They believed in him enough to give him a two-year contract, to stick with him through a rough start and to go back to him when he returned from injury.
But when two more blown extra points and a missed field goal Sunday forced the Chargers to scramble to hold off Seattle 25-17, the belief in Caleb Sturgis expired.
The team released the veteran kicker Monday and promoted rookie Michael Badgley from the practice squad.
Coach Anthony Lynn said the Chargers still might try out or add another kicker this week. But barring another move, Badgley will be the kicker Sunday at Oakland.
“I’d like to give him the keys to the car and let him go drive,” Lynn said. “But we’ve talked about bringing in another kicker to maybe kick off, maybe help in that area.
“That’s something that we’re just looking at. You hate to do something like that because you lose depth at other positions.”
Badgley was seven for seven on extra points and three for three on field goals while filling in for Sturgis in Weeks 6 and 7. Of his 12 kickoffs, however, only two went for touchbacks.
Defensive end Isaac Rochell praised Badgley, claiming the rookie even possesses a “savage mentality” that is rare at the position.
“It’s kind of self-explanatory when you have a kicker like Badge who hasn’t missed since he’s been in the NFL,” Rochell said. “We definitely have confidence in him. At the end of the day, we just want to see it go through the uprights.”
Sturgis, 29, signed a two-year, $4.45-million free-agent deal in March. He was entering his sixth season coming off a year in which he missed significant time because of a hip injury.
He made his first four extra points and three of four field goals to start the season. But then Sturgis missed four extra points and two field goals during a three-game stretch.
In an attempt to help him, the Chargers even changed holders, waiving punter Drew Kaser and signing veteran Donnie Jones out of retirement.
Sturgis then suffered a quadriceps strain and missed games against Cleveland and Tennessee. He returned Sunday and so did the Chargers’ kicking woes, Sturgis hooking all three misses wide left.
“It’s always tough to move on from a player,” Lynn said. “I believe in all these guys. We feel like we gave him a fair shot. We stayed with him as long as we could. It just came down to performance.”
Kicking issues have become a lingering problem for the Chargers. Badgley is the sixth kicker the team has employed since 2017.
Punting with a purpose
Jones’ six punts against the Seahawks weren’t particularly pretty, but they were effective. And it was all by design.
Lynn explained that the veteran was instructed to keep the ball from Seattle returner Tyler Lockett.
“He did an outstanding job,” Lynn said. “I don’t care if it was a knuckleball or a ball kicked close to out of bounds. But he did a good job keeping the ball out of that returner’s hands.”
Lockett finished with three returns for only four yards. Jones routinely kicked away from Lockett, with one of his punts knuckling awkwardly toward the sideline.
“Donnie has that savvy to keep it out of his hands,” Lynn said. “If you gotta give up a few yards here, I’d rather give them up on the kick than give them up in coverage.”
Liuget starting to come around
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget missed the first four games because of a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. When he returned, the Chargers began working him back into the rotation slowly.
Liuget advanced to the point where he was able to start Sunday, the Chargers trying to go as big as possible up front against the run-happy Seahawks. Liuget, listed at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, played 53 of 81 defensive snaps, finishing with a game-high three tackles for loss.
“Corey had an outstanding game,” Lynn said. “He’s back. He had to work his way back in.”
Mixing and matching
Another change in the defensive starting lineup came on the back end, where Michael Davis replaced Trevor Williams at cornerback.
Lynn explained that Williams’ performance led to the switch, the third-year pro struggling to match what he did last season when he started 15 games.
“Michael competed well,” Lynn said. “He’s going to be a good corner in this league for a long time.”
Davis played all 81 snaps. Williams was limited to 21 snaps, all on special teams. But Lynn didn’t rule out the possibility of Williams playing more against the Raiders.
“Trevor’s still in the mix,” he said. “He might be in there next week. Who knows? But I wanted to see Michael play. And I thought he competed well.”
Lynn said Sam Tevi will remain the starter at right tackle while Joe Barksdale works his way back. Barksdale has appeared in the past two games after missing five with a knee injury. … Center Mike Pouncey on the Chargers: “There’s a term that’s been used for a long time, that defense wins championships. If our defense keeps playing like that, we’ll be OK.”