Los Angeles is home to two football teams — the defending Super Bowl champions, and the team no one cares about.
The defending Super Bowl champs are essentially running it back, with a few key losses (Robert Woods, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr.) and a few key additions (Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner). They’re looking to become the first team since the Patriots in 2004 and 2005 to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Then there’s the other team. The team that just barely missed out on the playoffs in Week 18 of last season. The team led by head coach Brandon Staley, who loves going for it on fourth down. And the team that couldn’t even fill up a soccer stadium with fans, let alone their new Sofi Stadium.
Well, I’m going to talk about that team.
Because I don’t think the Rams are the team to beat in L.A. this season. I’m all in on the Chargers.
The Chargers’ success completely stems from their 24-year-old future MVP running the show. Justin Herbert is as good as advertised, and maybe even better.
Across his first two seasons, he has a total of 839 completions, 9,350 passing yards, and 69 passing touchdowns. All three are good for first on the all-time list in a quarterback’s first two years.
He also has a bevy of weapons at his disposal — the always reliable Keenan Allen, the recently re-signed Mike Williams, and the difficult to bring down Austin Ekeler coming out of the backfield. They also have some added depth with breakout candidate Joshua Palmer at WR, Isaiah Spiller, and the very recently signed Sony Michel at RB. Their offense will undoubtedly be one of the best in the league.
Then there’s the defense. Last season, the Chargers’ defense wasn’t great. Actually, it was pretty awful. They gave up a lot of points and yards, and didn’t force a ton of turnovers. Not exactly a recipe for success.
So this offseason, they worked on that.
They went out and traded for three-time, first-team All-Pro LB Khalil Mack. They also signed 2021 Pro-Bowl CB J.C. Jackson. Those guys paired with four-time Pro-Bowler DE Joey Bosa and All-Pro S Derwin James, and the Chargers have some pieces on the defensive side of the ball. Definitely more than enough to improve on a squad that was tied for 29th in points allowed per game (27). They were better than only the Jets and Lions.
And then there’s the aforementioned Staley running the show. He took a ton of criticism for the aggressive fashion in which he approached the game last year. Many people believed he cost them a trip to the playoffs.
But Staley has already said he isn’t going to change his style of play. And that may not be a bad thing for the team.
Last year the Chargers were 22-for-34 on fourth-downs, a 64.7 percent conversion rate that was good for top five in the league. They scored touchdowns on 11 drives in which they had a fourth-down conversion, which tied Buffalo for the most in the league. And on the contrary, on the Chargers’ 12 fourth downs in which they didn’t convert, they only allowed one subsequent touchdown drive — a 95-yarder by the Chiefs in Week 15.
So despite all the short fields, and despite what felt like game-altering decisions by Staley, it really wasn’t that bad. And with a better defense this year, it may be even better.
All the talk in L.A. this season is going to be about the Rams — and it should be, they’re the reigning champs.
But as the season goes on, and the Chargers continue to climb the ranks of the crowded AFC West, the toughest division in football, don’t be surprised if you hear their name more. A lot more.
And when the Chargers are square in the playoffs, and Herbert is a leading candidate for MVP, don’t be surprised if the focus in Los Angeles shifts.
Los Angeles has two really good football teams. People are about to start caring about the second one.