Chargers

Chargers 2022 Season Preview: Team Strengths, Areas of Weakness and Win-Loss Prediction

Previewing the Chargers 2022 NFL season ahead of Week 1.

COSTA MESA – After completing a competitive training camp throughout the summer, the Chargers are now on the doorstep of kicking things into gear for the start of the regular season.

It’s been an offseason of optimism for the Chargers. They’ve kept their cornerstone players in-house while going outside the box and acquiring elite talent via trade and in the form of free agency.

With Week 1 sitting four days away, here’s a season preview of the Chargers’ strengths, weaknesses and a win-loss record prediction.

Team strengths

The good news for the Chargers is that their strengths largely outweigh the team’s weaknesses. 

After last season, where quarterback Justin Herbert tossed the second-most passing yards (5,014) and the third-most touchdown passes (38), the Chargers retained close to every starter from last year’s unit. The offense, which finished as a top group last season, could be even better in 2022.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has voiced his confidence by stating that he believes with a full offseason under their belt of learning the language and scheme, bigger things could be ahead with a greater sense of familiarity.

“It’s a lot easier. Everyone’s familiar with the terminology, so a lot less stress, at this time of the year anyway, because they’ve had a year to digest everything,” Lombardi said of the offense early into the offseason program. “Justin’s bandwidth is a lot wider for everything, so we can focus on some Football 202 type of stuff, rather than just getting in and out of the huddle.”

First-round pick Zion Johnson also enters the equation at right guard. Johnson has had his rookie moments in camp but nonetheless, he looks cutout for a solid rookie season, relying on his pure strength and fundamentally sound technique. Herbert’s protection from the interior could see a step forward with Johnson joining Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler across the three inside spots of the offensive line.

Defensively, they addressed their biggest need entering the offseason. After allowing opponents to carry the ball for an average of 139 rushing yards per game last year, the Chargers made the interior defensive line a focus.

They signed Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to multi-year deals early into the free agency. A month later they circled back to the position for depth purposes, drafting Otito Ogbonnia in the fifth-round and added free agent Morgan Fox.

Factoring in four newcomers, who all have had success in stopping the run at either the college or pro level, the Chargers’ biggest weakness last year, should look vastly different in 2022.

Now the pass rush. The Chargers pass-rushing duo of Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa have the making of being the top pairing in the NFL. The Chargers now have two players who are capable of logging double-digit sacks, but also offer the ability to get the football out. Mack and Bosa each have a knack for pulling off the strip sack. Bosa had seven last season, surpassing Mack’s career high of six. The Chargers figure to rank towards the top of the league in sacks this season.

“You’re going to have to deal with this guy every single down,” Staley said of Mack early on in camp. “He’s, I think, a really complete football player, also, because he’s so smart. He plays the game the way it needs to be played. On the edge, you’ll see a lot of edge rushers that chase sacks, so their sack total is going to be high — and that’s how a lot of rushers are judged, by their sack total. 

“What Khalil does is he doesn’t chase sacks. He rushes the quarterback when the quarterback needs to be rushed, but he also plays the run at the highest level that you could play it on the edge. Then, when it is pass-rush time, he’s one of the elite finishers in the game, in terms of taking the football away. Since college, in the NCAA, he’s one of the all-time leaders in forced fumbles. It’s been the same way as a pro. He has the ability to take the football away.”

Areas of weakness

After the flurry of moves the Chargers made to retool their roster, there’s not many weaknesses left. But one that still remains a question is right tackle.

Trey Pipkins III beat out Storm Norton during training camp and the preseason for the starting right tackle job. But, uncertainty still remains at the forefront as things pertain to the right tackle position.

“I think that they both had really good camps,” Lombardi said of the Chargers’ two right tackle candidates. “As you evaluated it, it was close. But when you just looked at them back to back, Trey was maybe a little bit further away from the quarterback when the ball was getting released. 

“In the run game, I think he got a little bit more movement. He’s done a really good job this last year, just becoming more consistent. That was the big thing that was holding him back last year. We saw him improve.”

Pipkins, 26, is entering the fourth year of his NFL career – much of which has been served as a reserve player. He’s made 10 spot starts since 2019, but after looking like the better option in camp, the team is hoping he can be the man for the job.

Now five weeks in the books of completing a camp battle, the coaching staff believes Pipkins has taken strides of improvement from where he finished last season.

But during the joint practice effort with the Cowboys and the preseason action that he played, the results were largely a mixed bag.

Certainly, Pipkins has the potential to be a legitimate starting right tackle in the NFL. He has the build, athleticism and technique. But questions stem from whether or not he can put it all together on a more regular basis.

Onto the special teams unit. The Chargers special teams has been a revolving door for some time now. After not meeting expectations last season, they’ve turned to Ryan Ficken as the new coordinator in hope that he can create stability for this phase of the team.

It’s difficult to judge just how well the special teams unit is meshing up to this point since full tackling in practice is nearly nonexistent. However, in the preseason, the kick and punt coverage teams didn’t look good. They allowed a 98-yard kick return and a 86-yard punt return both go for a touchdown. Granted, about half the players on special teams playing in the preseason aren’t even on the 53-man roster, but poor results nonetheless.

Win-loss prediction

I have the Chargers being among the best teams in the AFC. The problem for them is their division is likely to be the toughest in the league, as well.

I’m penciling in the Chargers to go 4-2 in the AFC West, with losses coming at Kansas City in Week 2 and at Las Vegas in Week 13, while sweeping Denver. I think the Chargers finish the season 11-6, securing a Wild Card spot as the Chiefs win the division.

Chargers record prediction: 11-6

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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.

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