The Los Angeles Chargers saw their season end in heartbreaking fashion in Week 18 of the NFL season. Their Sunday Night Football loss to the Raiders served to highlight exactly what’s wrong for the Chargers, and what they need to address this coming offseason. So, that begs the question: what’s next for the Chargers? This is what the Chargers need to address this offseason.
Secure a Talented Defensive Interior Lineman
The Chargers’ biggest issue in the 2021 season, bar none, was their terrible run defense. The Chargers ranked third-worst in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 2,361 yards, along with being tied for third-worst in rushing touchdowns allowed at 22. The core issue here is with a middling defensive interior lineman unit. The Chargers’ starting defensive interior linemen are Jerry Tillery, Linval Joseph and Justin Jones. Out of these three, the only player worth keeping around is Justin Jones, but his tendency to miss games is concerning. When he plays, though, there is a notable improvement in the Chargers’ run defense. Tillery and Joseph, though, are frankly dead weight.
The Chargers need to start looking at potential players to replace these two. Linval Joseph is a free agent this offseason, so now would be a good time to bring in new talent. The Chargers could (and should) go after Cincinnati’s Larry Ogunjobi, who’s contract ends after this season. Ogunjobi would be a great helphe interior holes of the line for the Chargers, but he may come with a large price tag. Even so, with the level he played at this season, he may be worth that price tag. They could also bolster their defensive line through the NFL Draft by drafting a player like Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal.
Another potential free agent the Chargers could target if they like Leal at nose tackle is the Bears’ Akiem Hicks. Hicks is a bit on the older side at 32, but he still plays at a high level in limited snaps. The core issues with Hicks are his injury concerns and high price tag. If the Chargers sign Hicks, they may face a similar issue to Bryan Bulaga: a talented player that simply does not see the field. If Hicks ends up being injured, the Chargers may end up wasting that money.
Bolster the Secondary
Derwin James is a bona fide star. His contributions to the defense as a strong safety, both as a player and a leader, are fantastic. However, no matter how good he is, he can’t do it alone. And while Asante Samuel Jr. showed great promise in his rookie season, and Nasir Adderley contributes at free safety, the Chargers need another star in that secondary. Not to mention, Chris Harris Jr. is a free agent this offseason, so it might be time to move on. That said, there are a few options in free agency to target.
The New England Patriots will see cornerback J.C. Jackson hit free agency this offseason. It’s likely that the Patriots try to keep Jackson in Foxborough, though, but if the Chargers can poach him, that would be huge. Other potential free agents that the Chargers could (and should) pursue are Denver’s Bryce Callahan or Kansas City’s Charvarious Ward. Each of these players would provide a veteran presence for Samuel that’s reliable in pass coverage.
Replace Bryan Bulaga
And now, back to Bulaga. Back when the Chargers signed Bryan Bulaga in the 2020 offseason, Chargers fans were ecstatic. Finally, the Chargers had secured a talented offensive tackle! Unfortunately, that’s not how it panned out. Bulaga has been nothing short of a liability for the Chargers; a money leech who never plays. Through 33 possible games, Bulaga has played a snap in 11 of them. Not exactly the type of return one would expect from a player who makes 10 million dollars per year on average. Though at the time, it seemed like a great signing for the Chargers, Bulaga’s proneness to injury has made his contract a dead weight. It would be smart to look for a replacement for Bulaga as soon as possible.
The Chargers are on the cusp of that elusive playoff berth. Though there are a few other places the Chargers could improve, like a new punter or tight end, these three issues being addressed could be the difference-maker between a 9-8 season and a 11-6 season. Also, with an added season to allow Justin Herbert and the rest of the team to become more familiar with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offensive scheme, along with head coach Brandon Staley having another season to build rapport with his team, the Chargers look very promising for the 2022 season. These issues are what the Chargers need to address.