The Bolts are on their bye week.
We took a look at the first four games of the season and also peeked ahead to the rest of the 2023 slate.
Here's what Jeff Miller (Los Angeles Times), Joe Reedy (The Associated Press) and Eric Smith (Chargers.com) had to say ahead of Week 5:
The Chargers sit at 2-2. What's one word you'd use to describe the season thus far?
Miller: Underwhelming. I thought the Chargers would be considerably better on defense - especially against the pass - and almost immune to offensive droughts like the one they just produced against Las Vegas. Now with consecutive wins over two 1-3 teams, it shouldn't take long to figure out where this team is heading with Dallas and Kansas City (on the road) coming up right after the break.
Reedy: Rollercoaster. If there is one thing about Chargers football, it definitely isn't over early. Considering how the first two games went, the win at Minnesota definitely provided momentum.
Smith: Intense. All four of the Chargers games have been decided by seven points or less, and all four have come down to the final play(s) in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Bolts couldn't get it done against Miami and Tennessee but rebounded with back-to-back wins over Minnesota and Las Vegas. The Chargers remain a talented team, but given how tough the upcoming schedule is, perhaps we should expect the close games to continue.
Outside of Justin Herbert, who's been the Bolts MVP in the first month?
Miller: Can a rookie be MVP? Because I might say Tuli Tuipulotu. Or maybe Kenneth Murray, Jr., but I already talked about the defense's performance. How about going completely outside the box and saying Rashawn Slater? Yes, the left tackle has been rock solid plus some in his return after missing so much of last season because of injury.
Reedy: I would say Keenan Allen. He did have the franchise record 18-catch game at Minnesota but he has been consistent throughout the season along with getting more opportunities to make catches on intermediate routes. His TD at Tennessee so far is the catch of the season.
Smith: All of those above names are worthy picks, but I'm going with the guy who just set a Chargers single-game franchise record with 6.0 sacks. Khalil Mack had been close the first three games but put a signature stamp on Week 4 by bringing down Aidan O'Connell a half-dozen times. We might not see that happen again for a few years. Mack's overall game has been key for a defense that has been banged up a bit in the first month of the season.
Check out the best photos from Khalil Mack's franchise-record six sack performance against the Raiders that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for Week 4 of the 2023 season. The effort included a pair of strip-sacks, which tied a team record and also marked the first six-sack performance by any defender in the NFL since 2017 and just the sixth since sacks began being tracked in 1982.
What's been the biggest surprise for you so far?
Miller: I wasn't sure how the J.C. Jackson situation would unfold, but the end was stunningly swift. I mean, he went from admirably working his way back from a significant injury that has cut short careers to being inactive then unused then cast aside. It was an 11-day implosion that also included him publicly questioning coach Brandon Staley's decisions plus dealing with a legal matter. Not a soul on Earth would have predicted this two weeks ago.
Reedy: How quickly Tuli Tuipulotu has made an impact on the pass rush. The second-round pick has been able to use his speed to his advantage.
Smith: I'm going to agree with Joe here and go with Tuipulotu. Chargers coaches raved about him this offseason and said he was a pretty polished player coming out of USC. But I don't think anyone expected this, as Tuipulotu's play could land him in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation by the end of the season. With Joey Bosa being limited in two games and out for another, Tuipulotu has given the Chargers a jolt off the edge they didn't have a season ago.
What's the Bolts biggest area for improvement following the bye?
Miller: The pass defense must improve or the Chargers aren't going anywhere this season. They have displayed an ability to stop the run, which is significant. But they remain too vulnerable against the pass, particularly with Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes on the horizon. We're going to soon find out if this defense is, in fact, trending in the right direction.
Reedy: Pass defense and limiting big plays. I don't know if there will be any stability now that J.C. Jackson has been traded, but the pressure is definitely on Asante Samuel, Jr. and Michael Davis.
Smith: Yeah, it's the pass defense. That area of the defense was hit hard against Miami, but credit to the high-octane Dolphins there. There were improvements in limiting explosive plays against the Raiders, who had two pass plays of 20-plus yards, one of which was a check down. Given the upcoming quarterbacks on the docket, a more consistent pass defense would help give Justin Herbert more cracks at lighting up the scoreboard each week.
Has your preseason prediction of the Chargers making the playoffs changed at all given how the first four games went?
Miller: Yes. I am significantly less confident that this is a playoff team. Playoff teams don't surrender this many big plays. Playoff teams aren't historically bad against the pass. Playoff teams don't dominate the turnover battle and still sputter. Over their past six games (including the 2022 postseason), the Chargers are plus-10 in turnover ratio and somehow gone 2-4.
Reedy: Not really. It's a long season and there is a logjam of plenty of 2-2 teams in the AFC at the moment.
Smith: Nah. I still believe the Bolts will get in. Despite the mixed bag through four games, they remain just one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West and are among a cluster of AFC teams who sit at 2-2. There is still a long, long way to go this season and the standings will begin to shake itself out in the coming months. When we get to late December, the Chargers will still be right in the mix and will eventually claim a postseason berth.
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