A season that started with so much promise has turned into a bit of a disaster for the Los Angeles Chargers. How much is Joe Lombardi at fault?
The Chargers begin the second half of their season with a 4-3 record. That’s not bad considering the overall mediocrity of the NFL in 2022. However, the ride thus far hasn’t been pleasant.
Sandwiched between puzzling losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars (who haven’t won a game since) and the Seattle Seahawks have been a rash of injuries to star players. Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater, J.C. Jackson and Keenan Allen have all missed significant time. And now receiver Mike Williams is expected to miss at least a month with an ankle injury.
The revolving door of skill position players has made life even harder on quarterback Justin Herbert. But Herbert and the Chargers offense hasn’t been helped by offensive coordinator Lombardi.
Chargers offensive stats
The Chargers rank 17th in offensive DVOA and 20th with 5.3 yards per play. While Herbert is one of the league’s best young quarterbacks, Lombardi has put too much pressure on his up-and-coming QB. Los Angeles is essentially one-dimensional, ranking 28th in rushing DVOA and 29th with 3.7 yards per carry. The Chargers ground game hasn’t worked to this point, but it’s fair to wonder whether Lombardi has tried hard enough to establish the run. Los Angeles has just 167 rushing attempts through seven games this year, the sixth-lowest total in the NFL.
Obviously, it’s harder to establish the run when your offensive line ranks 29th in adjusted line yards, 29th in power success rate and 31st in stuffed rank. And the Chargers are cognizant of the importance of preserving dynamic two-way tailback Austin Ekeler for the long haul. But Los Angeles has failed to develop a second running back to spell Ekeler, despite investing draft capital in Isaiah Spiller, Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley each of the last three years. Personnel is definitely to blame, but Lombardi’s scheme clearly isn’t working either.
Dink and dunk
What might be more concerning is what’s happening with Los Angeles’ passing game. While it’s a stretch to say Herbert has regressed in his third season, he hasn’t performed as well entering the second half of the 2022 campaign.
Herbert’s adjusted yards per pass attempt, yards per completion and intended air yards per attempt are all sitting at career lows through seven games. In other words, Herbert has gone from a gunslinger to a check-down specialist this season and has struggled to push the ball downfield.
Obviously, injuries and personnel are partly to blame, as Herbert’s had less time to throw with a beleaguered offensive line protecting him. But Lombardi has failed to adjust and create inventive ways to make this offense more explosive.
In a season where so much has gone wrong, nobody is solely to blame for the Chargers’ offensive struggles. But if Los Angeles is to have any hope of righting the ship, it starts with more creativity from its offensive coordinator. Joe Lombardi’s job could be on the line these final 10 weeks if the offense remains stuck in neutral.