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Los Angeles Chargers

Fans have no reason to panic, yet

The Los Angeles Chargers have started the season with a disappointing 1-2 record. Should fans start to panic? This writer says no.

After falling to a division rival, beating up an awful Bills team, and falling to their city rivals the following week, the Los Angeles Chargers are playing lower than their talent and expectations suggest. What else is new?

However, many have begun to panic surrounding the state of the team, as the Chargers, once a playoff favorite, have been beaten by two teams destined for the postseason. If they can’t beat good teams, why bother with the season at all? The defense is much worse than expected, one of the best players on the team is injured and the team is currently third place in the AFC West.

But panic? Nonsense. The team may very well fall short of expectations come January, but now is the time for more optimism than ever. The Chargers historically are a team that requires patience. When looking for optimism, fans should take a look at that history.

The team’s recent draft picks have been a shining example of the importance of patience:

  • 2016: Joey Bosa, DE, first round selection. Holds out, misses the first four games of the season due to injury, but becomes one of the top five defensive players in football.
  • 2017: Mike Williams, WR, first round selection. Constantly injured through his entire rookie season. In 2018? Second on the team in receiving yards, but leads the team in touchdowns, yards per catch, and Pro Football Focus grading (subscription required) at 80.7.
  • Need a corner? The Chargers waited until the fifth round of the 2017 draft to take Desmond King, who is arguably that draft’s biggest steal and currently the only corner performing well
  • In the 2018 draft, fans (including myself) wanted Tom Telesco to move up from No. 17 and take a guy like Vita Vea or Tremaine Edmunds. Instead, he remained patient and took Derwin James, who at a PFF grade of 87.7 is more than 30 points higher than Edmunds and leads all rookies in overall grade through three weeks.

But what about this awful defense? Through the first three games, the Chargers have given up two 30-point games to two playoff teams, a scoring total the defense gave up only once in 2017.

Remember when the Chargers couldn’t stop the Denver Broncos on opening night en route to a fourth-quarter loss in 2017? The defense shut them out six weeks later. They held the New England Patriots in Foxborough to just 21 points. After opening the season 0-4, the defense rallied while the offense caught up to lead the team to win nine of their next twelve. Gus Bradley will get the defense figured out, and is about to have a few awful teams in front of him to do so.

Speaking of records, the team has started 1-2 this year, playing well on offense, but giving up too much on defense to win the game. It’s not the best start, and certainly below expectations, but the schedule smooths out from here; over the next eight weeks, the Bolts play teams with a combined 7-16-1 record.

The 49ers will be without their starting quarterback, the Raiders (who they play twice in that span) are awful, the Browns are still the Browns, the Seahawks are talent-stripped, the Broncos aren’t well coached or as talented as in recent years, the Titans are anemic on offense and the Cardinals may be the worst team in football. Until the Steelers game in Week 13, the Chargers may not even lose a game (they will).

And what makes this good team better? Reinforcements. All-Pro Joey Bosa, starting defensive tackle Corey Liuget (more sorely missed than expected) and right guard Forrest Lamp will eventually be injected into the lineup to further spark this team.

Bosa’s case is still a curious one, but if he says he can avoid surgery and come back after the bye in Week 8, I believe him. If I were the Chargers, I would let Bosa rest for an extended amount of time and get him ready for the Cardinals in Week 12, so he can be ready for the Steelers the following week.

Next: NFL Week 4: 5 teams on upset alert

The Chargers are going to be just fine, and will likely have a strong winning record by the time they head to Pittsburgh for their next true test in a pivotal AFC clash. Their draft picks are paying dividends, the schedule is easy, and help is on the way. Show a little faith in your team, buy low, and enjoy the season.

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe to PFF’s EDGE or ELITE subscriptions at ProFootballFocus.com.

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