Unique statistic shows the Chargers run defense is legit

Los Angeles Chargers v Houston Texans
Los Angeles Chargers v Houston Texans / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

One of the biggest issues on the LA Chargers in 2021 was the run defense, which was one of the worst in the entire league. As a result, the front office was very aggressive in patching up the run defense, completely rebuilding the defensive line in the process.

Five weeks into the 2022 season and it might not seem like these additions have had the kind of impact that the front office was looking for. After getting gashed by Nick Chubb and the Cleveland Browns, the Chargers rank 24th in rushing yards allowed and dead last in average yards per carry.

Some pundits have taken these stats and run with them as definitive proof that the Bolts' run defense is still a huge issue. Some have even taken it as reason for why Brandon Staley is a bad head coach. While it certainly has not been perfect, these base-line stats have been a bit misrepresentative of the grand scheme.

That is evident by a unique stat that shows how often defenses and offenses are allowing runs to be perfectly blocked. To the surprise of many, the Chargers are one of the best teams in the league in preventing perfectly-blocked runs this season.

There are only five teams in the league that have allowed perfectly blocked runs at a lower rate than the Chargers (as indicated by them being higher vertically than the Chargers on the graph). Thus, it is safe to say that the foundation for success is there for LA.

So why are the Chargers run defense numbers still bad?

There are a few reasons for this. First is the fact that the team has allowed several big explosive runs that have skewed the yards per carry total in a negative way for the team. Every run counts and we simply cannot remove those runs from the database, but those runs are few and far between the we will see regression towards the mean in that statistic.

It is very unlikely that the Chargers are going to come out and allow a 40+ yard run every single game. Obviously, if it continues to happen then we have a big issue. But based on these numbers, it should not be a recurring trend.

The Chargers have also faced some talented backs with good offensive lines. Chubb is arguably the best running back in the league with one of the best offensive lines behind him. Dameon Pierce is the best rookie back and it is not even close. Jacksonville has one of the best 1-2 running back duos in the league while Josh Jacobs is no slouch, either.

Those things are out of the team's control. What is in the team's control that they can work on fixing is their tackling. The Chargers are allowing a small number of perfectly blocked runs, but they are not finishing the job in the tackling department.

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According to Pro Football Focus, Los Angeles has 50 missed tackles thus far this season. Only three teams in the league have more missed tackles and one of them has played an extra game (Chicago). If the Chargers can clean that up then suddenly we could be looking at an above-average run defense all around.