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Los Angeles Chargers poised for best special teams unit in years

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Mike Badgley #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates with Virgil Green #88 after kicking the game winning field goal to give the Chargers a 33-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Mike Badgley #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates with Virgil Green #88 after kicking the game winning field goal to give the Chargers a 33-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Chargers, believe it or not, may have finally put together a strong special teams unit…

The Los Angeles Chargers have continually fielded poor special teams units under general manager Tom Telesco; however, not only will that trend break this year, but the unit may end up being one of the best in the NFL.

The coverage unit will be led by 2018 All-Pro Adrian Phillips, who led the NFL with 17 special teams tackles. Returning along with him are four players within the top 30 of special teams tackles: Geremy Davis (T-26th), Rayshawn Jenkins (T-19th), Uchenna Nwosu (T-19th), and Nick Dzubnar (T-9th). They will also be joined by 2019 draft picks Drue Tranquill, Emeke Egbule, and Cortez Broughton as potential special teams contributors.

They’ll be covering kicks from Mike Badgley and punts from either Tyler Newsome or Ty Long in 2019. Badgley, the team’s unlikely hero last year, will look to maintain his 15-16 and 27-28 field goal and extra point numbers, respectively, this season.

¡59 YARDAS! ??⚡️

Michael Badgley anota el gol de campo más largo de su carrera para aumentar la ventaja de los @Chargers antes de la mitad #CINvsLAC #FightForEachOther #NFLMX pic.twitter.com/8H6Xxz29Ix

— NFL México (@nflmx) December 9, 2018

Badgley’s total kick conversion percentage of 95.45 was higher than that of Pro-Bowl kicker Justin Tucker (93.42), albeit at a smaller sample size. The rookie kicker also set the franchise record for longest field goal with a key 59-yard boot against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The team knows what it has in Badgley, but what about the punters? Long has a CFL career average of 48.8 yards per punt, and Newsome 44.44 yards, including a game against Vanderbilt with an outstanding 59.6 yard average. The Chargers can only win here; both are likely upgrades over Donnie Jones, a curious decision last year only further questioned by lackluster punts.

The most exciting player to watch will be Desmond King, who looked brilliant as a returner of both punts and kicks.

DEIXA O REI PASSAR! Desmond King consegue um excelente retorno após o punt dos Ravens!! #NFLBrasil #NFLnaESPN pic.twitter.com/HvqBaAd5zs

— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) January 6, 2019

On top of being a First-Team All-Pro as a defensive back, King decided it would be fun to be a Second-Team All-Pro as a punt returner as well. No. 20 took the job of someone who may have cost the team the game against the Chiefs and became the man who won the Chargers a game in Pittsburgh.

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It’s not to say the unit was perfect last year; two weeks in a row, the punt return unit was fooled by AFC West rivals and gave up conversions on fourth-down trick plays. Here’s to hoping having the majority of the special teams players returning this year can create a cohesive unit in 2019.

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