The NFL season is upon us, even if we still boo the Bolts’ departure
It was a sunny Sunday at a San Diego stadium and, my oh my, did the racket ricocheting around feel familiar.
I’ve been out of town a bit, but did the Chargers return in my absence?
Any local knows that sound from Sunday matinees when the Bolts played like Dolts. Alas, they remain in Los Angeles, with the S.D. sports crowd taking out their frustration on the Padres.
Yep, the baseball bunch with high expectations is making the hometown folks angry with inconsistent hitting and the lack of a prolonged winning streak. The Padres could still make the playoffs, but until they do, the patrons are making like a ghost.
Something else around here that gets people’s dander up is the Chargers. While the majority of their past boosters turned into arch-enemies of the Spanos family operation, it is football season. So, we’re writing about the NFL outfit that once called San Diego home for nearly six decades.
That might thrill some, while others pinch their noses.
We get it but we also can see that the Chargers are loaded this season. It’s no fun that they ditched town, but if you’re still tracking football, they will be fun to watch.
It starts, of course, with Justin Herbert and would he have been a kick to root for in Mission Valley. The Chargers’ lineage at that position is impressive, and if you were raised rooting for John Hadl, Dan Fouts, Stan Humphries and Philip RIvers, Herbert would be another favorite.
Herbert enters the year blessed with a strong arm, a high football IQ , a versatile running back in Austin Ekeler, dynamite pass catchers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and a retooled offensive line.
Too bad SoFi Stadium has a roof because Herbert’s ceiling is limitless. No NFL quarterback in history, over his first two years, can match Herbert’s production: touchdown passes (77), receiving yards (9,350) and consecutive 30-plus scoring passes to open a career.
Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady threw for more yards than Herbert and only Brady and the Rams’ Matthew Stafford eclipsed Herbert’s touchdown total.
What Herbert doesn’t possess is a playoff appearance or a .500 record. Herbert shrugs, knowing how close the 9-8 Chargers came last year and by being in the same offensive system for the second straight year.
“We’re miles ahead of where we were last year,” said Herbert, who made his first Pro Bowl last season. “I think it’s a major advantage for us.”
But the Chargers are more than a high-powered offense. They were aggressive in adding to their defense and it was a wise move as it was dreadful last year. The Chargers acquired Pro Bowlers in linebacker Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson, who could miss the opening month with an ankle issue.
Stopping the run was their biggest bugaboo and the fresh faces up front include Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to flip that script. Derwin James Jr. became the game’s highest-paid safety and he’s fit.
But what fiddle will coach Brandon Staley play when games are on the line? While we tip our helmet to him for his innovative and gutsy play-calling, especially on fourth downs, he did get over his skis a few times in trying to pull a rabbit from a hat.
He’ll long be remembered for his timeout in the season finale that aided the Raiders in their win, when the winner advanced to the playoffs. But even worse was Staley not having his charges ready when they fell to the woeful Houston Texans in the previous week.
Will the Chargers waltz into the playoff this year? No way, not in an ultra-competitive AFC West and with the Chargers being, well, the Chargers.
So, there’s still a chance to root for them (like the old days) and/or an opportunity to send them bad vibes and wish nothing but bad things.
Either way, they are a scary team. Even if your inclination is to respond to them with one word.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports