Better or Worse: Evaluating Chargers offense ahead of training camp

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The Chargers lost a few of their starters from last season, but added a few in correspondence via free agency and the draft.

But how do they compare from the end of the 2020 regular season to now?

Let’s break it down by position, starting with the offense.

Quarterback

Offseason moves: Signed Chase Daniel as an unrestricted free agent from the Lions. Lost Tyrod Taylor as a UFA from the Texans.

Summary: The Chargers are locked in with their quarterback of the future, Justin Herbert. After losing Taylor to Houston, they brought in Daniel, who’s familiar with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system. Daniel isn’t as intriguing as other backups across the league, but he has been considered an ideal veteran mentor for young quarterbacks, which is what he is, a preceptor to Herbert. Easton Stick, meanwhile, has gotten the short end of the stick, as he has limited experience after not having a preseason last year due to COVID-19. Stick will battle it out this year for a spot, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is on the outside looking in, relegated to practice squad role or being released.

Verdict: Slightly better

Running Back

Offseason moves: Drafted Larry Rountree III (sixth-round). Lost Kalen Ballage as an unrestricted free agent to the Steelers.

Summary: Expected to be a major contributor, Austin Ekeler will remain a do-it-all back in Lombardi’s system. Justin Jackson can be a threat in both the running and passing game, but he’s struggled to stay healthy. Joshua Kelley was a bright spot in training camp last year, but he dealt with fumbles and special teams blunders and simply just couldn’t find his groove during the season. Rountree brings an enticing skillset, projecting as a short-yardage/goal-line specialist and special teamer with upside to grow into a larger role. The battle between Jackson, Kelley and Rountree will be one of the more compelling position battles this summer.

Verdict: Slightly better

Wide Receiver

Offseason moves: Drafted Josh Palmer (third-round). Signed Austin Proehl.

Summary: The Chargers did the right thing by paying Keenan Allen last offseason after proving himself as one the league’s top wideouts yet again. Mike Williams, who is entering the final year of his contract, is expected to take on a big role this season. Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson are both coming off of promising years. Palmer is a nice-sized receiver who comes with a solid game, possessing the hands, body control, and speed. Considering that Lombardi goes through a lot of different personnel packages depending on the defense scheme they’re facing, all three should receive a good portion of playing time. Assuming the team rolls with six wideouts, the final spot is a battle between five players: Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, John Hurst, Jason Moore and Proehl.

Verdict: Slightly better

Tight End

Offseason moves: Signed Jared Cook as an unrestricted free agent from Saints. Lost Hunter Henry as a UFA to the Patriots. Re-signed Stephen Anderson. Drafted Tre’ McKitty (third-round).

Summary: It wasn’t long into the free agency period before Henry was gone, being picked up by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In correspondence, the Chargers got Cook, who’s another guy familiar with Lombardi’s offense. While he isn’t getting any younger (34), Cook will offer some upside in the passing game and mentorship to the younger players. Another intriguing receiving option is Donald Parham, who should be a mismatch up the seams and in the red zone. In need of an in-line blocker, Los Angeles added McKitty. McKitty’s blocking prowess will get him on the field early on, but he also offers upside as a receiver.

Verdict: Slightly worse

Offensive line

Offseason moves: Signed Corey Linsley from Packers, Matt Feiler from Steelers and Oday Aboushi from Lions. Drafted Rashawn Slater (first-round) and Brenden Jaimes (fifth-round). Lost Dan Feeney to Jets, Sam Tevi to Colts, Cole Toner to Texans.

Summary: The Chargers knew their offensive line ranked near the bottom in both the pass and run-blocking departments and a great amount of their success lies in the hands of Herbert, which is why they made the point to build it from the ground up. Slater was one of the draft’s biggest steals, solidifying Herbert’s blindside protection. Linsley was the most expensive signing, but he was the most vital as he is one of the best centers in the league. They have two new starting guards in Feiler and Aboushi. Bryan Bulaga is back to man the right tackle position. After spending time at tackle in college, Jaimes will likely kick inside, but he has versatility to protect the edges in a pinch.

Verdict: Much better