L.A. Chargers look to trade hype for results in AFC West

The L.A. Chargers are always a sexy offseason pick but they hope this year's lack of hype can actually lead to real results in the AFC West in 2023.

Aug 12, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA;   Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10)
Aug 12, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the joke reads that the L.A. Chargers "won" the offseason. Every year, the Chiefs love to point to the receipts.

It is true for that for the last several seasons, the Chargers are a pick du jour for NFL analysts who see the level of talent on paper for the Bolts on both sides of the ball and declare that this is the year they will finally realize that potential. Then they inevitably collapse due to expectations, poor coaching, and/or injuries in an attempt to climb the AFC West mountain.

But what about this season? In order to get a better idea of what the Chargers might be capable of this year, we asked expert Jason Reed to tell us about the team's offseason goals and how this year might be different for once.

Every offseason features so much hope for the season ahead in L.A. Is this becoming a tired notion for Chargers fans? Or is everyone hopeful once again for greater things in ’23?

s As far as hype goes, Chargers fans definitely are self-aware of how the team is always perceived and what the results typically are. Thankfully (ironically), the hype isn't as high this year as previous years. I've noticed a lot of Chargers fans actually like this, because we all know what happens when the team is extremely hyped up. 

So what has been the team’s obvious plan of attack this offseason?

It has mostly been to bring back last year's core with well-thought out additions where needed. Tom Telesco made it a priority to free up cap space this offseason with several bold contract restructures and that allowed the team to re-sign most of its important free agents. Perhaps the biggest upgrade of all, though, was at the offensive coordinator position as the team is going from Joe Lombardi to Kellen Moore. That alone could be enough to be a 1-2 win difference in the regular season. 

I want to ask about a couple of individual players. First, what’s the feeling on J.C. Jackson after last season?

There is a lot of variance with J.C. Jackson. He had a slow start after a surprising ankle surgery at the end of training camp. Jackson did not seem to be 100% when he returned and he was still obviously learning Brandon Staley's defense. Then, once he finally starts playing better, he ruptures his Patellar tendon, which is an injury that NFL players typically don't recover well from.

That being said, Jackson is ahead of schedule with his recovery and has legitimately looked great in training camp. With so much cornerback depth, the Chargers don't need Jackson to be an every-down guy, allowing him to ease into a CB1 workload as the year goes along. 

What’s the expectation with Quentin Johnston coming into this offense? How is he fitting in with the other receivers?

If everyone is healthy, Johnston will likely be the WR4 in the offense this year. This is not because of anything he is doing wrong, but the Chargers are really polished with the top three receivers in the room and have the luxury of easing Johnston into more playing time. Johnston has been exactly what this group needed as he is an underneath threat that will make plays as a YAC receiver.

While he is not a jump-ball player, Johnston's speed is going to make him a threat over the top, too, opening up the playbook and allowing Kellen Moore to be more creative with the route trees the Chargers run. 

One more for you: how do you think the Chargers finish this year in the West?

Second place. I cannot pick them to beat the Chiefs in the division until they actually do it. The Chargers schedule is a bit tougher this year than last year but the team should arguably be better, assuming the team stays healthy. For that reason, the Bolts should finish around the same number of wins (in the 10-11 range) while the Chiefs will probably finish with 12-13, in my opinion.