Chargers’ offense was already sputtering before Justin Herbert was injured against Broncos #Chargers #offense #sputtering #Justin #Herbert #injured #Broncos

Justin Herbert’s fractured index finger on his throwing hand isn’t great news for the Los Angeles Chargers and their offense.

The truth, though, is the offense was struggling even before Herbert’s injury during the second quarter of Sunday’s 24-7 loss to the Denver Broncos.

The Chargers have scored only three touchdowns in the last 14 quarters, another horrific statistic in a disappointing season for a team many thought would be an AFC contender.

Instead, Los Angeles sits at 5-8 and tied for the third-worst record in the conference.

“Yeah, we’ve got to get more touchdowns. That’s not good, not good at all. You guys laugh. I’m not laughing. That’s not good,” running back Austin Ekeler said after Sunday’s game. “We’re putting drives together. We have some splash plays here, but it’s been broken.

“We’ve got to put a drive together, get down into the red zone and put a complete drive together.”

The Chargers are ranked 17th in total offense. If the season ended this week, that would be their lowest ranking since they were 18th in 2014.

Herbert was visiting two hand specialists Monday, but Easton Stick will likely make his first NFL start Thursday night in Las Vegas against the Raiders.

There are many factors why the offense has struggled. The loss of center Corey Linsley after three games due to a heart issue has caused some pass protection issues on the offensive line. Over the last 10 games, Herbert and Stick have been pressured on 29.7% of their dropbacks, higher than the league average of 27.8%.

The other issues are things coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco have long dealt with but haven’t fixed.

The running game has largely been non-existent, averaging 96 yards per carry.

The receiving position continues to be hampered by depth problems due to injuries to Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer. Alex Erickson, who spent training camp with the New York Jets, got his second start of the year Sunday.

All of those add up to a significant challenge awaiting Stick.

Even though Stick, a fifth-round pick by Los Angeles in 2019, saw only two NFL snaps before Sunday, he did show off a big arm and some athleticism against the Broncos. Stick completed 13 of 24 passes for 179 yards in Herbert’s place. His best throw was a 57-yard strike to Quentin Johnston during the fourth quarter. He followed that up with a 22-yard pass to Johnston that put the Chargers at Denver’s 6-yard line and later led to Ekeler’s 4-yard TD.

Stick’s one edge over Herbert is that he is a better runner, which might allow the Chargers to employ some run-pass option plays.

“There are going to be some things in the passing game that could change, based on Justin and Easton and that’s just natural. Your quarterbacks aren’t going to be the same,” Staley said. “I think the fact that we have that dimension with his legs gives us that dual threat in the plan. We think that’s important, just in general, but with him, maybe you can activate that even more.”

WHAT’S WORKING

WR Keenan Allen. Not only did Allen set the Chargers single-season record with his league-leading 108th reception, but he became the quickest player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions. Allen, who has 904 catches, did it in 139 games, four games faster than Antonio Brown.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Third- and fourth-down conversions. The Chargers had their most third-down attempts without a conversion since at least 1991, as they went 0 for 13. They were a combined 1 for 18 on third and fourth down against the Broncos. The 5.6% conversion rate was the third-lowest in an NFL game since 2000, per Sportradar.

STOCK UP

LB Kenneth Murray Jr. The fourth-year player continues to show signs of progress. A first-round pick in 2020, Murray had a team-leading 12 tackles, along with his third sack of the season. Murray also had two quarterback hits and a QB pressure.

STOCK DOWN

CB Michael Davis. He was back in the starting lineup with Deane Leonard inactive due to ankle and heel injuries. Davis allowed his seventh touchdown of the year on Courtland Sutton’s one-handed, 46-yard catch in the back of the end zone. Had the pass been incomplete, Davis would have been called for pass interference, which would have put the ball at the Chargers 1. The big play ended up negating a great play by Davis in the first quarter when he made a diving interception while matched up against Marvin Mims at the Denver 13.

INJURIES

Leonard is likely to miss a third straight game on Thursday night. … Palmer (knee) is questionable after returning to practice last week.

KEY NUMBER

83 — Yards on JK Scott’s franchise-record punt during the second quarter. Paul Maguire had the old mark at 82 yards against the Dallas Texans in 1961.

NEXT STEPS

The Chargers have lost their last two trips to Las Vegas and last swept the Raiders in 2018.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl


#Chargers #offense #sputtering #Justin #Herbert #injured #Broncos

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