After Justin Herbert finished the 2021 season in the unusual position of being the AFC’s Pro Bowl starter but out of the playoffs, Brandon Staley voiced concerns about the Chargers‘ roster to ownership. Staley conveyed to both ownership and the Bolts’ front office that defensive and special teams upgrades were necessary this offseason. More specifically, Staley wanted veteran pieces, ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry notes, adding that the second-year HC sought a defense capable of complementing a ready-now offense.
“[I] felt really strongly that in order to build a complete football team that was ready to face what we’re going to have to face,” Staley said, “that we needed to make significant changes in those two phases of the game.”
DVOA placed the 2021 Chargers fourth in offense and 26th defensively, despite the fast-rising Staley becoming the team’s head coach based on his defensive credentials. Facing a time crunch created by Herbert’s extension eligibility, the Chargers added big-ticket defensive pieces in Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. Auxiliary troops like Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Kyle Van Noy and Bryce Callahan signed as well. The Chargers also extended Derwin James, on a safety-record deal, this summer. The team, which ranked 28th in special teams DVOA last season, replaced its punter and long snapper as well. JK Scott and ex-Falcon Josh Harris are in those roles this year.
These additions raise the stakes for Staley, who will have fewer excuses given his 2022 personnel. Here is the latest from the AFC West, shifting first to a coach off to an unusual start:
- It is uncertain if the Broncos will change Nathaniel Hackett‘s game-day roles, but after the rookie HC’s game-management struggles through two weeks, he said (via 9News’ Mike Klis, on Twitter) GM George Paton and assistant GM Darren Mougey have assisted him in these areas this week. Although the puzzling 64-yard field goal decision in Seattle and the Denver crowd counting down the play clock in Week 2 (after the team’s fourth delay-of-game penalty of the season) are the main takeaways from Hackett’s start, the Broncos are 0-for-6 in red zone touchdowns and have committed 25 penalties — including six false starts — through two games. The 25 infractions are a Broncos two-game record. Hackett said (via Klis, on Twitter) the team will have “good answers moving forward” in these areas.
- Willie Gay‘s four-game suspension will take a starting linebacker off the field for the Chiefs. While the team used a third-round pick on Leo Chenal this year, Andy Reid said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher, on Twitter) Darius Harris will be first in line to fill in for Gay. The Middle Tennessee State alum has been with the Chiefs since 2019, being part of the team’s UDFA class. Spending much of his career on Kansas City’s practice squad, Harris has played 13 games — including two starts, both in 2020 — with the team.
- While Staley stressed the team will not rush Herbert back, the third-year Chargers quarterback practiced in a limited capacity Wednesday. Herbert’s rib cartilage fracture comes as the doctor leading his rehab effort — David S. Gazzaniga — is being sued by former Bolts QB Tyrod Taylor regarding a 2020 incident. “I think we have full alignment with Justin and his family, his agents, and then the medical professionals, and that’s what we’re going to try to do is have alignment that way and just kind of trust the process and hopefully get him well soon,” Staley said, via Thiry.