The LA Chargers schedule has been out for over a week and we here at Bolt Beat have dissected it in every way. From making predictions to ranking opponents playing the Chargers with different parameters, there was a lot for the Bolts to analyze.
Perhaps the biggest immediate benefit is the fact that the first half of the Chargers schedule is relatively easy, while the second half is pretty tough. In fact, the team’s toughest stretch of play is ending the season, which will either hurt their record or (more likely) help propel them into the playoffs.
The beauty of the Chargers’ first half being relatively easy is that it will allow the team to start the season relaxed and hopefully build a good record that can generate some momentum. However, it’s more than just the quality of the opponents. The start of the Chargers schedule is really important to what the team wants to do on defense.
The Chargers reinvented the defensive line this offseason with the intention of improving against the run, which was the biggest weakness the Bolts had last season. Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Otito Ogbonnia and Morgan Fox have all joined the inside defenses group for the upcoming season. Khalil Mack was the biggest addition from the outside.
On paper, this is a run defense that should be miles better than last season, but being such a new unit it may take some time for the group to gel and get on the same page. This is especially true for Brandon Staley very cautious in the preseason with his starters.
Instead of starting with an enormously tough challenge, the Chargers will get used to the running attacks they will see and give this unit time to band together and become the best version of themselves.
The Bolts will play the first four games of the season against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans. These teams finished 28th, 13th, 22nd, and 32nd in rushing yards per game respectively last season. The Chiefs are essentially the biggest challenge the Chargers have, and they’re not even a top-10 rushing team.
Sure, Jacksonville should be better if Travis Etienne is healthy, and Houston absolutely set the Chargers on fire last season, but this is a new entity. This first month of the season gives the run defense a chance to solidify before taking on the tougher challenges later in the season.
Imagine a world where the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts were for the Bolts in the first month of the season. The chances of Tennessee or Indianapolis winning earlier in the season while the defense was still gaining traction would be much higher.
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Later in the season, however, we can hope that the Chargers’ Run D is not only a well-oiled machine, but that their respective running backs will also start to burn.