2020 special teams a disaster, Chargers are drafting plenty of competition for jobs
As the Chargers prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 5 of 8: Specialists.
About a year ago, a video appeared on social media of Michael Badgley successfully converting a field goal.
The video was shot in Badgley’s living room and, instead of a football, he was seen booting a roll of toilet paper.
Meant to be a lighthearted nod to the COVID-19 pandemic, the video also foreshadowed a season that Badgley would like to flush.
He converted all 14 of his field-goal tries inside 40 yards but was only 10 of 19 beyond that distance. In today’s NFL, kickers are expected to have much better range than that.
As the Chargers switch their defense to a hybrid 3-4, new coach Brandon Staley can picture Jerry Tillery being a key ingredient in the middle of the defensive line.
So, for the first time since 2018, Badgley faces genuine competition to keep his job. The Chargers signed Tristan Vizcaino this offseason, general manager Tom Telesco recently acknowledging publicly that Badgley has to improve.
Vizcaino, who played collegiately at Washington, has appeared in one NFL game, kicking three field goals and two extra points for San Francisco in Week 17 last season.
Badgley’s accuracy from deeper distances was only one of the special teams issues for the Chargers in 2020. Quite simply, this team struggled repeatedly when it came to all things kicking.
The Chargers finished last in net punting yards and had a league-high three punts blocked. They ranked 29th in punt return average and 15th in kickoff return average.
Along with two-year starter Ty Long, the Chargers have signed a second punter, Lachlan Edwards, a veteran of four NFL seasons. So the competition figures to be very real this summer.
Joe Reed, K.J. Hill and Nasir Adderley are the team’s top kick returners at the moment, though the Chargers figure to add more options in the draft or through subsequent signing of undrafted free agents.
The Chargers signed three linemen to solidify their offense but still need a starting left tackle as the NFL draft approaches.
Under contract for 2021: Adderley ($1.29 million), Badgley ($1.1 million), Reed ($865,078), Long ($850,000), Edwards ($850,000), Cole Mazza ($850,000), Hill ($806,206), Vizcaino ($660,000).
Free agents: The Chargers signed cornerback Ryan Smith and outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell for defensive depth but also to help repair their special teams. Both have extensive experience covering kicks.
Draft: The Chargers’ most explosive kick returner in recent seasons was defensive back Desmond King, who is now a member of the Houston Texans. They could bring in another defensive back or wide receiver with skills as a returner.
Roster decisions: Early last year, the Chargers were having so much special teams trouble that they brought back longtime safety Jahleel Addae to help out. Their season-opening roster in 2021 figures to be greatly impacted by who can contribute the most in the kicking game.
Quarterbacks are expected to be the first three picks of the NFL draft for the first time since 1999 with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence taken No. 1 overall.
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