Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers struggling to defend in Year 2 under Staley

Nov 24, 2022, 4:30 PM | Updated: 5:20 pm
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley stands on the sidelines during the first half of an ...

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley stands on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Los Angeles Chargers have lost three of their last four to fall to 5-5 despite the high expectations heading into the season.

They face a 4-7 Arizona Cardinals team coming off a short week and their worst loss of the year, a 38-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City.

Behind Enemy Lines brings you the key storylines and latest news for the Cardinals’ opponents each week this season.

Defense remains a liability for Staley’s Chargers

COSTA MESA (AP) — Brandon Staley was hired as coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2021 after coordinating a top-ranked defense with the Los Angeles Rams.

Staley’s success with the Rams hasn’t translated to the other team that calls SoFi Stadium home.

Going into Sunday’s game at Arizona, the Chargers are ranked 25th in the league in yards allowed per game at 369.

That’s a disappointing statistic for a unit that was expected to improve after the signing of seven free agents and the acquisition of Khalil Mack from Chicago during the offseason. Most of the new additions had previous experience with Staley from the Rams or his stints as an assistant in Chicago and Denver.

“I think we are a work in progress,” Staley said. “Expectations, in terms of starting a season, those are just what they are, is expectations. I know that our defense has given us a chance to win every week and that’s all you can ask for. In terms of making progress where you are playing at the high standard that I believe in, that I expect, that takes time, and that’s certainly where we are at right now.”

The Chargers’ defense also ranks near the bottom of the league in points allowed per game (25.8, 29th) and yards per play (6.02, 31st).

The consistent problem since Staley was hired has been Los Angeles’ inability to stop the run. The Chargers have allowed 148.4 yards per game (30th) and 5.46 yards per carry (32nd). The highest per-carry average allowed over a full season since the merger was 5.35 by the 2013 Chicago Bears.

“It’s definitely a concern. We just haven’t played well enough in that phase,” Staley said. “I think that what you are looking for is how you are playing, more importantly than what statistics tell you. For us, it hasn’t been consistent enough all year and we are working hard to improve it.”

Kansas City rookie Isiah Pacheco was the fifth player this season to post a 100-yard game against the Bolts, which is tied with Houston for the most allowed.

The Chargers head into the matchup with the Cardinals having given up at least 157 rushing yards in four straight games.

“Teams are running it more. If you’re running it 35-41 times per game you better have 150 (yards or close),” safety Derwin James said. “That’s not our goal to come out and give up that much. If teams are running it that many times, we’ve got to be ready.”

Quarterback Kyler Murray is expected to play for the Cardinals after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, but the Chargers’ bigger concern is likely to be running back James Conner, who scored four touchdowns in two previous meetings against them when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At 5-5, the Chargers are on the outside of the playoff picture, but only two of their remaining seven opponents have winning records.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency to get it done. Everything we want is still in front of us,” James said.

Chargers add K Dicker to active roster, place Hopkins on IR

By The Associated Press

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers signed kicker Cameron Dicker to the active roster on Tuesday and placed Dustin Hopkins on injured reserve.

Dicker had been elevated from the practice squad to play the past three games for the Chargers. He had to be signed to the roster since the maximum elevations to the game day roster is three. Dicker has made all seven field goal attempts and six extra points.

In his Chargers debut at Atlanta on Nov. 6, Dicker made a game-winning, 37-yard field goal goal as time expired and was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Dicker is one of the three rookies since the 1970 merger to have a pair of game-winning kicks with less than 2 minutes remaining for multiple teams. In his NFL debut for Philadelphia, he was good from 23 yards in a win at Arizona on Oct. 9 and was honored as the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Despite using three kickers this season — Hopkins, Taylor Bertolet and Dicker — the Chargers have made 18 straight field goals.

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