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.
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+