How did Rams blow it on line? Chargers’ Staley on thin ice?

The Rams don’t appear to be able to run back to another Super Bowl title like they had proclaimed. Meanwhile, the understaffed Chargers played well in back-to-back games only to lose. Their next set of games could determine if they will be in contention for a playoff spot. Rams beat writer Gary Klein and Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller address fan concerns and questions seven weeks before the start of the regular season.

When are you going to acknowledge that Joe Noteboom ($25 million) and the NOBODY line (not a top 10 at their position) weren’t an example of succession planning? On Day 1, only one offensive lineman, Allen, was ranked in the top 20 for his position. Now that two tackles are gone, what WAS and will be the succession plan for the offensive line? You know what keeps the quarterback from concussions?

James Douglas, Huntington Beach

Small: With left tackle Andrew Whitworth retiring and right guard Austin Corbett leaving as a free agent, the Rams had a succession plan. In 2018, they picked Joe Noteboom with their highest pick in the draft, then had him apprentice behind Whitworth for four seasons before signing him for an extension. They also signed center Brian Allen. Then they drafted offensive lineman Logan Bruss with their top pick in the 2021 draft and projected him as a starting righter, if not early in the season then through midseason. They also extended right tackle Rob Havenstein on the eve of the season opener.

That seems to be a plan. But like many plans, this one didn’t work out either. Bruss suffered a season-ending knee injury, Allen had multiple injuries, and Noteboom also suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. And backups trained in multiple positions either suffered injuries or didn’t play well. The Rams will no doubt seek to sign free-agent offensive linemen and draft others. But most of the money is in quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Cooper Kupp, defenseman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The Chargers under Spanos have always been notoriously cheap when it comes to hiring coaches. Is that all Brandon Staley is saving now because he seems really overwhelmed?

Hawk Mendenhall, Austin, Texas

Miller: I’m not sure what “from his depths” means, but no, that’s not what Staley is saving right now. This franchise historically does not make mid-season head coach changes. So if the owner decides to move away from Staley I wouldn’t see that until after the season. Just a reminder, Staley is 14-13 years old to start his career as a head coach. In the first 27 games, Bill Belichick was 11-16 and Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson were both 5-22.

In making so much money available to relatively few players, hasn’t Rams management left enough salary cap money to put high-quality players into the many other offensive and defensive positions required to field a consistent winner? My question goes well beyond the obvious holes in the offensive line. Second, this season’s top contenders seem to have highly mobile quarterbacks that add an important dimension to their attacks. No hit on Stafford, his CV speaks for itself but clearly scrambling has never been his forte, thoughts?

Tom Gopel, Los Angeles

Small: The Rams are long past the days of 2018 when they had a quarterback playing on a rookie contract — and could surround him with high-priced stars all over the field. The NFL is a season-to-season offering. Picking up a consistent winner means nothing if you don’t win Super Bowls. And the Rams won the Super Bowl by acquiring and paying their star players. After the Super Bowl, they signed Stafford, Kupp and Donald to major renewals. They signed receiver Allen Robinson to a market-level deal and signed future Hall of Famer linebacker Bobby Wagner to a team-friendly deal. And Ramsey is also playing with a big contract.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws for the run under pressure from the 49ers defense.

Matthew Stafford shoots under pressure from the 49ers defense. The Rams quarterback may not be a runner, but he can climb and throw on the run.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Stafford has never been a scrambler. With one of the best passing arms in the NFL, he doesn’t have to be. And he will not change now. The running dimension that other quarterbacks bring to their offenses makes it very difficult for defensive coordinators. But teams can win Super Bowls with either. Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to the title in the 2019 season. Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, while Stafford led the Rams last season.

The Chargers learned the hard way, finding a good kicker isn’t easy. Why not sign Dicker the Kicker? The child has a strong, very accurate leg. So far it hasn’t been fragile; our others are like glass.

Estefan San Martin, Karlovy Vary

miller: The Chargers added Cameron Dicker to their active roster on Tuesday and placed Dustin Hopkins on injured reserve. So unless he gets injured or his performance suddenly goes sideways, Dicker will be the kicker for at least the next four games.

Bad charger coaching. Why wasn’t Herbert holding back under his All-Pro center at the end of the half? How could they not stop Kelce when two Chiefs main receivers were out? How couldn’t they stall Mahomes’ run on the pass rush (like Chiefs did with Herbert)? Bad charger coaching is the reason.

Bill Jacobson, West Hollywood

Miller: To take these in order: 1) I think you’re asking why Justin Herbert didn’t perform a QB sneak at the end of the half. Generally, this is a decision he can make at the line of scrimmage based on the appearance of the defense. Apparently Herbert didn’t see it as an advantage to sneak there. 2) Travis Kelce is on his way to his eighth straight Pro Bowl. Nobody can stop him. He’s a nightmare matchup for cornerbacks like Asante Samuel Jr., and you might be wondering why that pairing sometimes happened on Sunday. Mixing up coverage is valuable, but asking Kenneth Murray Jr. to cover for Kelce — which happened on a play that resulted in a 34-yard gain for the Chiefs — isn’t ideal. The Chargers might have used Durwin James Jr. for Kelce more often on Sunday, but James is most effective when he’s stationed all over the field. 3) Justin Herbert can do many things. But running like Patrick Mahomes is not one of them.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) turns up on a touchdown catch against the Chargers.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) trails Asante Samuel Jr. (26) as he flips up on a touchdown catch against the Chargers.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Doesn’t appear that any of the defensemen the Chargers either drafted or signed through free agencies did or is capable of doing something of worth, so who’s to blame? is everything on [general manager Tom] Telesco or is Staley also responsible for the decisions?

Alan Minton, Dallas

Miller: I would argue that Durwin James Jr. is pretty good. Asante Samuel Jr. has a chance to be very good. Too early to conclude he’s incapable of doing anything worthwhile. JC Jackson was a Pro Bowl pick last year and didn’t get much of a chance to show himself this season before getting injured. Ultimately, Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley are most responsible for building this roster. For me, the most disappointing thing about the Chargers in 2022 was the overall defense struggles. We heard all offseason about how they added players with the experience and body types necessary to be successful in this scheme. The results from 10 games were wildly mixed.

Do you think the Chargers will squander another future Hall-of-Fame QB like they did with Dan Fouts, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and now Justin Herbert? Telesco repeatedly fails to build a complete team. The O line has been a problem for almost 10 years.

Harvey Smith, Dayton, Nevada

Miller: I assume by “waste” you mean not winning a Super Bowl. I’m going to take a positive approach and say the Chargers will win an NFL title during Justin Herbert’s tenure. Just because I think he’s that good and none of the fans of this team think it’s ever going to happen. Happy Holidays!!! How did Rams blow it on line? Chargers’ Staley on thin ice?

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