Do the LA Chargers have an undercover kicking problem?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Chargers have a history of bad kickers — are the new problems now undercover?

Michael Badgley has been the starting kicker (when healthy) for the LA Chargers since the 2018 season. And for the most part, Badgley has been — pun intended — money. He has made 87.2% of his field-goal attempts and 98% of his extra-point attempts.

Badgley is the best kicker that the Chargers have had since Nate Kaeding, who was really good and consistent in the regular season but could never make the big kick when it mattered in the playoffs. For that reason, Badgley is a beloved player on the Chargers.

However, upon diving into the numbers as well as the tendencies of the football team, it becomes easy to wonder if the Chargers do indeed have an undercover kicking problem with Badgley. It is not to say that Badgley is a bad kicker, but there definitely are some concerning signs.

And they all stem from the power of his leg.

Badgley’s biggest fault when he was named the starting kicker of the Chargers was the power of his kicks on kickoffs. The goal of kickoffs, especially from the 35-yard-line, is to create touchbacks. Badgley simply was not doing that as he was either barely getting the ball into the endzone or not getting it into the endzone at all.

That is why Ty Long, the punter, kicks the ball off. That is not a bad thing for the Chargers, as they have found someone who can boom the ball down-field, but it does open the curtains a bit on this undercover problem.

Badgley has missed five field goals in 39 attempts — three of those five misses are on field goals of 50+ yards. In 21 games played, Badgley has attempted just four 50+ yard field goals and has made one — a booming 59-yarder at the end of the first half in 2018 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

His longest field goal in 2018 was 49 yards and he has made a 43-yarder in 2020.

This is not to say that the Chargers did not have chances to kick 50+ yard field goals, though. We went back into the archives and counted five times in which the Chargers had the ball from the 33-yard-line to the 40-yard-line and decided to go for it or punt rather than kick the ball.

There were more than five times, but these five times were in situations in which the game was not on the line and a field goal would have helped. These were not fourth-down situations (there are those as well).

Going for it on fourth is a common thing in 2020, but of those five situations, three were punts. The Chargers passed on a 50 to 57-yard field goal three times with Badgley in favor of punting. He should have seven attempts from 50+, at least.

And that is where the undercover problem lies.

Michael Badgley’s potential undercover problem:

The problem is that the LA Chargers might not trust in Badgley’s leg to make these long field goals, which is a big deal. Having a kicker that you have confidence in can change the entire game. Harrison Butker drilled a 58-yarder to beat the Chargers in Week 2 this season. Having that kicker creates that opportunity and shrinks the field in big moments.

The playcalling tells me that Anthony Lynn may not have full confidence in Badgley’s leg. Take Week 3, for example. The Chargers had third and 20 from the 49. They could have ran a designed play that had deep options to open the middle of the field for a 10-yard play to get Badgley in field goal range.

Instead, they ran a screen, hoping to get blocks and get Austin Ekeler close to the first down marker. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive that a screen pass was more designed to get a first than another play, but Shane Steichen said in his presser after the game that he was expecting deep coverage from Carolina.

If you are expecting deep coverage, why not have Ekeler in a wheel route as as security blanket while also having quick curls/drags/slants to get those 10-15 yards to get into field goal range? Because you don’t fully trust the leg of the kicker.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Michael Badgley. He is a solid kicker and is money from within 50 yards, which is where most field-goal attepmts come from. He is 4-4 in field goals with two minutes remaining in the game. This is by no means a plea to move on.

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However, it is a dynamic to keep an eye on as the season develops for the LA Chargers. If Anthony Lynn truly does not trust in Badgley’s leg then that could really turn around and burn the team in a big spot.