The LA Chargers have seemingly struggled against the run as long as the team has been in existence. There was some hope that the arrival of Brandon Staley would help solve that problem but it has still been an issue this season.
The run defense has been on full display the last two weeks against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, both of which ran all over the Chargers with relative ease. The Chargers were able to escape the Browns game with a shootout win. They were not able to do the same against Baltimore.
Among the overreactions from the Week 6 loss is the belief that the run defense is so bad and that the Chargers cannot make a run in the playoffs with it. While that is true if the run defense continues to play as it did in Week 6, all signs are pointing to the Chargers improving in stopping the run.
The Bolts won't turn it around and be a great team against the run and will still be in the bottom half in rushing yards allowed per game. However, the team can absolutely get to the point where the run defense is not as massive of a disadvantage for the team and it should happen naturally.
Why the LA Chargers run defense will inevitably get better after Week 6:
First of all, we have to look at who was not playing in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. The LA Chargers were without Drue Tranquill, who was having a fantastic season this year and while the team struggled against Cleveland with Tranquill playing, he does make a difference.
Tranquill was starting because Kenneth Murray has been on the IR. Murray struggled early on in the season but that could have been chalked up as a bad start. While Murray's stock might be low right now, he is still a hard-nosed, hard-hitting middle linebacker that helps plug the running lanes.
Even when he struggles the combo of Tranquill and Murray is exponentially better than the combo of Amen Ogbongbemiga and Nick Niemann. That cannot be refuted.
Also on the IR is Justin Jones, which hurts the Chargers' depth on the defensive line. No, Justin Jones is not an elite run-stuffer by any sense of the word but he is definitely better than the practice squad players that the Bolts have been forced to play at defensive tackle.
Not only that but he is a better run-stopping presence than Jerry Tillery, who is woeful against the run and is one of the main reasons why the run defense is struggling as much as it is. While injuries are always going to be present in the NFL, having Tranquill, Murray and Jones healthy makes a huge difference.
The team is also in a position to add some help on the trade market at well. While Tom Telesco is not an aggressive general manager, the Chargers are projected to have four compensatory picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. With this team being a legitimate contender, it would be silly to not use 1-2 of those picks to address the biggest hole on the roster.
The final outlook is one that is much different than it was against Baltimore and even against Cleveland. The team can rotate between Tranquill, Murray and Kyzir White and even has the flexibility to stack the box with all three if they really want to commit to stopping the run on a certain down.
Up front, the LA Chargers can stop playing Jerry Tillery against the run. With Jones returning a a potential trade, Tillery can be reserved for bonafide passing downs. A trio of Linval Joseph, Jones and another run stuffing defensive tackle is absolutely a much better outlook.
As long as the LA Chargers do what needs to be done and the players get healthy then this will be a different story come January.