The Los Angeles Chargers were a much-improved football team this year, despite a poor start. They ended up oh so close to making the playoffs but just missed out at 9-7. However, most of their losses were very close and they could just as easily have been 11-5 or 12-4. And they were playing more like that kind of team down the stretch, thanks to an improved offense and defense. But there were still some key things that they were struggling with. These are things that they need to improve on in 2018 in order to make their path to the playoffs easier.
What the Los Angeles Chargers Need to Improve on in 2018
Defend the Run Better
The Chargers defense was definitely improved in 2017, thanks to a deadly pass rush and a surprisingly good secondary. But there was one major area where they struggled: against the run. They actually had the second-worst run defense in the league. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley needs to work with his guys on that before the season.
It might be necessary to get a name in free agency (perhaps a new linebacker) that can help with this. They were able to excel at other facets of defense this year with the players they had but were unable to do so in that particular area of stopping the run. It did end up hurting them at times.
Settle the Kicker Situation
The special teams had some problems in general, but the Chargers had some nearly unbelievable problems with kickers this year. First, they made the mistake of cutting Josh Lambo (who had a good season with the Jacksonville Jaguars) and went with Younghoe Koo instead, who missed a 44-yard would-be game-winning field goal against the Miami Dolphins – something that was arguably the biggest difference in their season overall. He was cut after four games and replaced with Nick Novak, who actually played well until he got hurt. Then they went through Travis Coons and Nick Rose before the season ended.
Part of the problem is that they got a little impatient down the stretch. Coons was not doing that badly, but they got rid of him too and put in Rose who only made one out of three field goals in two games and missed an extra point as well. Rose is still currently on the roster and Roberto Aguayo has been signed to a futures/reserve contract, but they still need to keep shopping. The Chargers need to try and pick up someone with a little more experience next season and avoid picking up some inexperienced guy who got cut by his last team (like Rose or Aguayo) because that has not been working. They could try and draft another rookie too, but that could also be hit-or-miss.
Finish Games Late
This was a bigger problem in 2016 than in 2017. However, it still came up a few times where the Chargers either had the game in their hands and let it slip away, or had the opportunity to come back and came up just short. Besides the loss to the Dolphins on a missed field goal, fans will remember the game against the Jaguars where they picked off Blake Bortles twice late in the game, but still somehow managed to let things slip away due in part to a turnover of their own.
Sometimes this does not just mean finishing games late but also winning critical games in general when it counts most. The late-season loss to the Kansas City Chiefs ended up haunting the Chargers as well. When you are about to hold your playoff destiny in your hands, you cannot let yourself get blown out.
Chargers fans have to be feeling optimistic going into 2018. That said, they still probably feel the sting of just how close they were. If just one of those close games had gone differently, they would be in. There are indeed a couple of areas they need to fix in order to ensure that they do seal the deal and return to the playoffs last year – perhaps most importantly finding a dependable kicker. Still, the immediate future appears bright for the Chargers.