Considering the struggles of the special teams unit, it makes all the sense in the world for the Chargers to sign potential competition for next season.
Last Thursday, the Chargers worked out kicker JJ Molson and punter Lachlan Edwards for potential special teams roles. Both were signed to the practice squad this week.
Edwards was signed to the practice squad earlier in the week to alleviate Ty Long showing up on the injury report with a right hip. As far as we know, Michael Badgley isn’t injured. Despite Long tweaking his hip, the Chargers were working these specialists out as competition rather than backup depth.
The workouts and eventual signings of these two specialists came after George Stewart received a demotion from being special teams coordinator. It’s clear that Anthony Lynn wasn’t pleased with the direction the seasons were going for Badgley or Long. Long snapper Dan Godsil was also worked out but not signed, signifying some potential competition for Cole Mazza coming in the future.
In a year where the Chargers were serious contenders, it might’ve made sense to keep the current special teams unit intact. But with a path to the playoffs all but closed, a special teams competition could work out for the Chargers entering next year.
Frankly, this should’ve happened last offseason in hindsight. Like many Chargers fans, I believed that Badgley and Long would be fine this season without thinking about it too much. Even teams with great ST units like the Ravens bring in talent to compete in the offseason. It may have gotten better results for the team in the long run.
Edwards led the league in air yards in 2019. Punting the ball deep has been a struggle for Long with some instances of shanking punts or holding the ball too (no pun intended) long. If Long has another bad game, the Chargers might give Edwards a shot in one of the last few weeks to see how he does.
There’s a little less optimism for me when it comes to Molson. He only made 68.9% of his field goals in his college career at UCLA. Still, the Chargers must’ve seen something they liked at the tryout to go through and sign him. To his credit, he only missed one extra point out of 152 attempted. Badgley has missed three extra points this season, most recently at the very beginning of the Buffalo game. An 87% touchback rate for Molson isn’t too shabby either.
While they never tried out anyone as a kick or punt returner, I’d personally like to see the Chargers mix it up at those spots. They’ve been pretty comfortable with keeping Joe Reed and K.J. Hill there with rather minimal results. Reed had some great returns earlier in the year, but he’s cooled rather considerably. Giving other receivers and running backs a chance to return might yield interesting results.
Edwards and Molson may not play in a game during the 2020 season, but their signings send a clear message to Long and Badgley that more underperformance will not be tolerated.
At the very least, these moves make it seem like there will be a more serious special teams competitions in 2021. If Badgley continues to whiff on extra points and field goals like he has been, the Chargers may be left with no choice.
With Los Angeles firmly out of the playoff picture, putting the special teams unit on the hot seat is a good decision. There should be more special teams competitions next year as well, but starting earlier to get a better feel can only help the team going forward.