Many expected a good LA Chargers secondary in 2020. They were wrong.
The LA Chargers are currently 2-4 and the 2020 season has been far from what we expected coming into it. Charger fans were bracing for a defensive style of football that would lead to low-scoring games.
The team lived up to that expectation in Week 1 in a 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Since then, the offenses have exploded. Justin Herbert was thrust into the starting job, had earned the job full-time and the defense has taken a step back.
The Chargers now find themselves in offensive shootouts. This is great as far as the offense is concerned as Justin Herbert has proven that he is a legitimate franchise quarterback. For the defense, well, it has been tough to watch.
What has been the problem? Why has a defense that we all expected to be so good turned into one of the worst in the league? Simple. The secondary.
The unfortunate reality about the LA Chargers secondary:
First, I must mention that it has not been perfect anywhere else on defense, either. The Chargers were without a full-strength pass rush for several weeks and finally returned to form in Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The linebackers have also been a tad underwhelming. Drue Tranquill suffered a season-ending injury early in Week 1 and the linebackers have showcased coverage problems.
The root of most of the problems has been the secondary — an area that we were all overly confident on heading into the season. It has been a mixture of some bad luck as well as some bad play.
Let’s start with some bad luck — of course, the secondary is going to be worse when it is missing Derwin James and Chris Harris. James is one of the best and most versatile safeties in the game and opens up Pandora’s Box for this defense.
Harris, on the other hand, was expected to be an impact offseason addition. And while I personally did not think he was playing that great prior to getting hurt, he is still a much better option than what the team has replaced him with.
Then there are the under-performers. The safety position without James has been a mess. While we were all hopeful that Nasir Adderley and Rayshawn Jenkins would right the ship without James, it has been the opposite.
Neither safety is playing like a starting NFL safety and both are showcasing holes in multiple departments. The pass-coverage from the safeties has been pretty awful and the tackling, as we saw on full display in Week 7, is an issue.
Adderley is young and has time to turn it around and Jenkins has shown brief flashes here and there, but something needs to change. Nobody expects them to be elite, but we do expect them to be better than one of the league’s worst.
Desmond King is also the most overrated player on the LA Chargers roster. King was terrible last season and excuses were made, primarily that the rest of the defense was injured, and fans were hoping for a bounce-back year in 2020.
It simply has not happened. King is not just overrated but he has become a liability at times in pass-coverage. If King is your third-best corner then that is fine, but asking him to play a bigger role on this defense has not been ideal. Simply put: we need to stop making excuses for King.
The one that really stings is Casey Hayward. Hayward has really taken a step back this season from the elite corner that he was last season. He has showcased tackling problems and has not been as crisp in coverage as years past.
This should have been somewhat expected, though. I did warn readers in the offseason about expecting too much out of the secondary and the fact of the matter is that Hayward is on the wrong side of 30. We see this all the time with cornerbacks, the fall from their primes can often be quick and without warning.
Hayward has to be better. I would not say that he is playing awful, but he certainly is not playing to the level that a CB1 should be playing.
The second outside corner spot was a worry heading into the year and it has not been great. Michael Davis does have the secondary’s only interception of the season but he has been targeted multiple times in key situations. He simply is not reliable enough.
The LA Chargers rank 23rd in passing yards allowed per game and rank 12th in defensive DVOA. The pass rush has certainly helped and to be fair, the team has arguably had to face the toughest quarterback slate in the league.
However, whichever way you slice it, the LA Chargers secondary simply has not been as good as expected or as good as it should be and that must change moving forward.