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Chargers’ kicking units are fine, but the rest is not so special

With Ty Long holding, the Chargers' Michael Badgley kicks a field goal last season against the Broncos in Denver.
With Ty Long holding, the Chargers’ Michael Badgley kicks a field goal last season against the Broncos in Denver.
(Justin Edmonds / Getty Images)

As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 5 of 10: Special teams.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a video appeared on social media of Michael Badgley successfully converting a field goal.

OK, so the kicker was actually in his living room and, instead of a football, he was booting a roll of toilet paper. But, hey, the Chargers do have a trusted kicker and people are craving sports, so why not celebrate a little?

Badgley missed half the 2019 season because of injury but still the Chargers, unlike recent history, had little to no kicking drama. The problem for a team that would finish a disappointing 5-11 was the drama that happened everywhere else.

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In Badgley’s absence, Chase McLaughlin and Ty Long handled the placekicking admirably. Long, who came from the CFL, also was reliable as a punter, the reason the Chargers signed him in the first place.

So with Badgley and Long, this team appears to be set when it comes to putting the foot in football.

Nose tackle Linval Joseph signed with the Chargers in March to combine with defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and pressure quarterbacks.

One special-teams area where the Chargers are looking to add is kick returner. Desmond King handled the majority of the returns last year and has proven to be a weapon with the ball in his hands. In 2018, King was named second team All-Pro as a punt returner.

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Reserve running back Justin Jackson also has been used to bring back kickoffs, and the Chargers recently signed wide receiver Darius Jennings as a potential option.

They have been hurt this offseason by the free-agent loss of Adrian Phillips, an All-Pro special teamer in 2018.

Linebacker Nick Dzubnar and wide receiver Geremy Davis, two other recognized special-teams contributors, also have departed.

And with linebacker Drue Tranquill assuming a more significant role on defense, the Chargers certainly will need to fortify their special teams for 2020.

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Making up for the loss of Thomas Davis at linebacker will be a challenge for the Chargers, but the addition of tackle magnet Nick Vigil should help.

Under contract for 2020: King ($2.203 million), Jennings ($775,000), Jackson ($750,000), Badgley ($750,000), Long ($695,000), long snapper Cole Mazza ($675,000).

Free agents: The Chargers have a history of finding talent among the pool of undrafted players. That’s another area where general manager Tom Telesco will again look to add special-teams depth.

Draft: The Chargers are in need of speed, something they hope to address, particularly at wide receiver, during the draft. Adding a swift wideout who can also return kicks would be a plus.

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Roster decisions: The Chargers would love to have no decisions to make regarding kicker, punter and long snapper in 2020. Mazza took over long snapping last season and finished without a single hiccup. Identifying at least a couple of new options as returners will be one of the goals of training camp and the preseason.

NEXT: Tight ends.


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