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Chargers Mailbag: Revamped Run Game, Season Expectations & Bosa's Timeline


Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each and every week.

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each and every week.

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

Let's hope so, because the Bolts offense we saw in Week 5 was about as balanced as you can get.

After a month of struggles to run the ball, the Chargers and Austin Ekeler went off to the tune of 238 rushing yards in Cleveland. That was the most by the Bolts since putting up 246 in 2018, a game that also occurred in Cleveland.

Ekeler sparked the big day with a 71-yard run early, but he continued to gash the Browns the rest of the way, too. And Joshua Kelley kept up his solid season, too, with 10 carries for 49 yards, including his first score since 2020.

The Bolts had 34 pass attempts and 34 rush attempts, which is exactly where you want that unit to be.

Yes, I know Justin Herbert is an elite player, but you can't rely on him to produce gaudy numbers each and every week, even if he's more than capable of it.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley highlighted the importance of getting the run game going in Week 5.

"We don't want to be looked at as a passing team. I think our guys were tired of hearing that because that's not what we believe internally," Staley said. "We just needed to play together more and find our rhythm. We really believe in how we want to run the ball. We just needed more time on task."

Entering Week 6, the Bolts have climbed to being tied for 22nd with 99.2 rushing yards per game.

Now, they'll face a Broncos defense that ranks 15th in rushing yards allowed per game (112.4) and is 20th in rushing yards allowed per play (4.68).

As I wrote a few weeks ago, nobody expects the run game to produce 200-plys yards on a weekly basis. But if they can get to 100 or more, that will keep the Broncos (and future opponents) honest on the defensive side of the ball.

Especially if the offensive line, which played lights on Sunday, can keep developing consistency and cohesiveness up front.

Can Chargers fans realistically expect, at worst, a playoff appearance? At best, a deep playoff run? Keep up the great work! (Neethaniel Flores via email)

Certainly a valid question from Neethaniel here, but it's a little early to be talking about the playoffs in my estimation.

I've never really paid much attention to that until the calendar flips to November, when the second half of the schedule comes into play and teams have a chance to establish themselves.

I mean, is the goal to make the playoffs and go on that deep run? Of course.

But the Chargers can't secure a playoff berth win a win Monday night against Denver.

There's an old NFL adage that says teams simply take things one week at a time. And even though we've all heard it a million times, it's rings true.

The Bolts goal heading into Week 6 is to get a win over the Broncos and move to 4-2, with a 2-1 record in the division.

Then we'll just keep trying to stack them up after that.

Yes! Staley actually provided a little bit of clarity on this last week.

To recap, Bosa was injured midway through the first quarter of Week 3 with a torn groin and underwent surgery a few days later.

Staley said after that it appeared Bosa would miss a good chunk of time, but not the entire season. Last Monday, he provided more details on the timeline.

"The groin timeline is somewhere in that six-to-, perhaps, on the high side, 10 [weeks]. I think that in that range is what most would tell you."

Based on those numbers, a six-week absence would put Bosa back around mid-November, while a 10-week timeline would mean mid-December.

Really, it just depends on how Bosa heals and how his rehab goes. And keep in mind, the Chargers will be smart with his return.

They aren't to rush him back and jeopardize risking another injury.

"We have to make sure, no matter what that timeline is, that we make sure that Joey is back and really can play like himself," Staley said. "Proceeding with caution so that you don't have a setback, at least that's the goal."

Besides Bosa, the other big loss for the Bolts this season was Slater, who suffered a torn biceps in the same game Bosa was injured in.

By all accounts, Slater's injury (which also required surgery) will be a lengthier timeline than Bosa.

Yes, that means Slater could return at some point late in the season. But there's no guarantee of that.

"On the timeline side of things, with the bicep, I think that they talked about three, three-and-a-half months, that would, sort of, be the soonest that you could come back," Staley said. "There's, obviously, a possibility that we're shooting for. I think that that's news that gives a player hope to shoot for.

"Again, just making sure that he's ready. I think that there is that timeline that there is a possibility. We're going to try and shoot for it," Staley added. "If you know Rashawn, he'll do his best to get there."

If Slater were to return, where would that leave Salyer?

In this scenario, we would have to assume Slater is fully healthy. Because if he's not, this conversation is moot.

The more I thought about it, perhaps it would mean Salyer comes out of the lineup. There's a chance he could shift to left guard, but that's about the only possibility I see.

And even that isn't a certainty, as Matt Fieler was on fire Sunday in his best game of the season.

In the slim chance that Slater does return, the Bolts would have a good problem on their hands if Salyer continues to play well as a rookie.

The trade deadline is Tuesday, November 1, with a clock deadline of 1 p.m. (PT).

The NFL trade deadline isn't like the NBA or MLB, where bigger moves are more inclined to happen. Usually the moves are on the smaller side.

With two games (and the bye week) between now and then, we'll see if the Bolts are active around late October.

I was waiting for a question on this…

And listen, I get the point you (and others) are trying to make. If you punt the ball away, you force the Browns to go around 80 yards with probably a minute or so on the clock, all with no timeouts.

However, if the Bolts convert on that fourth-down, the game is over. Two kneel downs and it's over.

Credit the Browns for making a play there, but I'm all in favor of Staley's decision. If you have a chance to end the game, I say you take it.

No, it didn't work out, and that's always going to invite criticism and speculation.

But in a way, Staley actually showed even more faith in his defense by going for it, as the scenario that played out was likely more difficult than the one outline above.

Staley said Monday that he understands the scrutiny he gets for these calls. But he also made a point that people loved the successful fourth-down call late in the fourth quarter against Houston.

Put another way, Staley is going to continue to be aggressive, no matter if the previous fourth-down call was successful or not.

One final thing on this that was on my mind, and Staley subtly mentioned it Monday, was that the Browns had a rookie kicker.

If it's Justin Tucker on the other side, maybe it's a different scenario…

Based on the first five games, I'd say it's unlikely. And the reason why is similar to what I've written about these two players before in this space.

With Spiller, he was clearly the fourth running back behind Ekeler, Kelley and Sony Michel. And even with Kelley seeming to grab hold of that second running back spot, the coaches might trust a veteran (Michel) more than a rookie (Spiller) with pass protections.

As for Woods, he'll first have to find his way on special teams if he wats to see the field. Maybe he can find his way onto that phase if someone struggles or gets hurt, but the core group of special teamers have established themselves at this point of this season.

That will do it for this week.

As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmithand submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.

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