Culver City Observer -

By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chargers need help on offense heading into the 2022 season

 

Jevone Moore

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert still needs help on offense.

The Los Angeles Chargers have made several improvements in the off-season to their roster, but they are far from finished, especially in the highly competitive AFC West. The Chargers added four new starters on defense in linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback J.C. Jackson, nose tackle Austin Johnson, and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. Those additions will help a Charger defense that was last in the NFL in third down defense.

On offense, the Chargers ranked 5th in total offense in the NFL in 2022, and it would seem that the Chargers might not need to do much to improve their offense during the off-season. That would not be accurate. The Chargers need more speed at wide receiver, they need a reliable 2nd running back, they need a starting right tackle, and they could use more depth on the offensive line.

While the Chargers still have about $18 million in salary cap space and could sign a free agent before or after the draft, it is more likely that the Chargers will use their tenth draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft to fill some of their needs on the offensive side of the ball. The first round of the NFL draft will begin on April 28th in Las Vegas.

If the Chargers are going to grab a wide receiver early in the draft, Charis Olave would be good a choice. Olave has the speed to play outside and the route running skills to play inside. Olave has been described as similar to Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, only with better speed. Olave is 6-foot, 187 pounds, and ran 4.39 seconds in the forty at the NFL combine.

He is an excellent route runner. At the NFL combine, Olave caught everything thrown his way. Olave played his high school football at Mission Hills high school in San Marcos, California, and played his college football at Ohio State.

Another possibility in the first round at wide receiver is Alabama's Jameson Williams, a speedster who suffered an ACL knee injury in the college football national championship game. Williams was a teammate of Olave's at Ohio State before transferring to Alabama. This past season at Alabama, Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Williams averaged 19.9 yards per catch and at -6-foot-1, 190 pounds, has been compared to former Philadelphia Eagles star DeSean Jackson. Because of the knee injury, Williams will likely be unable to play for at least half of the 2022 NFL season and may not be back to normal until 2023. But when he is healthy, he would bring rare speed that the Charger coaches are searching for.

The Chargers have also been searching for a reliable backup running back for the past two seasons. There is not much available in free agency at this position and the Chargers are almost certainly going to fill this need in the later rounds. If the Chargers decide to look for a running back in the 3rd or 4th round, one possibility could be Pierre Strong Jr. out of South Dakota State. Strong is a 5-foot-11, 207 pound running back who ran a 4.37 forty at the NFL combine.

Strong played at the FCS level, so NFL scouts are always suspicious of the level of talent he went up against. But his physical attributes are impressive. He was a three-time first team All-conference pick in the Missouri Valley Conference and a first team All-American at the FCS level. Strong was the Arkansas Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year as a senior at Little Rock's McClellan high school.

Strong led all NCAA running backs with 47 runs of 10+ yards in 2021. Strong would bring an explosive element to the Chargers backfield. Another running back option who should be available in the late rounds would be C.J. Verdell out of Oregon, a college teammate of Charger quarterback Justin Herbert.

Verdell is coming off a leg injury suffered last season against Stanford that may affect his draft status. Verdell rushed for over 1,000 yards in his first two seasons and was named to the All-Pac-12 team in 2019. Verdell saved some of his best performances for the biggest games. In 2019, Verdell rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game, leading the Oregon to a 37-15 victory over Utah and a Rose Bowl berth.

In 2021, Verdell rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns, also catching three passes for 34 yards and another touchdown, in leading the Oregon Ducks to an upset win over Ohio State on the road. Verdell is a 5-foot-7, 200-pound runner with good balance and vision. He played his high school football at Mater Dei high school in Chula Vista, California.

At right tackle, the Chargers will almost certainly draft a right tackle at some point in the draft with one of their ten draft picks. In the first round, right tackle Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa is a name that has popped up on multiple mock drafts, as he appears to be a player that will be available at No. 17 for the Chargers.

Penning is 6-foot-7, 321 pounds, with an aggressive, nasty attitude. He is considered a player that could start right away. Another possibility could be Washington State right tackle Abraham Lucas in the third round. Lucas is 6-foot-7, 319 pounds and was a First team All-Pac-12 selection in 2021. He was a Second team All-Pac-12 in his first three seasons at WSU.

The Chargers could look internally for their starter at right tackle. Last year's starter at right tackle, Storm Norton, returns for the 2022 season. Norton did not perform well at times last season against the better pass rushing defensive ends. The Chargers also have 2019 third round pick Trey Pickens available for duty at right tackle. He has started at right tackle in the past and has proven to be serviceable.

The Chargers could also add a right tackle through free agency. There are still some solid right tackles available in free agency. These are important decisions for the Chargers, because as good as Herbert has been his first two seasons, he cannot do it alone. Any injuries at running back or wide receiver or along the offensive line, will put more pressure on Herbert and make his job that much more difficult.

With a quarterback like Herbert who can stretch the field with his strong passing arm, getting faster on the outside will force the defense to cover the whole field and lead to explosive plays. The better the offensive line, the less Herbert is getting hit. A stronger running game will help control the football and will help keep the defense off the field. The Chargers just missed the playoffs in the 2021 season, and they do not want a repeat of last season's debacle.

 

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