The LA Chargers schedule has been released for over a week and we here at Bolt Beat have dissected it in every which way. From predictions to ranking the opponents the Chargers play with different parameters, there has been a lot to dissect for the Bolts.
Perhaps the biggest immediate takeaway is the fact that the first half of the Chargers' schedule is relatively easy while the second half is pretty tough. In fact, the team's toughest stretch of games is to end the season, which will either hurt their record or (more likely) help propel them into the playoffs.
The beautiful thing about the Chargers' first half being relatively easy is that it is going to allow the team to ease into the season and hopefully establish a good record that can lead to some momentum. It is more than just the quality of opponents, though. The start of the Chargers' schedule is really important to what the team wants to do on defense.
The Chargers don't have any huge tests on the new-look run defense in the first month of the season.
The Chargers reinvented the defensive line this offseason with the intent of improving against the run, which was the single biggest weakness that the Bolts had last season. Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Otito Ogbonnia and Morgan Fox have all joined the interior defensive line group for the upcoming season. Khalil Mack was the biggest addition on the outside.
On paper, this is a run defense that should be miles better than it was last season but with it being such a new unit it could take some time for the group to gel and get on the same page. This is especially true with Brandon Staley being very cautious in the preseason with his starters.
Instead of starting off with a massively hard challenge, the Chargers are going to get to ease into the running attacks they will see, giving this unit time to gel together and become the best version of itself.
The first four games of the season for the Bolts are against the Las Vegas Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. Those teams ranked 28th, 13th, 22nd and 32 in rushing yards per game last season, respectively. The Chiefs are essentially the biggest challenge the Chargers have and they are not even a top-10 rushing team.
Sure, Jacksonville should be better with Travis Etienne healthy and Houston did absolutely torch the Chargers last season but this is a new unit. This first month of the season gives the run defense its chance to cement itself before taking on the tougher challenges later in the season.
Imagine a world in which the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts were in the first month of the season for the Bolts. The chances of Tennessee or Indianapolis winning earlier in the season, while the defense was still finding its footing, would be much higher.
Later in the season, though, we can hope that the Chargers' run D is not only a well-oiled machine but that the respective running backs are also starting to burn out as well.