The Chargers are 2-3 as they prepare for a Week 7 road game in Kansas City.
Here are five takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's Tuesday media availability:
1. Layne out for the season
The Bolts received some tough injury news on Tuesday.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said that safety Raheem Layne suffered a torn ACL on Tuesday might and will miss the rest of the season.
Layne, who joined the Bolts as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2022, had played 74 snaps on special teams so far this season along with 76 defensive snaps.
"Raheem is one of our top special teams players," Staley said. "This is a tough moment for him, but he'll be back.
"He's proven himself in two years that he can play in the league. Excited to get him back because he's one of those tough, smart, dependable players that you need," Staley added. "But we'll definitely pick it up around him. I thought he was having a good season for us."
Staley also gave some insight on a pair of big-name players who are battling through some injury ailments.
Rashawn Slater has an ankle issue but practiced in full last week.
"He's toughing out an ankle just like a lot of players are in the league, but he had a good enough performance last night for us to win," Staley said.
As for Joey Bosa, Staley said the outside linebacker is a "work in progress" as he continues to work through a toe injury. Bosa did not practice Thursday and Friday of last week and was limited on Saturday. He played 30 defensive snaps against Dallas.
"He got more snaps [Monday] than he did in the games before. Just needs to continue to get on the practice field, too," Staley said. "I think the more he practices, the more he's going to get that timing and rhythm and you'll see the play making come as a result of it.
"Hopefully we can continue to get him back on that practice field because that's where you're going to make the most improvements," Staley added.
Take a look back at the Chargers Week 6 primetime Monday Night matchup with the Cowboys in monochrome
2. Another close game
There was a familiar feeling Monday night in the Chargers locker room.
Despite laying it all on the line, the Bolts suffered another close loss, their third this season by three points or less.
The Chargers fell to the Dolphins by two points in Week 1 and have since lost to the Titans and Cowboys by a field goal.
"I'm not encouraged by losing. That's not something we're excited about, just being in close games. We expect to win every game that we play," Staley said.
The Chargers pair of wins were close, too, as they beat the Vikings by four points and the Raiders by seven
"I think our level has been high enough," Staley said. "I don't think [Monday] night we executed well enough in all three phases to finish the game. They have an excellent team ... there were a lot of good players on that field.
"We just need to play cleaner football in all three phases to win that game. We're not satisfied at all by the result but definitely not discouraged," Staley added. "We're right it in. We've had five games and the one thing we can say for sure is that we're battle tested. That's a truth of these first five games, that we're a battle tested team."
The Chargers are one of two teams — along with Minnesota — to have a one-score result in each game they've played so far this season.
3. Evaluating the offense
The Bolts offense was good Monday night against the Cowboys, but not good enough to grit out a win late.
Staley on Tuesday gave his assessment of the unit after they put up 272 total yards in primetime.
"As an offense, we didn't operate consistently enough last night. And it was in all phases — in the run game and the pass game," Staley said. "I just don't think we operated with consistency. It was a tough night. That's a good defense so give full respect to them. But we need to be more consistent to finish the game."
According to Pro Football Focus, Justin Herbert was pressured 21 times, tied for the fourth-most in a game since he entered the league.
"He competed in the game ... hung tough. That's a really good pass rush we went against. I thought he made enough plays to win the game. There's going to be tough games like that where you've got to make one or two plays."
Herbert threw for 227 yards and a pair of scores but wasn't helped much by a run game that generated just 31 yards from 16 attempts by running backs.
"The truth of the film is that it takes all 11," Staley said. "We have to be more physical at the point of attack ... and our backs have to stay on their tracks and trust the scheme.
"Then we need your perimeter players to block the run support. We need to make a lot of improvements in that phase because it wasn't good enough last night."
The Chargers currently rank 18th in rushing yards per game at 106.4, and are 22nd in yards per rush (3.91).
4. Progress from Johnston
Quentin Johnston has been thrust into the spotlight of late since Mike Williams went down with a season-ending injury.
Johnston had one catch for 18 yards against the Raiders but did not have a reception Monday night.
Staley was asked about where Johnston stands in a wide receiver room that also features Keenan Allen and Joshua Palmer.
"He's at the beginning of his rookie season," Staley said. "He's getting more snaps which is something that we're looking forward to because it allows you to improve when you're actually on the field.
"The targets will come, there are certainly some games where there will be more than others, but he's just at the beginning," Staley added. "Just needs to keep putting the right work on the practice field and more opportunities will come. The receiver position takes time as a rookie. We've got two outstanding guys outside of him and he just needs to continue to improve and doing his part."
Staley noted that developing a rapport with Herbert doesn't just happen overnight, and said the first-round pick has putting in extra time of late.
"Any time you're a new play establishing a rapport and that trust and that chemistry with your quarterback, it's such a timing-based relationship," Staley said. "You're brand new to the NFL and you're brand new with your quarterback, so you just need a lot more time on task. Those guys are going to continue to throw before and after practice.
"Again, it's a work in progress, he just needs to keep making those improvements," Staley added. "The fact that he's out there on the field getting the snaps, that's the thing that's going to allow him to improve, is to continue to get out there on the field, being able to see the game, learn the game, feel the game and then that's going to create the confidence not only in himself, but then obviously the relationship with Justin."
5. Looking at 3rd-down defense
Entering Week 7, the Chargers are tied for the fourth-best defense on third down by allowing conversions on just 33.33. percent of the time.
Overall, Staley likes where that group is at, but pinpointed one area that needs to improve.
"Capable of being an elite unit that needs to stop fouling," Staley said. "We're in premium coverages, leverages and our guys have got to play clean football. I think that we're playing with the right variety, I think we're rushing the passer at a high level, I think we're covering people up, taking away their targets."
He later added: "From an execution standpoint, our guys are executing the defenses well. Again, what I'm seeing is a unit that's playing at a high level and that we would be feeling convincingly positive if we hadn't had the fouls."
The most notable penalty Monday night came in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys had third-and-18 at their own 17-yard line.
The Chargers made a stop on the play, but a pair of defensive infractions gave Dallas a first down. The Cowboys took advantage of the gift and eventually kicked the go-ahead field goal with just over two minutes left.
"We're not going to make excuses about any type of call, one way or the other. We need to play with cleaner technique in the secondary," Staley said. "It continues to be an emphasis and will always be an emphasis, especially with the way things are being officiated in the league. We need to continue to do better."
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