So why was his biggest issue last season distance, Badgley’s kickoffs too often coming up short?
“Some guys can hit their seven-iron a certain length and then their driver doesn’t go anywhere they want it to go,” Badgley explained. “It’s just working at it, getting consistent with it and feeling that same rhythm every time.”
Unlike golf, football doesn’t allow for mulligans. So, before the Chargers met New England in the divisional round of the playoffs in January, the team signed veteran Nick Rose to handle kickoffs.
The move ended up mattering little as the Chargers fell four touchdowns behind by halftime. They had several problems that frigid day, and booting the ball into the end zone wouldn’t have solved any of them.
Still, entering the offseason, improving kickoff distance became one of Badgley’s primary objectives. He said that’s what he worked on most during the six weeks of summer he spent at home in New Jersey.
“The way of explaining it is it’s a rhythm thing,” he said, “feeling comfortable out there, getting that swing pure.”
In the Chargers’ preseason opener last week in Arizona, Badgley’s work paid dividends as both of his kickoffs reached the end zone. One was a touchback and the other was returned by Pharoh Cooper to the Cardinals’ 20-yard line.
Last year, when Badgley took over near midseason for a struggling Caleb Sturgis, only nine of his 54 kickoffs went for touchbacks. Overall, the Chargers ranked last in the NFL with a touchback percentage of 28.3.
The day after losing to the Patriots, they signed punter Ty Long out of the CFL in part because he can also kick off. That ability — plus the fact Long kicked field goals in Canada — makes him the frontrunner to win the Chargers’ punting job over undrafted free agent Tyler Newsome.
Despite Long’s presence, Badgley has continued to work on improving his distance. He explained that the mechanics used on kickoffs are slightly different from those used on field-goal attempts.
“Two different swings,” Badgley said, “but the same motion.”
As a rookie, he was so accurate — 15 for 16 on field goals and 27 for 28 on extra points — that the Chargers didn’t even bring in another pure kicker as training camp competition. Instead, Badgley has been left to manufacture his own pressure this month during 11-on-11 field-goal periods.
“You’ve got guys like Philip Rivers and Mike Pouncey, they’re all expecting you to kick well,” he said of the veteran quarterback and center. “When you add a guy like [linebacker] Thomas Davis who’s been playing for 15 years, you want to be able to show vets like that it’s one of the parts of the game you don’t have to worry about. The less you talk about a kicker the better he’s doing.”
With Badgley, the Chargers believe they’ve found an answer at a position that had been a nagging question.
Over an 18-game stretch starting at the end of the 2016 season, seven players — Josh Lambo, Nick Novak, Younghoe Koo, Travis Coons, Drew Kaser, Rose and Sturgis — attempted kicks for the Chargers.
“I love competition,” Badgley said. “I never shy away from it. This organization, I think, knows how competitive I am. I think they trusted me a lot, and I want to prove them right.”
The Chargers have five practices remaining in training camp and the next two — on Thursday and Friday — will include the New Orleans Saints. They also had a pair of joint practices with the Rams before playing their preseason opener. The Saints and Rams met last season in the NFC championship game.
“That’s a pretty good test for us,” offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think that has tremendous value. They’re tremendous organizations, and their players are really professional. ... I think it’s a tremendous opportunity and advantage for us to do that.”
Rivers is expected to receive plenty of snaps over the next two days as coach Anthony Lynn employs a strategy of limiting reps for his veterans in preseason games. In the two practices with the Rams, Rivers estimated that he threw 80 passes. Afterward, he said he thought these joint sessions were enough to get him ready for the regular season.
The Chargers and Saints will meet Sunday in Carson, a matchup that figures to feature mostly reserves.
Whisenhunt on holdout running back Melvin Gordon and the possibility that Gordon could report as late as Labor Day and be ready to play in Week 1: “It would be really hard for me to comment on that because I just don’t know. I don’t know that scenario. We miss Melvin. I think Melvin’s a hell of a football player.”… The Chargers signed tight end Ben Johnson and waived linebacker Josh Corcoran. Johnson, who spent training camp with the Chargers in 2018, played collegiately at Kansas. He also played for the San Diego Fleet of the now-defunct AAF.