The Chargers lost to the Raiders for the first time since 2003. Does that make me angry? Yeah, but not as much as you'd think. The Chargers didn't lose to the Raiders. Nor did they lose to the Chiefs or the Seahawks. So you must be asking yourself, who the hell did the Chargers lose to? The answer can only be found in Chargers beating the hell out of themselves. How so? Look no further than special teams play.
Anyone that is going to tell me that the Chiefs, Seahawks or the Raiders beat the Chargers offensively or defensively are purely dreaming. Don't tell me that the current No. 1 offense and the No. 2 defense in the NFL is the cause for the Chargers' downfall. Even with all the fumbles the Chargers had, the game would still be in the Chargers' hands.
Not a single team is going to face the Chargers and say to themselves, we're going to game-plan around the Chargers lack of special teams. Not one. Without that return by the Chiefs, the two returns by the Seahawks, or the two blocked punts by the Raiders, those teams would have no chance against the Chargers dominant offense or defense.
I do however commend those teams for getting the win but I gotta give more credit to the Chargers giving away those wins more so than those teams supposedly earning it.
So we got to ask ourselves, what can we do to fix these problems? Nothing more than hope that injured and suspended players come back sooner than later. Injuries screwed the Chargers over in the special teams department.
The Chargers currently have Jyles Tucker, Stephen Cooper, Brandon Siler, Shawne Merriman, Larry English, James Holt, Donald Butler and long snapper David Binn, all of them either injured or on season injury reserve during a fair part of the first five weeks thus far this season. It also doesn't help having Steve Gregory on a four-week absence due to violating the substance abuse policy.
What makes the injuries so unique is the fact that nearly all of the injuries are in the LB's department. The importance of having a good amount of LB's on a active roster is in the fact that they play in the middle portion of the Chargers' special teams coverage that usually take on the bigger opposition of the opposing return team. With these players out, it usually leaves a huge hole in the middle of the field on coverage teams. The proof is in the pudding in the fact that all the returns on the Chargers were up the middle part of the special teams coverage.
Also, LB's make a huge portion of the punt team coverage as they are usually the blockers on the punting squad. When you have injuries that nearly takes out majority of the Chargers' LB corps, it takes a huge toll on the special teams all around.
When you have such a hit on the LB corps, it forces backup players who are usually focused on special teams start to put their effort into starting like Antwan Applewhite and Brandon Siler.
The only way the Chargers could come back from such a hit by the injury bug is to bring in free agents immediately and release players that are playing sub-par on special teams. Such moves are already underway as the Chargers just released FS C.J. Spillman and CB Fred Bennett.
Another thing the Chargers may have to look at is do what they did last season, try to run a little thin at CB's and instead of carrying a heavy group of defensive linemen, try to get a heavy group of LB's. The Chargers went into the season with 10 LB's.
Three out of those ten are already on the season injury reserve list. Shawne Merriman, Larry English, Brandon Siler, and Stephen Cooper, already experiencing some experience of injuries early thus far this season. So right now, the Chargers need to bring in more LB's that not only can contribute on special teams, but also provide adequate depth.
The Chargers already made moves in upgrading the LB corps by bringing in LB Kion Wilson to the active roster. Look for the Chargers to continue to add LB's to play special teams during this week.
Once the Chargers fix the special teams, I don't see anyone beating them as they are a pretty complete team offensively and defensively in terms of passing and running. I'm sure GM AJ Smith and HC Norv Turner is already finding ways to fix these issues.