2024 NFL Season Preview: Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert

Los Angeles Chargers (Last Year: 5-12)

Season Summary:
The Chargers were arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL last year. Injuries and poor coaching capsized their chances, but there’s still plenty of talent on the roster.

2024 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB J.K. Dobbins, RB Gus Edwards, TE Will Dissly, TE Hayden Hurst, C Bradley Bozeman, DT Poona Ford, LB Denzel Perryman, LB Troy Dye, CB Kristian Fulton.

Early Draft Picks:
OT Joe Alt, WR Ladd McConkey, LB Junior Colson, DT Justin Eboigbe, CB Tarheeb Still, CB Cam Hart. Chargers Rookie Forecast

Offseason Losses:
RB Austin Ekeler, WR Keenan Allen, WR Mike Williams, TE Gerald Everett, C Will Clapp, DT Austin Johnson, LB Eric Kendricks, LB Kenneth Murray, CB Michael Davis.

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Offense:
Justin Herbert had plenty of weapons at his disposal entering the 2023 season. However, they went down like flies, one by one. It began when Austin Ekeler suffered an injury after a brilliant opening-week performance against the Dolphins. A couple of games later, Mike Williams tore his ACL during a tremendous performance. Keenan Allen was still around, but he eventually got hurt as well. By the end, Herbert had nothing but scrubs and injured players at his disposal.

Herbert at least won’t have to worry about Ekeler, Williams and Allen getting hurt once again because they’re all gone. Ekeler signed with the Redskins, while Williams and Allen joined the Jets and Bears, respectively. Quentin Johnston, last year’s first-round pick, is expected to step into a larger role this season, which may not be a good thing because he was so dreadful in his first season. This year’s rookie, Ladd McConkey, has been developing a great rapport with Herbert in OTAs. The returning veteran is Joshua Palmer, who has enjoyed some quality performances in the past.

As for Ekeler, it’s unclear which of the new running backs will handle the majority of the workload. The Chargers imported Baltimore’s two primary running backs, J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, because they’re familiar with new offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s system. Dobbins is talented, but has barely played the past two seasons because of multiple leg injuries. Edwards has also gotten hurt in that span, and he’s far less gifted than Dobbins. The Chargers were expected to address the position in the 2024 NFL Draft, but didn’t do so until the sixth round, when they selected Kimani Vidal.

Instead of drafting a running back early, the Chargers decided to focus on improving their offensive line and receiving corps. They addressed the former with their initial selection, using the No. 5 overall pick on Joe Alt. The Notre Dame product is a very gifted blocker, but he’s never played right tackle in his football career. It remains to be seen if he can make the move from the blind side. At the very least, he’ll be able to play left tackle if Rashawn Slater suffers an injury, though that won’t exactly be a positive development because Slater is a tremendous blocker.

New head coach Jim Harbaugh said his goal was to “beef up” the offensive line, but he didn’t use another pick in the draft on a blocker despite the interior having some major question marks. Center Corey Linsley was a quality player, but he has decided to retire due to many injuries. The pedestrian Bradley Bozeman will take his place. The two guards, Zion Johnson and Jamaree Salyer really struggled last year.

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Defense:
The Chargers lost both of their primary receivers this offseason. Due to cap constrictions, it appeared as though they would lose their dynamic edge rushers as well, but they were able to retain Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack.

Had Bosa and Mack departed, the Chargers would not be able to field a competitive football team. The two edge rushers are the best defensive players on the team, and it’s not particularly close aside from one player. Mack was incredible this past season, while Bosa didn’t play very much because of injuries. Bosa has always had trouble staying healthy, but if his luck reverses in 2024, the Chargers will have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Of course, that would also require Mack to continue to perform on an All-Pro level, which may not happen because he turned 33 this offseason.

The one player who is close in talent to Mack and Bosa is cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. The 24-year-old is coming off his best season yet. However, the Chargers have problems in their secondary otherwise. They had a revolving door of incompetence across from Samuel. The newest candidate for the job is Kristian Fulton, who had a woeful 2023 season with the Titans. Fifth-round rookie Cam Hart may beat out Fulton in training camp. Meanwhile, Ja’Sir Taylor will look to continue his mediocre-at-best production out of the slot.

Derwin James is another talented player the Chargers have in their secondary, but he’s coming off a down year and has a checkered injury history as well. James is still just 28, so he’s young enough to bounce back to Pro Bowl form. He’ll play next to Alohi Gilman, who showed major improvement this past season.

The Chargers added a couple of players besides Fulton to help strengthen their ability to stop the run. Denzel Perryman will return to the Chargers after playing in multiple locations. Perryman is 31, but he’s still a quality force against the run. He’ll play in a linebacking corps with a pair of third-round prospects, Daiyan Henley and Junior Colson. Henley barely saw action as a rookie last year, while Colston may see the field despite being in his first year.

Poona Ford is the other new Charger in the front seven. Ford was a quality run defender in the past, but has inexplicably regressed throughout his career. He’ll be a part of a defensive line sorely lacking in talent, with Otto Ogbonnia and Morgan Fox being the other projected starters. Fourth-round rookie Justin Eboigbe may push for playing time.

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Schedule and Intangibles:
The Chargers have no home-field advantage. They are 27-29 as hosts since moving back to Los Angeles in 2017. They’re 30-30 as visitors in that span. The NFL will have to consider moving the Chargers, perhaps to Oakland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, or Salt Lake City.

The Chargers have endured major kicking woes for years, but perhaps they found a solution in Cameron Dicker. “Dicker the Kicker” went 31-of-33 last year and hit 7-of-9 attempts from 50-plus.

J.K. Scott routinely finished near the bottom of net average, but that was not the case last year when he was in the middle of the pack. He also did a good job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

The Chargers have a last-place schedule, so they have an easier slate than most in the AFC. They also get to battle the NFC South.

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Rookies:
Go here for the Chargers Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2024 Los Angeles Chargers Analysis: The Chargers have endured horrible coaching since the Marty Schottenheimer era. That appears to have changed with Jim Harbaugh now patrolling the sidelines. However, this may not lead to instant success because the Chargers have some very serious weak spots, including the receiving corps, interior offensive line, and defensive front.

Projection: 8-9 (3rd in AFC West)

2023 Projection: 10-7. 2023 Actual Result: 5-12.
2022 Projection: 13-4. 2022 Actual Result: 10-7.
2021 Projection: 12-5. 2021 Actual Result: 9-8.
2020 Projection: 5-11. 2020 Actual Result: 7-9.
2019 Projection: 9-7. 2019 Actual Result: 5-11.
2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 12-4.
2017 Projection: 7-9. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 5-11.

NFL Draft Team Grade:

B Grade

Goals Entering the 2024 NFL Draft: The Chargers lost so many pieces offensively, so they’ll need to replenish Justin Herbert’s arsenal. Two receivers, a running back, and a tight end are needed. And yet, John Harbaugh told the media that he wants to “beef up” the offensive line, so that’s another area the Chargers must address.

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Chargers had a puzzling start to the draft. They wanted a new right tackle, yet they used the No. 5 overall pick on a left tackle who has never played right tackle before in his entire football career. Joe Alt is very talented and could succeed at this new position, but this hasn’t been an automatic transition for other players in the past.

Aside from that possible blunder, the Chargers had a strong draft. While they passed on elite receiver at No. 5, they were able to find three promising players at the position in Ladd McConkey, Brenden Rice, and Cornelius Johnson. Running back was also addressed via Kimani Vidal, albeit later than expected. The only pick I strongly disliked was Tarheeb Still.

I had a tough time deciding between a B+ or a “B” for the Chargers’ overall grade. I went with the latter because of the risk pertaining to Alt’s positioning, but if he ends up being a great right tackle, this could end up being a stellar draft class.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

5. Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame – C+ Grade

So much for that J.C. Latham nonsense. The Chargers are drafting the best player available, but there are three reasons to dislike this pick. First, no trade was made, but that’s not a huge deal. Second, the Chargers are passing on the top receivers despite having nothing at receiver. And third, the Chargers a picking a player to play right tackle who has zero experience playing right tackle. This selection could still pan out, but it’s hard to like very much.

34. Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia – B+ Grade

The Chargers finally get a receiver, as Ladd McConkey seems like a decent replacement for Keenan Allen. I like McConkey in this range, but I wonder why the Chargers had to surrender a fourth-round pick to make it happen with so many quality receivers available. Update: The compensation was a fourth- and fifth-round swap, so I like this better.

69. Junior Colson, LB, Michigan – A+ Grade

Jim Harbaugh gets his man. Junior Colson is a player I had slotted earlier in the second round, so getting Colson in the third frame is a steal. Colson also fills a need for the Chargers, who have had issues at linebacker for a very long time.

105. Justin Eboigbe, DT, Alabama – B+ Grade

The Chargers needed to add help to their defensive line, as I had them drafting Kris Jenkins in the second round. They finally address the need with someone who could have gone in the third frame. Justin Eboigbe is limited athletically, but he’s a rock-solid player.

137. Tarheeb Still, CB, Maryland – D Grade

We didn’t have Tarheeb Still ranked. I saw him in the seventh round of some mocks. In other words, this is a reach, but we’re in the fifth round, so something like this isn’t worthy of a Millen grade – but it’s close.

140. Cam Hart, CB, Notre Dame – A+ Grade

The Chargers reached for a cornerback a couple of picks earlier, but they’re getting a major steal with this selection. Cam Hart was a second-day prospect, so it’s shocking that he fell to the fifth frame. It wouldn’t be surprising if Hart ends up becoming a good starter for the Chargers in the near future.

181. Kimani Vidal, RB, Troy – B+ Grade

The Chargers finally get a running back. Kimani Vidal is a quick runner who was projected as a fifth-rounder who could maybe sneak into the fourth. This is a solid value that fills a need.

225. Brenden Rice, WR, USC – A+ Grade

I don’t understand why Brenden Rice fell so far. I thought he could have gone in the third or fourth round. This is a major steal for the Chargers, who really needed to find more talent at receiver.

253. Cornelius Johnson, WR, Michigan – A- Grade

Another steal late in the seventh round. Cornelius Johnson is a big (6-2, 212) receiver who could be a nice end zone threat. He wasn’t super productive at Michigan, but Jim Harbaugh ran the ball a lot, so I don’t really blame Johnson for the lesser production.

Season Summary:
The Chargers were arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL last year. Injuries and poor coaching capsized their chances, but there’s still plenty of talent on the roster.

Offseason Moves:
  • Bears acquire WR Keenan Allen from Chargers for 4th-round pick

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Cornerbacks: The inability to stop the pass was the Chargers’ greatest weakness last year. Their cornerbacks aside from Asante Samuel Jr. were horrific. Signed Kristian Fulton

    2. Linebacker: Kenneth Murray has been a huge bust. It’s time the Chargers finally replace him. Signed Denzel Perryman and Troy Dye

    3. Defensive Tackle: San Angeles was able to generate plenty of pressure on the edge, but that didn’t happen nearly as much in the interior. Signed Poona Ford

    4. Guard: The Chargers had horrific guard play last year. There’s a chance one of their guards will pan out, but at least one interior blocker should be added.

    5. Right Tackle: It’s unclear why the Chargers gave Trey Pipkins a big contract. He continued to be a liability last year.

    6. Running Back: Austin Ekeler is an impending free agent, but there were some age (29) and durability concerns with him anyway. Signed Gus Edwards

    7. Tight End: Gerald Everett needed to be upgraded, but he’s scheduled to hit the market anyway. Signed Will Dissly and Hayden Hurst

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2024 NFL Free Agent Signings:

    Los Angeles Chargers Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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