The 2023 offseason continues to fly by.
We got a few of the Chargers' beat writers together to discuss how close the Bolts are to being one of the league's top teams.
Here's what Jeff Miller (Los Angeles Times), Joe Reedy (Associated Press), Elliott Teaford (Orange County Register), Daniel Popper (The Athletic) and Eric Smith (Chargers.com) had to say:
How close are the Chargers?
Miller: Having Justin Herbert would put any team a lot closer than it would be otherwise. The Chargers need perimeter speed, a major boost to their running game, a defense that can be counted on to deliver some consistency and more quality depth before they'll be taken seriously as a group capable of making a postseason run. If they can get there, what the Chargers really need is to prove to themselves that they are then worthy. Think about Cincinnati - and quarterback Joe Burrow - last year. No one was counting on the Bengals reaching the Super Bowl. A year later, they entered their divisional round matchup at Buffalo as the most popular underdog pick to win. And then they trounced the Bills. It's not hard to envision the Chargers - and Herbert - doing something similar in the near future.
Teaford: That's a tough one to answer. But if you look at the final four playoff teams (and the final two in the AFC), you see the four teams that were among the NFL's best all season. No real surprises, right? The Chargers have a lot of work to do to join that select company, but they're not alone. Every year, there are 32 teams trying to work their way into that elite category for the final four spots (and then the final two and then the final one). But making the playoffs this past season was a huge step in the right direction. Obviously, the season didn't end as well as hoped, but that should make everyone concerned hungry for the 2023 season. You can't lose a heartbreaker in the playoffs if you don't make the playoffs.
Reedy: That's a tough question to answer at this point because the offseason hasn't ramped up yet. They have the QB to contend, but teams need more than a QB. They took a step making the playoffs this season but were 1-6 against playoff teams (including the Jacksonville loss) and were 2-4 in the division. Defense needs to take a major step forward and they need to consistently start winning the close games against Kansas City. Until that happens, they're a good team, but not a great team.
Popper: The Chargers will always be close as long as they have Justin Herbert at quarterback. How close will depend on what additions and adjustments they make this offseason to fill in holes and strengthen areas of weakness. They have to get more consistency from the the run game. They have to create more explosions on early downs. The defense showed signs of coalescing down the stretch, but can they sustain that level of play over the course of a season? If they make these improvements, both through coaching and roster construction, they should be back in the playoffs in 2022. And then anything can happen.
Smith: The Bolts are close, especially with No. 10 under center. There is loads of talent on the roster, and the way the team rallied and played down the stretch of the 2022 season gives me hope for 2023. Is there room to improve the roster? Sure. But every team could likely say that. I'll echo something Joe mentioned above as something I'm keeping an eye on in 2023: can the Chargers find a way to get past the Chiefs? The Bolts have been close (a pair of 3-point losses in 2022), but Kansas City has now won seven straight division titles. Finding a way to topple the Chiefs would do wonders for the mental side of things. The Bolts have the physical talent to compete with anyone in the league. But finding a measure of consistency in 2023 could be the missing ingredient for a deep playoff run.
Bolt Up for 2023!
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