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5 Takeaways of the Chargers Through 7 Games


The Chargers are 4-3 as they get some time off this weekend.

Here are five takeaways from the Bolts season so far.

1. It's been a grind

Every NFL season will undoubtedly feel like a rollercoaster for each team across the league.

No franchise is going to win every game — and no franchise is going to lose every game — which leaves you with a week-to-week guessing game of entertainment, thrills and letdowns.

That could also aptly describe the Chargers season through seven games: four wins, three losses and a lot going on.

Entering Week 7, the Bolts were 4-2 and had a chance to cap off a whirlwind few weeks in style with a home win.

It didn't happen, as the Chargers were soundly beaten by the Seahawks to drop to 4-3 and leave a sour taste in the locker room until Week 9 against Atlanta.

"Whenever you're a competitor and you lose that way, it leaves a sick feeling in your stomach," linebacker Drue Tranquill said postgame Sunday "And when you know you didn't play your best and you got to wait two more weeks to go out and play, guys are just going to be biting at the bit to get back out there."

It will be fascinating to see how the Bolts respond after the bye. Yes, some key players (Joey Bosa and Mike Williams among them) won't be back by then. 

But, in theory, the Chargers should get healthier as players return in the coming weeks and months.

Can the Bolts dig deep over these final 10 games and get to the postseason?

That's exactly the question Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley posed earlier this week.

"How do you get it done? How do you get these wins in the NFL when they are tough? That's going to be our mindset moving forward," Staley said. "I think, through seven games, we've learned a lot.

"But as hard as we've had to fight through seven games, we're going to have to fight a hell of a lot harder in these last 10 to 13 games," Staley added.

At 4-3, the Bolts currently occupy a playoff spot in the AFC. And missing out on the chance to be 5-2 surely stings, it's certainly better than being 2-5.

Take a look back at the Chargers Week 7 game against the Seahawks in monochrome

2. Justin Herbert has thrown the ball a lot

Much like the Bolts season overall, the Chargers offense has been a bit up and down through seven games.

Through four games, Herbert actually led the league with 1,250 passing yards. He's currently third overall with 2,009 yards, but also leads the league with 308 attempts.

Put another way, Herbert is throwing the ball a ton this season. 

However, whether it be injuries (either to other players or Herbert himself), protection issues, a lack of running game (more on that below) or other factors, the quarterback isn't throwing the ball downfield as much as the past two years. 

Herbert was in the top half of the league in his first two seasons in terms of yards per attempt, averaging 7.3 in 2020 and 7.5 in 2021.

This year? Herbert is averaging just 6.5 yards per attempt, which ranks 25th among all quarterbacks.

Again, injuries have played a role in that, whether it's talking about to Herbert, Keenan Allen, Corey Linsley, Rashawn Slater or Jalen Guyton.

Now, Mike Williams, a key deep threat, will likely miss at least four weeks with a high ankle sprain.

Perhaps the Bolts aren't the high-octane team many thought before the season, but there are other ways to win, too.

Getting Allen back will help, especially on third downs and in the red zone, two areas that haven't been as strong as a year ago. 

And we'll see in the final 10 games if Herbert and the offense push the ball downfield a bit more.

"I think Justin is giving us a chance, in every single game, to win," Staley said. "He's as good as any player that is playing in the game right now.

"He's improving and I know that it's probably one of the first times where there has been a lot that's happened around him, including within himself in terms of dealing with an injury for the first time," Staley continued. "I think he's experiencing a lot of tough stuff that happens in the NFL and I think that he's who he always is.

"He's poised, he's steady. There is no one that cares more than he does," Staley added. "I know that he is going to take advantage of this week, get rested and re-energized and come back ready to practice on Monday."

3. Short-yardage situations need improvements

In the opening few minutes Sunday, the Bolts missed a chance to capitalize on an early turnover and early momentum.

Moments after an opening-drive interception from Kenneth Murray, Jr., the Chargers offense faced third-and-2 at the Seattle 33-yard line.

Austin Ekeler gained a yard to bring up fourth-and-1, only to see Ekeler stopped short of the sticks for a turnover on downs.

The Seahawks then seized momentum, rattling off 17 straight points to cruise to a win.

The two-play sequence highlighted not only a struggling run game, but also a season-long trend of the Chargers inability to fully take advantage of short-yardage situations.

"We've been poor in third- and fourth-down-and-short," Staley said. "We've faced a lot of those and our success rate is poor, given the advantage that you have in those situations."

Staley isn't wrong on the middle part of that quote.

The Bolts have faced third-and-1 or third-and-2 a whopping 35 times in seven games, converting 19 of them for an average of 54.3 percent. It's not a stretch to say that mark should be higher.

The 35 such situations for the Chargers are the most among any team. Next up is Tampa Bay with 27 times, and the Buccaneers have converted 17 times for a 63-percent clip.

And there has been a spotlight on fourth downs, too. The Chargers are tied for 21st overall with a fourth-down rate of 41.18 percent (five conversions on 12 attempts).

Overall, the Bolts have faced 20 fourth downs needing one or two yards to convert. The Chargers have gone for it a dozen times, along with six punts and two field goals.

4. The run defense has to be better

According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, the Chargers run defense has missed 37 tackles this season, which is the fifth-most in the league.

Believe it or not, the Bolts run defense has been solid at times. Case in point: the Chargers are tied for 10thoverall with 31 tackles for either no gain or are a tackle for loss.

But those missed tackles seem to happen at the worst time as opponents rip off long touchdown runs. PFF also has the Bolts fifth with 65.5 percent of their run defensive plays getting a negative grade. 

"Guys are just trying to do too much, and that's what happens when you get put in those spots, when you're behind and you're trying to come back," Staley said. "Everyone just has to play their part in the play.

"If people do that, if they just play their part in the play, and not try to make plays outside of their job description, then you're going to play consistently well," Staley added. "On the long runs this season, there have been those types of issues in the play."

On the surface, the long runs allowed seem fixable by having all 11 defenders play together, swarm to the ball and tackle as a team.

If the Bolts can do that in the second half of the season, the poor run defense number should improve.

5. Appreciation for JK Scott

When the Bolts signed a number of free agents this offseason, JK Scott likely didn't make any headlines.

But the Chargers punter has been fantastic this season under first-year Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken.

Scott's best punt might have been his final one in overtime against Denver that allowed gunner Ja'Sir Taylor to force a muffed punt, which led to a game-winning field goal for the Bolts.

Some stats also back up Scott's strong season.

According to PFF, his average hangtime of 4.89 seconds in the second-best in the league. And the opponents' average starting field position after a Chargers punt is the 22.2-yard line, more than seven yards better than the league average.

Scott is also one of four NFL punters without a touchback this season, but he has the most punts (28) among that group.

Add it all up, and Scott has played a big role in helping the Bolts punt coverage unit rank first by allowing just 3.0 yards per return thus far.

Last week, Ficken called Scott an elite weapon on the team.

He's been that and more for the Chargers through seven games.

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