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Los Angeles Chargers: Grading 2019 special teams unit

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Mike Badgley #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers kicks the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 02: Mike Badgley #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers kicks the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 2, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JANUARY 06: Desmond King #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers returns the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 06, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JANUARY 06: Desmond King #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers returns the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 06, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Chargers: Return specialists

The last thing to talk about in regards to special teams is the kicking and punt return game. The Chargers probably plan to do both somewhat by committee, but Desmond King has absolutely earned the punt return job for most of the time. Come the regular season, the kick returns will likely be a team of Desmond King, Travis Benjamin, and Austin Ekeler. Punt returns will be King and Benjamin, with King getting most of the load there. Frankly, both of those groups should make Chargers fans feel pretty comfortable.

King, though an All-Pro last season as a returner, has not fielded a kickoff or punt in the preseason thus far. What’s more, Derwin James is now going to miss more than half of the regular season, which may force more dual-threat players like King to appear more on defense and less on special teams. Troymaine Pope just returned a punt for a touchdown against the Saints, and could potentially handle some of the special teams work as a returner should King be asked to be featured on defense.

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OVERALL: The Chargers have an much more stable special teams unit than they have had in previous seasons. Badgley will hold down the kicker spot, and it’s possible Long will give the team some much-needed stability at punter. With a number of options at returner, the Chargers are likely set to have a solid unit there once again. Everything seems to be leading towards the team having the best special teams they’ve had in a while. Grade: B+

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