So the AFC West decided to go scorched-earth this offseason. With the division being the most active one in the league this offseason, it should make for one of the most competitive divisional battles we’ve seen in recent memory.
As always, the Kansas City Chiefs are the favorites to sit atop the division this year, but is there another team that could dethrone Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs from taking home their seventh straight divisional title?
The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off a season where it looked like they would make the postseason off of a tie, but a called timeout scrapped those plans. In order to avoid another scenario like they were in last year, the Chargers pulled out the checkbook and made the necessary acquisitions to fill the holes on their team.
A Different Looking Defense
Simply put, the Chargers’ defense was not on par with a team that had playoff aspirations last season. In an effort to thwart what the defense showcased last year, the Chargers went shopping and signed the best cornerback in the 2022 free agent class, J.C. Jackson, to a five-year deal. Over the past two seasons, Jackson leads the NFL in interceptions with 17 and will help a defense that forced the 22nd most interceptions last season.
Three days after adding Jackson, the Chargers made a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears for three-time All-Pro Khalil Mack. Mack’s coming off a year where he appeared in just six games due to a foot injury and the Chargers are taking their time usering him into the program.
“He’s in really good shape,” coach Brandon Staley said. “He’s got a lot of confidence in where he’s at right now. We just want to make sure we phase him in the right way.”
Mack and four-time Pro Bowler Joey Bosa will make for one of the most formidable edge rushing duos in the league, with the pair combining for 52 sacks in the last three seasons.
Retooling a Top Offense
The Chargers offense was one of the best last season, averaging almost 28 points a game which was fifth most in the league. Wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have been one of the best duos in the league and running back Austin Ekeler is one of best dual threat backs in the league, however there issues have been elsewhere on offense.
Over the past two seasons, the Chargers problems on offense have stemmed from the offense line. In the previous two drafts the Chargers have made it a point to address those issues: drafting an offensive linemen in the first round in the past two years.
In the 2021 draft the Chargers selected offensive tackle Rashawn Slater with the seventh pick and it paid dividends. As a rookie, Slater was the fourth highest rated rookie at 83.7, which is the highest grade a rookie tackle has recorded in over a decade, according to PFF.com.
To make sure they don’t have to cover quarterback Justin Herbert in bubble wrap, the Chargers added to their offensive line by drafting Boston College offensive guard Zion Johnson with the 17th pick in this year’s draft. In Johnson’s three seasons with the Eagles, he only allowed three total sacks which is exactly what the Chargers are looking for.
Outlook for the 2022 Season
As a whole, the AFC West features some of the toughest schedules, with the Chiefs and Raiders strength of schedule aligning in the top seven. The Denver Broncos have the easiest schedule in the AFC West at 15, but may have issues with a revamped coaching staff and a new quarterback under center.
With the 10th hardest schedule in the league, the Chargers have a tough road ahead, but as long as they have a quarterback who could launch a rocket to the moon, they’ll be in prime position to sit on the AFC West’s throne.