Concluding our series of offseason opponent breakdowns following the 2022 schedule release, theRams.com examines Los Angeles' Week 17 road opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers (Jan. 1, 5:20 p.m. PT, NBC).
With new first-year head coach and former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley installed as their new head coach, the Chargers set out to improve on a 7-9 finish in 2020.
The early returns were promising. Beginning with a season-opening 20-16 win over the Washington Commanders, they won four of their first six games for a 4-2 mark by the time they reached their Week 7 bye.
Across Weeks 8-11, the Chargers went 2-2, the wins and losses each decided by seven points or less. Across Weeks 12-17, they went 3-3. With a 9-7 record in Week 18, all they needed was to avoid a loss – meaning, win or tie – against the Raiders in order to keep the No. 7 seed in the AFC. In what ended up being one of the wildest games of the regular season, the Chargers fell to the Raiders 35-32 in overtime, eliminating them from the playoff picture.
If there was one silver lining to last season for the Chargers, it was the improved play statistically of quarterback Justin Herbert, who completed 65.9 percent of his passes (just under 66.6 percent as a rookie in 2020, but with nearly 80 more pass attempts) for 5,014 yards with 38 touchdowns (seven more than in 2020) against 15 interceptions (five more than 2020).
Of note, the Chargers fired special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II and assistant special teams coach Mayur Chaudhari in mid-January. Though the Chargers seemingly overcame early-season special teams struggles, it wasn't enough for Staley to retain the men in charge of that unit. Former Vikings special teams coordiantor Ryan Ficken was hired as Swinton's replacement, while Chaudhari was replaced by Chris Gould, who spent the previous five seasons as the Broncos' assistant special teams coach.
Offensive line coach Frank Smith was hired by the Dolphins as their new offensive coordinator, and the Chargers replaced him by hiring Brendan Nugent, who spent last season coaching the Saints offensive line.
From a personnel standpoint, the Chargers spent much of the offseason adding pieces familiar with Staley's defensive system, signing former Rams defensive linemen Sebastian Joseph-Day and Morgan Fox (spent last season with the Panthers) and former Rams linebacker Troy Reeder. On offense, they also signed former Rams tight end Gerald Everett (played for Seahawks last season).
However, the most notable transaction was signing former Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson to a five-year contract.
Staley enters his second season as head coach of the Chargers, compiling a 9-8 record in his first year.
What to watch for
Rams offense vs. a familiar defense part II, and the quarterbacks
Similar to Week 16 against the Broncos, the Rams in Week 17 will go against a defense that will bear resemblance to the one they run themselves, and against several familiar faces who know their own defense well.
And of course, while they don't directly go against each other, the two quarterbacks will be talked about a lot heading into this game. Herbert finished second in the NFL in passing yards last year, while Stafford was third with 4,886. Meanwhile, Stafford finished second in the league in passing touchdowns (41), while Herbert finished third (38). Fans of high-level play at that position will like this matchup.