sixth in EPA per play. If some combination of a new offensive coordinator and better weapons for him to throw to can achieve that rebound, the Chargers clear the one-and-done playoff bar they set last year.